Saturday, July 28, 2012

Doug's Favorites: Thor 148

Thor #148 (January 1968)
"Let There Be... Chaos!"
Stan Lee-Jack Kirby/Vince Colletta

Doug:  Welcome back to the conclusion of my Thor "yard sale" 2-parter.  Last week we peeked in on a de-powered Thor's battle against his usually-scheming brother Loki.  Today we'll pick it up as that episode concludes and witness the introduction of a Marvel B-list villain who was a major player in the "Under Siege" storyline that ran in The Avengers.  I appreciated those among you who commented on the cover scan to Thor #147 that I provided -- I had no idea there would be such a strong response in favor of looking at the actual comic.  So today you can peruse this beat-up beauty that is my copy of #148 -- tape, chunks out, a staple to the right of the spine about 2" from the bottom corner, stains -- it's an ugly duckling, isn't it?  And the back cover has a 3" horizontal tear across it.  Lordy...

Doug:  When we left off, Odin was one unhappy All-Father.  He felt that his subjects had directly disobeyed his orders in going to Midgard.  So, since Thor had already been whacked with an Odin-ray, Loki, Balder, and fair Sif now received the same punishment.  God-like powers -- GONE!  Loki, sensing that Thor was now itching for a little payback, hightailed it out of there.  Thor got in a good verbal shot at him, telling him he was fleeing like a spineless jackal!  Sif wanted the three friends to pursue the God of Evil, but Thor talked her down.  Balder, ever the gallant one, remarked that he had no fear of Loki.

Doug:  Cut to a penthouse apartment where Thurston and Lovie Howell have returned home from painting the town red, only to find their servant Mayhew bound and all of the family jewels missing.  Mayhew relates that the burgle was perpetrated by a tough calling himself "the Wrecker", and he was quite awful.  Thurston rings the PD, but asks not to speak to any mere beatwalker, but the Commissioner himself.  Then, in a scene straight out of Batman, 1966, we get Gordon and O'Hara lookalikes who just seemed dumbfounded by the Wrecker.  Cut again to a dragnet that has fanned out in the general area where the Wrecker last hit.  In a scene that I thought was brilliant when I was 10, the Wrecker flattens himself against a wall under a ledge and is unseen.  However, looking at it now, if the cop on the corner of the building would only turn around they'd have their man!

Doug:  By the way, Marvel Super-Heroes #12, which introduced Captain Marvel, was on sale this same month.

Doug:  In a scene that really shows Jack Kirby's sense of humor (or Stan's -- one never knows for certain on these things), we see a delivery boy from a local sandwich shop making his way to Dr. Donald Blake's office.  He is much surprised, however, when the God of Thunder greets him.  In a great panel, tucked in the corner where no dialogue was really required, Stan has Balder say:  "Ahhh!  Whether in the Elysian fields of Asgard, or the halcyon halls of Earth... How good it is to quell the pangs of hunger!" Thor just keeps unloading food.  Paying the lad right out of Blake's wallet, Thor shoos him away.  Sif muses about her love for Thor as the trio ponder their next move.

Doug:  And what of vile Loki?  We find him holed up in a rented apartment (what, did he mug someone for the security deposit?).  Wearing a shabby overcoat and some green pants, Loki sets a large hat box on a table.  He then begins to plot to get his powers back.  Knowing that it is the only way to finally defeat Thor, he must summon the Norn Queen for aid.  But as he's about to send for her, he hears a noise outside his window.  Feeling weak for even wondering about it, he's back to business.  But question -- if he was de-powered, how could he contact Karnilla?  Well, anyway, the "noise" outside the window must have been the Wrecker's heavy breathing, because once our bad guy spies Loki's far-out threads, he decides to make a hit.  Using his massive crowbar to break not only the window but half the stinkin' wall, the Wrecker catches Loki by surprise, right in the midst of his incantation to the Queen.  The Wrecker is brutal, hurling his crowbar right at Loki's chin and dropping the God of Mischief.  Once free to move about the room, the Wrecker sees the large hat box.

