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The World Outside – The Big Bang Theory Asks, “Who Can Lift Thor’s Hammer?”

In this feature, I examine comic books showing up in outside media, like TV shows, sports, novels and films.

Today, as suggested by reader Pat S., we take a look at how The Big Bang Theory addressed the classic debate of “Who should be able to lift Thor’s hammer?”

The Big Bang Theory references comic books often, so I’m sure I’ll feature the show again in the future (don’t worry, it’s not like I’ll overload the feature with Big Bang Theory appearances).

In any event, Season 6’s episode 13, “The Bakersfield Expedition,” which, at the time, was the most-watched episode of the series ever (the first episode to crack 20 million viewers – it is currently the third most-watched episode of the series), the girlfriends of three of the main characters on the series all decide to read a comic book to see what their boyfriend’s see in them.

bigbangtheorybakersfieldexpedition

Amy, Bernadette and Penny then get into an argument that is a common one in comic book circles, which is “Who can lift Thor’s hammer?” Not really the “worthy” aspect so much as “If Thor is touching the hammer, then should someone else be able to lift it if Thor is still touching it?” (the discussion is interesting since the Big Bang Theory makes a point not to actually SHOW Marvel Comics on the show, so it’s funny to see them DISCUSS a comic that they won’t show).

The answer appears to be yes, as that’s what happened when the Red Hulk fought Thor…

redhulkthor2

redhulkthor3

but I know that it is a much-debated topic even today (as an aside, years ago I did a Top Five for the Top Five Non-Thor Characters That Have Lifted Mjolnir).

Thank to Pat for the suggestion! Anyone, if you would like to make a suggestion, drop me a line at bcronin@comicbookresources.com

46 Comments

Thor’s looking awfully Spidey-like in that Red Hulk battle.

Ha, thanks, buttler, I fixed it!

Nice article :) Always love talking about comics, yes it is fantasy, just ;like when people talk about Harry Potter or whatever. Nonetheless still fun :) I must admit I have been away from comics for some years. As far as Thor’s hammer, I remember the Hulk really trying to lift it, Captain America budged it a little bit, and I also remember Spider man taking a ride on the hammer by webbing onto it as it flew by :) I think they should keep it as iconic as it has been, so if someone can really move it or pick it up, then that would be something to talk about! Thor should remain as powerful as he is and he should be one of the only normal beings who can actually defeat the Hulk…the Silver Surfer as well as I think he is highly underrated, also I say normal because we are not talking about beings like Galactus. Interesting topic! :) Imo.

Commander Benson

February 5, 2016 at 5:14 am

. . .Captain America budged [Thor’s hammer] a little bit . . . .

Actually, Captain America did more than “budge it a little bit.” In “The Hero and the Hammer”, from The Mighty Thor # 390 (Apr., 1988), Cap lifts Mjolnir off the ground and, in an explosion of force, uses it to scatter a dozen warriors of the the Egyptian death-god, Seth. Then he returns the hammer to its rightful owner by hurling it toward Thor’s grasp.

It’s a pretty remarkable scene, made all the more enjoyable by the fact that Cap is absolutely stunned that he can lift the hammer when he’s seen the Hulk give himself a hernia trying to do it.

I’m surprised to see that they discussed a Marvel character on that sitcom. Since it’s a Warner Bros. production, they tend to stick with DC characters as a rule. I guess it’s okay to talk about Marvel characters so long as they don’t wear Marvel logo t-shirts or whatever? I notice they never actually showed the Thor comic clearly, just talked about it. (Although I’m surprised the “Whosoever holds this hammer…” thing isn’t trademarked.)

Yeah, the key is not to show the products. Even there, they likely COULD get away with showing Marvel Comics, they just tend to choose NOT to.

Haven’t Wonder Woman and Superman lifted Mjolnir during various cross-over events?

@Christopher
As an avid watcher of the show, early into the series, I was always curious why they would mention Marvel characters but never show them in the props. I mean they don’t even appear in the comic book shop. The only non-DC character I can recall seeing is Invincible. I wonder why he got a pass…

On the Stan Lee episode, they don’t even show the covers of Marvel comics. I’m completely certain it has everything to do with the WB making the show.

Yeah, it’s precisely the fact that WB makes the show. There’s nothing preventing them from showing the Marvel products if they WANTED to, but they don’t because of the whole WB thing.

Will they stop showing Star Wars props now that Disney/Marvel owns the property now?

