PREVIEW: Thor brings the heavy-metal hammer down

Superman isn’t real.

But Jon Mikl Thor is.

Canada’s heavy-metal superhero will bring the thunder to New City Legion Saturday with his band Thor, following a screening of the brand new DVD, Thor – The Rock Opera.

“There’s nobody else who’s having gladiator battles on stage, or smashing bricks to pieces and bending steel with his bare hands, all the crazy stuff that I do as a performer on stage. You have Lady Gaga, she does weird stuff, but she doesn’t bend steel,” Thor says.

“What I’m trying to say is that, you’ve got this whole superhero movie genre. Well, I become one live on stage.”

A superhero in the making from a young age, the “Rock Warrior” has been making heads spin with stupefying feats of strength and face-melting theatrical metal for 35 years.

“When I was a kid wearing a cape – I used to change into Superman at recess at school and run around in my Superman costume like a nut – I didn’t think that it was going to be an occupation later on in life,” he says.

Thor – The Rock Opera, featuring actors Leslie Easterbrook (Police Academy, Halloween), Dan Roebuck (Lost, Matlock) and Marc Macaulay (The Punisher, Monster), is Thor’s latest in a string of projects.

The 56-year-old entrepreneur also runs the record label Vulcan Sky, is an actor and screenwriter (see Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare), has produced several comic books, and wrote the theme song for 2002 mockumentary Fubar.

A diehard sports fan, he also has a sportswear line, and he recently sold his trademarks for the long-defunct Vancouver Millionaires hockey club to the Vancouver Canucks and the NHL.

“The rock keeps me young, and all these projects keep me focused. I’m just a workaholic,” Thor says.

Before Thor launched his music career with his 1978 album Keep the Dogs Away, the singer was a renowned bodybuilder with the distinction of capturing both the Mr. Canada and Mr. USA titles.

He attributes much of his bodybuilding success to the Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin albums that whipped him into a frenzy before shows. And it’s a good thing they did, because Thor does not take well to losing.

“If I came in second place, I snapped the trophy in two. I would not tolerate second place,” he says. “I’ve got a whole box full of second-place trophies. I was going to throw them away, but my wife said, that’s to remind me to not be such a poor loser.”

Thor’s early goals as a musician were equally lofty. He wanted to have as many chart-toppers as Zeppelin or the Beatles, but soon learned to settle for smaller victories.

“Really, I accomplished a lot of No. 1s … I was the very first to do gladiator rock. Many bands followed, including Manowar, Danzig and his guys, Motley Crue – if you look at the Shout at the Devil album, the costuming on the cover, it’s very much like what I did on Keep the Dogs Away,” Thor says.

“Only the Strong was a huge selling album … We had a No. 1 hit in England over Van Halen, Twisted Sister and WASP at the time, with (the song) Thunder on the Tundra.”

Thor says he still gets through his physically demanding live performances with ease, even though he’s long past his 20s and a little past the stone-chiseled figure that brought him to fame.

Fresh off a sold-out European tour, Thor keeps his competitive nature at the forefront of everything he does.

“I was really doing some pretty amazing stuff. I got pretty high up there with some Karate kicks, the steel bar was effortless the last tour in Europe,” he says. “I keep myself in really good shape.”

His workouts these days include martial arts and cardiovascular exercises.

While Thor knows he might not be able to pull off the strength feats forever – “that’s why I rely a lot on the music,” he says – there are a few stunts fans will always demand from his live show.

Those include bending steel and blowing up hot water bottles.

“I’ve blown up about 3,400 hot water bottles in my life,” he notes. “I’ve been knocked unconscious.”

Looking back, the physical stress and sometimes painfully-cheesy music videos have been well worth the reward.

“I think we’re recognized as one of the foremost theatrical acts in history. And we are,” Thor says.

“I broke the mold when I made the Thor concept. There is no other act like Thor.”