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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Journey Into Mystery 87 (12/62)

"Prisoner of the Reds"

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

Cover - Kirby & Ayers

Five American scientists have defected to the Reds (that's the Communists to you youngsters) within a month.  Clark Don Blake declares that this is a job for Thor.  He decides to visit an old friend in Washington, a Colonel Harrison.  Lois Jane daydreams of Thor while helping Don pack.  Don tells Harrison his plan, to use himself as bait to figure out how the Reds are doing this.  It works, but Blake finds himself a prisoner, as are the other scientists.  He changes to Thor, but is forced to surrender to save the lives of the scientists.  He lays down his hammer and is bound with unbreakable "electronically treated" chains.  Luckily, the Reds leave the room before he changes to Blake.  When that happens, he frees the scientists, and destroys the prison (or Odin does, it's not quite clear).  Changing back to Blake, he rejoins the others, and with some help from ordinary citizens, they escape back to America.  At the end, Jane declares she loves Thor to Don.  He thinks to himself how he longs "to tell you Thor loves you!  But I dare not!" , and Jane thinks "I know I'll never find Thor...but I'll never stop dreaming...and hoping -- and praying"

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My rating: 3/10

This is the fifth Thor story.  It's the shortest so far at 10 pages.  It's also about 9 pages too long.  The artwork cannot save this turkey.  Thor freeing the scientists should have been a 2 page short story.

Don wakes up in a cell with the other scientists.  As quickly as he asks himself how he can change to Thor without giving away his secret identity, the Reds (conveniently) put him in a cell by himself.  Then, as Thor, it takes four panels to get out of his cell, which was unguarded and unmonitored I guess.  I remembered it took Thor three panels in JIM 83 to destroy the Stone Men's greatest weapon, the Mechano Marauder.  When three guards are about to shoot, we get this month's new power of the hammer:  Thor "rubs his hands against the magic hammer, creating such intense friction that it emits sparks, as hot and blinding as a blast furnace".  Then he triggers a trap door, and plunges a long distance - hammer in hand - into shark filled water, and creates a whirlpool to stop them, then climbs out instead of flying.  I wish I made that up.  Even stupider is the whole sequence when he surrenders.  Just based on the previous four issues alone, I can't buy man-made chains being unbreakable for Thor.  And everyone leaving the room before he changes to Blake?

Then at the end, Thor has freed the prisoners and creates a thunderstorm.  He beseeches Odin to "Unleash thy fury, father!  Destroy this citadel of evil!"  Odin does not appear, but several lightning strikes shatter the prison.  Thor couldn't destroy the place himself?  For that matter, why was he scared of sharks (and why not just fly away from them?)?  Did he really have to blind three armed guards to get away from them?

What a mess.

And not only was this a mess, this plot got recycled about 3 months later for Ant-Man!

Final thought: Am I a bad person for laughing at Jane Foster praying to one deity to help her lovelife with another deity?

...Yes , one would presume Jane Nelson...Foster to be a Christian or Jew by default and thus praying to " the Abrahamic God "...........Comic books are so ecenumical !!!!!!!!!!!

John Dunbar (the mod of maple) said:

Journey Into Mystery 87

"Prisoner of the Reds"

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

Five American scientists have defected to the Reds (that's the Communists to you youngsters) within a month.  Clark Don Blake declares that this is a job for Thor.  He decides to visit an old friend in Washington, a Colonel Harrison.  Lois Jane daydreams of Thor while helping Don pack.  Don tells Harrison his plan, to use himself as bait to figure out how the Reds are doing this.  It works, but Blake finds himself a prisoner, as are the other scientists.  He changes to Thor, but is forced to surrender to save the lives of the scientists.  He lays down his hammer and is bound with unbreakable "electronically treated" chains.  Luckily, the Reds leave the room before he changes to Blake.  When that happens, he frees the scientists, and destroys the prison (or Odin does, it's not quite clear).  Changing back to Blake, he rejoins the others, and with some help from ordinary citizens, they escape back to America.  At the end, Jane declares she loves Thor to Don.  He thinks to himself how he longs "to tell you Thor loves you!  But I dare not!" , and Jane thinks "I know I'll never find Thor...but I'll never stop dreaming...and hoping -- and praying"

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

My rating: 3/10

This is the fifth Thor story.  It's the shortest so far at 10 pages.  It's also about 9 pages too long.  The artwork cannot save this turkey.  Thor freeing the scientists should have been a 2 page short story.

