(Editor’s note: This is another in a series of irregularly-scheduled columns by Managing Editor Byron Brewer, mainly dealing with cosmic comics and its many denizens. Mr. Brewer’s opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CosmicBookNews.com. He welcomes both raves and opposing views.)
By Byron Brewer
I first met Surtur, as masterfully depicted by Jack “King” Kirby, in the fondly-remembered magazine Tales of Asgard. An instrument of great power and destruction as well as a co-villain with Loki and other “Evils of Asgard,” Surtur was to play a key role in the Ragnarok cycle.
Surtur is in fact a fire demon native to the extradimensional plane of Muspelheim, located on the continent of Asgard. The character's first encounter with the Asgardian ruler Odin is told in flashback and establishes their hatred when Surtur is imprisoned by Odin inside the Earth after forming an alliance with the Trolls, although he gives him a winged horse, hoping to be released one day.
Surtur reappears in the title Journey Into Mystery, having been freed by Odin's adopted son, Loki, who intends to usurp Odin and rule Asgard. Together with the Storm Giant Skagg, the character invades Earth, although the pair are defeated by Odin, Thor and fellow Asgardian Balder. Using Odin's sword, Thor stops Surtur from melting the ice caps, instead trapping him on a meteorite.
In Thor, the seer Volla predicts that Loki will free Surtur and other enemies of Asgard and eventually bring about Ragnarok – the “Twilight of the Gods!” The character features in the title Avengers when summoned -- together with ice giant Ymir -- to Earth by the cult the Sons of Satannish. The entities are banished by the combined efforts of the Avengers; the Black Knight and Dr. Strange.
Surtur attempts to invade Asgard, but is repelled and imprisoned. Surtur reappears wielding the huge magical blade Twilight, and after sending a horde of demons to invade Earth storms Asgard. The heroes of Earth battle the fire demons while in Asgard Surtur defeats both Thor and Odin in turn. Loki deceives Surtur with an illusion until Odin recovers, who battles the fire demon until both fall into a dimensional rift. After a long absence Odin returns to Asgard, and it is revealed that he absorbed Surtur's essence, which eventually possesses him. Surtur manages to recreate his physical form and decimates Asgard until Thor, wielding the Odin Power, banishes Surtur to the Seaof Eternal Night.
Surtur appears at the conclusion of the second volume of Thor during the final Ragnarok of Asgard, and is allowed to storm Asgard by Thor as the Thunder God attempts to break the endless cycle of death and rebirth for the Asgardians. In the limited series Stormbreaker: The Saga of Beta Ray Bill, Bill visits the ruins of Asgard after the battle, and sees Surtur's dead form falling from the sky, still clutching Twilight!
Thor returns from a period of self-induced hibernation in a third self-titled volume, and enters the Odinsleep to find Odin in a limbo dimension between life and death, where Surtur stored a portion of his essence to prevent himself from being killed forever. Here Odin and the demon battle to the death, being reborn each day to repeat the cycle. (Sound familiar to any Trekkers out there, hmm?)