The last time I did a comprehensive Thor re-read I stopped with the last of the Kirby issues (or rather the last volume of MMW Thor which had Kirby stories in it). As I explained in my Doctor Strange discussion thread, in the days when i was still actively building my backissue collection, I collected in three direction: from the present forward, from the present back, and from the beginning forward (in this case, primarily Special Marvel Edition and Marvel Spectacular, but also early editions of Marvel Tales and Thor Annual). Also like Doctor Strange, Thor is another title for which I have significant gaps (mostly between #229 and #271). Although I have previously read through #228 (some 35 years ago), the last time I did a read-through I stopped with MMW volume nine. Because I recently started a "Post-Kirby Fantastic Four" discussion and the MMW volumes of the respective series are roughly analogous in terms of release date, I thought I'd jump back and forth for a little variety.
After Jack Kirby left Marvel for DC, Stan Lee wrote two issues illustrated by Neal Adams followed by two issues illustrated by John Buscema. That brings me up to MMW v10 and Thor #184. Volume 10 comprises eleven issues, #184-194, eight of which are written by Stan Lee, all of which are illustrated by John Buscema. The last two issues in the volume are written by Gerry Conway. The comics are inked by a bevy of great inkers including Joe sinnott, Bill Everett, Sam grainger, Jim Mooney and Sal Buscema.
We'll start with issue #184.
When he was blogging Jim Shooter wrote about his interactions with Roy Thomas in this period (Aug 17 2011). He used this cover as an example of Thomas's letters about mistakes. What struck me was his attention to detail. Thomas wrote
“For what must be the hundredth time…the cover copy was screwed up…”
He points out that “Norse” was indicated to be as large as “Inca,” for one thing. He also has issues with the coloring. The main complaint was that “as usual” it wasn’t sent to him to check.
The next four issues are not "fill-ins" so much as they are "space-fillers." None of them are inventory stories, yet all of them simply "mark time" until the beginning of the sage of The Celestials. Roy Thomas had recently moved to L.A. at the time these stories were written, and had been spending an increasing amount of time shopping ideas for TV shows around Hollywood. He was still in control of the direction of Thor, but he was farming some of the writing out to other writers.
#279: First up is a continuity implant featuring Jane foster and written by Don Glut.
#280: Next is a story written by Don & Maggie Thompson from a synopsis by Thomas featuring two Hyperions: the one from the Squadron Supreme and the one from the Squadron Sinister. As such, this is one of the backissues, I acquired first. the art is by Wayne Boring and Tom Palmer. Last week I described Tom Palmer as "anybody's best inker," but I don't think he's wayne Boring's necessarily. The finished product looked good but, as one of the earliest "Superman" artists, Boring had a style that was largely sublimated under Palmer's inks. In this case, Boring might have been better served by an inker such as Chic Stone.
#281-282: These issues were written by Mark Gruenwald and Ralph Macchio (with a plotting assist from Peter Gillis and Mike Catron for #281) and drawn by Keith Pollard and Pablo Marcos. The story was set in Limbo and featured the space Phantom, Immortus and Tempus; it delved into Marvel history as much as one might expect from Gruenwald and Macchio. #282 marked Thor's 200th "Journey into Mystery" in the series.
NEXT: "Suddenly... The CELESTIALS!"
I remember that cover to Thor #121 being advertised in many other titles in December 1973, and the next month it was Amazing Spider-Man #131, wherein Doc Ock & Aunt May almost tied the knot. Those two issues always remind me of the winter of '73-'74, when I lived in West Jordan, Utah (moving to San Francisco by the end of '74). Adding Hercules to Thor's cast, for most of the next year at least, seemed to give the title a breath of fresh air and that cover is one of John Buscema's most iconic for the series.
