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Supervillain Origins: Hela

VO: Dan Paradis
Written by Craig Butler She’s the ruler of the dead, so forgive her for not having the best sense of humor. Welcome to and today we will explore the comic book origin of the goddess of death, Hela. Have an idea you want to see made into a WatchMojo video? Check out our suggest page at http://WatchMojo.comsuggest and submit your idea.

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She’s the ruler of the dead, so forgive her for not having the best sense of humor.

Welcome to and today we will explore the comic book origin of the goddess of death, Hela.

As with most comic book characters, there are often re-imaginanings and different versions to a character’s past. We have chosen primarily to follow the storyline which unfolded in 1964’s Journey Into Mystery #102 and which was expanded upon in 1971’s Thor #189 and #190 and 2012’s Journey Into Mystery #641.

If you have gods ruling over the living, you kind of have to have someone ruling over the dead as well – and that’s where Hela comes in. This mysterious being looks after the dominion of the dead in Marvel’s take on Norse mythology. As such, she has typical Asgardian qualities, like super-strength, near invulnerability, near-immortality – and, of course, control over life and death.

Hela made her debut in a short Thor tale from 1964. Set back in Thor’s early days, the story concerned the Thunder God’s quest to obtain Mjolnir, Odin’s magic hammer. Thor was told by the Norse fates that he would get the hammer - but only after meeting Death first. When Balder informed Thor that storm giants had kidnapped the beloved Lady Sif, Thor managed to seize hold of the hammer and set off in hot pursuit.

Thor battled the giants and learns that their king, Rugga, had stolen Sif at the request of Hela. Rugga desired to become a god, and Hela promised to make him one if he brought her Sif – although her reasons for wanting Sif were not made clear. Thor confronted the goddess of death, vowing to offer his own life if Sif was allowed to live. Hela had never encountered such unselfishness before. Moved by Thor’s nobility, she spared both Sif and Thor and sent them on their way.

Hela returned several times over the next few years – and apparently somehow forgot all about Thor’s willingness to die for Sif. She had developed a grudge against Odin and was determined to claim Thor’s soul. She reasoned that this would weaken Odin so that she could triumph. With Odin out of the way, she could claim as many lives as she wanted, rather than having to wait slowly for the dead souls to come her way.

To foil her plot, Thor went to Earth and hid in his mortal form of Donald Blake. But Thor couldn’t stand by as Blake when others were in danger. He transformed into Thor and was quickly found by Hela. Odin attempted to save his son by banishing Hela, but this had disastrous consequences. Hela was restored and was all set to claim Thor as her prize when the Lady Sif appeared.

Apparently both Hela and Sif had forgotten their first encounter, because now Sif begged that Hela spare Thor and take her instead – and Hela somehow wasn’t struck with déjà vu. Yet again, she spared Thor and went tearfully off to pity herself for being lonely.

Hela was loosely based on the Norse goddess Hel, Loki’s daughter, and Marvel played with this idea a bit in 2012 with a very convoluted storyline in which a young Loki finds a playmate named Leah who may or may not have grown up to be Hela – and who may or may not have been created from Hela’s severed hand. But the goddess’ actual parentage is remains a mystery.

Hela has popped up throughout the Marvel Comics Universe, and she’s made her mark in other media as well. And why not? As long as men fear death, any villain who can lay claim to a hellish afterlife is bound to be a worthy foe.

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