Journey Into Mystery #83 (August 1962)

Here we have the very first introduction of Thor, God of Thunder. “THE MOST EXCITING SUPER-HERO OF ALL TIME!!” graces the cover, so we already have some pretty high expectations – thanks again Stan Lee!!!!! The cover is actually my favorite so far, and slowly, the art direction is continuing to become more and more dynamic.

Strangely, I was never really familiar with Thor’s story. I always thought it was akin to King Arthur and Excalibur, where he’s the only one to lift the hammer. Actually, it’s quite different. The story begins with Doctor Blake – you know, it’s becoming a trend with these stories that they are all doctors or scientists – and maybe it was a sign of the times? I bet it made kids everywhere want to grow up to be scientists, which I guess is pretty cool.

Anyway, Doctor Blake is vacationing in Norway, taking a random trek through the wilderness. He is a “lame man” with a limp, needing to carry a cane with him. Suddenly, aliens from Saturn land nearby, and he flees into a cave, dropping his cane in the process. The aliens are another Outer Limits type villain, which makes this feel less like a Marvel comic in my opinion.

One thing that these early comics make a habit of is having the characters make comments that overly explain the situation. It’s almost like Legolas from the Lord of the Rings movies. He shouldn’t have to say, “the sky is blue”, because we can see it for ourselves. Likewise, the characters in these stories say things like, “I’m going to jump off the cliff,” prior to jumping off a cliff. Or, “Ooh! I tripped!” when Doctor Blake trips. Comic books still had a long way to go at this time, but the overwhelming number of times that they tell us instead of just showing it makes it seem a little cheesy. This has a lot to do with writing comics using “The Marvel Method”, which I will eventually cover in another post.

Inside the cave, Doctor Blake miraculously finds another cane. Upon striking this cane against a boulder he is transformed into Thor! There are several scenes with Doctor Blake referring back to school, and what he remembers about mythology in order to answer questions about himself. I would have been in trouble, as I learned more about the Greek and Egyptian gods than the Norse ones.

This issue also continues a concept that I have forgotten to bring up so far. It seems that whenever something is lighter than it should be, the characters always refer to it as if it were cardboard. This actually began with The Incredible Hulk #1 when the Hulk breaks down a wall and Rick Jones says, “Holy Cow! He’s breaking the wall down like it was cardboard!” In this issue, once he’s able to lift the boulder above his head, Thor states, “I can lift it was if it were cardboard.” Now, I’m writing these blogs a little while after I’ve read ahead a bit, so I can tell you that this motif continues – I’ll try to remember to bring it up each time.

The most fun I had all issue was the point where the Doc is experimenting with his cane in order to figure out it’s powers. It’s ridiculous but cool at the same time. Through trial and error (I wonder how long it actually took him), he figures out:

1. When it’s a normal cane and he taps it on the ground once, he turns into Thor

2. If he lets go of the cane he reverts back to his normal self after 60 seconds, and the hammer stays a hammer

3. The hammer is so heavy that only Thor can lift it

4. The hammer is like a boomerang, and must return whenever thrown

5. The hammer is invincible and nothing can resist it (NOTHING!!)

6. Hitting the hammer on the ground twice creates rain or snow which turn into a tornado

7. If he stamps the hammer’s handle on the ground three times, the storm stops (Ok, this is where it begins to get ridiculous. How could he possibly know this?)

8. If he stamps the hammer’s handle only once, the hammer turns back into a cane

What if he stamps the hammer ten times? Or what if he stamps it twice upside down? What happens if he swings it once left, then once right, twists it and THEN stamps it on the ground? Maybe time will answer these questions.

Once he’s accustomed to the hammer’s power, Thor strikes back! He heads towards the incoming aliens and kicks some serious ass. I have some Thor comics from the 80’s, and I fondly remember how devastating his attacks were, but he SERIOUSLY hands it to them in this issue. They encase him in a metal cage, but he bends the bars. They send a crazy robot after him, but he turns it into scrap. Once the aliens are driven away, we are left with the lone Doctor walking through the woods with his new cane. He thinks to himself that he will head back to America, and is taking his new power along with him. I CAN’T WAIT!

This is the most exciting debut for any “main” character up to this point. That quote on the cover that proclaims Thor “THE MOST EXCITING SUPER HERO OF ALL TIME” is correct this time!

(This article originally written on May 7th, 2011 at comicbookcurios.blogspot.com)

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