20 times Thor was the best Marvel superhero

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19. When he fought the Midgard Serpent

Though Thor is rightfully recognized for his milder characteristics, we would be dreadfully remiss if we didn’t talk about Thor’s pure power. Sometimes, you absolutely must have a strongman character in comics who’s busy fighting villains and monsters. It’s at the very heart of the genre.

While Thor has had plenty of squabbles with his adopted brother, Loki, we’re not looking for that kind of fight. Instead, let’s take a moment to focus on Thor’s massive, terrifying encounter with the Midgard serpent.

Though the Thor comics may seem at first to take its cues from real-world Norse mythology, don’t be fooled. It’s true that historic Scandinavians told each other tales of Jörmungandr, or the Midgard serpent, a fantastically large snake that encircles all of creation with its length and held its tail in its mouth. When Jörmungandr finally releases its tail, the Old Norse said, the end of the world, Ragnarok, would begin.

That’s not quite the case in the Marvel Thor comics, though rest assured that Ragnarok does play an important role later on. Here, the Midgard Serpent is the result of some careless science; a researcher summons the beast he takes a mysterious, venom-like substance from a serpent statue. During one of the big showdowns between Thor and the Serpent in Thor #380, writer and illustrator Walt Simonson tells the story in a comic consisting almost entirely of big, bold flash panels.

Naturally, an Asgardian prophet tells Odin that the Midgard Serpent will eventually kill Thor. So, Odin replaces Thor with another man, Red Norvell, who eventually dies in Thor’s place.

That doesn’t stop Thor from battling the Midgard Serpent a few times, however. Remember, this is comics, and it’s rare for anything or anyone to be truly dead. That’s especially the case when it’s a gigantic snake that looks like it slithered off the cover of a metal album. Watching Thor defeat it is a delight.