They’ve continued doing Star Wars-themed episodes, so no. I think in the case of Star Wars and Star Trek (neither owned by Warners), there’s just no good alternative to not showing them, ya know? For comic books, Warners owns a comic book company, so it just makes more sense to spotlight the company they own (plus Dark Horse and Image occasionally, who they obviously don’t see as quite the rivalry that they see Marvel).

There have been cases of them showing specific Marvel comics. For example when they are talking about The Superior Spider-Man arc they have Howard holding a copy of #13:
http://kissthemgoodbye.net/TheBigBangTheory/displayimage.php?album=139&pid=75012#top_display_media

Or in The Excelsior Acquisition you can see The Incredible Hulk #160:
http://kissthemgoodbye.net/TheBigBangTheory/displayimage.php?album=58&pid=29015#top_display_media

But they are real blink and you’ll miss it appearances. I had heard that Marvel are really tight with their pemissions and want clearance and all uses so it is just really hard to use but I could well be wrong.

Did Jeph Loeb write that comic? If so, it probably shouldn’t be considered a legitimate example….

There were also posters and other items visible in the set of Stewart’s original comic shop. I remember that they had a big Madman poster on a wall that was visible a lot of the time.

There were also posters and other items visible in the set of Stewart’s original comic shop. I remember that they had a big Madman poster on a wall that was visible a lot of the time.

Yeah, outside of Marvel, it doesn’t HAVE to be DC. So Dark Horse and Image posters pop up occasionally. The licensed stuff, though, tends to be just DC (the shirts, etc.).

I don’t think there’s any way to quantify this, but I wonder how much overlap there is between people who enjoy and appreciate geek culture and people who enjoy and appreciate The Big Bang Theory. I know there are some, as seen on this blog, but I don’t see it as particularly targeted toward us.

Hmmm…certainly not their MAIN thrust of their targeting (as I presume they figure they’ll get our demo no matter what), but I’ve seen them do a number of outreach to comic book fans (like a lot of giveaways for comic book store – free comic book shopping bags, free comic book backing boards, etc.).

idiotic….. “if thor is touching it” <<<<<how stupid!!!! it doesnt weigh any more than (guess) 25-50lbs…..and thats leaving room for assumptions and ignorance. i actually think it would only weigh 15-20lbs.

Interesting. I just see it as a mainstream sitcom making fun of geeks. Sort of the Revenge of the Nerds to Community‘s Real Genius, if you will.

Buttler –

Good question.

I’ve been indifferent to the show. Not a fan, but also not one of those haters who are offended by it because of the stereotypes in display. It’s a sitcom with a laugh track, so obviously the characters will be exaggerated.

My sitcom of choice was How I Met Your Mother.

Interesting. I just see it as a mainstream sitcom making fun of geeks. Sort of the Revenge of the Nerds to Community‘s Real Genius, if you will.

That aspect certainly does exist (the above linked scene is an example of that, in many ways), but they also have a good deal of celebration of fandom, as well.

Let me first state that I am a fan of the show. I watch it on a weekly basis and I own all of the season DVDs.

I can understand why some people would worry about the whole “making fun of geeks” thing. The first season and first couple of episodes of the second ran right along the lines of being questionable a couple times. That being said, the show never feels like they’re laughing at them because they are geeks or anything like that. Do they use a lot of geek culture for the humor? Yes. Do the characters on the show who are geeky make jokes about their geekiness? Yes. But that being said, I can say that all of the characters on the show have been allowed to grow and become fully rounded characters in their own right.

I think they’ve done a fine job developing the characters, but at the same time, I still do think that they mock fandom at times, even now. I mean, the above clip is from the sixth season and it certainly has its share of mocking involved in it.

Actually Dillon before Cap picked it up one of the properties of picking up the hammer besides being worthy was you had to be super strong. Which cut down on those who could use it too. I think you had to be able to lift over 1000 pounds. Not sure if that’s because the otherworldly metal was super dense and heavy, or part of the enchantment (maybe both). That went bye bye when they had Cap pick it up (with no explanation).

And Rene, how can you say HIMYM after that ending? For shame.

M-Wolverine –

Netflix viewer here. I only got to see the last season after already reading in the Internet that the ending had been super-controversial (though I avoided reading specific spoilers), so I was sorta prepared for it to be horrible, and well, it wasn’t horrible, IMO. So my disappointment was lesser.

Heartbreaking, yes. And sorta dismissive of the dynamite chemistry between Ted and the Mother; and Barney and Robin. I’m still torn about it.

