My favourite thing about the Thor movie was the little gang of Asgard pals who wandered around the movie, being loyal to Thor and having his back. And my favourite thing about *them* was Sif, the glamorous goddess of war (Jaimie Alexander) who didn’t get nearly enough screen time. I would have been a lot happier if she had got to be one of Thor’s platonic mates without having a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it acknowledgement of her squishy feelings for him, but now that I come to look at her history in the comics, I recognise that we got off pretty lightly.
My first introduction to actual Thor comics after seeing the movie was the short ‘Thor the Mighty Avenger’ run by Roger Langridge which managed to take many of the narrative elements of the movie and make them work so much better. Jane Foster was the head of the department of Nordic Antiquities at the Bergen War Memorial Museum in Bergen, Oklahoma (hence the connection to Thor and his hammer) and ends up rescuing a recently-banished Thor and taking him in as her smoochytimes houseguest. As with the movie, the gang of bromantic mates from Asgard turns up to help Thor out, and I enjoyed the portrayal of Sif very much as one of the gang.
But who was she?
Like Thor and most of the regular characters in his book, Sif is based on a real Norse god, in this case the golden-haired wife of Thor. Scholars seems reasonably baffled as to what Sif’s main area of expertise was, suggesting fertility and the corn based almost entirely on the colour of her hair. The most common story told about her is the one where Loki sheared her hair off, and was forced to make amends.
In Marvel comics, Sif is quite firmly a goddess of war and a brunette, though they kept the story of Loki cutting her hair off and it growing back different to explain the latter. By all accounts, Sif’s early appearances in Thor comics were… well, a little one-dimensional. That is to say, her stories revolved almost entirely around her status as his former lover, usually with great emphasis on the fact that she is still hot for him and he (mostly) has moved on with other ladies. Though frankly if her mythological origin is as his wife, it’s hard to blame her for being cranky about him going on the pull.
On the other hand, the Thor-stalking is mitigated (slightly) by her awesomeness as a warrior, her loyalty as a subject and friend, and her general commitment to justice and fairness and all that sort of thing. For all she is often painted as ‘the other woman’ in the continuing love story between Thor and Jane Foster, Sif has been known to team up with Jane or help Thor rescue her, because that’s what you do when your mate is in love with someone else. Likewise, on at least one occasion, Jane has returned the favour…
Sif first lost Thor when he was banished to Earth by his father Odin in the 1960’s. She then had to cope not only with Thor playing superhero (and fake doctor, bizarredly) for years and forgetting all about her, but also with him later returning to Asgard with his new human honey Nurse Jane. But Jane’s brief immortality was retracted by Odin who then set Thor and Sif up on… well, not so much a blind date as a blind monster battle. They fell for each other all over again while killing monsters, and pretty much continued killing monsters together for most of their relationship. Hey, it’s romantic for THEM!
In the mid-70’s, though, Sif discovered that Thor still had his own warm squishy feelings for Jane Foster after the human nurse had been mortally injured, and Sif chose to save Jane by merging bodies with her. Her main motivation here was to figure out what exactly was so hot about mortal ladies who don’t even kill things for fun, but it was still a pretty cool thing for her to do.
In the 80’s… well, a lot of stuff went down, but the main plot points for Sif was that time Thor was enchanted into being a massive dick and hit her (she later forgave him because of the enchantment) and her ongoing flirtation/romance with Beta Ray Bill, a non-Norse-god who nevertheless was worthy of wielding Thor’s mighty hammer. In fact, Sif has a bit of a habit of falling for blokes who know how to handle the hammer, as she also later had a thing going on with Eric Masterson, the Substitute Thor in the early 90’s (what WAS it with the 90’s and replacing all the heroes with new fellers?).
She’s died a couple of times but a) who hasn’t and b) it actually works a lot better in support of her character than when this is usually done to female characters in comics, because of the trend towards death and rebirth implicit in telling stories about gods.
In the mid 2000s, Loki brought about Ragnarok, and Sif lost first her arm and then her life in a mighty battle – after Brunhilde fell it was Sif who led the Valkyries into battle, and the whole of Asgard was destroyed shortly after her own death.
Once the dust had cleared, Thor restored the pantheon one by one, but could not find where Sif had been reborn, though through a whole bunch of wishful thinking he did think for a while that she was in the body of Jane Foster. In fact, she was trapped in the body of an elderly terminal cancer patient, and concealed thanks to the machinations of Loki. It was Jane who finally found Sif, enabling Thor to free her and restore her to her true godly self.
But let’s look to the future. The Marvel Now non-reboot is on the horizon, and one of the upcoming titles due for a shakeup is Journey Into Mystery, which has until recently been a title revolving around the character of Loki (also made supremely popular via the art of Marvel Movies). From Issue #646 onwards, the title will revolve around the adventures of Sif, written by Kathryn Immonen and drawn by Valerio Schiti. (Ooh, does that make it THREE female led comics? And that doesn’t count the upcoming FF team comic with 3/4 women. Getting better, Marvel!)
Editor Lauren Sankovich said of this comic: “We talked at length about what this story could be and what her story could be, and it all came down to…one single question: what does she want? I think Sif, above all, wants to be a better warrior.”
I’ll be reading THAT!
Where the Wonder Women Are:
1: Black Canary
4: Black Widow
5: Wonder Girl
6: Captain Marvel
8: Abigail Brand.
15. Jean Grey
17. Emma Frost