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 83 (8/62)

"Thor the Mighty and the Stone Men from Saturn"

Plot-Stan Lee, Script-Larry Lieber, Pencils-Jack Kirby, Inks-Joe Sinnott 

Cover - Kirby & Sinnott

While vacationing in Norway, Dr. Donald Blake overhears a fisherman who claims to have seen aliens made of stone.  He investigates and finds the aliens, then when discovered, flees from them and hides in a cave.  He finds an old walking stick and tries to use it to escape after becoming trapped behind some rocks.  The stick does no good, and in frustration Blake strikes it against a boulder.  A transformation ensues, as the stick becomes a hammer and Blake become Thor!  He finds he now has super-strength and that the hammer can do several amazing things.  He attacks the aliens and makes short work of them, as well as their greatest weapon, the Mechano Monster.  The Stone Men flee from Thor, terrified of his power as well as the possibility that other such powerful beings exist.  Thor changes back to Blake as the military arrive.  They are confounded that the invaders fled as there is no one in sight except Blake.  Blake thinks to himself that he now has in his possession the greatest power ever held by a mortal man.

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

My rating: 7/10

First off, the art is gorgeous.  This is a few years before Kirby and Sinnott became the regular FF art team, and they mesh very well together here.  Jack gets a chance to draw aliens, a monster, a robot, lots of futuristic weapons, so the readers get lots of great visuals.  The story is okay considering the time period, but has a lot of weirdness to it.  So many of the early Marvel heroes have an origin that is scientifically based and comes about as the result of an accident.  Thor's origin is magically based, and draws on coincidences.  Thor comes from ancient myths so it is fitting, but the sheer number of coincidences that had to happen for Blake to become Thor are mined by future creators to expand this origin story. It's handy - and a little too convenient - that Blake remembers from his school days the myths of how Thor's hammer works, in detail.

The high point of the story is when after dispatching the aliens and their guns, it takes Thor only three panels to dispose of the Mechano Monster, their greatest weapon.  The aliens (and the readers) quickly learn Thor doesn't mess around.

In his first story, Don Blake is transformed into Thor and still thinks like Blake. This goes away very quickly.

This was Marvel's attempt to create a multi-powered strongman unlike the Thing and the Hulk and a handsome one, at that. I don't believe that they were copying Superman but they wanted someone to fill a Supermanish role in their comics as the most powerful being on the planet and being a Norse god is just as good as being an alien.

On another note, how familiar were the Norse gods to everyday people, let alone kids? The Greek/Roman pantheons got all the love and attention. The only reason I knew about the Aesir was because of THOR!

Thor was actually the first super-hero headliner to appear every month, beating out Ant-Man by a month.

I was actually looking for a different reason, but the Newsstand Time Machine shows that JIM 83 and TTA 35 (first costumed Ant-Man) both went on sale on June 5, 1962, even though they had different cover dates.

My first exposure to Norse mythology was also with Marvel's Thor. I might have experienced an earlier appearance of a version of Thor in DC books but that wasn't accompanied by all the characters and background Stan and his co-creators provided.

Was there an area of North America that had enough Scandinavian-heritage people that they might have learned it in school? Of course, I believe they later ret-conned that Don Blake wasn't just some guy who found the cane but was really Thor to begin with. Being not-just-some-guy also explains the apparent coincidences.

It was Thor, of course, that had the Li'l Capn reading the Elder Eddas at a very early age, too.

Is there any reason why the Stone Men look like the Easter Island statues? I don't recall that there was any explanation, but it's been literally decades since I read that book.

Also, even as a boy I thought it was silly that there was exposition -- in English -- on the hammer.

Philip Portelli said:

In his first story, Don Blake is transformed into Thor and still thinks like Blake. This goes away very quickly.

This was Marvel's attempt to create a multi-powered strongman unlike the Thing and the Hulk and a handsome one, at that. I don't believe that they were copying Superman but they wanted someone to fill a Supermanish role in their comics as the most powerful being on the planet and being a Norse god is just as good as being an alien.

I agree that the intent was not to copy Superman, but some stories do come off as Supermanish as do some elements used in the series.

On another note, how familiar were the Norse gods to everyday people, let alone kids? The Greek/Roman pantheons got all the love and attention. The only reason I knew about the Aesir was because of THOR!

According to wikipedia, Stan chose Norse gods because of the familiarity people already had with Greek and Roman mythology, and besides, Jack had already used two versions of Thor.  The first was in the 1940s, in the Sandman stories in Adventure Comics.  He also had a Thor story, with a familiar looking hammer, in the early 1960s, in Tales of the Unexpected at DC.  More details here:

http://comicsalliance.com/jack-kirbys-thor/

Actually, early Thor is more like Martian Manhunter's Detective Comics days, where he seemed to discover a new super-power every issue. But I don't want to get ahead of John!



Richard Willis said:

Thor was actually the first super-hero headliner to appear every month, beating out Ant-Man by a month.

I was actually looking for a different reason, but the Newsstand Time Machine shows that JIM 83 and TTA 35 (first costumed Ant-Man) both went on sale on June 5, 1962, even though they had different cover dates.

I went by the cover dates.  Not surprised that kind of thing happened back then.

My first exposure to Norse mythology was also with Marvel's Thor. I might have experienced an earlier appearance of a version of Thor in DC books but that wasn't accompanied by all the characters and background Stan and his co-creators provided.

Was there an area of North America that had enough Scandinavian-heritage people that they might have learned it in school? Of course, I believe they later ret-conned that Don Blake wasn't just some guy who found the cane but was really Thor to begin with. Being not-just-some-guy also explains the apparent coincidences.

The U.S. mid-west maybe - places likes Minnesota - have a significant Scandanavian population, I think.

Before 1962, there were a handful of books about Norse mythology around, but certainly many more about Greek and Roman gods, as well as a number of movies.  I think I've read that Kirby was a big fan of the Norse myths.

You are right about the later ret-cons, they showed Odin was responsible for all of the coincidences in JIM 83, as shown in Thor 158.

It also occurred to me that it was pretty radical at the time to have a male superhero with shoulder-length hair. "The Sixties" hairstyles, etc, didn't start until the late 60s. The styles in 1962 were pretty much a continuation of the 50s, except men's hats were now out-of-style because Jack Kennedy went hatless.

Captain Comics said:

It was Thor, of course, that had the Li'l Capn reading the Elder Eddas at a very early age, too.

Is there any reason why the Stone Men look like the Easter Island statues? I don't recall that there was any explanation, but it's been literally decades since I read that book.

Also, even as a boy I thought it was silly that there was exposition -- in English -- on the hammer.

According to wikipedia, Stan chose Norse gods because of the familiarity people already had with Greek and Roman mythology....

I seem to remember Stan being quoted as saying something like this.

Holy cow! Now I remember getting a chuckle from "Thorr" when I read it in reprint somewhere, as it predated JiM #83 but had Thor(r) AND the Stone Men in it. But I had forgotten all about it!

Anyway, thanks for quick research!

John Dunbar (the mod of maple) said:



Captain Comics said:

It was Thor, of course, that had the Li'l Capn reading the Elder Eddas at a very early age, too.

Is there any reason why the Stone Men look like the Easter Island statues? I don't recall that there was any explanation, but it's been literally decades since I read that book.

Also, even as a boy I thought it was silly that there was exposition -- in English -- on the hammer.

I remember knowing about Norse mythology even before I saw the Thor comics. In fact, I remember being occasionally confused because Marvel's Thor doesn't always match up to the mythology that well. That said, I suspect most people were  familiar with the Greco-Roman stuff.

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