Since the dawn of the Silver Age, legacy characters have been a staple of superhero fiction, and having a new character step into a well loved role can open up new opportunities for writers and artists to tell different kinds of stories. In The Replacements, we’ll look back at the notable and not-so-notable heroes and villains to assume some of the most iconic mantles in the superhero genre.
The Mighty Thor is a hero as old as time and a founding Avenger, but The Prince of Asgard is not the only person to bear that moniker. Over time there have been other heroes and villains who have attempted to claim the name of Thor, and not all of them were considered worthy.
Thor (Red Norvell)
Created by Roy Thomas & John Buscema (Thor #273)
Roger “Red” Norvell was a documentary film maker who was spirited to Asgard with his crew as part of one of Loki’s schemes, and after becoming infatuated with Lady Sif, he challenged Thor to a fight. Loki gifted Red with several mystical items to make him Thor’s equal, and driven mad with power, Red defeated the Thunder God and kidnapped Sif.
Sif eventually convinced Red to return her to Asgard, and he redeemed himself by taking Thor’s place in a battle with the Midgard Serpent, sacrificing himself to prevent Ragnarok. This was Odin’s plan all along, and he crafted the magical items so that someone could stand in for his son. Due to his heroism, Red Norvell was admitted entry into Valhalla.
He was resurrected as a god by Odin to once again stand in Thor’s stead after a father/son falling-out, and was gifted his own hammer which he named “Crusher.” He briefly took on the duties as protector of the nine realms and clashed with Thor once again, but the two Thunder Gods parted ways with respect and admiration for each other.
He would later round up a team of lost gods to fight the evil god Seth, but died again in the process. Forced to be a minion of the dark god, Norvell was sent to restore the Asgardians’ memories as part of the plan to destroy the World Tree, but in doing so Red himself remembered who he was and broke Seth’s grip on him and he returned to Asgard to join his brothers and sisters in battle.
Beta Ray Bill
Created by Walter Simonson (Thor #337)
Beta Ray Bill was a cybernetically altered super soldier from a race of aliens known as the Korbinites, who was tasked with watching over the race as they fled their homeworld in search of a new place to live. When he first came into contact with Thor, they both assumed the other was an enemy, and Beta Ray Bill proved himself worthy when he was able to lift Mjolnir.
After a brief rivalry, Thor and Bill became fast friends and oathbrothers, with Odin granting Bill his own enchanted hammer named Uru. Bill left with Lady Sif to once again look after his people, but would return to Asgard at a moment’s notice should his assistance be required.
After New Korbin was devoured by Galactus, Beta Ray Bill was trapped on Earth in the body of a mortal man named Simon Walters. Following a series of mystical visions, he found himself in Canada where he joined the new heroic Omega Flight and trapped himself in the Realm of the Great Beasts in order to save the country.
He fought alongside Thor during the Skrull invasion of Earth and later attempted to hunt down Galactus to get revenge for the death of his people. As his plan to eliminate the planets that Galactus intended to devour proved effective, Galactus made peace with Bill by giving new life to a deceased Korbinite, so that they may begin work repopulating their species.
Thunderstrike (Eric Masterson)
Created by Tom DeFalco & Ron Frenz (Thor #391)
Eric Masterson was a friend of Thor’s from when The God of Thunder attempted to have a civilian life as the construction worker “Sigurd Jarlson”. When Eric’s life was in jeopardy after a supervillain attack, Thor pleaded with his father to save his friend’s life, so Eric and Thor were bonded together, similarly to how Thor was once bonded to Dr. Donald Blake.
This new life as Thor brought Eric a lot of hardship as he was undergoing a custody battle with his ex-wife over their son Kevin, and his superheroics caused him to be either unreliable or frequently in great danger. He briefly split from the Thunder God, but made the choice to re-merge to aid Thor in retrieving the sword known as Twilight.
When Thor was banished for killing his brother Loki, he begged his father to not leave Midgard without a protector, and so Eric was blessed with all of the powers of Thor for himself. He served proudly as Thor for a brief period, before the original returned to reclaim the mantle.
Eric was gifted with the Uru mace known as “Thunderstrike” and chose to carry on as a hero, taking the same name. He died after purging himself of the corruption of the Bloodaxe following a battle with Seth, but his legacy lived in on in the form of his teenage son Kevin, who became the new Thunderstrike.
Thor Girl (Tarene)
Created by Dan Jurgens & John Romita Jr (Thor #22)
At the beginning of time, Tarene was prophesied as the “Designate” who would usher sentient beings into a new level of existence. Billions of years later, she was born, but her homeworld was destroyed by Thanos, who had learned of the prophecy. After Thanos was defeated by Thor, Tarene took the form of an Asgardian and began calling herself Thor Girl, while taking the civilian identity of Tara Olsen.
She fought alongside Thor and other Asgardians whenever the need was necessary, and sacrificed her cosmic powers in a battle with Surtur, though she retained her Asgardian abilities. Depowered but still destined to someday be the Designate, she remained on Earth as an adventurer and a hero.
