Mortals who decided to check out the comic book exploits of Thor after enjoying the thunder god’s adventures at the movies were probably surprised to find that the big blond hunk and his fellow Norse deities are currently hanging out in western Oklahoma.
It’s the fictional town of Broxton, located roughly between Anadarko and Carnegie, where Thor and the gang are hanging their winged hats these days – and the introduction of Caddo County to the bombastic world of Marvel Comics’ fighting gods and goddesses has injected a breath of fresh air into the 50-year-old franchise.
Writer J. Michael Straczynski (whose work includes the TV series Babylon 5, the Clint Eastwood movie Changeling and a pile of comic books) introduced the idea in 2007. At that time, there’d been no new Thor comics for three years, the gods’ ancient city of Asgard having been destroyed and Thor himself forced into mystic hibernation as the entire series went into funnybook mothballs. Straczynski brought the thunder god back with a flourish, rousing the big guy from limbo and sending him to rural Oklahoma, where his war hammer had fallen to Earth following the violent plummet in Asgardian property values.
Why Oklahoma? According to Straczynski, the presence of the Heavener runestone was a part of the appeal, along with the desire to change things up by playing out the cosmic soap opera of Marvel’s Norse gods against a heartland setting. It was a gamble that paid off, lending some sorely needed humanity to the frequently overwrought storylines. The relationship between the revived gods and their small town neighbors quickly became one of the most distinctive and enjoyable aspects of the new adventures of Thor.
The citizens of Broxton were understandably awed at the beginning, particularly one Sam Miller, who drove away with a literal truckload of gold after selling acreage to Thor for the site of the rebuilt Asgard. But it wasn’t long before it became business as usual to see gods on the street, or hanging out in the local diner. For a time, one of the immortal warriors even took on the job of running that diner when its young short-order cook ran off to pursue a star-crossed romance with a beautiful goddess.
What makes the unlikely combination work, even when it’s being mined for comic relief, is the series’ refusal to treat the people of Broxton as low-comedy hicks. There’s the occasional misstep in managing the local color, notably the unfortunately named Mrs. Sooner (one assumes she would have been Mrs. Buckeye if the series were set in Ohio), but in general the citizens of Broxton are granted as much dignity as Thor himself, and frequently a good deal more common sense.
Of course, having the gods as neighbors isn’t all venison and mead. Some serious questions of faith have arisen among the religious community, the town has undergone attacks by various supervillains, and having Thor just down the road hasn’t saved some locals from the housing collapse…but the people of Broxton endure as they always have. Their ancestors survived the Dust Bowl, and they’ll do just fine dealing with that big castle full of gods out on Route 19.