John Dunbar re-reads Thor (Journey Into Mystery 83 and up)

Thor debuted in Journey Into Mystery 83, cover-dated August 1962.  This was, of course, the very early days of modern Marvel.  The Fantastic Four had only 5 issues under their belts, and the Incredible Hulk had just 2.  JIM was a monthly title (FF and Hulk were bi-monthlies), so Thor was actually the first super-hero headliner to appear every month, beating out Ant-Man by a month.  Spider-Man also debuted in Aug '62, but would have to wait 7 months to get his own magazine.

Of all the Silver Age Marvel books, JIM/Thor seems to get a lot less love and respect than other creations.  That may be because Thor is not really a creation of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee as it is their adaptation of the Thor of Norse myths.  There is one aspect of Marvel's Thor that is possibly borrowed from the Fawcett Captain Marvel, and in some of the early stories, Thor comes across as a poor man's Superman.

In the first year or so, Stan sometimes was credited as the writer, sometimes only the plotter.  It's debatable how much he did or didn't do - it always will be, I suppose - but one thing for sure, he very obviously didn't do the dialogue every issue.  Jack did the pencils on JIM 83-89, 93, and 97, and then was the regular penciller every month starting with 101.  Jack also did the backup feature, Tales of Asgard, starting in JIM 97, a very significant - and excellent - strip on its own.

Inspired by the Baron, I'm going to re-read the Thor stories starting with JIM 83 and give you my thoughts.  I may stop at Kirby's last issue, or I may keep going, I haven't really decided yet.  Like Bob, I'm going to try to be succinct, even though it's not my strong suit - I'm sure I'll be long winded from time to time.  I'm looking forward to what you guys think of these stories as well.

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John Dunbar (the mod of maple) said:

Blake, without changing to Thor, uses his cane to create a thunderstorm and the doctors escape. 

Blake, you ignorant ... wait, what?

John Dunbar (the mod of maple) said:

Thor uses his hammer to generate lightning bolts, causing a volcano to erupt and blocking the Communists from fleeing.

Wait, WHAT? There isn't a Norse god of volcanos that I'm aware of, and if there were one, it wouldn't be THOR!

All jokes aside, though, it's obvious that nobody's really thought through Thor's powers at this point, and Thor will keep discovering powers for a while. (An air pocket as a super-power? Really?) And nobody's really thought through Blake/Thor's relationship with Jane either -- as you point out John, it is at this point just a standard Stan Lee romantic obstacle. ("I can't tell Jean I love her because of my deadly optic blasts!" As if any woman worth her salt would care about your optic blasts/bad heart/blindness/being frozen in a glacier/lameness/whatever.)

So, yeah, we'll have fun with those things for a few issues. But what I'd like to comment on here is the plotting. Specifically, Blake being separated from his walking stick. This just begs the question right from the outset what that fricking stick is.

Why does Blake need it? More to the point, why does Thor need it?

We're supposed to be concerned that Blake is separated from his magic talisman, and that's a pretty standard fantasy Macguffin. But THOR is THOR, not Blake -- Asgard predated America, not to mention a New York physician. So if you're a reader with an IQ in three digits, you've got to wonder what difference it makes that Blake/Thor doesn't have his magic talisman -- he's the bloody God of Thunder in a pantheon that goes back centuries. Why should the stick matter?

Because the story itself is making you think: What would happen if Blake was simply killed? Would Thor also die? Or is Blake also able to be sort of Thor-ry (he can generate a windstorm without changing), or what?

Right here, in the second issue, we're presented with a question that really won't be answered until the Blake persona is dropped. What the hell IS Blake? Is he Thor looking like a mortal? Is it Thor AS a mortal, and can die? And why is the stick so necessary? If he's a god, the stick is just a talisman and a gunshot shouldn''t kill him as Blake any  more than as Thor. and if he's not a god, then killing him shouldn't matter -- somebody else could pick up the stick and become Thor.

Obviously, this question, like all the others, hasn't been thought through at this early date. But it's a pretty fundamental one, and one they're FORCING us to think about, by separating Blake from his stick. For that to matter, we have to understand why the stick is important ... and we really don't.

