The princess of a hidden kingdom of magic-users somewhere in Norway, Tora was born with a particularly strong strain of the ice-manipulating powers common to her people. When an engineer named Rod Schoendienst found Tora’s tribe, she decided to leave her home and explore the outside world. She wound up joining the Global Guardians, replacing Sigrid Nansen as Icemaiden, and became close friends with Beatriz Da Costa, the Green Flame.
When the UN transferred their funding from the Global Guardians to the newly-formed Justice League International, Bea and Tora joined the JLI, and soon after changed their codenames to Fire and Ice. There, Tora began an unlikely romance with the brutish Guy Gardner. After a series of adventures with the JLI, including battling her brother, who had tried to take over their home kingdom, Tora fell under the thrall of the world-conquering Overmaster, and was killed while resisting him.
Years later, Tora was discovered, alive but comatose, in Azerbaijan. The Birds of Prey rescued her from a mobster who was planning to use his captive ice goddess to manipulate the suspicious locals. Tora reunited with Bea, and has been tentatively rekindling her relationship with Guy.
(Recently, Tora got a new, retconned origin as a Norwegian gypsy possessing inexplicable ice powers. Her reluctant thief father hid her away from her evil grandfather, who wanted to exploit her powers, and when her grandfather finally caught up with them, Tora panicked and killed both men. There’s no explanation for the ice kingdom, or the rest of Tora’s family, who the rest of the JLI have all met. Since this new origin is racist and nonsensical (her new father’s name isn’t even Olaf!), I am ignoring it. It’s my blog and I can do that.)
So What’s So Great About Her?
There are many different kinds of strength. Unfortunately, comics tend to show just the one kind the brash, loud, hit-it-until-it-falls-down kind. Superheroes tend to be aggressive, flamboyant people who hit first and ask questions later.
Tora is a wonderful example of a different kind of strength. She’s soft-spoken. She’s humble. She’s gentle. She loves baby animals and romantic movies, and tries to keep the peace whenever possible, rather than charging headlong into a fight. She is deliberately so, of course a total contrast to her quick-tempered, flashy best friend and her antagonistic, bull-headed boyfriend.
And yet Tora’s quiet pacifism should never be mistaken for cowardice or weakness. She has always been fearless in battle and wholeheartedly willing to risk her life to defend others. In fact, she gave her life to save the world. And in terms of sheer power well, she’s an actual, literal goddess. I sure wouldn’t want to mess with her.
More remarkable than her physical power and courage in combat, however, is her strength of character. Tora surrounds herself with domineering personalities she’s clearly drawn to alphas. But no matter how aggressive the people around her are, she stays true to herself. She may give in to Bea on the little things, like entering a modeling contest or demanding a job from the JLI, but she never lets Bea’s dislike of Guy hell, the whole team’s dislike of Guy stop her from dating him. She may tolerate a few uncouth remarks of Guy’s here and there, but she demands that he treat her with respect, and she’s not afraid to walk out on him when he’s out of line. And she insists that they keep the peace when she’s around, something none of the actual leaders of the JLI were ever able to accomplish.
Tora could so easily be a pushover, bullied by her more assertive loved ones. Instead, she changes them, making Bea more thoughtful and level-headed, and Guy more rational and mature. If you’ve read even one panel featuring Guy Gardner, you know what a feat that is! Tora Olafsdotter: way more powerful than the Guardians of the Universe. (Also, taller.)
At the end of the day, Tora is a woman who could move mountains, but chooses instead to use her remarkable strength of character to love others, who are by far the better for it. Weak? Timid? I don’t think so.
Tora’s branch of the JLI was renamed Justice League America with issue #26. She has also appeared in many issues of the other JLI-related books of the time, particularly Justice League Europe and Justice League Quarterly, but her main narrative is below.
Justice League International v1 #12-25
Justice League America #26-91
Showcase ‘96 #7 (this and the following two appearances are ‘was it really her?”-style posthumous appearances that will totally make you cry)
JLA Annual #2
I Can’t Believe It’s Not the Justice League
Birds of Prey v1 #104-108
Checkmate v2 #16
Green Lantern Corps v2 #19, 20, 28, 29, 39, and 46
Blackest Night #1, 5, and 8
Justice League: Generation Lost #1-24
Tora will be co-starring in the upcoming Justice League International v3.