The Style Evolution of Marvel's Thor
Long flowing locks, crimson cape, statement headwear… Do the Avengers have a more glamorous member? Ever since Marvel introduced us to its version of the Asgardian god of thunder in 1962, Thor has been a style icon. The upcoming Thor: Ragnarok (in theaters Nov. 3) finds Thor shorn of his locks and stripped of his hammer, but it isn’t the god’s first makeover. Here, we look at how Thor’s style has evolved over the past half-century.
Original Thor — Journey Into Mystery #83 (1962)
Thor made his debut in 1962’s issue Journey Into Mystery #83, written by Stan Lee and Larry Lieber and drawn by Jack Kirby. With his athletic frame, swishing cape, and sleek design, the original Thor is pure Kirby — and Kirby inventions like the winged helmet, red cape, and chest circles have endured for decades.
Interestingly, this wasn’t the first time Kirby had drawn Thor: Years before, he had created an early version of the Norse god for DC Comics — a bulkier, more Viking-like version with a beard. For Marvel’s Thor, he de-Viking-ified things and turned Thor into more of a streamlined superhero.
Walter Simonson's Thor — Thor #350 (1984)
In the decades since Kirby first introduced Thor, perhaps the most legendary run for the Asgardian god is Walter Simonson’s stint during the ’80s. Under Simonson, Thor’s costume didn’t change all that much, but he definitely got bulkier — and he became a very big fan of kneepads.
It was also during Simonson’s run that he introduced the idea of another character being worthy enough to lift Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, and gain the god’s power. The first to do so was the beloved alien known as Beta Ray Bill (shown here), but he certainly wasn’t the last.
Frog Thor — Thor #366 (1986)
Perhaps one of the most iconic storylines in Thor’s comic history is his brief tenure as Frog Thor, beginning with Thor #364, which was touted as “possibly the most unusual Thor story ever published.” Yes, there was an actual storyline where Loki transformed Thor into a frog. When Frog Thor picks up Mjolnir, he regains the powers of the God of Thunder — and gets a super cool frog-sized costume, too.
Battle Armor Thor — Thor #378 (1987)
For years, Thor rarely deviated from his standard bare-armed outfit, but every once in a while, he would don elaborate battle armor — which, fun fact, was forged in a Pittsburgh steel mill. From the head-to-toe gold armor to the enormous winged helm, it’s an outfit that’s truly fit for a god.
The Incredible Hulk Returns (1988)
Long before Chris Hemsworth ever picked up the hammer, Marvel’s Thor made his live-action debut in the 1988 TV movie The Incredible Hulk Returns. Lou Ferrigno starred as the titular green giant, with Eric Allan Kramer playing Thor, and on screen, the pair teamed up to take down a sinister criminal organization. Here, the Asgardian god’s look was less Kirby and more Viking biker. Those furry shoulders were pretty sick, though.
Like many superheroes, Thor went through a bit of a costume crisis in the ’90s. Instead of a helmet, he opted for a metal face mask. Instead of armor, he donned… Is that a crop top? And that hair. Someone book ’90s Thor as Pantene’s next spokesman.
Thor #1 (2007)
A 2007 comics relaunch gave Thor a more muted and battle-ready look. As drawn by Olivier Coipel, the god traded bare arms for chainmail armor — and bright blues and yellows for black and silver. When Thor would finally join the Marvel Cinematic Universe a few years later, this is the look that the MCU would use as inspiration.
When Chris Hemsworth finally brough Thor to theaters in 2011’s solo film, he did so in elaborate Asgardian armor. Though the colors are more muted and the armor has sleeves, there are still more than a few nods to Kirby’s original design — including the red cape and those ever-present chest circles. The winged helmet even makes an appearance, although Hemsworth’s Thor spends most of his time bareheaded. (His hair is too nice to hide under a helmet.)
The Avengers (2012)
When Thor heads into battle in The Avengers, he dons his typical, long-sleeved armor, but when he’s just hanging out at S.H.I.E.L.D., he goes for this more casual, sleeveless look. Also, starting with The Avengers, Marvel apparently gave Hemsworth some lowlights (and darkened his eyebrows/facial hair). From 2012 onward, Thor is still blond… just not quite as blond.
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
In The Dark World, Thor’s costume stays pretty much the same… except at one point, he does get to wear this super sweet cloak.
Female Thor (2014)
While Hemsworth’s Thor was dominating theaters, Marvel Comics decided to give their Thor a makeover, too. In 2014, the publisher announced that the God of Thunder was being replaced by a Goddess of Thunder, as Jane Foster (who was played by Natalie Portman in the original Thor film) picked up Mjolnir and was transformed into Thor. This Thor’s costume goes back to the bare arms, but the biggest change is in the helmet, which now extends downward to cover the eyes.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
With the bare shoulders, the prominent chest circles, and the the regal red cape, Thor’s Age of Ultron look is the MCU outfit that perhaps most closely resembles Kirby’s original design. (Still no winged helmet, though.)
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Thor goes gladiator! The upcoming Thor threequel finds Hemsworth’s hero in his most radical costume yet. After losing Mjolnir to the villainous Hela (Cate Blanchett), Thor — gasp! — has his head shaved and is forced to fight in the ring. But even though he’s shorn of his signature locks, his new costume has at least one signature Thor element: If you look closely, the helmet in his hand has wings.