In a Marvel Comic-Con panel packed with huge announcements, one moment that got fans buzzing was Natalie Portman triumphantly raising Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir, to signify that Jane Foster would be taking the mantle from her ex, Thor Odinson (Chris Hemsworth), in Taika Waititi’s Thor: Love and Thunder.
Those who only know Jane Foster from the Marvel Cinematic Universe may have been confused by this turn of events, but anyone who has followed Thor’s adventures in the comics in recent years is likely excited for this adaptation of writer Jason Aaron and artist Russell Dauterman’s 2014 comic book storyline.
Jane Foster has deep roots in Thor’s comics. Jane originally debuted in September 1962’s Journey into Mystery #84. Foster, a creation of writers Stan Lee and Larry Lieber, along with artist Jack Kirby, was originally a nurse who over the years became a doctor.
She first wielded Mjölnir in a 1978 “What If” comic. However, it was Aaron and Dauterman’s storyline that made the move canon in the official Thor continuity.
The 2014 storyline followed Original Sin, an epic crossover event spanning multiple Marvel comics that revolved around the mysterious death of Uatu the Watcher on his moon base. As the story unfolded, Thor was deemed no longer worthy to wield Mjölnir and the hammer was left abandoned on the moon.
After Original Sin, Frost Giants invade Earth and a new Mighty Thor arrives to save the day. For the first seven issues, her identity was a mystery. The original Thor, Odinson, initially tries to reclaim the role from her, but eventually acknowledges that she’s worthy after seeing her in action.
Throughout the comics, Odinson attempts to figure out the true identity of this new Mighty Thor. He suspects Jane as a potential candidate, but rules her out because she’s undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer and is, in his mind, to weakened to be Thor. In issue #8, after a showdown with the Destroyer, Odinson begs the new Thor to reveal her true identity. It’s in that issue that we discover that the new Mighty Thor is, in fact, Jane.
However, Jane is dying of breast cancer and being the goddess of Thunder only exacerbates her condition. (The transformation actually purges all “toxins” — including the chemo — from her body every time she becomes Thor.) When her true identity is finally revealed, her body noticeably ravaged by the illness, she declares, “I am Dr. Jane Foster. And I will not stop being the mighty Thor. Even though it is killing me.”
She continues as Thor, eventually becoming an Avenger. Her cancer also continues to spread. Eventually, while working alongside Doctor Strange to treat mystical tumors in his former patients, Jane’s illness becomes so severe that Strange warns her becoming Thor again will likely kill her. But when Mangog attacks Asgard, she does so anyway, sacrificing Mjölnir — and her life — to defeat the foe.
Since this is Comic Books, where no one really stays dead, Odinson and Odin are eventually able to revive Jane and the original Thor becomes worthy enough to reclaim the mantle. At that point, Jane decides to focus on her health and eventually her cancer goes into remission.
What does this mean for the MCU? It’s unclear at the moment if Waititi will have Portman’s version of the character suffer a similar illness or if this Jane will become Thor without simultaneously battling cancer. Either way, fans who have seen her mostly in a sidekick role (despite Thor: The Dark World’s efforts to give her a more substantial role) may finally see a version of the character as worthy as Portman is in her Saturday Night Live raps.
Also, as an added bonus, in the comics, Foster goes on to become a Valkyrie in “War of the Realms” after meeting the original Valkyrie, which should get fans excited for the aftermath of Love and Thunder since Tessa Thompson is also confirmed to be reprising her role from Thor: Ragnarok in this film.