The King of Asgard will return to his throne on June 24 with Thor #5 finally arriving after a long hiatus caused by COVID-19 – and writer Donny Cates is ready for readers to finally get an explanation of what the Black Winter is – and how it relates to the origin of Galactus.
But before Thor #5 strikes like lightning, Newsarama spoke to Cates to set the stage for the return of his run – which is just at the beginning of his seven-year plan – why Nic Klein is the perfect Thor artist, and how the idea of tying Thor to Galactus's origin came together.
And along the way, we've got some brand new interior pages from Thor #5 to show off – and they make a strong case for Cates's praise for Klein.
Newsarama: Donny, Thor is returning with #5 now scheduled for release on June 24 after a delay due to coronavirus – and the Black Winter is finally arriving too. You've been building to this all the way back to Silver Surfer Black, with ties to the origin of Galactus. What made you want to get into Galactus’ origin, and what led you to tie that story to Thor?
Donny Cates: As I often do when I'm looking for inspiration – or even just being bored and nerdy – I found myself reading old Marvel Handbooks, the ones that tell you about all the characters' powers and origins. And I noticed in the Galactus entry there’s a line that says "Galactus is the lone survivor of the universe that existed before ours, that was destroyed," and that’s where the entry ended. I was like "Wait… what?"
So I called Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort – I was in the middle of outlining my larger epic seven-year Thor arc I'm planning to do – and I asked him if anyone had done the origin of Galactus' old universe, or what had killed it?
He said no one had, so I said "Well can I do that?" and he said yes, and asked what book I'd want to do it in. And I immediately knew it had to be Thor. What the hell else would you do it in?
It’s gonna require some big firepower, and there's none bigger in the Marvel Universe.
I was going to start my Thor run with the story that will be our second arc, which is a horror story. It's gonna be really fucked up, really scary. But then I started thinking about it and I thought, following Jason Aaron, I had to come out of the gate swinging. You don't follow Jason with a quiet horror story – you follow Jason with Galactus falling in the middle of Asgard.
There are surprises to come. I'm excited for #5, it will reveal some things about the Black Winter and its relationship to Galactus. It's an issue full of revelations. It has some pretty shocking guest stars, and some of the most gorgeous art Nic Klein has ever done. I couldn’t be more excited for people to read it.
Nrama: You mentioned the firepower Thor will have to bring to take on the Black Winter. He's probably the strongest Avenger right now -
Cates: Probably? Probably? Get out of here with that probably! [laughs]. Right now he's got the Odinforce and the Power Cosmic along with the powers that befit the God of Thunder – I don't know there’s many beings in the Marvel Universe that could top that.
Nrama: That actually plays into what I wanted to ask you. Thor's been building this arsenal of powers to take on Black Winter – a monumental threat. Are those things, like the Power Cosmic, going to stick around as part of Thor's powerset after this is done?
Cates: That's a great question to walk into this story with – and a great question to keep in mind going into that horror story I mentioned.
Nrama: What can you tell us about the Black Winter - what it is, where it came from, what kind of threat it really poses?
Cates: Not a thing. Not a single thing. I’ve kept this the most guarded thing – I've refused to even hint. But you'll definitely get some clarity on those questions in Thor #5.
Nrama: To turn that on its head, we've seen Thor survive world-ending threats before. We've even seen him lose and go through Ragnarok and come back. What's going on in his head as he’s now preparing to face an even more dangerous enemy?
Cates: You gotta think about it. He's survived these universal threats, Ragnarok. But they came back. The Black Winter killed Galactus’ world, and they didn’t come back. Ragnarok is a cycle – the Black Winter is the hole in the wheel. Nothing comes back out of it.
At the same time, he's king now. He can't make the same choices he used to make as a foolhardy prince. He has to think like a king, and as we've seen through the series, sometimes that means making choices that aren't exactly popular.
Nrama: You mentioned Nic Klein, who's drawing the Black Winter story. He’s worked on other Marvel comic books before, but he's doing career-defining work on Thor. I know there was a lot of thought put into finding the right artist for Thor. What makes Nic the perfect fit for this book, and how is he surprising you now five issues into the series?
Cates: Marvel suggested a number of really wonderful artists, and after consulting my friend Skottie Young, a brilliant artist in his own right, and Ryan Stegman, my creative partner on Venom and Absolute Carnage, they both instantly said Nic was the right artist for the job, it has to be Nic. They said "Just trust us."
I've never worked with anyone like Nic before – you wanna talk about "powerhouse," he turns in his thumbnail sketches with word balloon placement and everything, as fast as lightning. He's an amazing collaborator, he's so communicative. He's everything I want in a partner on a book – he's engaged and excited, and as an artist, he's everything I'd ever want for Thor.
I value acting over almost anything else in a book. If you can draw a slugfest, that's great. But can you draw a wordless argument between Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson where the readers still understand what they're experiencing by their faces? That's who I'll hire. That's incredibly important in connecting to readers – and Nic is one of the very few guys who can do the slugfest and the conversation both perfectly, and you’ll be sucked into both scenes.
Nrama: Since the beginning of your Thor run, you've been showing Mjolnir becoming more and more cumbersome for Thor to bear. You mentioned your predecessor Jason Aaron, who brought up the idea that Thor could become unworthy. How does that inform what’s happening here? How do you escalate that idea?
Cates: I can't really tell you – that's a story you’ll see play out more starting around Thor #7 and 8. What I can say is, it's not what you think. I've seen speculation that this is just another story about Thor becoming unworthy to lift Mjolnir. But that’s not what we’re doing here.
I'm not one to tell another person’s story for them. Jason told a definitive story with that. What we’re doing here is very different, but will be pretty massive in the world of Thor.
Nrama: You mentioned the horror story that's coming after the Black Winter arc and the story about Mjolnir – and you also said you've got seven years of Thor stories planned. What can you tease us on about that plan and what’s coming?
Cates: I'm trying to do things that haven't been explored. Jason has written more issues of Thor than anyone – that's a fact – and he's touched on damn near every aspect of his mythos. You think about following his run and it’s like, what the hell else is there? He did everything! [laughs].
But you're gonna start seeing the points of light that I found that haven't really been discovered yet – things that are horrifying, things that are exciting and epic – you'll see.
Once you read #5, 6, 7, 8, you’ll have a really good indication of where we're heading and what it’s all about. Just trust there's a plan.