There’s a deleted scene from Thor where the big guy and his brother have a chat right before he goes into the grand hall to be coronated. (We all remember how well that works out for him.) He’s got the jitters and Loki is engaging in a good old game of brotherly banter to get Thor’s mind out of Lake Anxiety. The teasing eventually falls back onto their associative animals, drawing attention to Loki’s glorious, horned helm.
But… where’d he get that thing anyhow?
Asgardians are beings with abilities beyond our comprehension, access to materials we can barely conceive of, and a knowledge of the working universe that makes our meager understanding look oh-so-very quaint. It stands to reason that some of these powers come off like magic to those of us who have no knowledge of the realm. And it really doesn’t help that by and large, Asgardians are master show-people. They don’t do anything by halves, and they certainly don’t display themselves in a manner any less than regal.
But it’s fair to guess that not everyone from Asgard acquits themselves like a god. Some citizens of Asgard undoubtedly have more abilities than others, abilities that are likely bequeathed on them by the Allfather himself. After all, if Odin has the ability to take Thor’s power from him, he was likely the person who handed it over in the first place. This would make sense for Loki as well. Though his tricks are all his own, his actual abilities—his animal associative and the rest—do not reflect his Frost Giant heritage; they are absolutely Asgardian in nature.
So it’s probable that these powers were bestowed on Thor and Loki at a coming-of-age point for the young princes. Odin probably had a great big to-do ceremony for each in turn, talked about how awesome they were to the Asgard court (do they have a court?), then handed over some super-juice and let his kids mess around for the next few years to figure out how they would embody what he had given them. You can imagine how much Thor made fun of Loki when Odin told his younger son that his identifying animal would be a cow. I’m a bird like father! Thor probably said. And Loki jabbed right back at Thor for not being something more fierce, like a bear or a komodo dragon. But Odin gave them both what he saw in them, and no one was about to question the Allfather in his wisdom.
One fascinating aspect of their power is that image and attire seem heavily tied to it: when Odin takes Thor’s power from him before banishing him to Earth, it rips Thor’s armor from him, as well as his cape (the same is true from what we see of Loki in prison on Asgard). When Thor later proves himself and retrieves Mjolnir, the cue that he has been restored is the return of those particular garments. This happens again in The Avengers; Thor is wearing a dressed down version of his armor to bare his biceps to all those petty, tiny humans, but when he decides to join the fray, he is instantly swathed in space metal, head to toe.
If you take a good look at the armor in the first two images of the post, you’ll notice that the mail on his arms actually goes under the chestplate, so it’s not as though he sheathes just his arms and moves on—it’s materializing beneath the chestplate as well, more likely. In addition, the vambraces he’s wearing in his opening Avengers scene (above, top image) are not the same as the ones he is wearing later on the hellicarrier (above, bottom image), which are decidedly thinner, more ornamental. Thor’s I’m-in-polite-company vambraces? So there’s an array of possibilities, depending on what Thor would prefer to display.
Loki’s an even better example of this because he enjoys deceiving those around him. He constantly changes his appearance based on what deems appropriate for the scenery, like his dapper coat and opera scarf when he harvests a scientist for an eye scan. Loki’s clothing can be so disassembled that the gold plates on his leather outwear frequently go missing, and his helmet disappears and reappears at will. He gives the metal embellishments on his coat a brassy tarnish when he’s not in full showboating mode. We watch him consciously choose to disarm himself in front of Captain America and Iron Man; when he wants them to know he’s surrendering, he simply dissolves any part of his couture that suggests he might be up for a fight. Where does it go? Into the ether? Does is wait for him in some sub-dimension until he retrieves it?
And can these manifestations change depending on how the characters change themselves? Thor’s uniform has remained much the same from his first film, but set pictures from The Dark World reveal some changes, the most notable being armored trousers. Loki’s has altered quite a bit, including one amusingly significant difference—his helmet’s horns have grown. Whether this is meant to be a show of strength or simply the size of Loki’s ego (or a change to compensate for the volume of his hair?), what’s more interesting is to wonder how conscious the alterations are. Did Loki deliberately make the horns more prominent, or is it meant to be a subconscious cue to anyone in contact with him? It’s especially intriguing because Loki’s original armor in Thor clearly echoes his brother’s and Odin’s. That Thor would choose to model his image after his father is no surprise; Loki’s subtle adoption of certain flourishes suggests that he initially does consider himself to be part of their family, but later dismisses that bond entirely.
Another question: are their accouterments real, physical things? Mjolnir always exists, even if Thor’s not wielding it. The hammer can be found wherever he last set it down, but his super-god cape is not the same. So either Asgardians have the ability to rearrange matter on a whim into their gear, or the armor and clothes are… energy based? Infusing too much actual science into it likely won’t make sense, but with fakey sci-fi science, you could make an argument that the images Thor and Loki project are not part of the physical realm as we understand it. The items they display to go along with those images clearly interact in a manner that plays in this realm—offering warmth, protection from blows, etc.—but they are not simply made from metals and leathers and woven cloth.
Which does mean that, unless implied undergarments are not part of the power display… Thor and Loki could be naked. At any time. Naked and simply shrouded in energy that takes on all the aspects of clothing and armor.
I apologize for this hypothesis, but really. It needed saying.
Emmet Asher-Perrin admits that her real problem is spending too much time looking at detailed costume pictures for all the things she likes. She has written essays for the newly released Doctor Who and Race and Queers Dig Time Lords. You can bug her on Twitter and read more of her work here and elsewhere.