As Marvel adds to their cinematic world with more and more films, it will be interesting to see what eras they pull from in regards to villains. While it makes sense to continuously mine from the Silver Age house that Jack and Stan built, certain characters have also had incredible runs and creative peaks past the ‘60s heyday of the House of Ideas. For Thor: The Dark World, Marvel chose to go with villains created not by Lee and Kirby, but by the great Walt Simonson. The Simonson Thor run of the 1980s is considered by many pundits to be the creative pinnacle for Thor and the World of Asgard beyond the original world-building days of Jack Kirby. Simonson’s run is over two decades old, but creators still find story threads and inspiration from his additions to the Thor legend.
It stands to reason that the filmmakers would turn to Simonson for the same inspiration on structure, tone, and most importantly, villains. The first Thor film used pure Jack Kirby creations for the villains. The brilliant casting of Tom “Hall H” Hiddleston as Loki was an inspired choice, but in the new film, Loki is a full-on co-star rather than an antagonist.
With Loki playing the role of wild card in Thor: The Dark World, the film needed a villain of almost equal power and cunning. Fans were expecting the Enchantress, Surtur, or Hela as the film’s evildoer, and many were surprised when Malekith the Accursed was announced as the film’s main threat. Any doubts fans had about the inclusion of the character should have been silenced when it was announced that the Ninth Doctor himself, Christopher Eccleston, was stepping into the role. Fans worried about Malekith’s worth should rest easy, as Malekith’s tale, while not as prolonged as some other Thor villains, is the stuff good heroic drama is made of.
Malekith first appeared in Thor #344 (1984) written and drawn by Walt Simonson. Malekith’s unique and dramatic appearance made him stand out amongst the gods and monsters of Thor’s rogues’ gallery. Under Simonson’s able pen, Malekith radiated rakish evil, his motley design something new and refreshing to a world that had relied on Kirby’s bombastic visions for three decades at that point. Malekith’s evil opened up the world of Thor, as, for the first time, fans got a deep look into the realm of Svartalfheim, the realm of the elves and fairie. Fans had witnesses many of the realms, but Svartalfheim felt like it was ripped from the stage of a Shakespeare comedy and smashed down into the middle of the Marvel Universe. Fans first learned of Malekith’s special brand of evil when he sought the Casket of Ancient Winters, an artifact that played a pivotal role in the first Thor film.
Soon after his debut, Malekith killed the mortal, Eric Willis, a man who served as the guardian of the Casket. The Casket fell into the hands of Willis’ son, and fans learned that Malekith was also known as the Master of the Hounds as he took up the hunt for the grieving mortal. A master huntsman, Malekith was able to pursue his prey, an ability that seems to be part of Eccleston’s character.
During his first story arc, Malekith kidnapped Lorelei, a siren that put Thor under her love spell. Obsessed with freeing his love, Thor pursued Malekith to Earth. Thor managed to defeat Malekith but not before Malekith opened the Casket and plunged Earth into an ice age. During the battle on Earth in the comics, Malekith used his Dark Elf followers to battle Thor. His most fervent and imposing warrior was Algrim the Strong. First appearing in Thor #347 (1984), Algrim tested his mettle against Thor in the name of his master, Malekith. Malekith, with complete disregard to his loyal follower, plunged Algrim and Thor into lava. Thor escaped using his hammer but Algrim was horribly burned. Now, this was during the days of Secret Wars II (ask an older comic fan about this, after they stop crying they might tell you about it), and as Algrim is rendered a hideously burned amnesiac only driven by his hatred for Thor, he is found by the cosmic being known as the Beyonder. The Beyonder transforms Algrim into Kurse, who battles Thor with his new found cosmic power.
Kurse is front and center as Thor: The Dark World’s heavy. In the comic, Thor convinces Kurse that it was Malekith who caused his fiery tragedy, and the Beyonder-forged monster eventually breaks Malekith’s neck as the Master of Hounds is disguised as Thor’s ally Balder the Brave. In a sweet twist in the comic, the bestial Kurse went on to save Volstagg’s daughter and was renamed Val-Goth, the Protector of Children.
Like any good Asgardian villain, Malekith did not stay dead long and returned in the pages of the Incredible Hercules, where Hercules, disguised as Thor, had to take on the Dark elf sorcerer. Malekith is the villain in Jason Aaron’s second major Thor arc, and the always kick-ass writer is making great strides in fleshing out Simonson’s character for a new generation of readers about to encounter Malekith for the first time on the big screen. Some other memorable Malekith appearances were in 1998’s Heroes for Hire where Malekith disguised himself as business man Malcolm Keith and takes on the Black Knight, and as a villain in the 1997 Cable and X-Force Annuals.
Other than Loki, Malekith will be the only wielder of magic that has appeared in a Marvel film. Rumblings and rumors seems to indicate that magic and sorcery will soon play a huge role in upcoming live action projects for Marvel (Tahiti’s a magical place), so could Malekith’s inclusion be a precursor to more Marvel spell weavers?