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Thor: Love and Thunder: Who is Thunderstrike and what are his powers?

Image of Eric Masterson/Thunderstrike
(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

New behind-the-scenes photos from the set of Thor: Love and Thunder show Chris Hemsworth in action as Thor alongside the Guardians of the Galaxy, whose company Thor joined at the end of Avengers: Endgame. 

But it's not the recognizable Thor costume we've seen in previous films. In fact, Thor's Love and Thunder costume appears to be based somewhat on an entirely different Marvel character: Thunderstrike.

Though Thunderstrike hasn't been a strong presence in the Marvel Universe since the '90s, the cult-favorite Marvel hero plays an important role in Thor's comic book history. Thunderstrike was once an ally of Thor's with a different weapon and similar powers – and was even his actual replacement for a time.

There's no indication (yet) that Thunderstrike or his secret identity Eric Masterson will directly appear in Thor: Love and Thunder, but given the movie's apparent plot of making Jane Foster the new Thor (another plot twist taken straight from comic books), digging into Thunderstrike's legacy and history could provide some major clues as to where Thor himself is headed after Love and Thunder.

Who is Thunderstrike?

Image of Eric Masterson/Thunderstrike

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

To understand who (and what) Thunderstrike is, you first have to meet Eric Masterson.

Back in the '80s, many of Marvel's top heroes were in a transitional period. Steve Rogers had given up being Captain America with John Walker taking his place; James Rhodes had taken on the role of Iron Man from Tony Stark; and Spider-Man was wearing a mysterious new black costume. And Thor had, for a time, been living in a secret identity on Earth as Sigurd Jarlson, a construction worker.

For many years prior, Thor had been bound to a human host named Donald Blake (who has since been revealed as a magic Asgardian projection – it's kinda complex). But after a nearly deadly battle with the goddess Hela, Thor left Asgard and its throne to live on Earth under the guise of Sigurd Jarlson.

When Spider-Man's foe the Mongoose attacked the construction site where Thor was working as Jarlson, gravely injuring Thor's co-worker Eric Masterson, Thor is forced to spring into action. After saving Masterson's life, Thor and the human began a long friendship which unfortunately put Masterson's family, including his young son Kevin, in the crosshairs of many of Thor's enemies including the Executioner, Skurge, and even Loki, thanks to Masterson's subsequent involvement in Thor's adventures.

After a battle in space involving the Celestials, Thor and Masterson returned to Earth only for Mongoose to attack again – once again mortally wounding Masterson. To save his life, Thor entreats his father Odin to help Masterson. Odin does help – by merging Thor and Eric Masterson into one being who would switch between his Thor form and Masterson form by wielding Mjolnir, with Masterson remaining with his family until Thor was needed.

Eric Masterson as Thor

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

All this worked fine, until Thor's brother Loki kidnapped Masterson's son Kevin, causing Thor/Masterson to go into a rage, apparently killing Loki. For this transgression, Odin banishes Thor for eternity (whatever that means in comic books), leaving Masterson on Earth with all the power of Thor, including Mjolnir, all wrapped up in his own personality, thus leaving Eric Masterson as the true Thor (similar to what happened to Jane Foster – more on that momentarily).

Of course, Thor eventually returned to Earth (like we said, whatever 'eternity' means in comic books), reclaiming Mjolnir and his power from Masterson. But Eric Masterson wasn't left high-and-dry – Odin rewards Masterson with the Uru mace called Thunderstrike, a mysterious Asgardian weapon with similar powers to Mjolnir, which he then uses to fight crime under the codename Thunderstrike after his mighty weapon.

Tragically, Masterson's career as Thunderstrike was short-lived, as he became possessed by the evil Asgardian artifact known as the Bloodaxe, dying to save himself and those who were threatened by its power.

Over the years, Masterson has appeared a few times, though he's never been resurrected for more than an arc or story. However, in the MC2 alt-future, Captain America gives the Thunderstrike mace to Masterson's son Kevin, making him the new Thunderstrike of his future timeline. In 2011, this story was repeated in the core Marvel Universe, with Kevin Masterson taking on the mantle of Thunderstrike and making several in-continuity appearances since.

How could Thunderstrike fit into the MCU?

Image of Eric Masterson/Thunderstrike

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Thunderstrike wasn't the first hero to replace or spin-off of Thor with similar powers. A few years prior to Masterson's ascent as Thor and then Thunderstrike, the Korbinite alien Beta Ray Bill became worthy of Mjolnir, first clashing with Thor for control of the hammer, then becoming a steadfast ally of the Thunder God when Odin rewarded Bill with his own weapon, the hammer Stormbreaker (again with Mjolnir-esque power).

Stormbreaker itself will be familiar to MCU fans - Thor crafted it in Avengers: Infinity War to replace Mjolnir, which was destroyed by Hela in Thor: Ragnarok. As for Bill, he hasn't appeared himself yet, but Ragnarok also featured a stature of a Korbinite on the Collector's world of Sakaar.

Over the years, Thor has been replaced or temporarily shared his power a few times, and a few folks have managed to wield Mjolnir, but the concept took off in a big way just a few years ago when writer Jason Aaron took over Thor's adventures, eventually putting Thor through a chain of events that made him unworthy of lifting Mjolnir, causing him to temporarily abandon it on Earth's moon.

But it didn't stay there long – Jane Foster (Thor's longtime ally/lover) managed to retrieve Mjolnir and, proving herself worthy of its power, she became the new Thor. And like Masterson, Foster's time as Thor went beyond simply wielding his power – Thor Odinson literally gave her his name of Thor, deciding to instead go simply by Odinson and letting Jane fully take his role of Asgard's protector and god of Thunder (decisions that were extremely controversial in Asgard).

Thor: Love and Thunder at Comic-Con 2019

Kevin Feige, Taika Waititi, Natalie Portman, and Chris Hemsworth at  Comic-Con International: San Diego in 2019 (Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Writer/director Taika Waititi has made it clear that Thor: Love and Thunder will follow aspects of Aaron's Thor run, including making Jane worthy of Mjolnir and likely making her Thor, bringing the longstanding tradition of Thor sharing his power with successors and spin-off characters to the big screen.

Which brings us full circle, back to Chris Hemsworth's Love and Thunder Thor look, which echoes elements of his Silver Age costume (like the yellow boot wraps) while also incorporating costume elements that seem clearly drawn from Eric Masterson's Thunderstrike outfit.

If Thor does cede his mantle as the god of Thunder to Jane Foster, along with his hammer, his Masterson-inspired look may be an indication that he could hang around in the MCU after Jane becomes the number one Thor. 

We're still not sure how (or if) Mjolnir will return for Love and Thunder (it was last seen in Captain America's possession being returned to the era of Thor: The Dark World in Avengers: Endgame), so a weapon like Thunderstrike or Thor's current weapon Stormbreaker could play a big role in resolving Jane's transformation into Thor, and Thor Odinson's eventual fate.

After all, what better way for Marvel Studios to have their cake and eat it too, with a newly powered Jane Foster Thor, and Chris Hemsworth still waiting in the wings for future appearances with a new weapon and codename?

Here's everything you need to know about Thor: Love and Thunder, from its cast, to its plot, to its release date, and beyond.

George Marston

I've been Newsarama's resident Marvel Comics expert and general comic book historian since 2011. I've also been the on-site reporter at most major comic conventions such as Comic-Con International: San Diego, New York Comic Con, and C2E2. Outside of comic journalism, I am the artist of many weird pictures, and the guitarist of many heavy riffs. (They/Them)