When the United States government enacted the Superhuman Registration Act, Tarene signed up and was sent to Camp Hammond as a member of The Initiative. At some point she was replaced with by a Skrull, and after the failed Skrull invasion she returned to a life and friends that she had never made for herself.
When The Serpent attacked Earth, Thor Girl was seen carrying a hammer and mistaken for one of his Worthy. After suffering persecution at the hands of humans, her Designate powers returned and she departed for the stars, claiming that humans are too petty and vindictive to deserve enlightenment and ascension.
Created by Mark Millar & Steven McNiven (Civil War #3)
In the midst of the superhuman Civil War, Iron Man’s pro-registration side faced off against Captain America’s anti-registration, side and just when things started to go Cap’s way, Thor seemingly returned and sided with Iron Man. However, when Thor murdered the hero Goliath, it was evident this was not the true God of Thunder.
Tony Stark, Reed Richards and Hank Pym had created a cybernetic clone of Thor and attempted to use it to give them an advantage, but after it was destroyed by Hercules in the final battle, it was retired from use.
The clone was awoken by Criti Noll, the Skrull that replaced Hank Pym, as a safety measure should their invasion fail, and later wreaked havoc in Camp Hammond. His path of destruction was only stopped when he discovered his true clone nature and departed to find the true Thor to test itself against.
During the Siege of Asgard, the clone Thor arrived in Broxton, Oklahoma, where it met Thor in combat and was felled. The body was later recovered by AIM, who restored it to be a member of the Dark Avengers, but that team was eventually defeated and imprisoned before becoming the new Thunderbolts.
Created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby (Journey into Mystery Annual #1)
When Thor was banished from Asgard for killing his grandfather Bor, Hercules was approached by Balder The Brave to impersonate the God of Thunder in order to negotiate some sensitive matters with Queen Alflyse of the Dark Elves. However, Balder was none other than Malekith The Accursed in disguise, hoping that Hercules’ bumbling nature would lead to an opportunity for him to reclaim his place as King of Svartalfheim.
Hercules — as Thor — ingratiated himself with Alflyse and the Dark Elves, so much so that he ended up spending the night in the queen’s chambers, which according to Dark Elf custom meant they were now married. Thinking that she was now betrothed to Thor, Alflyse rallied her troops so that Thor could reclaim his rightful throne in Asgard.
In order to set the situation straight, the real Warriors Three recruited the real Thor to impersonate Hercules and challenge Hercules (again, dressed as Thor) to a fight. Through their staged combat, it was eventually revealed that Hercules was not actually the Prince of Asgard, and together the heroes were able to defeat Malekith and stop his machinations.
Tanarus (Ulik The Troll)
Created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby (Thor #137)
When The Mighty Thor fell after defeating his uncle Cul The Serpent, he was replaced in the minds and memories of his friends and family by the great hero Tanarus. As far as anyone was concerned, Tanarus had always been the Asgardian God of Thunder, and he had always been an Avenger. It was only Thor’s brother Loki that could sense something was amiss.
In fact, Tanarus was none other than Ulik The Troll, in disguise as part of a plan set in motion by the Troll King, Geirrodur, and The Norn Queen, Karnilla. Tasked with killing the All-Mothers, Tanarus was welcomed as a long-time hero of Asgard, but was found out by Heimdall, who had grown suspicious that he could not see Tanarus whenever he tried to look.
As Ulik made a last ditch attempt to carry out his mission, he was stopped by the returned Thor, who engaged the troll in battle. When Ulik realized he could not face Thor on his own, he desperately tried to kill the All-Mothers, but was killed by Thor. Reduced to a skeleton, his skull was used as the prison cell for Geirrodur and Karnilla.
Thor (Dr. Jane Foster)
Created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby (Journey into Mystery #84)
After Thor became unworthy following a battle on the moon with Nick Fury, his hammer remained there until it was claimed by an unknown woman who became the new Thor. After learning of an alliance between Malekith and The Frost Giants, the new God of Thunder intervened but was challenged by the unworthy Thor, who demanded she relinquish the hammer.
The two would team up to defeat the villains, and the unworthy Thor took the name Odinson, granting the title of Thor to the woman who carried Mjolnir. This did not stop him investigating who in his life this new Thor could be, as Thor herself became more invested in the goings on of the Roxxon Corporation and their CEO, Dario Agger.
When Odin sent The Destroyer to bring back Mjolnir, All-Mother Freyja used Odinson’s list of likely candidates to draft an army of super-heroines to aid Thor in her battle. After the fight, Thor returned to Asgard, where it was revealed she was none other than Dr. Jane Foster, who had been living there as a member of the Congress of Worlds while she underwent treatment for breast cancer.
Every time Jane transformed into Thor, it would wipe away all progress made by her chemotherapy, yet that never deterred her from wielding the hammer, as there must always be a Thor. She was one of the few people from Earth-616 to make it through to God Doom’s Battleworld, and rallied the Thors in revolt against him,. When reality returned to normal, she continued in her attempts to bring down Roxxon.