Doug:  Opening the lid, the Wrecker oohs/aahs over the longhorned helmet.  Placing it upon his own dome, his back is turned at the very moment Karnilla enters the apartment.  Now I have to tell you -- unless there's more than one Norn Queen, if this is the same goddess who chases after Balder the Brave... well, she must have gotten right out of bed to talk to Loki.  No looker here, nosiree.  Thinking the helmeted figure is her oft-ally, Karnilla grants Loki's wish, and leaves.  Suddenly the Wrecker is empowered with Asgardian magic. Halting Loki in his tracks, and then sending him back to Asgard, the Wrecker sets his sights on bigger and better spoils.

Doug:  Back in Dr. Blake's office, our three heroes catch an episode of the Spider-Man cartoon when suddenly there's a news break-in.  A report comes that a baddie named -- you guessed it -- the Wrecker is amok downtown.  Cue the Asgardians to handle this one.  Using his juiced-up crowbar, the Wrecker now topples not just chimneys but entire buildings!  He laughs off the police presence while the gods move in from above.  As Thor attacks, a wave of the Wrecker's hand stops him.  Another wave and Balder and Sif disappear -- sent back to Asgard!  Alone now, and without his own godlike powers, the mighty Thor battles valiantly, but the outcome seems little in doubt.  Similarly to last issue's tiff with Loki, the depowered Thunder God is still a formidable opponent, but not against the enchanted strength of the Wrecker.  And a few city blocks take the brunt of these combatants' fury.  Back on Asgard, Balder and Sif plead with Odin to intervene.  He matter-of-factly states that Thor has defied him, and will serve his penance; no matter what.  And then it's time for the Inhumans!  But that's OK -- this was a blast revisiting these two mags.  To be honest, every time I read a Thor, I ask myself:  Why don't I read more Thor?

Doug:  I do have the next installment to this tale, in a volume of Essential Thor.  But that's not really the point -- as I said last week, the point is that this (along with #147) were among the first 12c comics I ever owned and despite the raggy condition these two issues of Thor have a special place in my heart.  When I've sold off large chunks of my collection in the past, I've always kept these two issues.  Sure, I could have tossed them in with something else for a buck or two, but what would have been the point?  They are worth far more to me as personal history than anything I'd have gotten monetarily.  Lee, Kirby, a gaggle of gods, and the Wrecker?  Oh yeah!


William Preston said...

When I was in high school, my mother started taking courses at our local community college. In an English class, she met a hippie-ish guy who, she learned, was into Marvel comics, and she connected the two of us. I had only begun to collect, and I'm not sure I'd completely severed my DC connection. (I kept getting JLA for a while.)

One day, he brought by the house some boxes of old comics. They hadn't been treated well. Some looked fine, but some were like Doug's Thor 148, having taken a beating (at least on the cover). I got from him a stack of Romita Spideys (I think starting with Romita's first and running for a few years) and Thor 120-156, when that comic was firing on all cylinders.

The Thors were more compelling than the Spideys, because I'd only just started buying Thor and I didn't know much about him (aside from the comic/record combo from the early '60s which reprinted Thor's first appearance). I loved the Spidey comics, but these issues of Thor immersed you in a world that went beyond the standard Marvel world. (Those Tales of Asgard also deepened the reach.)

Great stuff. I'll likely never part with those issues--at least in part because they were never in pristine shape!

Anonymous said...

I'm sure this has probably been discussed before, so point me to it if it has, but Vince Colletta's inks really suited Kirby on Thor, but I never really liked them anywhere else with Marvel. The Fourth World issues he inked were good, too, but I don't think he would have been as effective if he'd inked Kirby on Kamandi instead of Royer or Berry.


Doug said...

