This is tough question: is Loki of Asgard really being loved by his adoptive father Odin? Or is Odin loving him in a very particular way? Is Odin following a cultural set of rules that their children might be challenging somehow? We’ll discover it thanks to a masterpiece. In Original Sin: Thor & Loki #5 we can find a page that speaks volumes about the relationship of father and sons, and a clash of generations and cultural values that are changing, specially related to gender.
It is a compelling page, which has lots of visual information. It gives us different points of view, several ways of interpretation, and some clues about the drama that encloses. If we divide the page in three columns and three tiers (rows) we’ll find out that the page conveys far more information than it seems to state. Let’s go first with the tiers, and then we’ll move to the columns. (Note: I have divided the page in equal columns and tiers, someone else would have left the tiers on the edges where characters appear, but I’ve decided to do it in equal parts, maintaining a traditional cut. You can, however, decide to divide this page in unequal tiers, where the first one is composed by Odin’s panel, the second by the scene in the center, and the third by Old Loki’s panel.)
In the first tier we are shown an Odin in slow motion. We can read “and I love you; very, very much.” It seems like he is saying it very slowly. In a way almost as if time stops, or moves too slowly. “And I love you,” so we move to “very, very much.” Then we move to contemplate the face of a very troubled man. Just when we glimpse his complete face, we move to what appears the second tier. In my division we are still, in a way, resting our eyes in the first tier, reading what his sons have to say.
Like whispers, “Father,” and Loki’s “father I” come to break the moment. We are still moved by Odin’s face, and yet, we confront him again, just as his “enough, we’ll say no more!” appears in the tier. His softness has forever disappeared, and what seemed to be a gentle man, now is the commanding Odin we all know. This shockingly strikes when comparing the half top and half bottom tier, where we can see both faces of Odin: weak and strong.
But where is Odin looking at in the first tear? Where is he looking at in the small Universe set by the panel in the first tier? Is he staring at his sons? No! He seems to be staring at the void. In reality he is sharing his tear with us, the readers! But his sons remain in the shadows unable to see the emotion on Odin’s face. They can only hear what he says, for a brief moment that might look like an eternity. And then, all of a sudden, the fierce God appears again, commanding and leading. Emotion is forever lost.
In the second tier we can see Thor and Loki behind Odin. The first person we encounter is a bright Thor, followed by a Loki almost in the shadows, were it not but some lightning that seems to prevent him from escaping. He is located in the third position. We find: Thor in the second position in the tier, Lady Loki in the third, and Odin in the first place. Only when we’ve encounter Thor and Loki our eyes are able to rest upon the powerful God Odin. We can see his fists prepared to punch, and his mouth opened commanding. In this tier we are positioned with who comes first, who comes next. The powerful god is the paterfamilias and the pyramid he reigns within the family follows by elder son (Thor), younger son (Lady Loki). Odin has priorities, the same that the pyramid dictates, and so we can see in the second tier with the position the characters take within it. Bright and shinny Thor is encountered by the reader in the first place (forced by the reading motion). Next, we find Loki, as Lady Loki, in the second position for the reader, but in the third position when we are exploring the second tier at the end of it. And then, what is in reality the most important in here, the one commanding, the head of the family: Odin.
In the third tier we find Old Loki having a tantrum. He was watching his personal magical “television,” but something went wrong. The first thing we encounter are the popcorn that flies away, because he has thrown it away in disgust. This popcorn is merging with the second tier. While in the second tier looks like confetti, in the third tier it looks like trash. Along with the popcorn we can read Old Loki’s complaints… He couldn’t leave it alone, and now plans have gone astray for him. As we proceed further into the tier, we find a very disappointed old Loki, almost desperate. And finally, we encounter Odin. But we do not see the commanding nor the emotional Odin we’ve encountered in tiers one and two: he is dark as the night. Old, dark and thoughtful, worried about what the future might bring.
