If you’ve seen any clips of Thor: Love and Thunder, you’ll know that Jane Foster, formerly relegated to onscreen roles of nerdy scientist and Thor’s ex-girlfriend, is now, somehow able to pick up Mjolnir (Thor’s hammer) in the movie. If just the thought of a buff, girl Thor smacking around extraterrestrial beings gets you excited, you’re not alone and you’re in luck. There are tons of great Jane Foster as Thor stories available in the world of Marvel Comics for you to check out after you get back from the multiplex.
Jane is absolutely one of the cooler beings to pick up Thor’s hammer in Marvel Comics lore, but for a long time, she was, just like in the movies, relegated to the background and/or to supporting roles, often playing the helpless victim who needs saving to Thor’s hero. Since comic book continuity can sometimes be mind-numbing to figure out, here’s a quick primer and reading guide to get you up to speed with the Goddess of Thunder.
For years after their debut in Journey into Mystery issue #84 in 1962, Jane was used as a companion to Thor’s human form, Donald Blake. She worked as a nurse next to Blake in some stories and fawned over Thor in others, but aside from a few key issues where Thor reveals his superpowers (Journey Into Mystery #124) and another arc where Odin makes Jane a goddess so he can test her love for Thor (Journey Into Mysteryi>< #136), her story isn’t that exciting. Jane was basically little more than a story prop until 2011, when Jason Aaron brought her back into the foreground of Thor’s world in his God of Thunder run alongside artist Esad Ribic. That set up her eventual turn as Thor a few years later in 2014 as she became The Mighty Thor, taking over for a then disgraced, unworthy Thor Odinson.
If you stay for the credits of Love and Thunder, you’ll see different names listed under ‘Creator of Jane Foster as Thor.’ Approximately 30 years before Aaron’s run, writer Don Glut and Rick Hoberg wondered what if Jane, instead of Donald Blake, had picked up Thor’s hammer. In issue #10 of the 1977 Marvel Comics series What If?, longtime friends Glut and Hoberg teamed up with industry colleague and then Marvel Comics Editor in Chief, RoyTthomas, to find out. The series, like the Disney+ TV show with the same name, was famous for putting a strange spin on classic Marvel tales.
“As we were both friends of Roy Thomas, it was only natural and logical that we team-up for Roy’s Marvel books—like What If?. Rick and I brainstormed a lot—at parties, over the phone, etc.—-trying to come up with ideas for that book. One of them, and I don’t recall which of us thought of it first, was what would happen if Jane Foster found the staff that becomes Thor’s hammer,” Glut told Paste Magazine. “I think Rick came up with the name Thordis. We wanted the story to follow the storylines from those Journey into Mystery issues that Jack Kirby illustrated. With the variations that were bound to happen, the story more or less seemed to write itself.”
While it can be fun to go back and read through the early years of the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby Journey Into Mystery comics to check out the random instances that Jane popped up, but if you’re looking for substance, the pickings can be scarce. Starting in Thor #229, Jane is found to be dying and Thor brings in Lady Sif to grant her Asgardian energy. Later, in Thor #242, Jane finds Lady Sif’s sword and harnesses the goddess’ power and the two do a sort of body swap but that’s pretty much it. Jane Foster was created as a frail, timid nurse to play love interest to the god-like Thor and that dynamic didn’t change for decades.
If you’re looking for a Jane and Thor-centric story without having to catch up with a massive amount of comic book continuity first, check out Thor: The Mighty Avenger from 2011. The book centers around an alternate universe in which Jane and Thor meet for the first time, but ends up following the results of the superhero encounter from Jane’s point of view. Written by Roger Langridge and illustrated by Chris Samnee, the story is light, and fun and showcases the charming dynamic between the God of Thunder and the woman he’s most fond of.
Jason Aaron redefined Thor with his God of Thunder run and laid the groundwork for Jane Foster taking over the mantle. This 2011 series, which is 25 issues long, is also essential reading if you’re looking to get caught up with the big bad from Love and Thunder, Gorr the God-Butcher. If you’re just concerned with Jane though, start at issue #12, where she reveals to Thor that she’s sick with cancer and plans to enter treatment.
