The Origin of Gorr the God Butcher
Featuring early outlines, scripts and character designs
Happy “Love and Thunder” eve to you and yours.
Wanted to send a season’s greetings this week even though things are rather insane here at Beard Missives HQ, AKA the world headquarters of Golgonooza Inc. (my S-corp named for William Blake’s city of art and imagination, because that’s how much of a nerd I am), AKA my home full of comics and toy hammers in the wilds of Kansas.
I feel like for weeks now every time I’ve looked at any sort of flat surface, I’ve seen an add for THOR LOVE AND THUNDER plastered across it. The hype has definitely been at full-on Odin-Force levels. Did I mention there’s a Jane Foster Thor Happy Meal toy?
As that hype now reaches its crescendo, let’s talk a bit about how things got started for some of its characters. In a previous edition of this newsletter, “Sweet Jane” from April 2021, I talked about the beginnings of the Jane Foster saga, including my first notes and story outlines. This week let’s talk about how things began for my first Thor villain, a guy whose themes would shape my entire run: Gorr the God Butcher.
I got the gig writing THOR sometime in the Fall of 2011. And the first thing I did was start reading old THOR comics, starting of course with JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #83, Thor’s first appearance, from August 1962. On page two of that story, we meet Thor’s very first enemies, the Stone Men from Saturn.
The first bad guy ever named in a THOR comic was called Gorr. Though instead of a Butcher of Gods he was a mighty Uprooter of Plant-Things.
The idea of a serial killer of gods was the first Thor idea I seized on, as seen in this initial outline for my run, which I delivered to my editor, Lauren Sankovitch, in January 2012. You can read that entire outline below.
A couple points of interest from my first THOR outline:
—This was before the book had been tilted THOR GOD OF THUNDER.
—I guess I wasn’t initially sold on the name Gorr, since I said…
A serial killer of gods (Don’t have a good name for this guy yet. For now, we’ll call him Gorr).
“For now” turned into 10 years and a film character with his own action figures.
At the time, Lauren didn’t love the name either, but in a follow-up email a few weeks later, I ended up talking us both into it:
This guy starts out as a caveman, so it makes sense to give him a caveman kinda name. I don't know. Gorr the God-Butcher. I think I really like that. He wouldn't be called Gorr for the most part. That's his birth name, that hardly anyone would know. God-Butcher would be like his serial killer nickname.
So clearly I was wrong. Gorr is most definitely what he’s been called for the most part. But at this point, I can’t imagine him going by any other name. Our boy is most assuredly a Gorr.
—I mention Old King Thor’s missing daughters, who would eventually become his granddaughters, the rambunctious Goddesses of Thunder.
—I’d totally forgotten about the idea that the “Godbomb” arc would end with an angry old God of Gods being roused from his slumber, a villain I would gradually build towards over the course of my run. In a follow-up email to Lauren, I described that story as:
Much like the Biblical story of Noah, I want the original creator of the universe to show up and be disgusted with what's become of his creation and start to destroy the entire universe so that he can start it all over again. And Thor has to stop him. Basically setting up god vs. God.
That’s one idea I ended up abandoning completely. Or did I?
—As I’ve mentioned before, I always wanted to do more with those new gods Thor delivers to the godless world at the end of “Godbomb.” But I got away from that idea and didn’t come back to it until seven years later, at the very end of my run, with KING THOR, when we finally got to see some Esad designs for those rescued gods.
—“Tournament of the Gods,” the initial idea for my second arc, would ultimately grow into the “Asgard/Shi’ar War” storyline, which would wind up being one of Jane Foster’s adventures during the MIGHTY THOR series.
—“The Return of Dr. Midas” was also abandoned, but I did wind up using Midas as the villain in ORIGINAL SIN, the Marvel event that left Thor unworthy.
—So my ideas for those follow up arcs would change quite a lot from this first outline, but Gorr’s origin and the general breakdown of the “God Butcher/Godbomb” story would stay pretty much the same all the way through. The main difference would be in how the story grew, getting longer with each new outline, going from five issues to six to eight and from one arc to two. It would wind up comprising the first 11 issues of THOR GOD OF THUNDER.
