Marvel shocked the world and garnered mainstream media attention earlier this week when it announced on ABC’s The View that a new female Thor will be introduced in her very own series in October. In a press release, Marvel editor Wil Moss emphasized that the Thor wouldn’t be temporary and that “she’s the one and only Thor, and she is worthy!”
Longtime readers of the Thunder God’s comics will note that despite all the media buzz and hoopla, this is far from the first time somebody unexpected has proven worthy of wielding the mighty hammer Mjolnir. Since Thor’s introduction in Journey Into Mystery #83, other superheroes, mortals, frogs, aliens, and yes, a couple of women, have all had their moments with the hammer. In some instances, these other hammer-wielders became semi-long-term replacements for Thor and were featured in their very own series.
Here are 10 of the very best comic book characters who unexpectedly proved they were worthy of holding Mjolnir.
10. Roger “Red” Norvell
Roger "Red" Norvell is part of a documentary filmmaking crew that is tricked into going to Asgard by Loki during the Roy Thomas/Sal Buscema run on Thor in the late-1970s. In this arc, Red falls in love with Sif but is rejected when he makes his advances. In response to this denial (and Loki’s goading), Red decides to challenge Thor for Sif’s affections.
Unbeknownst to Thor or Loki, Odin hatches a secret plan to find a successor to Thor in case Asgard were to come under attack and the genuine article was unable to defend his homeland. Thor’s essence is instilled in the Thunder God’s iron gloves and belt. After Red comes into possession of the gloves and belt, he becomes strong enough to grab Mjolnir from Thor and defeat him.
Red is later killed by the serpent Jormungand, but is resurrected by Odin. This time, Norvel gets his very own hammer named Crusher.
9. Dargo Ktor
First introduced by Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz in Thor #384, Dargo Ktor is the future Thor from around 2587 AD. In his debut issue, Mjolnir is found embedded in rock and put on display by the “Cult of the Hammer” in hopes that someone will prove worthy enough to lift it. While Dargo is skeptical of Thor’s legend, he attends a secret ceremony organized by the cultists and ends up being able to grab the hammer, being transformed into the Thunder God.
After defeating an army of evil trolls, Dargo questions whether or not he is truly worthy of wielding Mjolnir. Sensing that the hammer “belongs to another,” he sends it through a portal where it is returned to the original Thor.
Dargo would appear in a handful of other storylines after this one, including 1993’s Thor Corps miniseries.
8. Wonder Woman
As one of the most famous heroines in all of comics, it’s actually a bit disappointing that Wonder Woman doesn’t place higher on this list. She comes into possession of the hammer during the mid-90s DC vs Marvel miniseries by Ron Marz, Peter David, Dan Jurgens and Claudio Castellini, only to relinquish the mighty weapon in a blink of an eye. That means a more expansive story depicting Wonder Woman’s time with Mjolnir will have to be reserved for speculative fan fiction.
However, it is worth noting that over the course of this brief sequence, Wonder Woman is extraordinarily noble. She is confronted by Storm right after she grabs Mjolnir. While holding Mjolnir, Wonder Woman realizes its vast power and believes that using the hammer against Storm would leave to an “easy” but perhaps, dishonorable victory. She then drops the weapon and goes after the African goddess alone.
Of course, the moral of the story is who needs nobility? Storm defeats the hammer-less Wonder Woman.
7. Thor Earth-9997
As part of Alex Ross/Jim Kreuger/John Paul Leon’s Earth X miniseries, which is set in an alternative dystopian future, Thor is not a god but instead an alien from an unidentified planet that was manipulated by the Celestials centuries ago. He is also a she. Thor is transformed into a woman by Odin, after his step-brother Loki convinces their father that Thor needs a lesson in humility. By making him a member of the “weaker sex,” Thor would also be subjected to the lust of other men.
Despite the sex change, Thor is still an incredibly powerful superhero and champion for Earth throughout the Earth X saga. She initially fights alongside the Tony Stark-led Iron Avengers. However, over the course of the storyline, Loki convinces Thor that her Asgardian heritage is all a ruse – a manipulation by Odin. She realizes she has the power to control her shape and form, and opts to turn back into Thor's male persona. By the end of the series, Loki assumes the identity of Thor and Thor goes back to his human form, Donald Blake.
6. Jake Olson
The third full-time Thor, Jake Olson, was first introduced during the underrated Dan Jurgens/John Romita Jr. “Heroes Return” relaunch of the Thor series. The EMT worker is apparently killed in an explosion when he’s present for a fight between Thor and the Avengers and the Destroyer. Thor also appears to have been killed during the battle, but is saved by a mysterious being named Marnot who bonds Jake’s life force to the Thunder God, creating a new iteration of the hero.