Please note that the first panel in the first tier, and the third panel in the third tier are connected by color. There is a white contour around Odin’s panel in the first tier, and another one, uneven in Old Loki’s one in the third tier. Both are connected by the use of color and panels. These two are the only ones with similar structure. This is telling us that what we see in the panel in the first tier (Odin crying), and what we read he says (Odin’s words) is what Old Loki has seen and is having a tantrum at. While Odin’s panel is even, all the white color around it seems perfect, the one surrounding Old Loki is uneven: it looks like expanding. Both panels look like they are popping up, like zooms. While Odin’s panel is less intrusive, Old Loki’s one is shocking. This is telling us a lot about these two old men. While Odin is being true and restrained in his emotions, Old Loki is exploding in rage as the panel suggests.
In this connection we can also find that the words and sentiment of Odin might also go towards the Old Loki. In a way, it’s like Odin is stating that there was a terrible mistake done with Old Loki. The connection between these two men is unmistakable, and these panels are connecting them, not only through lines, but also through color.
But there is much more in this page! Let’s take a look at the columns and explore what they have to explain to us!
The first column, if observed alone, looks like a welcoming party! “And I love you,” “very, very much” is written right on top of Thor’s head. He is radiant, shinny, with a smile on his face. Thunder lightnings adorn him on the left, as bringing more light into the scene. The “father” that Thor speaks out is firm, reassuring. However, the “father I” that we encounter next to it, the one that belongs to Lady Loki, is like an “I am sorry.” Furthermore, the popcorn that Old Loki threw away, does look like welcoming confetti, the one you use in parties! And at the very end of the column we find a complaint, and a hand who lets us know who is saying those words: Old Loki.
As a whole this column portrays the prodigal son, the sun of the family. He is the perfect model of Odin’s pyramid. The bright son, who will command one day, as Odin does. In fact, his position looks like the Cesar, the charioteer than comes back home victorious after a tough battle. In this column it is all party and fun, except for the complaints that appear from the shadows.
The second column is a huge contrast in comparison with the first one: it’s sad, brutal, almost in darkness. The first thing we see in the middle column is the fierce half of Odin’s face! He is not gentle at all! Below him, we find Lady Loki, almost in shadows, were it not by some lightning besides him. But he is not in the first position: he is located behind Thor. And we know that because Thor’s arm is just in front of him taking control of the chariot! This is not really reassuring, is it? The next thing we see is a shouting Odin with his fists closed. Below this, we can find Old Loki, disappointed, almost as stating that that’s the only face of Odin he has ever known: the hard one! Always in the shadows, always taking the fists first, always second to Thor!
Please note that the lightnings here appear behind Lady Loki, whereas in the first column the lightning decorates Thor. It is like the light is preventing Lady Loki from leaving. But what? Odin’s grip! And in a way Old Loki as well. Lady Loki is challenging, just being who he is, the pyramid that Odin, and Old Loki are following. Like it or not, Old Loki’s complaints are of jealousy towards his new self! Not only Lady Loki has challenged the establishment, he has the opportunity, or so it seems, despite his position in the column, to make some changes. Where our eyes rest in this column, at the end is on Old Loki having a tantrum! If we compare Lady Loki to Old Loki, we’ll find out that Lady Loki is almost in a “surprised” position. She seems to be holding one part of the chariot, and her figure, though small, is straight. She is in command, even if it looks like she is into the shadows. Old Loki is not. He is lost. He is shocked in disbelieved, and filled with envy and anger.
In the third column we can see the tear of Odin, his weakness, his sentiment. And yet, soon after, we encounter a fist and part of the horse he is riding. He is the commander in chief, the leader, and even if the reader can see and be aware of his feelings, as Old Loki does, he is still following the old ways: never show your true feelings. And below the fist and horse of Odin, we can find another image of Odin held by old Loki’s magic: the worried man. Is he doing yet again the same mistakes? Just below this worried image of Odin, we can read Old Loki’s words: “you never said that to me!” He is jealous of Lady Loki, because, even though he might still be in the shadows, he has more than he ever had!
