James Dus, a member of Cub Scout Pack 350 in Evansville, Indiana, has always been a fan of Thor, the Marvel Comics character who has shot into the public consciousness with his appearance in the most recent series of Marvel movies. (The actor who plays Thor in the MCU has an interesting connection to Scouting himself, by the way.)
James, his brother William, and his sister Anna have always enjoyed playing with their Mjolnir and Stormbreaker toys, sometimes recreating scenes from the comics and movies, and other times inventing their own. (No doubt they’ve pondered what Thor’s Scouting career could have been like.)
When James’ Thor-themed Pinewood Derby car “Thor, Car of Thunder” won the pack championship, James’ father Nick wrote a letter to Marvel Comics to brag about his son. The editors at Marvel were apparently just as impressed as the rest of us: Nick’s letter, along with photos of the car and James’ trophy, appeared in the February 2020 Thor #3 comic.
Here’s what they wrote:
My son and I are big Thor fans. We were so excited for the new series that it inspired us to theme our newly built Cub Scout Pinewood Derby car in a Thor theme! My son James named the car “Thor, Car of Thunder.” By Odin’s beard and the power of Thor, our car not only won best in show for its theming, but it also won the Pack Championship for its speed! We are looking forward to the new series and thank the team for their wonderful storytelling artistry.
Nick & James Dus
An idea is born
Interestingly enough, James’ car didn’t actually start off as Mjolnir, the hammer of Thor in Norse mythology. James and Nick started off with a wedge-shaped design. But they had noticed that many of the faster cars in their pack had the weight toward the back (an idea that is indeed backed by science). So, they created a design to maximize that concept. When it was done, James said, “That looks like Thor’s hammer!”
James’ mother is an art teacher, so she and James sat down and figured out how they could pursue the idea.
The result is not only neat looking, it’s also fast.
“As we had learned from the Boys’ Life website and from watching previous winners, science says the heaviest part of your car should be in the back, creating more potential energy,” says Nick. “We took this a step farther by using tungsten weight (heavy metal), which allowed us to keep to pack rules on the max weight — but putting it all in the very back. In order to prevent the ‘wheelie,’ we moved our axles back (allowed per our pack rules as long we use the axles provided).”
Nick and James did not get a response from Marvel. So they waited with baited breath for the next issue to arrive.
At last, the issue arrived
“When James picked up the latest comic, he was thrilled to see what it was included,” says Nick. James showed the comic not only to the rest of his pack but also to his first-grade classmates.
It’s never too early to start thinking about the next Pinewood Derby. Currently on the board: Harry Potter, Disney/Pixar, or maybe a different take on Thor.
“The Pinewood Derby is a great learning experience for Scouts from tool usage, engineering and physics,” says Nick. “It is also a great opportunity to let their imagination take flight with some fun.”