Being a deity, Thor offers Jane magical help, but she refuses. By the end of Aaron’s run, Thor simply isn’t the same after earth-shaking battles with the likes of evil business magnate and part-time Minotaur Dario Agger and an intervention by the Watcher who shakes him to the core) with an awful truth: “Gorr was right.” This series also foreshadows Aaron’s endgame event, War of the Realms, as longtime Thor foe Malakeith builds up new and old alliances. A new Thor, the Goddess of Thunder, makes her debut in the pages of God of Thunder #25.
If you want to simply cut to the chase and get to Jane Foster smashing trolls and other mythical creatures, pick up Thor (2014). A new mysterious Thor has taken over the mantle and now wields the legendary hammer Mjolnir. Aaron’s run with Jane as Thor is only eight issues and an annual long, and can be found in the form of two trade paperbacks or omnibus. Both contain a reprint of the original 1977 What If issue featuring Thordis as well.
In this run, Jane must deal with the draining and almost torturous cancer treatment while balancing her new responsibilities as the protector of the nine realms, including Earth and Asgard. Aaron and artist Russell Dauterman do an incredible job of highlighting Jane’s fiery spirit as she struggles to get well in between being a hero. In addition to smiting monsters, Jane also has to contend with the politics that come with being the new Thor and, not least of all, with Odin, who isn’t exactly pleased.
Jane’s adventures as Thor take a small detour in the big Marvel event Secret Wars, but her personal story picks up shortly after in the pages of The Mighty Thor. Each time Jane turns into Thor, the medicine from her chemotherapy is expunged and she has to start over, thus, she’s slowly dying. As Malakeith continues to scheme and conquer, Thor also has to deal with an increasingly agitated Odin, who is now behaving like a dictator.
Through four volumes of The Mighty Thor, Jane learns the secrets of Mjolnir’s origins, tussles with S.H.I.E.L.D, and faces off against both the Phoenix force and Volstagg, the War Thor. In the final volume of The Mighty Thor (issues #700 – #706), Jane must make a stand against the unstoppable Mangog as her cancer sickness nears a critical point.
Just because Jane’s fighting Odin, Malakeith and cancer, doesn’t mean she can’t be a team player. In All-New, All-Different Avengers written by Mark Waid and illustrated by Mahmud Asrar and Adam Kubert among others, Jane joins the Avengers alongside Iron Man, Sam Wilson as the new Captain America, Vision, and new superheroes Miles Morales, Kamala Khan a.k.a. Ms. Marvel and the new Nova, Sam Alexander. The team faces off against classic threats like Kang and Annhilius, but this lineup doesn’t last for long. Soon, after heroes under the age of 18 are deemed illegal, the newer generation of heroes led by Ms. Marvel and the new Spider-Man depart to form their own team, the Champions.
(2016) picks up in the wake of that split and follows along as the remaining team joins with Spider-Man’s new conglomerate, Parker Industries. The Avengers go on to fight several variants of Kang, the High Evolutionary and finally against Elders of the Universe throughout.
Jane’s story comes to a head in Aaron’s final big Thor event, the War of the Realms. Finally in remission from cancer, and having passed the mantle of Thor back to the original Odinson, she’s been busy helping the agents of Asgard and more specifically refugees from all nine realms as they flee from Malakeith’s war.
Jane’s transformation continues in this enormous Marvel event, which sees her become the All-Mother of Asgard and eventually the new Valkyrie. In the pages of War of the Realms: Omega #1, Jane is asked to fulfill that role by a dying Brunnhilde, who passes along the mantle and its powers to Foster. Jane’s adventures as Valkyrie continue in her own series by the same name and she has continued to fight alongside the Marvel heroes throughout the last few years.
Dana Forsythe is based in Boston and is a longtime reporter covering art, comic books and culture.