In this third column we are confronted to the drama within Odin, and what not showing up your true feelings might affect some other people, in this case Old Loki. A man can be caring and can be strong in same proportions. He can be emotional and brutal. But it is in showing both that errors are minimized. And yet, Odin, even if stating to his children his true feelings, the ones who are really taking a view about this change, this small rebellion within the old pyramid of the god are the readers and Old Loki!
But the most important part here is located in the center. What can you see in the center? (Even if you cut the page in different tier sizes, the center part still works in the same way!) We can see a young Lady Loki in the shadows, behind Thor’s arm, and surrounded by lightning, almost as a reminder of his status within the family. And in front of him we can see the commanding Odin, the fierce one, the one that will order him whatever he wants, the one that does not show compassion nor feelings with you. And here we find Loki’s drama! He, in Lady Loki’s shape, is in the last position of the pyramid. He is commanded by the paterfamilias, the head of the family, and finds his position in the last row, in the shadows, surrounded by the light of someone else: his brother.
If we take a global view to the page, we’ll notice that it dances with the center of it. Odin says “and I love you; very, very much” showing his face to the readers (and Old Loki) not to his sons! They cannot really see the feelings of their father! Odin states his feelings staring at the void (the reader), but not facing his children. He has preferences, favorites, shown in the positions Thor and Lady Loki have into the page; and yet, this is more than what Old Loki had. The drama unfolds even in a deeper level. This page not only shows up the drama of bad parenting within a family, it also shows up how hard the old ideas are to kill.
American families are changing and fast. The paterfamilias pyramid that Odin’s family follows seems to be something that is fading away. In the US, the partermialias pyramid is being reserved for families which are in the elite, paradoxically. Odin’s family, as an Asgardian Royal family, is showing up the drama of what some elite families in the US (along with others in the middle and lower classes) might be going through. This traditional structure of the family is what we’ve had for a long time during history. Sexism is another side of the same coin, of the same pyramid, and it does affect everyone: men and women alike. We can find all these arguments hidden in plain sight within this page. All the drama within Odin’s family is all the drama of many families across the globe.
Lady Loki, as a woman, in the center, is behind the fists (Odin’s) of the old establishment which still uses new hands (Thor’s). Lady Loki represents the new era, the new ideas the way of thinking, more feminine, more open, in which any shape is welcomed. Lady Loki represents women and the LGBT community asking for their rightful equal place to men and straight people within society. But while Lady Loki looks weak and almost apologetic, she represents the change in society, the one that the old establishment fears. Jealousy and fear is represented here by Old Loki, who is seeing the first signs of change: Odin is getting emotional. Not only Odin states he loves his children, Old Loki is able to see with his own eyes that this is true. The seeds for change are there. The old structure of the family, of society, is changing; and so the old establishment who affects everyone, not only those who seem more visibly as victims of it, is starting to “have a tantrum” of its own.
This page is showing up different levels of drama: within a family and within society. The use of panels is a masterpiece, as well as how the characters and their body positions are drawn. The message that this page contains is deeper, dramatic and ver powerful. Even if it seems as hidden as Lady Loki is in it, we can find all its power there, screaming all over this page’s composition. Lady Loki is in the way of taking his place in society. A society, like his family, which is changing little by little, even if old ways are really hard to kill.
- Original Sin: Thor & Loki #5
- The Power of Comics: History, Form and Culture. Duncan and Smith.
- Big Boys Don’t Cry — and Other Myths About Men and Their Emotions.
- When Men Experience Sexism.
- Viral comic captures how sexism affects everyone.
- The Changing American Family.
Note: I used “Lady Loki” with he and she in the text. This was done in purpose. Loki can shape shift in any shape he wants.