Stan & Jack (and Roy and Gerry and others) danced around that question for DECADES -- or it seemed to the Li'l Capn, beginning with his first issue (where the stick was caught in some sort of machine and Hyde & Cobra had Blake at their mercy). My first question back in 1963 was "Why is the stick important? Either Blake is a god or he isn't, but either way the stick is incidental."

That bugged me until they got rid of the Blake identity. When that happened, I let out a breath I didn't realize I'd been holding since 1963.

...John , what source are you reading this story from ?

  Reading this entry makes me want to add this question onto something I was going to post here anyway .

  You see , I , recently , almost did a less ambitious version of what you're trying to do here , after I recently splurged $24.99 on the 2013 second printing of the Marvel Masterworks TPB that reprints all of the ThorGard material from JIM #s83-100 .

  I ended up , after reading it , deciding I could not put up what I planned to about it , because , unlike the earlier ESSENTIALS B&W TPB that went considerably beyond JIM #100 , this issue book appeared to not go far enough into the Thor series to reach the 2nd part of my reason for my projected line covering early Goldilocks .

  For the issue relating to Thor , and early Marvel's continuity in general , and first touched upon in this very Thor story you are writing about was this: Namely (Hi , MAD !!!!!) -





John Dunbar (the mod of maple) said:

Journey Into Mystery 84

"The Mighty Thor vs. the Executioner".  Plot-Stan Lee, Script-Larry Lieber, Pencils-Jack Kirby, Inks-Dick Ayers.

I should have mentioned in my previous entry that there are no credits listed yet in the Thor series.  I obtained my information from the Grand Comics Database.  The splash page of this issue has Kirby and Ayers' names in a small caption type box.

The story starts off with a recap of the previous issue, then opens at Dr. Blake's office.  This serves to show us Dr. Blake is a successful family doctor, and to introduce his nurse, Jane Foster.  Jane and Don both secretly love the other, but neither say so.  He is convinced she would never love a man who has a bad heart is blind is lame; she wants him to make the first move.  Ah, romance!

Jane brings Don up to speed on the civil war that broke out in San Diablo while he was in Europe.  The pro-Communist forces are led by a warlord dubbed the Executioner (no, not the Asgardian one, we'll meet him later) because of "the many victims he's sent to the firing squad!".  Don and Jane are part of a volunteer group that head to San Diablo to provide badly needed medical aid.  The ruthless Executioner orders his men to sink the ship of mercy the doctors are on, to keep the peasants weak!  Blake changes to Thor, and destroys a jet with one swing of his hammer, swings the hammer to create an air pocket that destroys two more jets, and smashes the final jet with another hammer strike.  He then dives in the water and changes back to Blake to cover his secret identity, claiming he fell overboard during the attack.  He asks what happened to the jets, and the others explain how "out of nowhere there appeared a figure like a legendary flying god" who "wielded a mighty hammer -- just like Thor, the mythical god of thunder" and Jane adds: "And he was so -- so handsome!"

The Executioner orders the death of the man who commanded the jet pilots for failing to kill the medical volunteers.  Then he orders that the "Yankee doctors" must be stopped from helping the sick or there will be more executions.  The snipers find the doctors and start shooting.  Blake, without changing to Thor, uses his cane to create a thunderstorm and the doctors escape.  Later, several tanks approach the Americans, Blake changes to Thor and smashes the tanks.  The Communists take Jane hostage, and Thor stands down.  Jane is taken to the Executioner, who finds her lovely.  Thor has changed back to Blake and allows himself to be captured; his cane is taken from him.  He mouths off to the Executioner and is about to face the firing squad.  Jane pleads for his life, and agrees to an offer of marriage from the Communist leader to spare Don.  Blake calls out the Executioner for a coward and challenges him to a man to man fight.  Blake tricks him and grabs back his cane, changes to Thor, and beats the Commies in short order.  The pro-democracy army approaches, not that Thor needs help.  Thor uses his hammer to generate lightning bolts, causing a volcano to erupt and blocking the Communists from fleeing.  The Executioner tries to escape with a suitcase full of money and several more bags of it, and his own followers turn on him and execute him.  Later, while tending to the ill, Jane asks Don where he was during the fight.  He explains he hid behind the execution wall.  She wishes to herself that Don could be brave and adventurous like Thor!


My rating: 5/10.

