Saturday, July 21, 2012

Doug's Favorites: Thor 147

Thor #147 (December 1967)
"The Wrath of Odin!"
Stan Lee-Jack Kirby/Vince Colletta

Doug:  We've all commented on that book or two we've read and read again, until the cover literally fell off of it.  Today, and again next Sunday, I'll be taking you inside of a couple of yard sale finds from the mid-1970's.  In fact, these consecutive issues of Thor are among, if not, the first 12c books I ever owned.  And, rather than do our usual service in providing a nice cover from the folks at the Comic Book Database, I've decided to scan the one I'm reading -- gape if you will at the frayed edges, wrinkles, so-called "Marvel chipping", rolled spine, the places where the tape stuck to the cover and peeled away the color, etc... this is a well-loved book!  So let's have a peek inside:

Doug:  One of the reasons this book stands apart is that it was my entry level for so much of the Thor mythos.  At the time I first read this story I was fascinated with Greek mythology -- this comic then encouraged my entry to Norse mythology.  Inside these covers we'll find not only the base villainy (well, for what that's worth) of the Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime and evil Loki, but also Asgardian mainstays Odin, Sif and Balder, and the whole Asgard/Earth dichotomy.  I'm pretty sure I had had some solo-Thor exposure around this same time in the then-current mags, but let's face it -- with the adventure possibilities in this comic series, one could land just about anywhere and in any situation.  So all of this felt new to me.  Add in the fact that in the current issues of the time the art was by John Buscema and here we find the classic team of Jack Kirby and Vinnie Colletta and this story again could not have been more different.  So I was fully aware that I was in the middle of something much older (I'd have been only a year and a half old when this first saw the spinner racks), and somewhat seminal.

Doug:  We pick up the story right after Thor's battle with the aforementioned Ringmaster.  Trapped in a gallery of some unknown (to me) description, a dazed and confused Thor had been assisting Princess Python in the theft of an enormous golden bull. The ringing of police-fired bullets snaps the God of Thunder to his senses.  But we quickly learn that he has been stripped of his god-like control over the thunder and lightning, along with his immortality.  Still, with his wits now about him, Thor sees what he was doing and lifts the 5-ton statue back onto its base.  The police begin to read him his rights, when the Princess's giant snake suddenly finds her and spirits her away.  She seems to have a thing for Thor, but nonetheless joins her band of do-badders as they speed away.  And what of Thor?  Always one to do the right thing, he allows himself to be arrested.  And at the local precinct, after being interrogated, Thor surrenders the now-powerless Mjolnir.

Doug:  Cut to a hellish place full of Kirby Krackle, where we find the God of Lies holed up and awaiting his final judgement.  Loki has been banished from Asgard, yet still plots to gain revenge upon his half-brother.  Suddenly he is summoned to the Realm Eternal.  The All-Father Odin has deigned Loki be free once again, promising to do no further mischief.  At this point Sif and Balder enter the room and draw Odin's ire by questioning the wisdom of such a strategy.  Odin reminds them what happens to those who step on the royal piggies, as he shows them an image of Thor in jail on Earth.  Sif cries out for mercy, and Loki stalks off.  It's only about two panels later before he's on his way to torment his brother.

Doug:  Arriving on Earth, Loki disguises himself (in a Clark Kent sort of way) and posts Thor's bail.  His timing could not have been better, as Thor was about to mop the place with a tough who was making trouble.  Lucky for him...  Once outside, Thor is as dense as he's ever been, not recognizing Loki behind the shades.  But as they get into a car, the conversation takes a sinister turn and the ruse is quickly over.  The car disintegrates around them by some sort of magic, and before Thor can get his bearings Loki cold cocks him.  Remember, Thor is depowered by Asgardian standards -- he maintains his natural strength (he did just lift five tons after all), but this ain't yer daddy's Thor.  Loki knows it, and brings an endless intensely physical assault.  Thor fights valiantly, but is really no match for Loki's strength. 

Doug:  At about this same time, I had received the Bring on the Bad Guys tpb for Christmas.  In it were a couple of reprints of the "Tales of Asgard" series, so I knew Loki always relied on guile and rarely if ever dirtied his hands.  This was, as far as I was concerned, uncharted territory.

