This week we were lucky enough to talk to Thor writers Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz. . Today Ashley Miller talks about his other projects and of course Thor and I think you will be happy with the answers.
Lately you have mainly been involved with writing for Television(Sarah Connor Chronicles and now Fringe), how did you become involved in the writing of Thor?
AM-We were in the right place at the right time. Marvel needed a writer (or team, in our case) with a very particular set of skills and experience. Obviously they wanted to work with people who’d done features before, which we had. They were also very interested in people who know how to collaborate, and could turn drafts around efficiently, which we do. That we have a background in genre material and an interest in comic books were big plusses, I think. Owning a complete Walt Simonson run on Thor and being able to wax rhapsodic about Beta Ray Bill didn’t hurt our case.
In writing Thor do you approach it as a comic book film or as a fantasy film?
AM-I’m not sure if I accept the distinction. On some level, the answer is simply “yes”. THOR is a comic book film in that it’s based on the Marvel conception of the character as super-hero. But there are definitely some big fantasy elements working behind that. He is the God of Thunder, after all. It’s hard to approach the character without both of those things informing the work.
The biggest challenge for Thor is his otherworld godliness. How do you make him approachable? And tie it in with the realism of Marvel movies?
AM-Thor’s powers are godly, yes. And his zip code is a little different. But at the end of the day, he’s a man. In the comics, Odin sends him to Earth because he’s not perfect. He’s brash, arrogant. Even over-confident. We all know that guy — some of us have even been that guy. Stan Lee’s genius was to give Thor-as-hero an emotional throughline we could all relate to, and knock him down a couple of pegs. So on that level, your question answers itself. The challenge is to dramatize that and make the audience see what the fans have known and believed about the character all along.
As for realism, i have to ask you back: what does that mean? If the standard is, does he throw his back out if he hurls the hammer a little too hard… probably not. He’s a god. He’s incredibly strong. He can fly. He tosses lightning bolts. There’s nothing realistic about any of that. But he also bleeds. He struggles. Life kicks him where it hurts the most. Dramatically speaking, the powers and Asgard are gravy. The meat — and what makes it a Marvel movie — is the character.
Are you a fan of Thor?
AM-Would you like me to pull my Simonson run out of its bags and boards? Zack had to take me down with an elephant tranq to stop me from throwing in a scene between Thor and a frog.
Is there any Thor storylines you are inspired by?
AM-So many things. Certainly, Walt Simonson’s take on the character greatly informs what we brought to the script although I wouldn’t say we went to a specific story from his tenure on the book. We saw part of our job as taking all the many approaches to the character over the years (including the myths) and distilling them down into a form that worked for a two-hour movie. There’s a tremendous amount of ground to cover, so inspiration has to come from everywhere.
As a writer what would you like to bring to the characters in the Thor Saga?
AM-Grit. Not in the sense that you’d want to see a generic “dark” take on Thor, but in the sense that you want to feel Thor’s rage when he rages. You want to see him fight like hell, and take as much he dishes out — maybe more. You want to have a visceral reaction to the guy, and what happens to him. You don’t want his adventures to be clean and antiseptic. You want to see the dirt, and grime and blood. You want to feel every bone crunching moment of every fight. And when he unleashes the storm, you want to feel like you’re seeing the power of a GOD at work.
The best example I can give you is the end of Ultimates 2. When Thor shows up and kicks ass, he shows up and kicks ass. He isn’t screwing around. There’s a certain brutal, cock-eyed realism to Thor in that moment (and through that book in general) that I really resonate to and want to expand on.
As most people will want to see Asgard does it feature prominently in the script or will it mostly be in our world?
AM-Marvel’s official description gives you a pretty good idea of what the divide looks like.
With all the Marvel films converging do you have to write with a bigger story in mind? Will you be involved with any other Marvel comic/film writers? E.g J Michael Stratzynski?
AM-We definitely wrote with the bigger story in mind, or at least the bigger universe. Our script is very firmly rooted in the Marvel film world. We were constantly looking for ways to connect Thor to the other movies and heroes, even if they were simply in passing. Part of grounding Thor in the world is grounding him in the specific, fictional world he inhabits. How many of those references and connections make it to the final product are beyond our control, but they are everywhere.
I’ll also tell you the nicest thing about working for Marvel, as a fan. You never have to
defend the character to the people who own him. You never have to explain to them why Thor is cool, or what he can do. They are as likely as you are to come up with some awesome bit of obscure continuity and pitch it as a story or character element. It’s a very writer friendly place.
The person we worked with most closely on a day-to-day basis was Craig Kyle. Craig has written for a number of Marvel titles, and his passion for the project and for comics is quite something. It was great to have an actual writer so intimately involved with the development of the script.