Again, I can't complain about Kirby, and Ayers' inks compliment his pencils nicely.  The story is typical of early Marvel Cold War tales.  The Commies aren't just bad, they are vile; it's too bad the bearded Executioner doesn't have a moustache to twirl, because that's all that is missing from him.  I wonder if it's a coincidence he looks like Fidel Castro, as this comic comes out the year after the Bay of Pigs invasion.

The interesting thing here is the set-up of the love triangle.  Don loves Jane, but won't say so because he doesn't think she would love a lame man.  Jane loves Don, but won't say so because Women's Lib is a long way off, I guess.  And Jane is smitten with Thor, ignoring how much danger her life is in to gush about him.  So we have that old chestnut - a triangle that really only has two people in it!  I thought Jane was rough on Don at the end, being disappointed that he sought safety from all of the flying bullets (as far as she knew) over being brave like Thor.  We're talking about an unarmed man who uses a cane because he is lame.  Jane is cold, people.

The first time Blake changes to Thor, on the ship, he makes sure he is out of sight.  The next time, the other medical people are a few feet from him.  At the Executioner's base, he changes in front of everybody, including Jane - although the narrator tells us everyone was blinded.  That feels inconsistent.

I think my jaw actually dropped when Blake generated the thunderstorm with his cane, without changing to Thor.  You really have to go with the flow when it comes to this stuff.  It's all over the place in the early issues, what the hammer - or the cane in this case - can do.

Cap: We've only begun with the wacky powers.  Wait until next issue!  I didn't really give the walking stick a lot of thought, but you're right, these powers should be within Thor, not the cane or hammer.  And Thor says he has to strike the hammer on the ground four times to generate lightning, which he shoots into a volcano to make it erupt.  Why two strikes for this and four for that?  He can either do it, or he can't, he just doesn't know it yet.

Emerkeith: I have a subscription to Marvel's digital comics Unlimited.

John, I suspect that you and Andrew have given more thought to the whys and wherefores of Blake's cane than Stan did at the time.

...I wanted to analyse that JIM MM in relation to my theory that the earliest stories of THOR that concern Dr. Blake and his Nurse Jane ~ do not concern Doctor Blake and Jane Foster , but her predecessor as Dr. Blake's nurse , Jane Nelson , which is the name of Dr. Blake's nurse as given in this very same JIM #84 story , as a quick check of Panel 2 on Page 4 of the story will show ~ That is , if you are working from a pressing of the story that does not substitute the later-retconned-in name of Jane Foster , who , according to my reading of , roughly the first 12 Thor issues of JIM , is Dr. Blake's nurse during that period .

(I presume that the original JIM #84 has the non-relettered panel referring to " Jane Nelson " .

  You mean I DON'T have an original copy !!!!!!!!!!??????????!!!!!??????)

  In my reading of these issues and their aftermath , Jane Nelson , Dr. Blake's nurse during those early " ishes " :-) , had to hurriedly leave Dr. Blake's employ some time around the last of the issues cited , and , following her professional duty as a nurse , called in a nursing school classmate of here to fill the Dr. Blake job , Jane Foster !

  The details of what happened are non-revealed , but it seems pretty clear that an early flare-up of Thor's desire to marry a mortal , first manifesting itself with Nurse Nelson , flared up in a way to push her immediate departure ~ And her speedy replacement with Jane Foster , who , in a nurse's uniform and those gigantic early 60s helmet dos , looked pretty much the same in her depiction in the chronicles published !

  Now , I realize that , in the " real world " sense , Stan Lee and company never intended Thor's adventures to be interpreted as having a first nurse , likely because of the " Gee , Pop , I wanna marry a mortal ! PullEazZze ? " syndrome , leaving and being replaced by a lookalike sister of Nightingale...but when have the creators' original intentions prevented fans explaining contradictions with explanations that the original creators never , ever , intended ?

  Seriously , when I had the Essentials THOR black and white book that printed all of the stories in the 2013 MM JIM #83-100 color book in B&W , and many more after #100 , it was suprising how well the chronicles back up the interpretation of Jane Foster's first appearance as happening  some time after #84 with statements made by Foster and behavior by Loki , for two , in the chronicles , IIRC !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  However , the MM book stopping at #00 , as it turned out , was a point short  of some stories that I recall from the Essentials volume which point out the second part of this story which I postulate , the MM volume not featuring some of the early appearances by Nurse Jane Foster which show that these stories show her early times as Blake/Thor's nurse , with the JIM #84-92ish stories being ones where Jane Nelson is Dr. Blake's nurse/Thor's foil-girlfriend !!!!!!!!!!!

