Thursday, May 24, 2012

Comic School Review: The Origin of Thor (1952)

As I continue to blatantly ride the coattails of the phenomenally successful The Avengers, it is only fair that I now turn my large, ponderous head the not-so-secret origins of the mighty Thor! If you've seen the films than may I prepare you in advance to forget everything you think you know! While you're at it you may also want to forget everything you know about science, geography, and common sense.

But that's not what made blonde rock god Thor (allegedly) "the most exciting super hero of all time!"...

It all goes down in Journey to Mystery #83 first published in the heady year of 1952. The text was spewed forth by Stan the Man Lee and Larry the Llama Lieber (I'm guessing) and the art was hand-etched by the god-like paw of Jack the King Kirby. You can do what I did and purchase it here on Comixology for $1.99 but buyer beware - this one is only 14 pages, including the cover. Comix Knaves! Thou hast rippeth me off!

Join me after the jump and we'll bond...

I should start by saying that Thor has become one of my favourite Marvel characters and the Stan and Jack early stuff is actually super fantastic. Just not this first one. Sadly.

Let's meet our protagonist Dr. Don Blake who is afflicted with the rare curse of being lame in one leg and lame as a character. He's moodily strolling the empty beaches of Norway, no doubt wistfully thinking about the lovers he doesn't have...

What does Don Blake care about a mystery spaceship? He's a lame, solemn American on a deserted beach, wearing a three piece suit and hat, mentally drafting a mental complaint letter to his ridiculous travel agent. Stan describes Don and the aliens as "two principals in a grim pageant". "Going on vacation this year, Don?" Well... it's not so much a vacation as a grim pageant. But don't worry, I'll be sure to send you a grim pageant postcard about the terrible time I'm having."

Well, Don should have paid more attention to what was going on behind him because these strange, stone-like aliens apparently hate Norway even more than he does. As soon as they leave the ship they start ripping shit up!

"Behold how easily I crush this elk!" "Watch how easily I piss into this fjord."

These space-bastards run totally amok but, as luck would have it, a human does see them. Except it's not the sour-faced Don, it's a salty old fisherman. The fisherman must have been out catching red herrings because he's not really important to this story at all. He reports back to his fisherman's friends but they think he's a moron. Don just happens to be passing by and overhears the whole thing and decides that the fisherman's crazy claims are worth some further investigation. So Don Blake is oblivious when a spaceship lands behind him but goddamn do his ears prick up when he hears a crazy fisherman!

He soon spies the stone aliens but just as one of them loudly announces, "Remember... death to any who discover our presence" (fishermen excluded I guess), clumsy Don steps on a twig and alerts them.  Losing his cane in the chase he drags himself painfully up a rocky mountain and into a mysterious cave.
Dumb luck springs the entrance to a secret chamber and inside is a remarkably coincidental discovery...

You see, Don has just lost his cane, but there on a stone table is a wooden stick which looks like an ancient cane. So what's he going to do with it?

Yeah. Or you could use it as a cane, you idiot.

Although Don is supposedly a doctor, it takes him a while to realise that a lame American with a wooden stick can't budge a giant boulder. In frustration he limply raps his cane against the rock and lo and behold an amazing transformation takes place! So amazing that he narrates the whole thing even though his body is suddenly exploding with lightning.

Don is now a huge, muscular Norse lunkhead with flowing golden locks. He's also smiling for the first time in his miserable life. The wooden stick has turned into a mighty hammer whose inscription fills him in on his astounding new identity...

And hell, even if you're not actually Thor, you're still definitely wearing his pants!

Now, as Thor, Don can perform amazing feats of strength including lifting the boulder and sneaking out the rear entrance. He sits down and gives himself a quick history lesson as he ponders whether he should remain a golden god or go back to being a lame sadsack. As he reminisces on the origin of Thursday he places down the hammer and suddenly turns back to Donald Blake! What! Why is this happening!? There can only be one explanation.

So wait... he's only Thor while he's literally holding the hammer. If he let's go of it then he turns back? But then, upon realising it's an enchanted hammer, he turns back into Thor and starts throwing it great distances. But he doesn't turn back. Is that because of the arbitrary 60 second rule? Like the 3 second rule when you drop a piece of toast? Blake's going to have to start writing this stuff down.

This is what he learns:
1. If he throws it it must return.
2. It's invincible. Nothing can resist it. Especially the chicks.
3. If he hits the handle twice on the ground it makes rain or snow, and then a storm.
4. If he hits it three times on the ground it stops the storm. 
5. If he hits it once on the ground he will turn back into Donald Blake.
6. If he hits it seven times on the ground he will turn into Johnny Depp.
7. If he hits it fifteen times on the ground it will summon a bus.

Meanwhile, the aliens are doing insane things of their own. Someone must have eventually believed that fisherman because the military have scrambled some jets. But the jets lose their fight when they see a huge red dragon in the sky and the pilots all eject from their planes like total pussies.

And what's worse? It was all a cunning alien ruse...

Because pilots of the 1950's wouldn't be scared by a fleet of silver spaceships. No. You have to create an illusory dragon to pull off that! And then when they do get barraged with missiles it turns out their ships are invulnerable anyway. Did Stan Lee drink a lot of whiskey?

Look, clearly this is a job for the god of thunder. You know it, I know it, and Don Blake knows it and is going to do something about it. He taps the stick on the ground and absorbs the power of Grayskull. He then flies to the aliens by throwing his hammer at them and then grabbing hold of the end of it so that he is pulled along behind. I love that they still did that crazy trick in the movies.

Thor starts smacking the crap out of the aliens with his hammer but they do have an ace up their sleeve. Remember in Avengers #1 when Loki was defeated by a conveniently placed trapdoor? Well the aliens have something like that of their own...

I guess that winged helm must really screw up your peripheral vision! It's all a waste of time anyway because Thor easily breaks his way out of the cage and continues the hammer assault that he started. Stan Lee realises he still has a few panels to fill so he writes in a crazy Kirby robot to attack Thor as well. It's also a waste of time when he one-shots it with the hammer. 

The aliens are vanquished and they get the hell out of there. Thor waves his hammer menacingly arrogantly proclaiming that nothing can defeat his tenacious Norse ass. But then the military approaches and Thor doesn't want to get drafted or forced to have his hair cut, so he turns back into Don Blake - the perfect disguise.

The mighty military has no time for a skinny, lame, runt, jerkface, sourpuss like Don so he gets to hobble away, thereby stealing Norway's greatest treasure! Way to go America!

And there you have it! I have no idea how they finally manage to link the lame Doctor Blake to all the awesome goings on in Asgard but I guess that's another tale for another day. I just wish Kenneth Branagh had the forethought to make this epic story into a fifteen minute live-action short for the Thor Blu-ray! 

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