Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thor - The Asgardian's Adventures in Film, Television & Animation

Thor may verily be one of Marvel Comics latest blockbusters, but it's not the first time the mighty Asgardian made the transition from comic page to screen. Let us venture on true believers as we uncover the history of Thor outside of comic books.

Thor's first appearance outside of the comic was in 1966's animated Marvel Super Heroes block. The animation may have been stilted and slow by todays standards (it looked like a comic in limited motion) but in reality it was sort of ahead of its time. After all, motion comics are currently a 'big thing' now.  Thor was featured in 13 episodes of his own show as well as guest appearances in the Sub-Mariner's title and in several episodes of Captain America, where he was part of The Avengers.

Spider-Man had two animated shows in the 1980s, one in '81 simply titled Spider-Man, and a spinoff that same year, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. Marvel's hammer-wielding hero showed up for both occasions. Thor first appeared in the Spider-Man episode, "Wrath of the Sub-Mariner" and later in the Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends episode, "Vengeance of Loki". 

The first live-action incarnation of Thor arrived in 1988 in The Incredible Hulk Returns, a made-for-television movie starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno. Played by Eric Allan Kramer, Thor was watered down for TV in comparison to his comic book self. Nevertheless, considering it was the '80s and the budget was somewhat limited for television, it wasn't an altogether un-watchable experience and serves as a great reference of just how far comic-character adaptations have come since '88. 

The 1994 Fantastic Four animated series would see not one, but two appearances by Thor. His first was in "To Battle the Living Planet" where he helped Reed Richards and the others take on Ego the Living Planet. In his second and final FF guest role, "When Galactus Calls", he would aid the Fantastic Four and Ghost Rider in defeating the planet devouring monstrosity, Galactus.

Thor was busy in the '90s! He made a one-episode appearance on the 1996 Incredible Hulk animated series, "Mortal Bounds"where he took on the brute might of the Hulk in a knock-down-drag-out brawl.

Though brief, Thor makes a cameo in the popular '90s X-Men cartoon in "The Dark Phoenix Saga: Part 3". 

Thor's last animated appearance of sorts would be in the short-lived The Avengers: United They Stand, though he was only featured briefly in the show's opening.

The Ultimate version of Thor would appear in both 2006 Ultimate Avengers films, where he joined Captain America, Iron Man, the Hulk, Black Widow, the Black Panther, Giant Man, the Wasp, and Nick Fury. Thor also appears toward the end of 2008's Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow. 

Thor was a major character in Marvel's Super Hero Squad Show, a more child-friendly take on the heroes lives. 

In 2009 Thor would again take on the Hulk in the aptly titled animated film, Hulk vs. Thor. The mighty Asgardian would return for a brief appearance in the animated Planet Hulk feature.

2010 would see Thor rejoin Marvel's famed superhero group in The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes. So far, 26 episodes have aired with an expected production run of 52 episodes.

As of 2011 Thor's latest animated appearance was in Thor: Tales of Asgard, a direct-to-DVD feature chronicling the Asgardian's earlier days.

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