Here’s that second outline, from February 2021. The first few issues are described here in great detail. And there are more notes on arcs that were meant to follow.
My third outline in April 2012 included this description of Gorr:
Gorr The God Butcher
Our first arc introduces an all-new villain, Gorr the God Butcher. Thousands of years ago, he was a caveman on a distant alien planet, who develops a deep hatred for the mysterious gods in the sky. One day he finds a mystical black weapon, one that changes to become whatever its wielder can imagine. When Gorr first touches it, being a caveman, it becomes a sharp rock in his hand. But over the centuries his mastery of the weapon grows by leaps and bounds, until he’s able create not only an endless array of intricate weapons but a whole legion of soldiers as well, called The Black Berserkers. Everything that this shapechanging weapon becomes should be black, perhaps at times with some sort of otherworldly glimmer or glow to it.
Just like our story features three versions of Thor, we’ll see The God Butcher in three different eras as well. We first meet Gorr in the Viking Age, as a mysterious lone serial killer of gods. He wears an undulating black cloak and hood, all made from his shapeshifting weapon. He wears no armor or other garments. Beneath the cloak, he’s naked and pale, barefoot, hairless. He sticks to the shadows, killing gods one by one, butchering them like animals. He’s more of a creepy Jeffrey Dahmer type than any sort of true warrior, but he’s still able to slaughter his fair share of gods. However, once he’s defeated by young Thor, he starts to rethink his strategy.
We next see the God Butcher in the present day, where he’s become more of a god-hunting general, complete with his own army, The Black Berserkers. The Berserkers are big, armored warriors who wield battle axes and swords and maces. They don’t talk. They are in fact made entirely from the God Butcher’s shapechanging weapon. And Gorr himself has become more of a warrior/executioner/dark sorcerer. He still has a cloak but now with armor, perhaps with some bloody god scalps hanging from his belt.
The final confrontation with the God Butcher takes place thousands of years in the future. By this point, Gorr has basically become the thing he once hated. He’s become a dark god himself. He’s become one with his black weapon. It’s kept him alive for eons. It’s part of him. He looks like a crazy dark version of a Kirby god. He has legions of Black Berserkers and a massive black fortress on a desolate planet in deep space, all made from the shapechanging weapon. He has hundreds of enslaved gods working to build his ultimate weapon, the Godbomb, which when triggered, will wipe out every god from the beginning of time until the end.
Based on that, artist Esad Ribic created his first design for Gorr.
I suggested we make his hands more human, because I thought he’d be creepier the more human and relatable he was. And Esad replied:
that's not a prob at all,will be easier to draw if it's closer to human form:)i can just reverse his thumb into forward direction,or do fully human hands,What would you guys/gals prefer?
concerning legs,it's easy to just do human ones but i got the idea here!There's old Balkan legend that devil has one goat leg and one human,so he limps because of that,tries to hide it underneath robes and shit.
Why don't we give him just one human leg?I was always into nonsymetrical willains,might work nice visually and it won't be seen that much.Waddya think!?
I always loved Esad’s idea for Gorr having one shriveled goat leg. Not sure that’s something we’ve ever really talked about in interviews before. Esad’s updated design:
And here are the script pages for Gorr’s first appearance in THOR GOD OF THUNDER #2:
9.5) Tight on the God Butcher’s hand, on a big black sword forming. All of the God Butcher’s weapons should be ghastly and gnarly. He’s not a warrior. He doesn’t have smooth polished swords and axes. He’s a butcher. A murderer. A serial killer. His weapons are rough and jagged and spiked. Meant for torture and pain. Never for a clean death. He doesn’t believe in such a thing. He wants gods to suffer as much as possible before they die.
10.1) Suddenly the God Butcher’s sword slashes in, cutting the head off Thor’s horse. Thor is caught completely off-guard.
10.2) The horse is dead, falling in pieces. Thor is falling with it, gazing up at us in shock.
GORR (from off): Feel that, little lord of heaven? That sense of helplessness as you fall?
GORR (from off): That is how it feels to be mortal.
