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A Wagnerian Thor

Written By The Wagnerian on Thursday 19 May 2011 | 12:51:00 am

I like to share "odd" bits of Wagnerian miscellanea  from time to time and I thought this might be of interest - especially given the recent release of the movie "Thor" (of which I have not seen so cannot comment) . According to blogger Andrew May, in his blog Forteana  Wagner's ring - together with  Alberich, Rheinmaidens, stolen gold, et al - made an appearance in 1980 in Marvel Comics "Thor" (source of course of the recent movie).  This story arch was written by wagnerian comic book writer Roy Thomas - who would go on to write a graphic novel of Der Ring Des Nibelungen (I will discuss that at a later time).

A Wagnerian Thor

Back in 1980 I had been a fan of the Marvel comic Thor for twelve years, and of Richard Wagner's Der Ring Des Nibelungen for two years. Thus I was well-placed to appreciate the storyline that began in issue 294 of Thor (cover-dated April 1980), which bears a more-than-passing resemblance to Wagner's magnum opus (a fact heralded in the Bullpen Bulletins for that month: "Thor #294: Beginning this issue - the Quest for the Ring of the Nibelung!").

The story in question, written by Roy Thomas and illustrated by Keith Pollard and Chic Stone, is called 'New Asgards for Old', and is based on the intriguing notion that Ragnarok (the Twilight of the Gods of Norse mythology) is cyclic, occurring at the end of each astrological age of approximately 2150 years. The previous Ragnarok-cycle was the one relating to the traditional Norse gods (the Aesir) that feature in the Icelandic Eddas and in Wagner's Ring. The present cycle is the one relating to the Marvel Comics characters (Asgardians) with the same names as the old Norse gods.

The "Wagnerian" storyline actually starts on page 20 of issue 294 (see detail at left), when the dwarf Alberich steals the Rhinegold from the three Rhinemaidens. Now, you might think that this isn’t specifically Wagnerian at all... that it's just a case of Roy Thomas drawing on the same Eddaic material as Wagner. But the Rhinegold (and Alberich's theft of it from the Rhinemaidens) isn't in the Eddas -- it was invented by Wagner as a McGuffin to hold his opera cycle together! The fact was that Roy Thomas liked the story of The Ring and wanted to do a comic adaptation of it. Eventually, in 1989, he did produce a "proper" graphic novel of it: The Ring of the Nibelung, illustrated by Gil Kane. But back in 1980, graphic novels hadn't been invented, and the pages of Thor were the next best thing!