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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TALES OF ASGARD - THE STORY THUS FAR ...

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Tales of Asgard from Thor #137, "The Tragedy of Hogun!"

On their way back to Asgard, Thor, Hogun, Fandral, and Volstagg encounter a badly injured man with his arms and legs tied to posts so that he is suspended above the ground.  Hogun recognizes him as Saguta, a warrior and one of his fellow countrymen.  They cut him down but they can tell he is moments away from succumbing to his wounds.  Hogun asks who has caused his injuries and Saguta replies it was the tyrant Mogul.  Hogun is incensed by the mere mention of Mogul's name and demands to know where Mogul is, but before he can say anything more, Saguta dies.

Hogun continues to be enraged and his friends try to restrain and calm him.  He screams out for Mogul to show himself.  Suddenly, there is a surge of smoke and shadows, and a shape begins to form within it.  It is Mogul, answering Hogun's challenge.  But Thor tells him he commands the party, and it is Thor he must answer to first.  Behind Thor, Fandral and Volstagg are struggling to hold Hogun back, who is screaming at Thor that he, not Thor, must face Mogul.

Mogul warns Thor of his power, and turns his sword into a serpent.  Thor is unfazed and says trickery won't stay his wrath.  He is irate that Mogul committed murder on Asgardian soil and says retaliation will be swift.  Hogun warns Thor he won't be cheated out of his vengeance, even by him.  Suddenly, a voice cries out, saying "None may threaten Mogul!" and a large shadow can be seen on the ground.  Hogun says that Mogul has summoned his Jinni Devil and calls him a base coward for it.  A gigantic green hand scoops up Mogul as he tells Hogun and the others if they want a fight, to find him at the Mystic Mountain, as the Jinni flies off.

Hogun tells his fellows that Mogul's Jinni is the last of his species, and has powers beyond imagination.  Mogul enslaved Hogun's people, and drove him from his land; he has searched for years, but has never been able to find the Mystic Mountain.  He tells him he will now leave them and go to find the Mystic Mountain alone.  But Thor says they are all brothers, and they will stand beside him.  Hogun warns them his father and his brothers all died seeking the Mystic Mountain, but Fandral, Volstagg, and Thor all pledge to be by his side all the way.

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Tales of Asgard from Thor #138, "The Quest for the Mystic Mountain!"

Thor, Hogun, Fandral, and Volstagg have journeyed to the land of Hindi, far from Asgard, seeking the Mystic Mountain of Mogul.  They go to the cave of Wazir the Prophet to ask him the location, but the cave is guarded by the monstrous, one-eyed Ogur.  They try to explain why they are there but Ogur ignores them and attacks.  Fandral states it is said that Ogur can fell one hundred warriors with one blow, but remarks he has never faced them before.  They try to reason with him but it is to no avail.  Thor states Mogul, not Ogur, is the enemy they seek, and does not fight back.  But when his life is in jeopardy, Fandral uses his sword to drive the monster back.  Hogun attacks next but Ogur catches him in a deadly grip.  Thor lets his hammer fly, and when it strikes, Ogur falls.

Wazir emerges from the cave and demands to know who they are and what they want.  Thor states they are Asgardians, in the service of Odin, and they seek only one thing: the Mystic Mountain.  Wazir warns them that no one that has sought the Mystic Mountain has lived to return from it.  He holds a staff and tells them to clutch it; in this way, his knowledge will flow to them.  He tells them a mist will form, and when it fades, they will have the answers they seek.  When it does fade, Wazir is gone, but they have learned the location as he said they would.  The Mystic Mountain rises from within the crater of the dreaded Jinni Slave of Mogul.

Thor, Hogun, and Fandral go to collect Volstagg, who had been guarding their steeds, but to no one's surprise has fallen asleep.  Fandral says Volstagg will say he wasn't sleeping; it was a pose to lure an unsuspecting foe.  He knows his friend well - Volstagg says as much before dozing off again!

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NEXT: "The Secret of the Mystic Mountain!"

 

Tales of Asgard (Thor 139 - April 1967)

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Mogul is "weary of yon revels" and sends away the entertainers in his court.  He orders one of his subjects to repeat the news he has brought to him, which is that four strangers (Thor and company) are approaching.  Mogul is outraged and uses an enchanted crystal to view who it is - Asgardians led there by his old enemy Hogun.  Mogul summons his slave, the Jinni Devil, who is eager to have new victims.

