"A Viper In Our Midst!"
Stan Lee-Jack Kirby/Vince Colletta
Doug: More Loki! Hey, who can get enough of the God of Mischief, especially as done by Stan and Jack (and Vinnie, too)? Surely not us! We pick it up several years past our last installment, when Thor and Loki were probably around 12-years old. Today it would appear that they are around 20 or so. You know, that's a question I've always had about immortals -- do they age at the same rate as we humans? And if they do through childhood and adolescence, does their aging process simply slow in adulthood? I would assume it's taken untold millennia for Odin to acquire that silver beard -- yet we know that he can die. What sayest thou?
Karen: I think even in the original myths it was implied that the Norse gods were not immortal but long-lived. They had to eat the apples from the goddess Idunna's tree to stay that way. But yeah, I always wondered about the aging process. Would they have a childhood that spanned centuries? Or how does that progress? I don't think the ancient Norse people were very consumed by such details.
Doug: You're probably right. But the history teacher in me is curious! To begin, Thor leads a group of Asgardian warriors against a threatening storm giant. As the engagement is about to happen, we see Loki stealing away to the side, muttering to himself that he should be the one leading the charge. The attack occurs, from a very large and very ugly giant who hurls a boulder at the gods. Thor steps directly into its path and shatters it with Mjolnir. "Cunning" Loki, however, hides in the thatch. He decides to augment the powers of Ghan the Giant, but before his spell can take effect the giant flees. The Asgardians' barrage of spears and arrows have forced the giant back. But as he turns to flee, Thor orders a larger weapon be brought forth -- and here is where I always marvel at the juxtaposition of Jack Kirby's mythic and technological imaginations. Whereas the first assault had been perpetrated with primitive arms, the Asgardians now bring forward a cosmic-looking catapult (complete with cosmic-looking projectile!). The large casing is launched, the hope that its payload of "sleep fumes" will put the giant down.
Karen: There's so much to love about this art. I have to say, I don't mind the revamped coloring at all -in fact, I rather enjoy it here. I like the effect of Loki's spell-casting by using his sword as a wand, leaving a light-trail in the air. And this might be the first and only time we have seen the god of mischief wear a purple cape. Ghan the Giant reminds me of nothing less than a Ray Harryhausen creation, full of strange strength and fury.
Doug: Thor and his warriors track the giant, but are mystified to find no trace of him! Thor and his mates walk around (what, like it wouldn't be obvious there was a giant laying around?), as we would in search of a lost contact lens. Thor, befuddled at his fate, wonders aloud how a being with no magiks could seemingly conjure a spell to exit the premises. Ah, but sly Loki remains on the sidelines, his half-brother not the slightest bit aware of the treachery. Loki offers to remain behind and search further as Thor and the war party quit the place. Thor praises his brother...
Karen: The kind way to look at this is that Thor simply had a blind spot when it came to Loki, who was after all, his adopted brother. Another way to look at it is that Thor was something of an idiot.
Doug: Alone at last, Loki summons a large eagle, which lands at his feet. With a spell, the eagle transforms into Ghan the Giant! Ghan thanks the godling, asking no questions about Loki's betrayal but offering only his debt. Loki promises he'll one day collect. As Ghan stalks away, Loki is full of himself -- we have witnessed his first attempt at allying with the dark side. The first step in the overthrow of Odin and the murder of Thor has taken place!
Karen: Loki truly was single-minded, wasn't he? He pursued that goal all his life -or at least as long as I was reading comics. Even in the new films, it is the defining purpose of the character. I guess when you have something so primal, why mess with it? It worked for Shakespeare, after all.
Tales of Asgard: Journey Into Mystery #116 (May 1965)
Stan Lee-Jack Kirby/Vince Colletta
Doug: I'm going to say from the top, that's the best Kirby-crafted lid of all time!! Dude looks to have a buffalo locked inside a dinosaur fossil! And hey, a quizzical look be upon my visage due to the narration box at the top of the splash page. It notes "Thor #63", but certainly in those days that sort of renumbering wasn't on anyone's mind, and this issue's indicia clearly would have named it Journey Into Mystery #116. Shoot, if you subtract 83 (Thor's 1st appearance in the mag, natch) from 116 you get 33... Where in the world did the notion of Thor #63 come from?