Darpy --

I agree, we've probably discussed the Kirby/Colletta magic elsewhere -- I'm sure it's been scattered. Additionally, I did a review of the Vinnie Colletta biography before, although it didn't lead to very much conversation. You can check that out here:



david_b said...

Not bing an avid Thor reader, these last 2 Thor reviews have definitely been a treat. I just picked up a VF Journey Into Mystery 117, another awesome cover and story..

What I like here was the side-joke with eating.. Makes me recall the Hercules-Thor scene in that WCA annual when both teams fought Quicksilver. Herc was chowing down on fried chicken, claiming he needed energy for battle; Thor replied he too needed strength, to deal with ol' Herc...!!

Anonymous said...

Comics Price Guides and collector mindset be damned - *all* comics of that vintage should look in the same condition!

Anonymous said...

Hmm .... methinks Stan Lee really had a blast scripting faux Shakespearean dialogue! Jack 'King' Kirby's kinetic style really suited Stan's over the top stories. I agree that Vince Colletta's inks suit Kirby in these issues, but rarely anywhere else. Do I think Colletta is a good inker? I say thee nay! Still, it does work here.

The Wrecker was always one of my favourite Marvel B-list villains along with his Wrecking Crew cohorts, so I'm glad to see Doug whip out this issue for us. Personally, at this time in the series I think Stan was trying to cope with the Superman dilemma, wherein your main protagonist (in this case Thor)is so powerful that it's a challenge coming up with good stories. I remember Stan also had a depowered Thor battle Hercules in an earlier issue. Big Daddy Odin stripping Thor of his powers seemed to be a frequently used plot device.

Keep those ragged cover scans coming!

- Mike 'I'd show you my cover scans but I don't have enough scotch tape' from Trinidad & Tobago. :)

Fred W. Hill said...

Despite the few glaring bits of logic (at least to a more mature mind than that of the average pre-adolescent presumed to be the typical reader of the fare in 1968), this was a fun comic (I got the original comic over a decade after reading the reprint of the previous issue). A few comic bits, among which I'd include the all important element of Karnilla confusing the helmeted Wrecker for Loki (she must have been very irritated with Loki for snatching her away from reading the latest issue of The Magnificent Balder and couldn't be bothered to take the time to look him in the face or engage in small talk with him) mixed with the high drama of the depowered Thor's clash with the newly empowered Wrecker.
Based on what information is available, Kirby was likely doing the plotting on his own, subject, of course, to Lee's editing as to both story direction and dialogue (it seems Kirby often suggested dialogue and Lee refined or changed it as he saw fit).
However their storytelling dynamic worked, it made for some highly entertaining sagas.

Matthew Bradley said...

I love how this one played with your expectations: you're totally ready for an Absorbing Man redux, in which Loki arranges for the Wrecker and his ball to gain super powers so he can serve as Loki's latest proxy against Thor, when Karnilla's error changes the whole equation. (Interestingly, in a subsequent issue--I believe it was the next one--the Wrecker states that he got his powers from Loki, with no mention of Karnilla.) I, too was struck by how the Norn Queen, who I'm used to thinking of as a bit of a babe, looked mighty unappealing in some Kirby issues.

For you historians, this is the last issue of THOR to be reprinted in the short-lived (19 issues) MARVEL SPECTACULAR, where I believe they cut the whole sandwich-delivery sequence. They also replaced the Inhumans co-feature with a "Tales of Asgard" segment from many issues ago.

Anonymous, I'm totally with you on Colletta. I was never a fan of his work, yet he does seem uniquely suited to ink Kirby's pencils on THOR, one of the few places I don't mind seing his byline. He also did a creditable job inking Gene Colan, of all people, in the contemporaneous early issues of CAPTAIN MARVEL (which, like the Sub-Mariner cross-over Doug reviewed here some time ago, are much better than I'd remembered). But when they put him on, say, Sal Buscema's work in DEFENDERS later on, everything just looked muddy and awful. Will read the Colletta book review with great interest.

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