Monday, November 11, 2013

Tales of Asgard: Journey into Mystery 112 and 113

Tales of Asgard: Journey into Mystery  #112 (January 1965)
"The Coming of Loki!"
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
Inker: Vince Colletta

Karen: This tale brings us the backstory behind possibly Thor's greatest enemy -his adopted brother, Loki. We begin ages ago, with mighty Odin, wielding the hammer Mjolnir, facing off against Laufey, king of the giants of Jotunheim. Laufey desires nothing less than Asgard itself, which of course Odin will fight to the death to defend! Their battle is nothing less than cataclysmic, and it seems that in Jotunheim, the land bows to Laufey's will. Odin realizes he must end the fight quickly, and he hurls Mjolnir at his foe, shattering Laufey's war club!

Doug:  This is the fourth or fifth story we've reviewed out of the Tales of Asgard tpb where we've seen a younger Odin.  I've enjoyed seeing the All-Father kick a little tail.  That splash page (above) is a real homage to David vs. Goliath -- and it looks like Laufey just got off of an equally-large horse!  Talk about some bowed legs!  And of course this battle -- even with the imposing opponent -- is never in doubt due to the power of Mjolnir.

Karen: Seeing their king disarmed riles the giants and they surge forward. Odin calls his Asgardian warriors to his side. The battle is met, as god wages war with giant! After the passage of time, the Asgardians eventually prove victorious. The giants flee the battlefield under cover of darkness, to regroup at Laufey's castle, but Odin and his men are right behind. 

Doug:  Jack Kirby gives Big John Buscema a run for his money in terms of ugly barbarian guys.  What a motley crew of giants -- you can almost hear the slobbering and heavy stinky breathing!  I'm not really sure how the Asgardians triumphed.  Were all of their weapons enchanted?  If so, then that would even the odds.  But in sheer physicality, I'd have to say that the giants should have had the advantage.  I liked that Stan wrote that the battle wrote of the magnitude of the battle that time had no meaning -- it could have lasted for minutes, hours, or days.  

Karen: Laufey dies at the hands of Odin, and most of the other giants are slain as well. But Odin finds something wriggling in a sack in Laufey's throne room. He discovers a small child. He recognizes it as Loki, Laufey's son. The king was shamed by him, as he was not of giant stature. While one of Odin's warriors says that the very name of Loki has a sense of evil to it, Odin says the child is still regal. He declares for all to hear that he will raise Loki as his own son. "For better or for worse, Loki is forevermore an immortal of Asgard!" You think he knew he was asking for trouble?

Doug:  Well, not only is Odin pretty spry in these early adventures, he's as dense as he would be in the adventures of Thor as an adult.  I wouldn't say that Odin dispensed justice -- just brutal old-school law-of-the-land type stuff.  Was it ever explained why Loki was of "normal" stature, rather than a giant?  Talk about an inferiority complex from the get-go!  Oh, and I'm feeling better now that Vinnie Colletta is on the inks.

Tales of Asgard: Journey into Mystery #113 (February 1965)
"The Boyhood of Loki!"
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
Inker: Vince Colletta

Karen: We've moved ahead years so that Loki and his brother Thor are now young lads. They are watching a tournament. Two men fight using grappling staffs (it reminded me of the "Amok Time" episode from Star Trek!). Thor is positive one of the contestants will win, as he is more skilled. Loki, full of spite, bets on the other fighter, and to make sure he's proven right, he casts a spell he learned from the Norn Witch Women to cause Thor's fighter's staff to blow up. Well, that's not suspicious at all! The men are startled but look around and spot the boys watching. Loki's first reaction is to flee, but Thor being Thor, immediately begins to climb down to face the men.

Doug:  This little tale (as well as the one above) is dear to my heart, as I first encountered it in the pages of Bring On the Bad Guys! on Christmas day, 1976 when I was 10 years old.  I loved it then and I do now, as well.  Vinnie's inks are perfect for the young Thor; how about Jack drawing Loki's hair turned up as if he has little devil horns?  The monogrammed tunics are a great touch as well -- I guess Loki always had an affinity for green.  And as I stated above in our first review, Kirby is really doing a nice job with the some-craggy, some-handsome Asgardian warriors.  Have you ever wondered, in regard to the immortals, if they were all the god or goddess of something?  We know Balder is "the Brave", but is he the god of anything in particular?  Sif?

Karen: As soon as the two young princes enter the arena, the men begin pointing fingers at Loki and telling him it's illegal to use magic on the contestants. Thor innocently asks why they only speak to his brother. The men say they know that Thor would never cheat. But Thor, being the Odinson, tells the men that if they are going to punish Loki, they'll have to punish him too. Seeing this, the Asgardian warriors relent and  declare there will be no punishment. This only causes Loki to seethe even more. The two boys head towards the stables while the men contrast the young princes' qualities.