Karen: Hymir's entire outfit is completely whackadoodle! With that fur piece and his brutish appearance, I suddenly made an odd mental connection between him and the huge Rigellian warrior from the Star Trek pilot "The Cage", which was incorporated into the episode "The Menagerie". Of course, that was broadcast in November 1966, so Kirby couldn't have been inspired by it. But still...there are similarities. Anyway -the strange "Thor #63" caption makes no sense at all. I was able to find the original issue and as you can see someone took some liberties with the captioning, though why they felt the need to include any reference to the previous tale is beyond me. You can also see how very different the coloring is. Honestly, I prefer the new version. (I'm ducking behind my desk!)
Doug: I like the new coloring better as well. But what I notice the most is that the recolorist (if that's a job title) chose not to use the original schemes and went far away from the published intent. For example, in the updated version Hymir's sister wears white instead of green. And Hymir, ugly as he is, does look better in the new version, for sure!
Doug: Above, we saw Loki's first attempt at securing an ally in his festering schemes to dispose of the status quo in Asgard and anoint himself ruler of the Realm Eternal. In this episode he courts a King Hymir as an aide against Loki's half-brother Thor. The God of Thunder flirts with Hymir's sister. We learn that Odin has sent his two sons on a diplomatic mission to Hymir. But one of the godlings is up to no good. Loki requests that Hymir give a challenge to Thor, to force the Odinson to prove his worthiness to even enter diplomatic negotiations. Hymir licks his chops at the potential of embarrassing Thor, of dishonoring him. So a lackey delivers to Thor a scroll with a task to perform; Hymir's sister implores Thor to put it down.
Karen: I love all the details -Hymir's sceptre and his costume, the princess' outfit -Vinnie didn't erase everything!
Doug: Hahaha! Thor is despatched on a fishing boat, his charge to bring back on fish from the Sea of Darkness. The ship's crew reach a point and then say that they can go no further -- that Thor must complete the task alone. The Thunder God scoffs at the challenge he's been given. Bring back one fish? But suddenly one of those fish breaks the surface -- a fish the size of a sea serpent! Thinking quickly, Thor hurls Mjolnir at the creature's noggin, and then secures it to the boat to bring back as his trophy for King Hymir.
Karen: The "fish" reminded me of Monstro...
Doug: Back at the king's court, Thor walks in with an air of confidence; Loki stands near the king. Hymir shows no frustration, but warns that Thor has performed only the first challenge. Hymir then orders the Thunder God to break a goblet... and he'll give him two minutes to do so. Thor again wonders to himself just how difficult this can be. He sizes up the goblet and Loki comes near to goad him. Thor thinks that Loki must surely be up to something. Hurling the container against a column, it is not the goblet that shatters but the pillar! Next Thor attempts to strike the object with Mjolnir. Also, a failed attempt. As he picks it up to look it over, Thor wonders aloud if his only recourse might be in killing King Hymir -- if the king is dead, then there can be no challenge to collect on. But Thor thinks that the king's sister, Princess Rinda (who he certainly seems to fancy), might be heartbroken. She stands just outside the chamber, listening. She puts her face to a crack in the door and assures Thor that she most certainly would not be heartbroken were her brother slain.
Karen: This was interesting -Thor actually contemplates killing Hymir! Very unusual for a super-hero -but then again, this is also a Viking god we're talking about.
Doug: Did he ever think about it! Thor hurls the goblet at the king's face, but it strikes his incredibly large chapeau, splintering into pieces. The king is knocked from his very throne at the force of the blow. Thor smugly turns to leave, Asgard's honor preserved. Loki questions how Thor knew that there was enchantment in the king's crown that caused the goblet to be unbreakable. Thor gives him a brotherly "that's for me to know and you to find out" line and off he strides. But the prize scene in this story is the last two panels when Hymir smites Loki upside the head and blames him for warning Thor of the king's machinations. Loki assures him that he did not, and seethes.
Karen: What a crazy ending! Thor just sort of waltzes out while Loki gets slapped around like a dog. No wonder he got madder and madder.