Doug:  The battle continues to rage, destroying much of the city block in the process.  At one point Thor leaps for a sign, as we might see Daredevil do, but Loki counters by sending a shockwave up the building wall, tumbling it and his brother.  As Thor lays stunned, Loki moves in for the kill.  Mustering one more defense, Thor clocks him good a couple of times.  But the effort exhausts him, and he stumbles into Loki's arms.  Lifting the Thunder God aloft, Loki prepares for the end.  However, a bright light appears behind him, and he whirls to find Balder and Sif, come to save their liege.  As they square off with Loki, we switch scenes to Asgard, where Odin has watched these events unfold.  Now blindingly angry, the All-Father sends a ray equivalent to the hand of justice, depowering all of the Asgardians who've defied him.  As they say, "to be continued"!

Doug:  I remember just having a blast reading this over 35 years ago.  As I said, there was a true sense of discovery, and Kirby was at his bombastic best.  Dabbling in DC's at the time, Stan Lee's over-the-top scripting was a real treat -- they just didn't write like this in the Batman or Teen Titans mags!  Additionally, these were the days when the Inhumans were again guesting in the Fantastic Four, and their solo series was in the offing.  This issue of Thor contains one of the Inhumans back-ups, telling their Kree origins.  Sentry-451 is featured in this story.  I have the complete back-up series in the first volume of the Inhumans Marvel Masterworks, and have hinted to Karen that if she has access to the same stories and is game, we could run a "Tales of Attilan" series.  We shall see.


Dougie said...

Having only read a couple of the Inhumans strips in colour- episodes two and three of the Triton story- I would love to read your commentary on the series. I haven't seen them since they were printed in our b/w landscape comics about 35 years ago!

Of course The Circus of Crime came back (with Ulik!) in Kirby's last year of Thor. They seemed such a comical set of opponents for Thor, even given that Princess Python was a freaky, reptilian version of Catwoman.

Fred W. Hill said...

I got this whole run of stories inthe Marvel Spectacular Thor reprints, and, yeah, I thought it was pretty awesome. I really hated how Odin could be such an idiotic jerk, unjust, unfair and easily fooled, but, well, sometimes I felt that way about my own parents back when I was first reading this stuff! These gods were all too human in their foolishness! This was just part of a string of stories that didn't really come to a conclusion until the finale of the first Mangog epic, which I read in one of the Treasury editions. Since Marvel Spectacular was cancelled only a few issues after this mag, it wasn't 'til much later I was able to fill in the gaps that included the de-powered Thor being nearly murdered by the Wrecker, his confrontations with Hela and the original Destroyer brought back to life by the spirit of Sif. Despite some of the repeated elements (such as Odin throwing a temper tantrum and taking away Thor's powers or stopping the near unbeatable foe with a wave of his hand after awakening from his Odin-sleep), overall even more than on the FF, Kirby's stories and art on Thor from 1964 through 1968 are his best stuff and, hence, some of the best comics ever.

Edo Bosnar said...

I just have to comment to say how much I love the scan of that cover. It brings back so many memories: not this cover specifically, as I never even read this story in reprints, but its physical condition. Many were the comic books I had in my old collection that looked exactly like that, and yes, they often had to be scotch-taped to the comic to keep them from falling off.

Doug said...

Edo, if you like this cover, wait until next Saturday when I put up Thor #148 -- tape, staples, rips everywhere... I can just picture the original owner, book rolled up in his back pocket while he's out riding his bike. Stops to take it out and thumb through it, then rolls it back up and away he goes again! Ah, to be a kid again...


humanbelly said...

Yeah, my analogous loved-to-the-bone issues (which your scan immediately brought to mind for me, as well) would be Incredible Hulk #'s 111 & 118; Avengers #'s 58-61; and Amazing Spiderman #80.
Plus there are the interior spaghetti stains, and I have more than once come across crumbs from decades-old toll-house cookies. . .

Although I was never a Thor fan at all, this story and art certainly whets my interest-- there's a lot goin' on here-! Hmm-- where does this fall continuity-wise w/ Thor's really huge (first?) epic battle w/ the Absorbing Man? I wonder if anyone recalls--- it starts out w/ Thor repairing Mjolnir (!!) at a steel forge in Pittsburgh.


Fred W. Hill said...

That battle with the Absorbing Man was from about two years earlier, HB, when Jane Foster was still his main squeeze. That was part of Kirby's first massive string of stories, which began with his initial battle with Crusher Creel in Journey Into Mystery #114, continued through this rematch and his classic battle with Hercules and later fighting the hordes of Hades on behalf of Herc. About the only time Thor had to rest was when he recuperated from battling it out with an advisor to Odin whom the Allfather had unwisely lent his power.

david_b said...

