Here I am at the beginning of this herculean task and I find myself with a bit of writer’s block. I’ve read up on the first issue in short order and I’m not sure exactly what I want to write about it. Thor’s debut in Journey into Mystery #83 is a relatively straightforward thirteen page story told through three parts:introducing the main players and showing Thor’s origin,cataloguing and exploring Thor’s powers,and then a quick confrontation with the antagonists.
The issue opens on the “frail”Donald Blake,an American doctor on vacation in Norway. At this point,we don’t get much back story on the good doctor. Why is he in Norway? What caused the injury that requires the use of a cane? We’re simply not told any of that yet. What we do know is that he’s an inquisitive fellow that doesn’t really know his limitations…
In the beginning of the story,he just barely misses witnessing a Saturnian invasion force landing in the remote part of Norway in which he’s vacationing. The discovery of the invaders is left to an old fisherman that no one in the town believes except for an eavesdropping Dr. Blake. In an amusing twist though,Blake waits an entire day before investigating the fisherman’s claims.
Normally,you’d want to investigate alien invasions quicker,but Blake lucks out. The Saturnians,three Stone Men (think green “Thing-Like”aliens with cone heads) aren’t in a hurry either. Instead of taking the initiative and getting the ol’invasion ball rolling,they’re screwing around in our oxygen rich atmosphere. They’re uprooting ‘plant-things’(trees) with their bare hands and –in what I’m calling my favorite panel in the issue –jumping off cliffs just to see if they can survive the fall. I’m sure they knew how powerful they’d be on Earth,but after a lengthy trip through the solar system –would you take that chance? Scarier still,that’s just what we (and that fisherman) see them do. Who knows what they do with the rest of the day before Blake decides to look for them? Do they go see the sites of Norway? Take in a few fjords? Or do they hang out in their spacecraft,relaxing the night before a big job? We may never know,but when Blake gets there the next day he has the misfortune of finding them exactly when they’re worried about being found. “Remember…death to any who discover our presence,”is the first thing he hears them say. Crap. He makes a hasty treat…while stepping on,and breaking,an unfortunately placed twig.
If you think about it,that twig forever alters the course of the Marvel Universe. Instead of being able to sneak away,warn NATO,and get called a raving lunatic American for his trouble,Blake is discovered! The Stone Men chase him into the mountainside. Blake loses his cane in the escape,but climbs the rocky landscape pretty well without it. As luck would have it,he escapes by means of an ancient cave in which he finds an ancient,gnarled,replacement cane. After being unable to use the cane as a lever to move a boulder and allow his escape,he strikes it against the rock and is transformed into Thor by lightning that shoots out of its tip. Sure it’s all convenient,but it does lead to me an interesting question:Was Odin the twig?
Blake openly narrates for us what changes are taking place as Kirby deftly draws Blake transitioning into Thor and the cane into a hammer. We get our first look at the now famous inscription “Whosoever holds this hammer,if he be worthy,shall possess the power of THOR”. At this point,the most interesting thing to me at was that he wasn’t really Thor! He’s still Donald Blake with the power of Thor. I know enough about Thor now to know that he’s his own man and that Blake wearing this “Thor suit”obviously won’t last. He does utter “I am Thor!”which makes me wonder if future retellings of the origin include that Thor’s personality was setting up shop somewhere in there,but for now he’s Donald Blake imbued with Thor’s power.
Readers are treated to a quick tutorial of Thor’s powers based on Blake’s recall of Thor’s legend (and hopefully with some intuitiveness provided by becoming Thor). Thor tests his super strength,the hammer’s boomerang and indestructible capabilities,as well as the ability to summon &command storms. Interestingly,the storms are controlled by stamping the handle on the ground:two hits to start one up and three hits to call it off. This was the first I’d heard of this particular control system and it seems rather problematic. What if you sit it down too hard or wait too long in between strikes? I imagine I haven’t heard about this particular aspect of Thor’s powers because it doesn’t make it into the modern day.
As a quick aside since we’re talking about Thor’s introduction,I was surprised that almost no Norse mythology was brought up during this quick “get to know Thor”session. The fisherman proclaimed “by the beard of Odin”when he saw the aliens,but there was little to no reference to anything else in this issue. Loki,Odin,and the rest all seem to be such a big part of Thor’s life later,that it’s interesting there’s no mention of them here.
Anyway,Thor is quickly pressed into service. Those pesky aliens gave up looking for him and got around to invading Earth (with a lot of reinforcements,perhaps that’s why they were waiting). Thor adds flight to the mix by means of throwing the Hammer (and holding on for dear life) and is quickly on his way to confront the technologically superior aliens and keep NATO forces from being slaughtered (and then the world!!!). He confronts the Stone Men from Saturn and,really,they pose no threat to him. Remember how they can rip up ‘plant-things’and survive leaping off mountains? Doesn’t matter. They don’t even try to physically confront him;they’re held at bay by his ‘whirling weapon’(I hope they’ve boned up on their vocabulary when they make their second appearance).
Anyway,Thor dominates them so thoroughly that on the second page of the fight they call-in a giant robot killing machine,the Mechano-Monster. It lasts just three panels (and I think that was just because it walked real slow). With the robot defeated,Thor watches as the entire Saturnian Army flees. With more NATO ground troops on the way,he returns to his Blake identity to avoid becoming an “international curiosity”. The NATO forces note him as a “lame passerby”and let him be instead of hauling him and asking what the heck he witnessed.
In all,it was a pretty fun read. I’ve read plenty of Silver Age comics in my time and while I did find this one relatively simple,I appreciated it. It introduced Thor,setup his powers,gave us some lingering questions about his secret identity,and introduced a possible ongoing villain,the Stone Men from Saturn (who I imagine won’t really be from Saturn if they’re touched on again in future issues,that planet is busy is the modern MU). The art is particularly fantastic too. It’s surely been “remastered” for reprint’s sake,but Kirby’s lines don’t make me feel like I’m reading an almost fifty-year old comic. Moreover,it’s little things like Blake always being portrayed in a leaning or crouching position to showcase his weakness while Thor is mighty in just about every shot that really make me appreciate the art and give it a sense of weight that is missing from too many comics. I feel like the writing served its purpose and it reads like a good Silver Age comic should,but the art stood out as a little more timeless. I’d buy a current title with art like this.
Well,I got through my writer’s block,though I don’t know if this is how I’ll be handling each issue. It might take some trial and error to figure out the best way to make these daily updates enjoyable for all of us. Comment below to let me know what you think and would like to see more or less of in these articles. And If you like what I’ve written here please click on the Twitter &Facebook links below and share my reviews!
I’ll see you back here tomorrow for,yep,you guessed it,Journey Into Mystery #84…