Monday, November 18, 2013

Tales of Asgard: Journey Into Mystery 115 and 116

Tales of Asgard: Journey Into Mystery #115 (April 1965)
"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)
"The Challenge!"
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.


MattComix said...

I think Thor spent a long time only wanting to see the best in Loki.

Which is pretty much the core tragedy of their relationship. Brass and bullheaded he may be Thor loved him as true family but Loki's pride would have none of it.

Edo Bosnar said...

That first story was also reprinted in Bring on the Bad Guys. At this point, Loki is completely treacherous, and you can't feel even a bit of sympathy for him as you could, sort of, in that story posted last week.

And I'll grudgingly admit that the new coloring actually works in these stories for the most part. Even so, while I agree that the recoloring of Rinda's outfit is an improvement, I think the garish colors on Hymir's attire should have been retained. That whole get-up is so over-the-top anyway, why diminish the effect with subdued colors?

Doug said...



Test 1-2

Test 1-2


Can anyone hear this??

Anonymous said...

A-OK Doug!

Hmm yes it seems Thor has always been blind to the mechanizations and schemes of Loki. For someone who wields the mystic hammer Mjolnir he sure is thickheaded! Stan's bombastic trumpeting of Tales of Asgard at the end of the first story as "the most artistic, most classical endeavor" is a hoot too. If Stan wasn't involved in comics I can imagine him being a carnival barker instead - "come,ladies and gents, this way to the greatest show on earth!". Stan was, and is the ultimate showman.

The second story is interesting in that Thor has to face various challenges from a foreign ruler. This is reminiscent of the Greek labours of Hercules and the ancient Norse tales where Thor undergoes various challenges from Storm Giants. Stan obviously read all of these and adapted them to his Marvel universe.

- Mike 'until Loki joins the Boy Scouts' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Fred W. Hill said...

It occured to me while perusing the 2nd story in particular that Tales of Asgard had aspects much closer to sword & sorcery comics of the '70s than to typical superhero comics of the 60s, including the main Thor feature -- at least until Kirby made his own unique brand of fantasy more prominent in the series. I just don't think there were too many other comics from this era in which the hero even briefly showed an intent to kill the villain. Of course, the CCA is unlikely to have approved any story in which Thor slew any badguy who, however mis-shapen, still looked somewhat human. Kirby took things to the edge with that tale! Makes me wonder how a series devoted to a slightly older, brasher, arrogant Thor, as in from before Odin transformed him into a lame Midgardian doctor to learn some humilty! Might've been the appropriate direction for that proposed Thor magazine of the '70s to take if had come to fruition.
I'll have to vote for the new coloring -- for me it brought out a lot of details in Kirby's art that seemed to get lost in the old limited color palate.

Karen said...

So sad, I had so much fun reading and reviewing these two stories and working with Doug on them. You just never know which ones are going to hit with you guys and which ones will fall flat. Ah well..

Fred has a good point about how these TOA are in a sense precursors of the Sword and Sorcery books to follow. I think this is especially true of the later, continued stories in the series. You have guys with swords, witches, monsters; it's like Conan on steroids.

Edo Bosnar said...

Just saw Karen's comment; man, I hope that doesn't mean you'll be cutting down on reviews. Because I like 'em.
Otherwise, I'm also a bit surprised at the dearth of comments on this one - it seems to me that most of the regulars here, and a few of the irregulars for that matter, are much bigger Kirby fans than I am.

Karen said...

Edo, we won't be cutting back on reviews. You can chalk up my remarks to frustration and nothing more. Doug and I had exchanged a few emails on that particular post and we were both excited about it, so to have it fizzle out was a disappointment. But that's something we've learned over the last few years -you just never can predict how a post is going to be received. And the amount of work you put into one is not always equal to the response you get back. Indeed, sometimes it seems like it's an inverse relationship -some of the posts that have gotten the most comments were ones we just dashed off!

david_b said...

It.. could be due to lack of personal stories related to these issues.

Great vintage (recolored) stories, don't get me wrong, but perhaps folks don't have any personal tidbits to offer (like 'buying the original comic on the newstand' type comments, other than discussing the story and art itself..

Excellent review and commentary, by in large. Most bases seem to be covered.

Doug said...

I know that not everyone who stops by has gone to see Thor: The Dark World yet (I just saw it yesterday). However, for those who have seen it, the correlations between the relationship between Thor and Loki in that film and what we've seen in this post and the one prior are immense. That alone as a discussion point should have caught fire.

But I know I'm a hypocrite, because I don't comment on others' blogs as often as I should. I always look to see what Rip's posted, and Groove, and several others on our blog roll. I always use the excuse that I'm writing or moderating this one, but that's all it is -- an excuse.


Anonymous said...

Can someone help me? I recently picked up JIM 116. The TOA story has the "Thor 63" caption, but the comic appears genuine. Does the original issue of this story not say "Thor 63"?

Trying to figure out if I'm getting ripped off. This comic is in surprisingly good shape which adds to my suspicions, but the pages stink of silver age and are certainly off white. Nothing in the issue resembles forgery, but that Thor 63.

Would appreciate any help here.

Karen said...

As far as I know, JIM 116 should not say "Thor 63" on the splash page of the Tales of Asgard story. You may want to compare the coloring of your issue to the panels we have here as well.

It's possible it could have been reprinted elsewhere with that caption though. Anybody know?

Anonymous said...

Thanks to the fine community at the Captaincomics website, I've confirmed that the "in Thor #63" is indeed in the original. The picture above that doesn't have the "Thor 63" appears to come from a Marvel Spectacular reprint.

Only reason for the Thor 63's existence? Very likely a Stan Lee goof.

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