Well, the last paragraph saves it. I thought I didn’t know you at all anymore. ;-D

Well, the last paragraph saves it. I thought I didn’t know you at all anymore. ;-D

Even there it’s giving the ending too much credit. :)

Boy, what an awful ending.

The Hulk lifted Thor’s hammer in ultimate Avengers and beat the piss out if him with it.

There are as many as six seasons of TBBT?

Well, in a universe where The Simpsons has been renewed for years, with no end in sight…

Brian –

“Even there it’s giving the ending too much credit. :) Boy, what an awful ending.”

I have a feeling that, if they had gone with an ending that had all the three couples happy and with the proper soulmates together and drinking at McLaren’s in 2030, we’d have people complaining that it had been too pat, too predictable, and too happy to be real.

Myself, I don’t think I was displeased because the ending was bittersweet (at best), but because it confirmed the Hollywood cliche of “you gotta pursue someone who is your opposite and never give up.” HIMYM almost broke this Hollywood curse, by Ted marrying someone who was as sensitive and romantic and family-oriented as he was. But no, in the end he had to try once again to stay with the tough, skeptical, and unsentimental woman that was much more of a match for Barney.

I have a feeling that, if they had gone with an ending that had all the three couples happy and with the proper soulmates together and drinking at McLaren’s in 2030, we’d have people complaining that it had been too pat, too predictable, and too happy to be real.

I don’t care about the sadness, I care about how poorly it was written. I really don’t have a problem with any of the decisions in a vacuum (killing the mother, having Ted end up with Robin) but how they went about handling the decisions were piss poor. It doesn’t even really gall me that Bays and Thomas clearly came up with what they felt was a really cool twist in Season 2 so that Ted and Robin could end up together (or Season 1, whenever they filmed the scene with the kids) and then they fell in love with the twist so much that they stuck with it even when the show went in a different direction so that the twist did not really work.

However, once it was evident that the show had gone in a different direction, if they really wanted to stick with the twist, it was their duty as storytellers to make this new direction make narrative sense. And instead, they did the exact opposite. They oversold the story the other direction (except for occasional hints about the mother possibly dying, which really were only explicitly evident a couple of episodes before the finale) so as to protect the twist. Since the mother dying and Ted ending up with Robin was their big twist, they clearly felt as though they couldn’t set it up before the finale or else it wouldn’t be a twist, but as a result, it is just an undercooked result.

To wit, it is evident that in the six years between his wife dying and the story being told, Ted and Robin have grown close. It is also likely that Robin has changed a lot in those six years. The odds are that she is no longer a traveling reporter (note that she once again is taking care of dogs – and I doubt she’s the type of person to be jaunting off for long stretches of time while leaving her dogs behind). So it is likely that Ted and Robin had a real bond form in the years after his wife died. However, we couldn’t actually SEE that because it would take away from the twist, which they wanted to be at the end of the episode. Instead, it’s “Your mother died.” “You should get together with Robin, you’re perfect for each other” back to back. It was unsupported by the narrative they actually gave us. You don’t give us a season of Ted letting go of Robin not once but twice to just have them get back together the next episode. You give us a season of Ted letting go of Robin not once but twice if your intent is to keep us from guessing that they’ll get together in the end. The twist became more important than the story making sense. And that’s not good storytelling.

Yeah, yeah, your explanation makes complete sense. They geared their efforts towards protecting the twist, instead of allowing it to come across naturally in the narrative. And so the ending seemed like a unpleasant “gotcha!” that pissed off many people.

I guess that, once they structured the whole last season to take place in one weekend, it was difficult to find narrative space to sell the twist ending to us. I mean, dude, they kill offscreen the character they spend the whole season (the whole show) building towards to, and that is made even worse because they actually managed to find an actress that played the character so perfectly. But I don’t see how they could do justice to her death and the six years of Ted and Robin getting close in the structure of the last season.

They’d have to insert a lot more of flashforwards, but THAT would have revealed the big twist…

Storm has also lifted the hammer and beta ray bill of course

They geared their efforts towards protecting the twist, instead of allowing it to come across naturally in the narrative. And so the ending seemed like a unpleasant “gotcha!” that pissed off many people.

That describes it perfectly.

HIMYM was always about Ted and Robin, from day one. It ended as it was supposed to. Brilliantly.

JC Lebourdais –

I think it would have worked better if they had dedicated a few episodes to Ted’s later years. Like Brian said, the whole last season was dedicated to putting the final nail on the coffin of Ted/Robin. And then we got a 10-minute swerve in the very end.

the whole series was a red herring, not just last season, since it was never about the mother at all. the last minute twist works for me.