Doug:  Thor's just a good guy, isn't he?  I recall wondering about how the men would punish the boys -- it's sort of a taboo to spank someone else's child, isn't it?  And I'd think the fact that these lads' dad was, I don't know -- the ruler of the Asgardian universe -- might be sort of an issue.  The posture of the two godlings is very well-played, with Thor up front and confident and Loki in the background and looking small.

Karen: Thor is oblivious to Loki's rage and as they mount their horses he offers to race him. Loki's mind is filled with hatred for his brother, who is loved and accepted by everyone, and seems so much better at everything than he is. He swears to himself that he shall gain power and someday destroy Thor!

Doug:  You can see Stan and Jack doing a great job with this script in showing Thor's somewhat dull mind in terms of noticing his surroundings, combined with his aforementioned nobility -- his two predominant character traits early in the chronicling of his adventures.  Thor just makes it worse with a comment that he gave not  a second thought to, that the skill of the rider was more important that the steed on which he rode.  And Loki -- his attitude is like those coals at the bottom of the grill, just smouldering.  Looking into his young face, I have no doubt that he truly will plot to make his subversive dreams come true.  Ever the outsider...

Karen: Ah, the seeds are sown! This was a fun little story to read. Far less subtle than the way the first Thor film portrayed Loki and Thor's relationship. The comic book Loki really never had a chance!


Fred W. Hill said...

I may have gotten Bring on the Bad Guys that very same Christmas!Herein it is established that Loki is Thor's adopted brother, but nearly every writer from Stan on refers to Loki as a stepbrother, which would only be so if Odin had married Loki's mother, which I'm fairly sure never happened, although that does bring up the question of what happened to his birth mother? Did the Asgardians slay all the enemy women as well or were they allowed to flee? It was rather dimwitted of Odin to adopt the child of an enemy he had just slain -- Loki was bound to find out his true heritage sooner or later and it shouldn't take too much wisdom to figure out that might pose a big problem. The All-Father really did not know best all the time! The family & cultural dynamics of Thor & his fellow Asgardians was one of the aspects I really liked about Tales of Asgard as well as in the main series once Kirby & Lee brought it more into play. Thor as a guy who happens to find a magic stick that transform him into a powerful guy who fights villains was boring. Thor as the heir to another world and torn between that one and another he had also come to love, as well as between his love for his difficult father and a mortal woman, made for a much more interesting series IMO.

Doug said...

Special "thanks" and thoughts go out to our stalwart pal David B. and all of our other readers who are veterans. We thank you for your service.

For those of you who have the day off from work as an observance of Veteran's Day (formerly known as "Armistice Day" in celebration of the ceasefire that ended WWI), take a moment to remember our vets and the sacrifices of their families during those times of service.


Doug said...

Fred, I've often wondered about Loki's mother as well. Was she not a giant? Is Loki some sort of heavenly mutant??

It sounds like you often preferred Thor written as an Asgardian having Asgardian adventures. I agree, although I wouldn't trade some of his earthly adventures, nor his time with Earth's Mightiest Heroes. But for the long haul, I like the fantastic settings of Asgard and beyond.


Edo Bosnar said...

I first read these stories in Bring on the Bad Guys as well, and I just loved them. As noted in previous comments, and like many others here, I was a mythology buff as a kid, so I ate stuff like this up, especially since Jack and Stan kind of took liberties with the myths to make nice 'origin' stories.
What I found interesting here is that in a way you can almost kind of (if you squint your eyes) sympathize with Loki. Granted, he's pretty much a jerk from the start, but there's the added factor of him growing up in the shadow of a nobler, better-looking and all-around more capable and likeable brother.

Doc Savage said...

Thor is one of those comics that really suffers when not in the hands of a writer and artist truly invested in the mythology. Kirby & Lee, Simonson, Buscema all turned in great work but there are so many poor issues in between...!

david_b said...

Great reviews today, love these stories.. They're fantastic, the very core of the strong, classic Thor-Loki characterizations we've grown up with. SO looking forward to the new movie (and the two closing credit scenes.., from what my nephew mentioned).

Thanks much for the nod, Doug. Just go up and shake hands with a veteran, thank them and if you're not in a hurry today, listen to a story or two.

MattComix said...

Wow. I love seeing that I'm not the only person who first encountered this story in Bring On The Bad Guys.

I eventually lost count of how many times I checked that book out from my local library. Between that and Superman From the 30's to the 70's there was probably a solid two year period where the only name on the checkout card was mine.

In the story I really liked Thor willing to take the punishment and their reaction to his nobility. Knowing that Thor had so genuinely accepted Loki as his brother and loved him as such just really adds an extra sting to what Loki ultimately became. If only Loki had been capable for even a moment to consider Thor as something other than a rival. But then again I know guys in their 50's who still feel the need to out do their siblings whether it be in terms of money or even just trivial things.

