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Thor Lore: The Surtur Saga

Look back at the story that left both Asgard and Midgard shaking.

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From issue #337 to #367, the legendary Walt Simonson wrote and drew THOR on his own. In that time, he revolutionized the character, expanded the mythos, and built upon the foundation Stan Lee and Jack Kirby built for the series.

One of Simonson’s best-remembered arcs arrived in THOR issues #340 to #353. Now known as “The Surtur Saga,” the year-long arc took its time to grow before exploding into a grand conclusion that left both Asgard and Midgard shaking in the aftermath.

Thor (1966) #340

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In the early issues, the only glimpses readers got of the fiery demon called Surtur came in the form of a shadowy individual pounding a sword on an anvil, sending resounding “DOOM” sound effects across the page. But the more Surtur worked, the more evil creatures woke up inside Earth, waiting for a call to action.

As he worked on this sword, which he named Twilight, Surtur sent the likes of Malekith to Midgard. Thor battled the Dark Elf there for the first time, allowing Surtur to rally his troops for their impending attack.

Odin sensed these brewing troubles and tasked the Warriors Three with gathering a force to fight for Asgard—and ordered that his own armor be prepared. A smart choice, as Surtur broke through the dimensional barrier to the realm at the end of THOR #348.

Thor (1966) #348

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Thor then returned to Asgard alongside Beta Ray Bill and Sif. After discovering that Surtur planned on using Earth as a stepping stone to get to them, all in the Norse force—except Odin and Heimdall—traveled to battle the monster on Midgard, in Manhattan. Joined by the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, Thor and his allies unwittingly played into Surtur’s plan to get to Asgard, kill Odin, and use the Flame of Destruction to bring about Ragnarok—the end of all things.

Suddenly understanding the plan, Thor left his compatriots to fight Surtur’s forces on Asgard, arriving just in time to save his friend Heimdall. Despite this early success, the Odinson failed to stop Surtur from destroying part of the Rainbow Bridge.

Armed with the Scepter Supreme, King Odin joined the fight. He stood firm against the demon, but Surtur’s power grew as he got closer to the Fire of Destruction. Summoning the power of the Cask of Ancient Winters, the flame beast froze Odin before placing Twilight in the Fire of Destruction!

The story reached its climax in the pages of THOR #353, when the previously absent Loki appeared to reveal that Surtur had placed his sword in an illusion, not the real Fire of Destruction. After their allies on Earth regained the Cask, Odin found himself freed and joined his sons in battle.

Thor (1966) #353

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As the heroes on Midgard defeated Surtur’s demons, distracting their dark leader, Thor threw Mjolnir at Twilight, disengaging the sword’s power. Seeing an opening, Odin grew to Surtur’s size and battled his foe hand-to-hand. As they grappled, Odin ordered Loki and Thor to blast the ground at their feet, sacrificing himself, sending both he and Surtur into Muspelheim.

Quiet fell across Asgard—as the realm stood safe, but without its King.

Ragnarok and Roll

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby chronicled some of the background to this story in the “Tales of Asgard” back-ups featured in the first “Thor Lore” stories! Surtur debuted in JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #97, appearing in a panel that read, “At the world’s end sat Surtur, the demon of fire, who waited, with his flaming sword, for the end of the world, when he might go forth to destroy gods and men alike!”

In issue #99, Odin battled Surtur, trapping the demon in Earth’s core. The prophetess Volla then showed Thor and his compatriots what Ragnarok would look like and the part Surtur would play in bringing it about.