From page to screen: the comic book inspirations for Thor: Ragnarok

By ·October 21, 2017 11:00 am

Thor: Ragnarok’s release date is fast approaching and we have a pretty clear indication that the film is going to be an epic thrill ride from start to finish. What you may not know though, is that the film is pulling inspiration and storylines from a vast treasure trove of comics to bring that spectacle to your theater screens.

Firstly, the comic book version of Ragnarok has only ever been featured twice in comic history, most recently in Michael Avon Oeming’s excellent Thor run from 2004. It is based on the “fall of the gods” Norse mythos that sees Thor, Odin, Heimdall, and pretty much every major God wiped out in an endless cycle of rebirth. In the comics though, Thor doesn’t die so much as he enters a sort of limbo state as a depowered human man on Earth, so don’t expect Thor to die when you walk into the theater just yet.

As for the MCU, Thor was last seen in the MCU proper flying off after the events of Age of Ultron to find out what is happening on Asgard after some premonitions he had earlier in the film. We then only get a brief glimpse of him chatting with Doctor Strange in his movie’s post-credits scene, who offers Thor help in finding out the whereabouts of Odin if he promises to return to Asgard with the rest of the Asgardians.

Karl Ubran’s Skurge and Hela, portrayed by Cate Blanchett.

So where does that leave us at the start of Ragnarok? Well, events seem to be unfolding that enables the goddess Hela, ruler of Hel and goddess of death, to break free of her centuries old imprisonment in Asgard. This differs a little from the comic books, as Hela is not directly involved in the Ragnarok storylines, and is instead mostly interested in ruling over the dead of Valhalla as well as Hel, something Thor and Odin do not approve of.

Skurge, played by Karl Urban in Thor: Ragnarok has another interesting comic connection to Thor: Ragnarok, and a potentially important one too. In the comics, Skurge is an Asgardian who falls in love with the villain Enchantress, and is frequently used in plots against Thor by her and Loki. Skurge is eventually spurned by Enchantress, and joins Thor and Balder on a rescue mission in Hel. There is definitely a whiff of the same dynamic between Loki, Hela, and Skurge in Ragnarok, but time will tell if that winds up being the case.

And then, we come to the beloved Planet Hulk. Given that the Hulk has no interaction with Ragnarok, it may seem a bit odd to incorporate Thor’s journey in Ragnarok to that of the planet Sakaar, where Hulk becomes stranded in the Planet Hulk storyline.

Gladiator Hulk’s impressive CGI.

The move however, was necessitated on both the inner workings of the studios, and a need to bring Thor into the larger Avengers picture. Instead of leaving him to deal with his problems alone, Hulk and Thor will now at least in part journey together, coming together to create a hilarious dynamic shown off in the various teasers. The move also makes sense because of the sheer lack of Hulk in the larger fabric of the MCU, rumored to be because of studio infighting with Universal over 2008s The Incredible Hulk starring Edward Norton. Either way, the move seems like it will pay off.

Now, in the comics, Hulk is originally sent to space after a group known as the Illuminati (a group made up of the leaders of the various superhero factions) vote on his exile after a gamma bomb explodes, causing Bruce Banner to lose control and go into his Hulk-state. Vowing that Hulk presents too much of a danger to Earth, they trick him into entering orbit to fix a satellite, but instead set him on a course for a peaceful planet.

Unbeknownst to the Illuminati, a rogue wormhole intercepts the ship, causing the ship to exit the other side at Sakaar. An explosion then rocks the ship and the ship carrying Hulk crash lands on the planet where he taken captive and fitted with an “obedience disk” that prevents him from using his powers. After being taken into slavery, Hulk is then forced to fight in the same gladiatorial arenas we see in the trailer complete with his epic Gladiator Hulk armor.

Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster.

The story from there focuses on Hulk winning over the other gladiators in an effort to take down Sakaar’s ruler known as the Red King, which also differs from the film in a meaningful way.

In lieu of the Red King, Ragnarok’s Sakaar is ruled by Grandmaster, an “Elder of the Universe,” and the brother of The Collector. This is significant because not only does Collector currently possess the reality stone, last seen in Thor: The Dark World, but also because Grandmaster is rather famous for losing an infinity gem to Thanos in a game of chance. What are the odds, right?

It’s definitely interesting to see the mashup of characters and storylines, some from totally different eras among the Marvel comics universe. Thor: Ragnarok is definitely made up of a lot of  unique ingredients, but like any good meal the right balance can make all the difference. Thor: Ragnarok opens on November 3rd in the US and October 27 in the UK.

Image credits: Marvel Studios

Written by Alex Wedderien


Alex is a writer and father of two in the Piedmont region of North Carolina. His previous work includes copy writing, technical writing, and brand copy. One day he also plans to write his own comic book.

His interests include comic books, sci fi and fantasy novels, and retro video games.

His specialty subjects include DC, Marvel, and Image comics.

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