Today's post is #1500 by the Bronze Age Babies - thanks for reading!
Journey Into Mystery Annual #1 (1965)(cover by Jack Kirby and Vince Colletta)
"When Titans Clash!"
Stan Lee-Jack Kirby/Vince Colletta
Doug: Stuck in the '60s we are! But it's been fun so far, hasn't it? Today's fare should be a blast, too, as we look in on a beloved series -- the Mighty Thor under the creative direction of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Vinnie Colletta. God of Thunder vs. Lion of Olympus? Shoot -- why wait?!
Doug: We open with a nice splash page, perhaps an image that could have taken place a mere moment ahead of the shot on this issue's cover. Even in a stand-off, Kirby's figures exude dynamic power. So we get it rolling on page 2 with Thor and Loki riding their steeds amongst some craggy rocks. Thor has convinced skeptical Loki to ride with him in search of adventure in Jotunheim -- the land of the Storm Giants! Thor knows the legends, that the Storm Giants have been searching for a lost passage to fabled Olympus. But wanting a little action, and glory to report to the All-Father, Thor has come here really to create some mischief. He spies two giants moving heavy rocks and attacks them without provocation. Loki melts away while Thor takes it to these two bozos with all the fury we saw on display in the battle scene that began Thor: The Dark World. This action is fast, powerful, and over pretty quickly. But of course Thor's brazenness could be his worst enemy, and indeed in his lust for a quick and lasting triumph he creates a massive landslide.
Karen: It's interesting that the caption on the splash page finds the creative team sort of hedging their bets, saying that "if ever the son of Odin had fought the son of Zeus" it might have been like this! So maybe they weren't so sure they wanted to bring Hercules into the Marvel universe. This could almost have been Marvel's version of an imaginary story, if they hadn't followed it up with a modern meeting of the two princes in the pages of the regular title shortly after. Also, it's obvious to us this takes place in the past but if I had read this when it first came out, I might have been a little confused about that point. You're right though that this scene with the giants really seems to reflect the Thor films -or is that the other way around?!
Doug: I love these stories that have the flavor of a "Tales of Asgard" yarn, because Thor always seems to be even a bit wilder and more impetuous. In the Earthbound stories his godliness seemed a bit more to the fore.Doug: Thor falls with the rockslide, down, down, down... until he lands upright in a chamber made of stone. He figures that the giants must have been right in their guess as to the placement of the gateway to Olympus, for surely he must be in it. He ventures outside, attempting to remain in the shadows. He marvels at some of the odd creatures he sees, yet thinks that perhaps Olympus is not so different from Asgard. But he knows that he must find a way back to the Realm Eternal, so sets off in bold fashion toward a bridge. But -- you guessed it -- as fate would have it another wants to use the narrow construct first. And that someone happens to be named Hercules. What a great way to introduce the conflict between these two: who can be the first to walk across a bridge. How fitting for both of these characters' temperaments!
Karen: Lee must have felt the need to tie the realms of Asgard/Jotunheim and Olympus together, but the idea that the giants originated in Olympus is an odd one. I can't recall reading of giants in Greek myths -other than the Titans or Cyclops. Kirby gives Olympus a distinctly different look and feel than Asgard. We see typical Greek mythological characters like satyrs and centaurs, as well as the marble columns and temples that typify ancient Greek civilization.
Doug: Even though I read this in the Essentials, I could still get a sense for the brightness and airiness (is that a word?) of Kirby's Olympus. While Asgard was generally depicted as magnificent, I think the notion that it floated as an island in space always transmitted to me a darker setting.
Doug: I truly don't know which I enjoy more in this era of Thor -- Kirby's visuals or Lee's dialogue. Both are just wonderful. Hercules and Thor begin to spar verbally as well as physically, and it's just a hoot. We've provided a few images to let the pages speak for themselves -- pure fun! As we've said in our two previous reviews, it's very interesting that of the four characters we've looked at Stan seemed to have their personalities fully-formed from the beginning. Hercules is every bit as brazen as Thor as he continues to talk trash aloud while marveling at his opponent's prowess and comparing it to his own. Both godlings engage each other with their weapons, with Thor's Mjolnir coming out ahead of Herc's mace. And then they decide to go hand-to-hand. Hercules delivers "the most powerful blow *Thor* has ever felt", but Thor comes to his feet almost instantly. Thor returns the favor, but with the same result. Both combatants declare the other their virtual equal. But with egos like theirs, that just means they fight all the harder to prove one's superiority over the other.
Karen: This younger Thor is much more like Hercules in personality than his later, more somber, self. That does make it a lot more fun to watch them go at it! Hercules' look was definitely inspired by the Steve Reeves' Hercules films, although where the little "H"'s on his heels and belt came from, I have no idea (the same place as Galactus' "G" I guess). I love the dialog just as much as you do - our two boys are threatening to "pummel" and "thrash" each other in every panel! Kirby is at his dynamic best.
Doug: Hercules uproots a large totem and bends it into a shape that he declares he will use to bind Thor and make him Herc's prisoner. Dumb old Thor plunges headlong into the twisted arrangement, and Hercules does indeed ensnare him. But Thor strains against his bonds and bursts free, to Herc's incredulity. They again resume fisticuffs, with Hercules pledging to strike Thor again and again in the same spot until Thor falls. Well, Thor does indeed fall, only to bust out a trick that only fans of the Silver Age could appreciate -- the Son of Odin digs his fingers into the turf and rips up the entire landscape like it was a roll of carpet! Hercules is thrown off-balance. As Thor leaps upon his adversary, Hercules grasps two large stones, which he crashes together in Thor's face, the powder blinding the Asgardian.
Karen: Well, we got the pulling-on-the-ground trick. All we need now is someone wearing a rubber mask that is indistinguishable from a real face, and a hero wearing a really large costume piece, armor, or weapon underneath their street clothes.
Doug: With no vision, Thor knows he must swing wildly in order to stay upright until his eyes are clear of the dust. Each immortal uses his strongest punches to try to vanquish the other. But suddenly the Earth shakes as light cracks the sky. Zeus appears, and orders an end to the battle. Fittingly, he's been watching from afar and thinks the whole thing was just great. In a page out of any parental handbook, Zeus compliments both of the spoiled brats, declares them equals, and makes them shake hands and declare friendship for one another! Thor offers that Zeus has the same lordly qualities as his own father and even kneels to the All-Father of Olympus. But then Thor says he must take his leave of Olympus to return to affairs in Asgard. With some Kirby rays emitting from the royal scepter, Thor is lifted back across the divide to Jotunheim, where his adventure began. Loki awaits, and Thor accuses him of fleeing during the fight with the giants. Loki asked where Thor had gone, but the prince says that his memory is failing him. Suddenly huge boulders begin to erupt from the chasm -- Loki claims it must be the work of the Storm Giants, but Thor knows better. He smiles to himself as he watches Zeus's barrier complete itself, but muses that someday he shall again learn of Olympus and see Hercules.
Doug: This one was short at only 15 pages. We remarked to each other when we chose this Annual for our little Avengers series that it seemed somewhat out of place, disconnected from Giant-Size July. But when we paged through it and found how short it was it was sort of nice. It's a simple story -- the only motivation in telling it is to pit Thor against Hercules. I suppose it's more satisfying than the Thor-Hulk tussle in Journey Into Mystery #112, although like that there's no real winner here. But it must have been a thrill ride for youngsters who'd have come to this in the year before I was born! And as I remarked above, today's story hails from that time when Stan, Jack, and Vinnie were cranking out top-notch adventures each and every month.