Jeff of Earth-J said:
Issues #221-228 comprise one long story featuring Hercules. These are the ones I have read before. Bob Layton's two Hercules limited series of the early '80s inspired me to seek out Hercules backissues I did not already own. #224-228 were doubly important to me as they also featured Galactus and Ego the Living Planet. i was probably also inspired by Nova (Frankie Raye, that is) and guided by the Handbook of the Marvel Universe in seeking out appearances of Galactus' many heralds. I may have acquired #221-223 and #224-228 out of order.
I have always read #283-300 immediately following Eternals #1-19, but this time I chose not to. Except for Thor Annual #7, #283-300 is really the introduction of Kirby's concept to the Marvel Universe proper, so i decided to let it stand that way... with an exception. I did choose to read the "Eternals" back=up features from What If...? #23-28 as a sort of a prelude. (The ones from #29-30 were more "Inhumans" stories.)
#283 opens with Thor foiling a bank robbery in Mexico City. He then confronts Odin about his recently-uncovered memories from the annual. He also asks who his mother is and why he has such an interest in Midgard, laying the groundwork for the revelation in #300. Reading The Eternals led me directly to #293-200, but it was this storyline in turn which led me backwards to the "False Ragnarok." Nevertheless, #283 is a great jumping on point.
#284: Last issue Thor encountered the Celestial Gammenon, this issue he is reacquainted with Ajak. three years have passed since Professor Danial Daimon was sealed off within the Incan temple with Ajak and three SHIELD agents, and three years have also passed in "Marvel Time." (Using that scale, the end of the Celestials 50-year judgement should have been A.D. 2026.) Also in the plane carried inside the barrier by Gammenon were the Deviant Ereshkigal and another SHILED agent. Ikaris, Sersi and Margo Daimon are also (re-)introduced this issue, but not in a way particularly friendly to non-readers of The Eternals. But, seeing as how they are all named, footnoted and, because I didn't notice it for 40+ years, I'll let it pass.
#285: Dr. Damian gives Thor Sersi's address. (How he got it, having been trapped in an Incan ruin for the last three years, is not explained.) Thena, Reject and Karkas are folded into the plot. So is Warlord Kro. When the smoke clears, Thor, Sersi and Karkas emerge as a team. this series, like all Marvel Comics, displays the unfortnate (and annoying) tendency to use the verb "mutate" as a noun. No matter how many times I read it, that will never look right to me.
#286: Thor, Sersi and Karkas seek an alternate entrance to the City of the Deviants via the NYC subway system. They are reunited with Ikaris, Thena and the Reject. Warlord Kro is betrayed by Brother Tode. the good guys head for Olympia. Keith Pollard returns as penciler.
#287: In Asgard, Sif fights a Frost Giant and the Warriors Three fight Fafnir. Meanwhile, in Olympia, Thor fights the Eternals known as "The Forgotten One," now an emissary of the Celestials. Before their battle is concluded, though, both combatants are transported the the Celestials' mothership by "The One Above All."
#288: Thor defeats the forgotten One (now called "Hero") and begins to attack The One Above All, who shows him an image of Odin bending knee to the Celestial Arishem in the distant past.
#289: The One Above All returns Thor and Hero to Olympia. Zuras orders Sprite and Hero into each other's care. Odin visits Olympus to enlist Zeus against any who would ally themselves with Earth. Thor returns to Asgard but gets a cool reception as Odin is not there and has exiled him. thor ends up damaging the Rainbow Bridge and fight the Destroyer (animated by Sif).
#290: Up until this point, Roy Thomas had resisted the temptation of introducing new characters into the "Celestials" saga, but in this issue he introduces two: El Toro Rojo (a Deviant) and El Vampiro (an Eternal), both on the Mexican wrestling circuit. (Guest artist this issue is Arvell Jones.) Like Fantastic Four #207 (see "Post-Kirby Fantastic Four"), this issue is a kind of "one-off" within a larger arc and, also like FF #207, it could be skipped with little effect on the overall storyline. #290, like Annual #8, is kind of an interruption to the "Celestials" arc, but that's okay; next volume kicks into high gear.