Don wakes up in a cell with the other scientists.  As quickly as he asks himself how he can change to Thor without giving away his secret identity, the Reds (conveniently) put him in a cell by himself.  Then, as Thor, it takes four panels to get out of his cell, which was unguarded and unmonitored I guess.  I remembered it took Thor three panels in JIM 83 to destroy the Stone Men's greatest weapon, the Mechano Marauder.  When three guards are about to shoot, we get this month's new power of the hammer:  Thor "rubs his hands against the magic hammer, creating such intense friction that it emits sparks, as hot and blinding as a blast furnace".  Then he triggers a trap door, and plunges a long distance - hammer in hand - into shark filled water, and creates a whirlpool to stop them, then climbs out instead of flying.  I wish I made that up.  Even stupider is the whole sequence when he surrenders.  Just based on the previous four issues alone, I can't buy man-made chains being unbreakable for Thor.  And everyone leaving the room before he changes to Blake?

Then at the end, Thor has freed the prisoners and creates a thunderstorm.  He beseeches Odin to "Unleash thy fury, father!  Destroy this citadel of evil!"  Odin does not appear, but several lightning strikes shatter the prison.  Thor couldn't destroy the place himself?  For that matter, why was he scared of sharks (and why not just fly away from them?)?  Did he really have to blind three armed guards to get away from them?

What a mess.

And not only was this a mess, this plot got recycled about 3 months later for Ant-Man!

Final thought: Am I a bad person for laughing at Jane Foster praying to one deity to help her lovelife with another deity?

Here's a thing: When I was growing up reading Thor, the idea was that Thor couldn't fly. As explained numerous times, he throws his hammer really, really hard and then hangs on to the strap. For years, he couldn't change direction or stop -- villains would actually use this against him. (We'll see this coming up here, or in Avengers.) That's why he didn't fly out of the shark tank -- he couldn't "wind up" to throw the hammer.

It was much, much later -- maybe even as late as the John Buscema period -- when Thor violated this rule. He was flying along and some villain knocked him out of the sky. First he falls ... and then he stops. He's hanging in the air from the hammer, as if the hammer is pasted in the sky. (He's actually hanging as if he's lying on his back, which made for a rather dramatic shot.) That was the first time we readers had any indication that Thor (or the hammer) could actually FLY -- that I recall. Now Thor does all sorts of aerial gymnastics.

The magic words here are "that I recall." I came to the realization about Thor's flight limitations (before they were removed) at some point when I was already puzzled when Stan Lee put it in focus with an explanation somewhere -- in story or in a Bullpens Bulletin or in a letters page, or maybe all three. Then I "got" it. He doesn't fly, I came to understand, he's like a thrown baseball. And I started paying attention to see that it was so, and it was always so. (Until the floating episode.) And when re-reading older issues I looked for variance, and didn't find any.

But my memory is hardly flawless. And in these early issues, it's clear that the rules governing Thor's powers aren't yet locked in. So I'm looking forward to researching this basic question as we go along!

I knew that - readers were told Thor can't fly, that he rotates and throws the hammer, then hangs on for the ride.  I still think he might have been able to do that before he hit the water, or failing that, once he was in the water.

Interestingly, earlier in this issue Don Blake takes a plane to Washington, but changes to Thor to fly back to New York.  So either that was an insanely powerful throw of the hammer, on the Superman pushing around planets level, or he continually took leaps over tall buildings in a single bound.

Thor's hammer trick wouldn't work, because when he threw his hammer one way he would propel himself with equal force in the opposite direction. One doesn't notice this effect with a ball because it is much less massive than oneself. One of the early Simpsons superhero parody comics had an oblique crack about this.

Thor is one of those characters where I feel that you can get away with the "It's magic!" explanation for just about anything.

When the Atom increases his weight to strike a crook he should slow his speed assuming his momentum remains constant. The Simpsons sequence I referred to is one of the extracts here.

Journey Into Mystery 88 (1/63)

"The Vengeance of Loki!"

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

Cover - Kirby & Steve Ditko

The story opens with the events that happened at the end of JIM 85, when Thor sent Loki back to Asgard after defeating him.  Odin decrees that Loki must remain in Asgard forever.  Using his magic to spy on Thor, Loki discovers he becomes a mortal when not holding his hammer for over 60 seconds.  Loki muses being totally dependent on the hammer is Thor's weakness, and this is how he will defeat him.  Disobeying Odin, Loki heads for Earth to find Dr. Donald Blake!