Meanwhile, Thor is counselling Hogun to be cautious, but the Grim One will have none of it; he is only concerned with vengeance for his brethren slain by Mogul.  Volstagg points out that while they are where Wazir informed them the Mystic Mountain is located, the land around them is barren and flat.  The Asgardians are stumped momentarily until Thor figure it out.  He slams his hammer to the ground and the earth tears away, revealing that the Mystic Mountain is an underground city, which they can see through a crystal barrier at their feet.  They all agree this is Zanadu, the land they had sought.

Hogun begins slamming his mace on the crystal barrier above Zanadu, but Thor tells him to conserve his strength.  He points out that if all those that came before them were killed, someone will soon come looking for them.  Hogun agrees but can barely control his rage.  Just then, the barrier begins to open, and Thor is proven right, as the Asgardians are confronted by the Jinni Devil!

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My rating: 8/10

This chapter moves the story along nicely here.  You can feel that a big confrontation is coming between Mogul and Hogun, and every panel each of them is in is loaded with tension.  Kirby did a great job depicting Hogun as completely obsessed with avenging his family and countrymen killed by Mogul, frothing with rage that he truly doesn't want to suppress.  Clever to have Thor try to be the voice of reason, when he has been the hothead on many occasions.  Fandral and Volstagg play minor supporting roles here but I suspect they may get a chance to shine in future chapters.

The reference to "Zanadu" on page 4 confused me.  Up to now, we've been told Mogul's home is "The Mystic Mountain", including the title of this chapter; now it is a mystic mountain, containing a city, with a previously unrevealed name.  Maybe I'm nitpicking here, but I found this needlessly complicated.

Very interesting but notice how nothing here resembles anything Scandinavian. Clearly everything on our Earth can be found in and around Asgard. I only ever saw the first chapter of this story so most of it is new to me.

I see what you are saying about "everything on our Earth can be found in and around Asgard", but I never looked at it that way. I've always viewed the Asgardian realm as other-wordly. Your perspective is interesting.
I checked and this tale is an eight part story. Sadly this story was also the end of the Tales of Asgard back-up; it was replaced in Thor #145 with an Inhumans backup.

Some depictions of Asgard show it as looking like a giant asteroid isolated in space aside from the rainbow bridge, but those images make it appear too small to contain the various other realms depicted as surrounding Asgard in these stories and which Thor & his pals journey to by ship or horses..  The confusion, I suppose, goes back to the myths in which Asgard seems to be an island in the sky which reputedly can only be reached through the rainbow bridge but is also linked with the other nine worlds of Norse mythology, which include Midgard, aka Earth, via Yggdrasil, the cosmic or world tree.  In Tales of Asgard and the main series, it often seems Asgard was once surrounded by enemies, most vanquished by Odin.  Maybe once Asgard and the other realms were once part of one planet but Odin or some other force separated them so that it is only through magic that anyone can travel from one realm to another.

Maybe someone else explained it all in the comics long ago but I don't recall ever reading it and I think it would be hard to come up with something that resolves all the various inconsistancies, such as the realm of the trolls being below the ground of both Midgard and Asgard when those two realms are supposed to be entirely separate.  Ok, magic and artistic license involving fantasy worlds!

So even back then, Marvel was trying to shove the Inhumans down everyone's throats at the expense of more popular properties?

John Dunbar (the mod of maple) said:

Sadly this story was also the end of the Tales of Asgard back-up; it was replaced in Thor #145 with an Inhumans backup.

"Plunder in lands beyond number." Was the idea that all of the world's pantheons except the Norse and the Greco/Roman had been conquered? None of the others had all powerful rulers like Odin or Zeus to protect them?

What was especially jarring to me was the artwork - going from a Thor story inked by either Coletta or Everett to a Sinnott inked Inhumans story. The back up would have made much more sense in the FF.  With Marvel's big expansion on the horizon you have to wonder if this was intended as a set up for an Inhumans title in 1968.

Randy Jackson said:

So even back then, Marvel was trying to shove the Inhumans down everyone's throats at the expense of more popular properties?

John Dunbar (the mod of maple) said:

Sadly this story was also the end of the Tales of Asgard back-up; it was replaced in Thor #145 with an Inhumans backup.

Back then Fantastic Four sold too well to put a back up in it, a fact it's impossible to convince newer readers of, they're convinced it was always bad because they only remember how weird it got at the end.

That story was clearly Jack's idea. Notice as he's leaving he makes a few Inhumans stories that turn up in Amazing Adventures and contributes exactly one issue of the Silver Surfer (a character he created but otherwise never worked on), which featured the Inhumans. He really wanted them to be successful, which they never were and probably never will be. By this point I think Fox is just holding onto the FF rights because they can see it ticks off Marvel.

Why exactly didn't Sinnott ink Thor? Why does he only work on the title when an unrelated series turns up? Did he dislike Thor for some reason?

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