They came up with the big twist two seasons in. So no, it was not how the show was always intended to end. Just how the show had been intended to end since Season 2. But even if it were how it always intended to end, you don’t get extra credit for sticking with an ending you came up with nine years earlier when said ending was no longer supported by the other nine years’ worth of show.

Yeah, the problem was the show lasted far longer than they expected (because shows don’t usually last that long) and then they had to come up with a lot of filler between A to B. And the filler completely undercuts the original idea, because by that point Robin and Barney show far more chemistry and fit than Ted and Robin, and worse Ted has to basically be stalking Robin for 3 or 4 seasons while she’s dating one of his best friends (and marries him!) looking more pathetic than the guy who believed in romantic love. So they jerk around Barney at the end too, and only some great acting by NPH with his daughter saves him from being a complete dick. And they screwed it up further by doing such great casting of the mom, completely convincing us she was the one, and much more suitable and likable for Ted.

And frankly, the idea of a TV series where the TITLE ITSELF is a red herring is a HORRIBLE idea. Just because you recorded some stuff with some kids ten years ago, change it. (It’s a digital age..dub over it and make the lips match). There have been other bad ending to shows, but say, the Sopranos, doesn’t make me not want to watch a Sopranos episode. HIMYM finale makes me never want to watch an episode of the show ever again, and it pains me just to see it in the TV listings. Worst Finale Evar! (Comic Book Guy voice)

M-Wolverine –

Yeah, it’s ironic that they managed to do what many thought was impossible – they found a Mother that was not anti-climatic, in fact she was so perfectly cast that what should have been a Mary Sue felt authentic and fitting. And then they piss it all away by killing her off-screen? What the hell. They won the lottery and threw the winning ticket away. And years of Barney getting character development likewise thrown away with “heh, just kidding, I can’t change.”

Between HIMYN, Sopranos, Lost, BSG, Buffy, and Twin Peaks (maybe there is hope yet for this last one), people really screw up when it comes to ending great shows. I think the only show I was fanatical about that had a great last episode was Babylon 5 (great last episode, but really bad last season).

I love how this conversation went from Thor’s hammer to why How I Met Your Mother sucked out at the end. It’s why the commenters here are awesome.

A fascinating counter to the How I Met Your Mother finale was the Dawson’s Creek finale (no offense to any Dawson’s Creek fans out there, but I wasn’t exactly a fan of that show, but my brother really liked it so I saw more episodes than I ever thought I would). Kevin Williamson had left the series fairly early on but was given a chance to return and write the finale, and he decided to end the series as he had always intended it to end, with Dawson and Joey getting together. However, in the ensuing years, Joey and Pacey had become the much better pairing. Williamson, though, stuck with his guns and wrote the finale with Dawson and Joey ending up together. But then he realized that he had it all wrong, and that he was putting his early view of the series ahead of how the series progressed over the years and he then did reshoots for the finale and had Joey and Pacey end up together. That always impressed me.

You don’t get extra points for sticking to your original plans for a series.

The twist, by the way, wasn’t a bad idea when they first came up with it. As it were, they were so impressed with just how much chemistry that Radnor and Smulders had that they were trying to come up with ways to get around their original sticking point (that Ted says Robin is not the mother). And at that time (Season 2), such an ending would have worked. But then they were blessed by Smulders ALSO having fantastic (some would say even BETTER) chemistry with Harris. And then they were blessed by Milioti ALSO having excellent chemistry with Radnor. They were so blessed!!! But then they decided to say, “Sorry, awesome things that happened since season 2, we made a decision 7 years ago, so we have to stick with it.” So freakin’ stupid.

“brother”. Yeah. Sure. Whatever you want to tell us to help you sleep at night. ;)

I watched HIMYM intermittently, so I never got to the last few seasons, but how might they have gotten around things by the end?

Bob Saget says something outrageously filthy and the kids disown him!

Ha! If I was into Dawson’s Creek, I’d gladly admit it! I don’t have a problem with Dawson’s Creek. Just not a show I would have followed on my own.

It was weird coming back to Dawson’s Creek in the last season after a couple of years living abroad, because the show had completely fallen apart. All the characters had gone their separate ways and were living in different cities, and the show was dutifully still following them all even though they weren’t even interacting with each other anymore. It was bizarre to me that the show hadn’t ended before it reached that point.

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