LOVE the scan, Doug.. I'd actually recommend you do more 'actual cover' scans. We can always fine NM scans online. The best compliment of a classic comic is just that, torn, bent, roughed up, you name it ('distressed' is the name the kids use these days..).

I love the classic Kirby Thor covers, probably more than Big John Buscema's. This looks like another classic tale and will need to grab another Masterworks (or the original comics..) and read. Despite the Masterworks, I'm stil buying classic Silver Age 12c comics for the house ads and letters pages, most of which are as fun (if not more) than the stories themselves.

Anonymous said...

What intrigues me is that panel showing the police officer saying "You can even have your hammer back" they could confiscate it from him in the first place?

Anonymous said...

Yeah please give us more actual covers! There's something about those old covers with their creases, folds, bends and other imperfections which give them a character that a scan of a mint copy just doesn't give you.

As for this story, it's interesting to see Loki take on Thor in a physical battle (even a depowered Thor). Most, if not all, of the confrontations I've read between them have Loki using his magic or some other tool (usually the Destroyer!)to fight Thor. I guess this was still early on in the series; Stan and company had Loki rely on magic more and Thor relying on his brawn as the series progressed so as to emphasize the difference in their characters and mindsets.

Personally, I always wondered why Odin let Loki get away with all the stuff he did. Loki also seemed to fool the AllFather with his schemes on a regular basis. For somebody who was so omnipotent, Odin sure was gullible! I guess Stan realized that for some plotlines to work, he had to let Odin give Loki leeway in his schemes.

As for the artwork,Jack 'King' Kirby does his usual bang up job here (gotta love those blocky fingers). The much maligned Vince Colletta's inks are somewhat passable here. BTW, my favourite Thor artist is Big John Buscema.

I read somewhere that Thor was Marvel's attempt at a Superman-like character. Anybody have any additional info on this?

- Mike 'for Asgard!' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Fred W. Hill said...

I find it interesting that Thor and Spider-Man were introduced in the same month, in 1962, and in many aspects seem like quasi-analogues of Superman and BatMan, respectively, although Spider-Man came off as more of a dark parody of BatMan, while Thor had more in common with the original Captain Marvel than Supes. Of course, within short order Thor had the romantic triangle including his alter ego, Don Blake, and nurse Jane echoing that of Supes, Clark Kent and Lois Lane, while Spider-Man's alter ego wound up working at a newspaper, just like Clark Kent. Thor certainly became Marvel's resident noble powerhouse, just like Superman was for DC, but it was Spidey who came to better symbolize Marvel in the way Superman did DC, hence their eventual meeting in the '70s. At least Lee eventually had the sense to ditch Thor's resemblence to Superman and let Kirby run wild with his take on the mythic elements of Thor which finally transformed it into a great series after a mostly horrid first couple of years.

Matthew Bradley said...

Coincidentally, I recently re-read this one for a forthcoming post on Marvel University (albeit in the MARVEL SPECTACULAR reprint that sadistically deprived me of my Inhumans). One of the aspects I found most interesting was Thor's humble acquiescence to the letter of the law after the "Caper of the Golden Bull," eminently suited to his do-gooder personality.

It is indeed unusual to see Loki wade directly into the fray, without having a Destroyer or Absorbing Man do his dirty work for him, and of course he only dares to do so when Thor lacks his full godly power. I know there are those who feel that Loki was appearing too often in this period, but I prefer to equate him with some of the villains who popped up repeatedly in the Bronze Age, like Kang in AVENGERS or Death-Stalker and Bullseye in DAREDEVIL. Kind of hilarious how, by the end of the story, the mercurial Odin seems ready to banish/punish half of Asgard.

Always had a soft spot for Princess Python, because one of the oldest comics I "inherited" from my older brothers was IRON MAN #50, which featured her as a solo villain. Regarding her sometime allies, my standard joke about cosmic or ultra-powerful Marvel heroes is, "Hey, what's he gonna do, fight the Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime?" So, of course, that's exactly what Thor did! :-)

My own most well-worn comic is AVENGERS SPECIAL #1, missing both the cover and the first-two pages, but luckily I later obtained the GIANT-SIZE reprint. Looking forward to your follow-up post, Doug; nice work.

spencer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
spencer said...

Fun post, since my experience mirrors it almost exactly. Thor got me into mythology also as a 10-12 yr old. I wasn't lucky enough to find originals, but those marvel spectacular reprints....and yes, I like the scan of the beat-up comic too. The prize in my collection for original, beat-up issue is fantastic four 109 "to die in the negative zone!"

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