The computer coloring on this one isn't bad but still has that annoying all daytime happens at sunset look look to it. I'm sorry but the last place anybody should be ashamed of bright colors in in a comicbook. Not to say it's an excuse to overdo it but come on!

Anonymous said...

I feel a lot of sympathy for Loki in this story, even if he is a brat. Can't be easy being the adoptee spawn of evil giants forced to shape-change into Asgardian form for eternity. . .

As for Thor. . . wasn't he supposed to be brash and arrogant in his youth thus leading to his eventual banishment to Midgard and his subsequent adventures?

I hear the version of Kid Loki from the most recent version of Journey into Mystery is supposed to be very compelling. . . basically, a good by mischievous kid burdened with the knowledge that he is fated to become evil. (or so I've heard, I need to pick up the trades).

The first arc of the current Thor: God of Thunder series by Jason Aaron does a great job showing Thor of three different eras. I am quite enjoying it, even if the change of artist for the second arc is disappointing.

Doug said...

Whoa, Osvaldo -- what do you mean by Loki being forced to shape change into an Asgardian? Is that a retcon? In the page sample we provided, Odin remarks to the other Asgardian that Lauffey was ashamed of Loki because he'd been born small, and not a giant.

You have me curious about these new comics you're reading...


Fred W. Hill said...

Hi, Doug, I usually prefer the Asgardian adventures, but I also like Thor on Midgard as long as his Asgardian buddies aren't too far off. A character like Thor just seems far more suited to larger than life foes than the sort that might show up in Spider-Man or Daredevil. Of course, the main thing is to have a creative team that comes up with compelling stories uniquely suited to the character and I think with Thor that really started when Kirby slowly eliminated many of the tropes that made Thor seem too much of a Superman knockoff and more of a unique character with an expanded cast that didn't resemble anything else in comics of the time and epic battles that suited a God of Thunder(seems more likely it was his decision than Lee's, even if Lee allowed Kirby to run with it).

Anonymous said...

Hi Doug!

Not a retcon! It was just something I always assumed, b/c he doesn't _LOOK_ like any of the giants even if he is small - and figured even a small giant would be a big Asgardian.

That is all on my own imagination. ;)

Doug said...

OK -- sort of puts in perspective what "normal" looks like, doesn't it??

I just finished my half of our review of JIM #s 115-116, and Ghan the Storm Giant is certainly not an appealing-looking chap. Say, have we ever seen any storm giant women?


Anonymous said...

Thanks to all the veterans for their courage, service and sacrifice.

I read the first story with Odin against Laufey not in the pages of Bring on the Bad Guys, but rather in my Hulk vs the Marvel Universe comic, a collection of some of ol' Greenskin's greatest battles throughout the years. One of the battles is with Thor, so I presume that's why it was included.

The second one with Thor and Loki as children I've never seen before, but it's a good tale contrasting how their different personalities were manifesting even at that young age.

As for Loki's giant heritage, perhaps he was a mutant giant, sort of like the X-men were mutant offshoots of humans!

- Mike 'veteran of eating wars only' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Edo Bosnar said...

Doug, re: giant women. Look no further than Laufey. In the original Norse mythology, Laufey, also called Nál, was Loki's mother. Yes, mother. (His pop was a jötunn named Fárbauti.)

Seems like Jack and/or Stan didn't do a due diligence on Norse mythology before writing this little tale...

Humanbelly said...

Hmm- maybe this whole gender-confusion thing was the basis for Loki's suddenly becoming a female a few years ago? Maybe. . . maybe the giants don't HAVE male/female?? A couple of 'em just get together and sort of create sprouts? . . . or buds--?? Yikes!

I have to say that I actually kind of like the re-coloring on this story a lot less. The whole thing has a sepia-tone look to it, which may well have been a conscious choice to give it the feel of a story-from-the-distant-past, but Asgard has pretty much always been shown as being vibrantly full of color, and this doesn't jibe w/ that at all.


Edo Bosnar said...

HB, interesting that you should mention gender confusion. One thing I recall from my readings of Norse mythology (and just verified at that fount of all good and true knowledge, Wikipedia) is that Loki was the mother of that eight-legged horse that Odin rode. As a shapeshifter, he once took the form of a mare and had a - shall we say - dalliance with a stallion.

Humanbelly said...

Which means that Odin was riding around on his. . . adopted grandson-??

Oh my lord, that story is disquieting (to say the least) on a multitude of levels. I for one am VERY glad that it hasn't been explored by any of this modern coterie of "anything for shock value" writers (er. . .it hasn't, has it?).

Yeesh-- Lord of Lies/Deception, indeed!


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