ROY THOMAS on THOR ANNUAL #8: "I've often stated my favorite work of literature is Homer's Iliad. Plus, I'd been less than thrilled, a couple of years earl;ier, when Marvel had introduced a whole line of comics adapting classic works of literature, and I wasn't invited to write any of them, let alone my beloved Iliad. Besides, I felt the only artist then at Marvel who should do an adaptation of that work was John Buscema--so I decided that, if Marvel's classics wouldn't come to roy, the Roy would go to the classics. the result: inserting the thunder go into the war between the Acheans (Greeks) and the Trojans.
"Still dividing my time between comics and Hollywood, I prevailed upon Don and Maggie Thompson, again, to plot the story for me from my notes. I didn't want Thor to intervene materially in such a familiar story, so I settled for having the Greek warrior Diomedes at one point assume thor is the god Apollo... whiloe Thor purposefully stood in once for Aeneas, an ally of the Trojans. In the end, I even had Loki play a part in the war's fabled climactic moment... You'll see.
"In the final panel, I wrote that, in next year's Annual, a sequel to this one, Thor would be involved in the story of Aeneas (i.e., the Roman epic, The Aeneid). However, I didn't end up writing the 1981 Thor Annual--perhaps because, around that time, I chose to depart Marvel for a time. So the part the sone of Odin played in the poet Vergil's epic about the founding of Rome has remained untold."
MMW v19 (#291-302): This volume is written mostly by Roy Thomas (but also with some Ralph Macchio and Mark Gruenwald toward the end) and penciled/layed out entirely by Keith Pollard (I don't get to say "entirely" very often). The inker is almost entirely Chic Stone. In an earlier post I expressed regret that Tom Palmer didn't get to ink all of the "False Rognarok" series. I'll stand by that because Chic Stones style was so different from Palmer's, but I can't imagine anyone but Stone inking these "Celestial" stories leading up to #300. This volume has two intros: one by Roy Thomas and one by Ralph Macchio.
#291: The previous volume set all the pieces on the board; this one moves them into play. As this issue opens, Thor is returning to Olympia. He arrives just in time to witness Zuras begin the Uni-Mind ritual. No sooner does the brain-like gestalt entity rise into space to confront "The One Above All" than the forces of Olympus arrive, led by Zeus and accompanied by Odin. The Gods and Titans disrupt the Uni-Mind forcing the Eternals to return to Olympia. A battle ensues: Hercules vs. the Forgotten One (and Sprite); Ares vs. Ikaris; Hermes (Mercury) vs. Makarri; Athena vs. Thena; the Yellow-Crested Titans vs. Karkas and Reject; Sersi vs. footsoldiers; Zeus vs. Zuras.
But the most notable battle is that between Odin and Thor. Odin alludes to the last time Thor pitted Mjolnir against Gungnir a millennia ago, but Thor has no idea what Odin is talking about. The battle (and the issue) ends with Thor unconscious and Odin about to slay him with his magic spear.
#292: In case you've lost the thread since v18, Thor has allied himself with the Eternals against the Celestials on behalf of Earth, while Asgard and Olympus have seemingly allied themselves with the Celestials against Earth. Now Thor lies semi-conscious at Odin's feet as his father is about to slay him with his spear, Gungnir. At the last moment, Odin hurls the spear away, saying, "I'll not slay mine own bloodson again! NOT AGAIN!" which thoroughly confuses Thor. Odin's outburst and thrown spear brings the battle to a halt. Thor asks him what he means, but Odin refuses to answer and leaves him with a cryptic riddle.
The riddle leads Thor to the eye Odin plucked from his head. The eye has taken on a sentience of its own and has grown to gigantic size. It agrees to answer one question, but only one. Thor is curious about the scene Mimir showed him of Odin bending his knee to the Celestials 1000 years ago, but instead asks what Odin meant about Odin killing Thor once before. The Eye concedes that that is the one question that may reveal all to Thor, and proceeds to tell its tale.
NEXT: Guest commentary from out of the past.