10.3) Full reveal on the God Butcher. He’s floating in the air, enveloped in the swirling cloak. And the cloak has grown wings. Big outstretched bat wings. He’s hovering there, bloody sword in hand, gazing down at Thor like some big frightening dark angel.
GORR: Next you will learn how it feels to be butchered.
How it started (with art by Esad and colors by Ive Svorcina):
How it’s going:
Yeah, he looks different. But since when does “different” automatically equate to “wrong?” Things always have to evolve as part of an adaptation, for all sorts of different reasons. And for my money, the core parts of the character remain on the big screen.
So never stop butchering, my son. You’ve made us all proud.
This Week’s New Releases
KING CONAN #6, the grand finale of “Conan’s Last Stand at the Edge of the World.” Featuring the blistering artwork of Mahmud Asrar and Matt Wilson.
My last word on one of my all-time favorite characters. Maybe forever. Maybe for now. Like the Cimmerian, we’ll just have to see where the road takes us.
AVENGERS FOREVER #7, art by Aaron Kuder, inks by Cam Smith, colors by Guru-eFX. “The Pillars” arc continues. A romp through the multiverse where each issue focuses on a different alt-reality version of some of the most important mainstays of the Avengers. This issue, we focus on Steve Rogers. On a lot of Steves. A whole prison full of them, in fact. In a story that just had to be called “Escape From Cell Block Steve.”
All hats off to Aaron Kuder for the incredible work he’s doing on this series. And somehow it only gets better as it goes.
Notes & Links & Things & Stuff
—SKTCHD has long been one of the best sights for comic reviews and commentary, so I was happy they put together this retrospective of the story behind the story of Jane Foster, featuring comments from most of the folks involved:
—I recently spoke to USA Today about most things Asgardian and Alabama football:
—A quote from that interview has apparently started making the rounds in college football circles:
This is not a new revelation. I did my best to openly threaten the rest of the college football landscape back in 2015:
—Here’s an interview with me and MIGHTY THOR artist Russell Dauterman on the red carpet at the recent THOR LOVE AND THUNDER premiere:
This has been Beard Missives, direct from the goat-loving face of Jason Aaron.
This week’s newsletter has been brought to you by a lack of sleep.
Stay loved, stay thundering. Stay worthy.
KC, July 7, 2022
"For the Spaces reachd from the starry heighth, to the starry depth;
And they builded Golgonooza: terrible eternal labour!”
—William Blake, Jerusalem
Things To Come
All ship-dates are very much subject to change right now, for reasons to do with, you know, the ongoing state of the world.
AVENGERS FOREVER #7 — July 6, 2022
KING CONAN #6 — July 6, 2022
AVENGERS FOREVER #6 2nd printing — July 13, 2022
PUNISHER #3 2nd printing — July 13, 2022
PUNISHER #4 — July 13, 2022
AVENGERS #58 — July 20, 2022
AVENGERS #59 — August 10, 2022
PUNISHER #5 — August 10, 2022
AVENGERS: 1,000,000 B.C. #1 — August 17, 2022
KING CONAN trade — August 23, 2022
AVENGERS FOREVER #8 — August 24, 2022
AVENGERS BY JASON AARON Hardcover Vol. 3 — September 6, 2022
PUNISHER #6 — September 7, 2022
AVENGERS FOREVER #9 — September 21, 2022
HEROES REBORN Omnibus — September 27, 2022
AVENGERS Vol. 10: THE DEATH HUNTERS trade — September 27, 2022
This is awesome. Thanks for the inside info. I can't help but feel a bit more informed than the average reader now. Perhaps I need a pipe and smoking jacket, or maybe just some elbow pads on my tweed jacket, while I "Um, actually..." the other nerds at my LCS.
I went to see Thor: Love & Thunder this afternoon. You nailed it when you said the core parts of Gorr remain on the screen. Gorr is one of those villains whose motivations are completely understandable. Between Gorr and seeing Jane's journey, shortened though it was in the movie, a lot of emotions bubbled up, and I was reminded why I love your Thor run and how much it means to me. Thank you.