As the series marches onward, Loki eventually learns of his half-brother's new identity and takes possession of Jake’s soul. Loki possesses the original Jake’s body, but becomes imprisoned there and stripped of his powers by Odin. Jake’s soul is then granted eternal peace by Odin.
5. Jane Foster
A 1978 issue of the hypothetical series What If? examines what would happen if long-time Journey Into Mystery/Thor nursemaid and love interest Jane Foster walked by the infamous cave and found Mjolnir instead of Donald Blake. The answer is Thorite – the first female Thor in comics.
In a total role reversal, Thorite battles Loki and defends the helpless Donald against the forces of evil. However, Odin eventually forces Jane to relinquish the hammer and pass it on to its rightful owner, Donald. As a consolation prize, the powerless Jane retains her goddess status and marries Odin.
While developing a female Thor for the Earth X series, Jim Kreuger and Alex Ross reportedly used the What If? issue as a source of inspiration for their character design.
4. Captain America
In the late 1980s, Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, became so disenchanted by all of the political corruption in the United States, he resigned as the Red, White and Blue Avenger and instead took on the alias known as “the Captain.” Cap’s behavior (Rogers was also on the outs with Tony Stark in the wake of their fight during “Armor Wars”) left Thor leery of his longtime friend, but all of that was reversed when the Captain proved worthy of wielding Mjolnir in Thor #390.
In the story, Cap is getting piled on by a group of bad guys when he suddenly grabs the hammer and tosses everyone away. Thor is stunned by the moment, and apologies to Cap for any doubts he may have had about his character. Thor goes on to “salute” Cap, who in turn tells the Thunder God that he is honored to have been able to hold Mjolnir, even if it was just for a few minutes.
Flash forward to Marvel’s 2099 timeline, Rogers came into possession of Mjolnir again during the 2099: Manifest Destiny one-shot.
In the final installment of the epic Marvel/DC crossover event JLA/Avengers, Thor is left incapacitated and it is up to Superman to lead all of the Avengers and Justice League heroes against the evil powers of Krona. During this stunning moment (illustrated masterfully by George Perez), Superman grabs Mjolnir and Captain America’s shield, two of the most iconic weapons in Marvel Comics history, and defeats Krona.
Superman’s time with the mighty hammer is short-lived. Immediately following the battle with Krona, he can no longer life the hammer. Thor reveals to Superman that the always-wise Odin allowed the “Man of Steel” the wield Mjolnir for as long as it took him to save the world.
2. Eric Masterson
In the wake of the critically and commercially successful Walt Simonson run on Thor in the 1980s, fictional architect Eric Masterson was introduced as a supporting character in the Thor universe. In his debut issue, Masterson is badly hurt and nearly killed at a construction site where Thor’s then-civilian alter ego, Sigurd Jarlson, was working. Going forward, Masterson would continually be attacked by various villains, before he is fatally wounded by Mongoose. At that point, Odin gives Masterson the power of Thor in order to save his life.
Masterson operated as Thor for a number of issues during the 1990s, participating in such major events as the Infinity Gauntlet and “Operation: Galactic Storm.” He would eventually relinquish control of Mjolnir back to the original Thor when he is manipulated by the Enchantress into fighting over the Lady Sif’s affections. Upon Masterson’s defeat, Odin gives him a new weapon dubbed Thunderstrike. The Masteron-led Thunderstrike series ran for 24 issues before its cancellation (and Eric’s death) in 1995.
1. Beta Ray Bill
In case the cover to Thor #377 – which depicts a strange, horse-like creature in full Thor-garb swinging Mjolnir – wasn’t enough of an attention grabber for readers when it was released in 1983, Walt Simonson kicked off his epic writer/sometimes-artist run on the book by introducing the first, non-Norse character to be able to hold the hammer.
Beta Ray Bill is a member of the Korbinite species whose arrival on Earth alarms Nick Fury. Thor is eventually called upon to take on this mysterious creature. As Thor and Bill fight, Thor accidentally reverts to his human form, which gives Beta Ray the opportunity to shockingly grab Mjolnir for himself.
In the subsequent issue, Odin has Thor and Bill battle each other to the death in order to determine who should hold the hammer. Thor appears to be defeated, but Bill spares him and proves to be more virtuous than originally believed. As a reward for his nobility, Odin bestows upon Bill a new hammer dubbed Stormbreaker.
Ever since his debut, Beta Ray Bill has been a mainstay in the Marvel Universe and has emerged as a fan favorite character. In more recent storylines, Bill has been a part of some of Marvel’s cosmic-verse, appearing in series such as Annihilators and The Thanos Imperative.