  Believe it .

  Face forward , true believer !!!!!!!!!!! Hotchah .

No doubt, but I think readers at the time were looking at these things too and wondering why it didn't make much sense.  That's how I'm approaching this.

The Baron said:

John, I suspect that you and Andrew have given more thought to the whys and wherefores of Blake's cane than Stan did at the time.

Emerkeith: What I am reading has "Nelson" corrected to "Foster".  To me, Nelson is a typo, and that's the end of it in my view.

...It was the first story . " Foster " wasn't .

  Now , I acknowledge that it is likely that Stan , perhaps , just forgot between the last appearance of Nelson and the first appearance of " Foster " , and , if it was ever pointed out to him ~ Especially after " Foster " had been established for a while ~ that he just thought it didn't matter . Fair enough .

  However , the inescapable fact remains that the first name given for Dr. Donald Blake's nurse was " Nelson " .
 Not " Foster " .
John Dunbar (the mod of maple) said:

Emerkeith: What I am reading has "Nelson" corrected to "Foster".  To me, Nelson is a typo, and that's the end of it in my view.

...Superman killed in his earlier stories , too...and Batman used a gun occasionally , and killed/went purty durn close to it , anyway...(Throwing a miscreant off of a roof in The Case Of The Chemical Syndicate...Ouch ! Sure must smart .)

Journey Into Mystery 85 (10/62)

"Trapped by Loki, the God of Mischief".  

Plot-Lee, Script-Lieber, Pencils-Kirby, Inks-Ayers

Cover - Kirby & Ayers

Our story begins on Asgard (!), and we see Loki imprisoned in a tree.  Through trickery of course, he is freed when Heimdall passes by.  Loki caused a leaf to fall into Heimdall's eye and a tear is shed, breaking the spell of the imprisonment.  Loki vows revenge on the one responsible for his capture, many centuries ago ....... Thor (!)

Loki discovers Thor is on Earth, and heads there to confront his "ancient enemy".  He transforms three people into negatives (like the little black strips that came with developed film), and Thor goes to help them.  He rotates the hammer quickly enough to "emit anti-matter particles" and restores them to normal.  Loki, disguised as a human, confronts Thor who doesn't recognize him until Loki resumes his godly form.  Loki challenges Thor to battle and leaves.  Thor follows, and Loki is able to hypnotize him.  He tries to get Thor's hammer, but is stymied.  He orders Thor to give him the hammer, but Thor cannot, "by the will of Odin".  He tricks Thor into throwing the hammer at an illusion, forgetting about the hammer always returning.  He tricks Thor into giving it to an illusion of himself.  60 seconds later, he changes back to Don Blake and is no longer hypnotized.  Blake grabs the hammer again and as Thor chases Loki.  In a crowded theatre, Loki drops a heavy curtain on Thor, and Kal-El he blows it away with a breath.  Thor manages to knock Loki into a river, and Loki is powerless in water.  Thor saves him from drowning, and then, tying him to the hammer, sends him back to Asgard (!), where we see a rear view of Odin, Balder, Tyr, and other gods.  Jane Foster thinks this battle was romantic, for some reason.


My rating: 8/10

Wow, after two mundane previous issues, this was insane.  Marvel-Thor was a blank slate before, now he has a lot of backstory, going back centuries.  He recognizes Loki, he knows that Odin has decreed the hammer cannot be taken from him, he declares his strength is "still the greatest of all the gods", and he knows where Asgard is!  Heck, he imprisoned Loki there "ages ago" and hasn't been seen there for some time.  Mindblowing.  This will no longer be a paint by number super-hero strip.

The bit about rotating the hammer so it can emit anti-matter particles is a great example of the hammer being able to do whatever the writer says it can do.  And the super-breath panel is a good example of cribbing from Superman.

I admire Jane Foster's ability to see what a dashing and handsome fellow Loki is, as her fellow New Yorkers are terrified and panicking.  Reminds me of last issue, smitten with Thor as the bullets are flying.  What a gal!

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