Thor: The Dark World (liveblog) [x]
While it’s true of almost all the W3 and Sif, that we get these little moments of showing their awesomeness, Fandral’s comes at a time that’s easiest to talk about, in some ways. What I like about what this says is that he took care of those Einherjar guards really quickly, they barely seemed to stand a chance against him.
He was also part of the team sent to take care of the Marauders, which seemed to be a very important thing to Asgard, so I can believe they’d want to put their best people on it. We also see him talking with Odin just after the Dark Elves’ attack, which I assume is partly because they didn’t want to cast yet more actors when they could just use an already established one, but it makes me think that it’s not just that Fandral (and the others) is Thor’s friend so much as that Fandral is really, really good at what he does, that he’s one of the best Asgard has to offer.
That he became friends with Thor because he was someone who stood out at what he did, that all of them were some of the best that Asgard had to offer, so they tended to end up together (on quests, on missions Asgard needed taking care of, in training, etc.) and became friendly with each other, rather than that they were turned to because they were Thor’s friends.
I will FIGHT YOU if you say Sif isn’t one of the best warriors in all of Asgard, like, I am ready to get into an internet fight about this, maybe not everyone can be Thor (I will also FIGHT YOU if you think that Thor isn’t Asgard’s greatest champion, like, yes, part of it is because he’s such a good person and always willing to fight to protect it, no matter the cost, but also HOLY SHIT THAT DUDE IS A FUCKING TANK), but she will knock everyone else’s ass into the dirt.
And I like the idea that Hogun, Fandral, and Volstagg are all similar, that they’re all really good at what they do, that’s how they got to know Thor and then they just really got along. The way Fandral doesn’t even break a sweat taking out those trained Einherjar guards leads me to think that it makes a lot of sense in the canon!
In both the Silver Age comics and the latest retcon, Volstagg was a war veteran and Thor’s mentor. Fandral was the first to befriend him upon arriving to Asgard’s capital (seeking prestige and good fortune) and challenging Volstagg’s courage and ability as a warrior.
(Okay, I realize it’s a bit awkward that Fandral’s got his hand on Volstagg’s stomach like that, but there is significance to it. In a good number of Silver Age/Bronze Age comics, Fandral consistently puts himself in front of Volstagg when they’re facing a particularly dangerous enemy [“Stand thee aside, Voluminous One! My steel shall strike for thee!”]. The reasoning is that not only is Volstagg his best friend, but Volstagg also has a wife and children who stand losing him to battle).
In the Silver Age comics, the challenge was true to Robin Hood and Little John fashion. Volstagg was guarding a bridge on the way to the capital and would only let travelers pass if they could best him with a wooden staff. Fandral didn’t have one, so he broke a branch and quickly whittled it into shape with his sword. Fandral lost the first bout, but won the second after assessing their differences in fighting style. After learning Volstagg’s identity, he was apologetic for his arrogance, but Volstagg liked his pluck and took him under his wing just as he had Thor. Hogun was befriended later, after Thor, Volstagg, and Fandral arrive to free his land from the tyranny of Mogul of the Mystic Mountain.
In the latest retcon, Fandral was significantly younger (he looked like an adolescent, or at least the equivalent of a man in his early 20s), and was first noticed by Thor in a tavern, who remarked to Volstagg Fandral’s talent at spinning tall tales. Volstagg accused Fandral of being a braggart, while Fandral accused Volstagg of gaining his seat at the hall’s high table by being Thor’s friend rather than through any merit of his own. This led to Volstagg challenging Fandral to petting the Fenris wolf’s head. Thor uncharacteristically chose to stay out of it, so the two recruited Hogun to serve as a third-party judge. They bonded in this adventure, though it would end with their promising the Fenris wolf their lives upon the arrival of the next Ragnarok, in exchange for Hogun’s life. The event purportedly led Volstagg to become a glutton, Fandral to be an alcoholic womanizer, and Hogun (once a quiet artisan) to become the brutish ‘Grim’.
In both versions of the Warriors Three origin story, Volstagg was the key figure in introducing Fandral to Thor, and Fandral inviting Hogun to join. As far as the Warriors Three dynamic is concerned, in the comics, Fandral is the brains and de facto leader, and regards Volstagg as his closest friend (despite his frequent jibes at his weight). Volstagg operates as the jolly father-figure who keeps things friendly and light, and Hogun is the quiet straight man.
Despite his extreme womanizing in the Silver and Bronze Age comics, I have a preference for that Fandral over the current. There were more stories in which he demonstrated his genuinely kind, courteous, and generous side than the present run of comics, which too often paint him shallowly.
For instance, when the Hulk had been antagonized and brought to Asgard by Loki and the Enchantress, Fandral came to his defense twice. First by stopping the others from attacking him, saying “Methinks the mighty stranger hath been bewitched! There is no evil in one such as he!” And second by stopping Odin from killing him(lol if that’s not ballsy, I don’t know what is).
I do like how he is portrayed in the MCU, which I feel was predominantly improved upon by Zachary Levi’s performance and interpretation of the character. My only wish is that Fandral’s more roguish, social justice side would shine out more. I love that he stands up for the poor and those down on their luck, but I doubt that kind of development will happen in the next movie.
Volstagg is certainly more sweet-hearted in the comics than in the MCU. He actually adopted two Midgardian children (Kevin and Mick) after they had been orphaned as an indirect result of Thor’s actions in battle. I think this particular story was dropped in the recent continuity. Nevertheless, Volstagg’s greatest strength has always been his love for children. It’s a shame his scene with the little girl and her baseball was cut from Thor I.
Hogun has a little more depth in modern comics than in either the Silver Age/Bronze Age comics or the MCU, if only because it is explained he was once peaceful by nature and artistic. I’m more than a little miffed that a character who is so clearly a POC no matter how you look at it has had the least character development.
I will lastly note that I find it both pleasing and interesting that Fandral and Hogun remark that Volstagg is the luckiest man in Asgard; not for his ability as a fighter or his status as a war veteran, but for his successful marriage and burgeoning family. I hate that small emotional moments like this have gotten lost in the retcons instead of revisited. In a lot of ways, the machismo in comics has gotten worse.