Loki goes to Blake's office, hypnotizes Jane Foster, and confronts Blake.  Blake changes to Thor, and Loki issues a challenge for battle, in one hour, in "Center Park".  Thor's response:

"SO BE IT!"

The battle begins with Thor throwing his hammer at Loki.  Loki sidesteps it, as a still hypnotized Jane walks toward them - which Loki had commanded her to do earlier.  Loki changes a tree into a tiger, and Thor is forced to save Jane from it rather than catch his hammer.  He dispatches the tiger, but before he can reach the hammer, the 60 seconds is up.  Loki traps the hammer in a magic force field.  Loki wins!  LOKI WINS!

Loki celebrates by indulging in some mischief - turns several people into blank beings, cars and buildings into candy, and (humorously) turns a Communist atomic bomb into a dud, unintentionally doing something heroic.  

Blake comes up with a plan - having the media announce Thor will defeat Loki by the end of the week.  Loki worries that Thor has found a way to somehow get his hammer back, and races to the park.  The force field is still intact, but Thor is there!  Loki removes the force field, and Blake emerges from hiding and grabs the hammer - "Thor" was a mannequin!  Loki flees, but Thor catches him without much trouble, and returns him to Asgard.

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My rating: 8/10

I really enjoyed this story.  Loki used a clever and wily plan to trick his way to victory, and Blake was also clever enough to out-trick the trickster and regain his hammer.  It's amusing that once Loki was free to do what he wanted, he was more Dennis the Menace than pure evil.  So the whole thing comes across as two brothers squabbling - when Loki wins, he makes no attempt to harm Blake, he just wants to have his fun.  And when Thor returns him to Asgard, Odin seems more mildly exasperated with Loki than truly angry.

A few firsts here - the first time Thor declares "So Be It!", and the first time we see Thor in Asgard, although this is only the last two panels of the story.  Odin does all the talking, so there's really nothing special to it.  This also might be the first issue where the hammer doesn't have a new fancy power.

Also, as Cap alluded to a few pages back, Asgard is nothing special so far,  just a few fancy looking buildings.

I’ve got a bit of time today, and I just caught up reading this discussion from the point I left it.

In mythology, the handle of Thor’s hammer is three feet in length, but in the comics it’s drawn much shorter. In these early appearances, though, it does look to be about three feet long.

I’ve been trying to remember and I think the first Thor story I ever read was from Journey into Mystery #89. I say “from” #89 because I actually read it in Marvel Tales #7. Even that I didn’t buy new, though, but it was one of my earliest back issue acquisitions.

The Don Blake “origin issue” as discussed above is #158, BTW.

Are you sure that's right, Jeff? My recollection is Loki turned into a horsefly and stung the dwarf who was making it, so the handle turned out a little too short. To be fair, I think the version of the story I remember is the one from D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths. 

Journey Into Mystery 89 (2/63)

"The Thunder God and the Thug!"

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

Cover - Kirby & Ayers

We open with a recap of Thor's origin, and then we have Jane Foster daydreaming of having a life with Thor.  Reality intrudes with the sound of gunfire.  A mobster named Thug Thatcher is wounded escaping from police.  His men barge into Blake's office and threaten Jane unless Don comes with them.  He removes the bullets, and an ungrateful Thatcher orders his men to kill Blake.  The mobsters had his cane while he operated, so he's physically helpless.  He mentally contacts Odin, who helps him grab the cane and become Thor.  He makes short work of the gangsters but Thatcher escapes with his girlfriend in tow.  The gangster tries to evade Thor but is overmatched, and quickly caught.  At Thor's request, Odin wipes the girlfriend's memory, so she can be free of Thatcher, and be able "to find one who will be worthy of her".

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

My rating: 4/10

Pretty humdrum stuff.  A mob leader and his gang shouldn't give Spider-Man or Daredevil this much trouble.  This was really dragged out with Thatcher's repeated escapes and Jane being threatened two different times but in the same manner.  Kind of sad it took super-breath, super-ventriloquism, and help from Odin for Thor to win.

One noteworthy thing was Jane's astonishment at Thor surrendering his hammer to save her when (she thinks) he doesn't even know her.  But that wasn't enough to save the story.

No one probably blinked at Odin wiping the gun moll's memory back then.  Today it would probably cause a storyline of its own.  Darn you, Identity Crisis!

No one probably blinked at Odin wiping the gun moll's memory back then. Today it would probably cause a storyline of its own. Darn you, Identity Crisis!

Kinda reminds me of the pre-Identity Crisis Superman using Amnesium on various people.

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