Thor has always been one of the biggest, boldest, brashest, sweepingly epic comics that Marvel publishes. For decades the exploits of Thor and the gods of Asgard were positively unfilmable. Which is why it’s so hard to believe we now live in a world where there are three Thor movies, which doesn’t even take into account his star turn in Avengers: Endgame and the other films in the franchise.
Creative team after creative team tried to top one another and create the grandest, the most mythic, and the most epic Thor stories possible. And since the character debuted in 1962, Thor has attracted some of the most finest and groundbreaking creators in comics.
So if you’re a movie fan and you’re looking for a place to start with the comics, we’ve got you covered, with an easy and accessible Thor comics reading order!
Thor Reading Order
Thor: The Mighty Avenger
This all too brief series by Chris Samnee and Roger Langridge is a perfect introduction to the world of Thor for readers of all ages. The story centers around the budding love between Thor and Jane Foster and it’s something of a fish out of water series, a romantic approach to the Marvel legend of Thor, and just a kickass throwback comic that breathed new life into classic Thor foes like Mister Hyde. Thor the Mighty Avenger is just waiting to be discovered by fans eager for some note perfect Thor tales by two true modern comic book masters.
When J. Michael Straczynski took over writing Thor in the late 2000s, the God of Thunder had been missing from the Marvel Universe for quite a while. But Straczynski and Olivier Coipel brought Thor and his family of characters back in a big bad way. Thor was reborn and had to quest throughout reality to awaken all the other gods of Asgard.
This story introduced Lady Loki, a cosplay staple, and found new ways to present the gods crafted by Kirby and Lee. Many of these tales are set in Broxton, Oklahoma, combining the most fantastical elements of Thor and them with an everyday setting. Many of the Broxton elements were used in the first Thor movie.
Looking for one of the major inspirations for Thor: Ragnarok? Look no further than Avengers Disassembled: Thor, which brought about the end of Asgard, and took Thor off the playing field for a while. Beautifully drawn by Andrea Di Vitto and written by Michael Avon Oeming, this comic book version of Ragnarok already felt like a movie waiting to happen, and you can see echoes of it on screen, although it’s far more serious than it’s movie counterpart.
Yeah, it’s not a Thor story, and Thor doesn’t even appear in the comic book version, but this story is so tied up in Thor: Ragnarok that we just had to include it. And anyway, Hulk as Space Gladiator just sells itself. If you haven’t read this one yet, do yourself a favor, it’s far more epic than even the movie version could possibly encompass. Now, let’s see them build on what they did with Hulk here and in Avengers: Endgame and get to work on more Hulk movies!
Thor: God of Thunder
It’s like a Slayer concert but with Thor on bass. When people think of Jason Aaron’s Heavy Metal-esque run on Thor, they may think of the headline-grabbing Jane Foster version of the God of Thunder. And with good reason. As Thor, Foster became one of the most vital, powerful, and fascinating characters in the Marvel Universe, becoming worthy of the power of Thor while she is undergoing treatment for late stage cancer, and her unflinching bravery in the face of both medical and cosmic nightmares is incredibly inspiring.
But Jason Aaron has also has explored the original Thor, the Odinson who is every inch the hero as he was when he once wielded the mighty uru hammer. Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic introduced such concepts as Gorr the God Butcher, the serial killer of the gods, the God Bomb, and explored Thor in his brash youth and Thor when he is a one armed king billions of years from now. When Marvel starts looking at ideas for the next round of Thor movies, this is where they should start.
The above stories are the ones most accessible to modern readers and fans of the Thor movies. But if you want to dig a little deeper into Thor history (and you should), then you absolutely can’t skip two of the greatest creative runs, not just on Thor, but in superhero comics history!
The Stan Lee/Jack Kirby Years
When historians discuss the greatest moments of the immortal Stan Lee and Jack Kirby partnership, they usually begin the conversation with the duo’s collaboration on Fantastic Four. But their time on the God of Thunder both in Journey into Mystery and Thor rivals Fantastic Four for pure sheer scope and majesty. The world of Thor was made for (and by) Jack Kirby, who birthed some of his greatest creations on the world.
In Thor, Kirby got to do what he was best at, world building the Nine Realms by combining a sense of myth, fantasy, and bombastic sci-fi. Through the solo Thor feature and the Tales of Asgard backups, “The King” used his boundless imagination to bring some of the greatest characters of world myth to life. Kirby created all the familiar players of Asgard like Thor, Odin, Loki, Sif, the Warriors Three, Balder, Hela, Tyr, Fenris Wolf, the Midgard Serpent, Fafnir the Dragon, the Enchantress, the Executioner, the Destroyer, and so many more that were thrust into the Marvel Universe fully formed.
With Kirby was Stan Lee who infused Kirby’s concepts and characters with a grounded sense of humanity and humor. The vulnerability of Thor’s earthly identity, the crippled Doctor Don Blake was a pure Lee conceit. The romance between Blake and Jane Foster was right out of the Lee soap opera playbook as Lee and Kirby combined the fantastical with the mundane to create something truly great. As the series continued, it actually got more experimental and daring. The last few years of the Kirby/Lee collaboration saw Thor sent to the farthest corners of the galaxy and allowed their Thunder God to explore the boundaries of the Marvel Universe. One can say that the Marvel Cosmos was born in Fantastic Four, but it reached a maturity in Thor. Every issue of Kirby and Lee’s run provided generations of creatives with the DNA by which the Marvel Universe evolved in comics, TV, and film.
The Mighty Thor by Walt Simonson
Writer/artist Walt Simonson takes what Lee and Kirby established in the early days of Marvel’s Thor and turns the booming heavy metal soundtrack of it all up way past eleven. First off, Simonson loves myth and he loves comics, combining each of these passions into an operatic tribute to all the things that are great about Thor.
Simonson’s Thor was huge with complex battles, monsters that take up the entirety of dramatic double page spreads, and some of the most profoundly godlike moments in Marvel history. Yet, Simonson never loses the human elements and quiet moments that make Thor so special. For example, when Skurge the Executioner makes his last stand to help Thor and the gods of Asgard invade Hela’s ream, it brings a tear to the eye of even the most hardened comic fan.
Simonson didn’t just play the hits as he also introduced a number of new characters and concepts into the world of Thor. This includes the mega-popular Beta Ray Bill, the weird, horse-like alien who lifts Mjolnir and transforms into a strange and awesome version of the Thunder God. Simonson’s renderings of the world of Thor were so dramatic that each image is like a thunderclap. Simonson’s dynamism and imagery are all over the Thor films (Malekith, the villain of Thor: The Dark World comes from Simonson’s time), and with good reason, the creator was a bard worthy of the gods and his work remains arguably the highest point in the history of the character.
And oh yeah, did we mention that he penned a tale where Thor was transformed into a frog? Yeah, that happened and it was just as earth shaking as everything else that happened in Simonson’s immortal run on Thor.