Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"Still I am Mightiest of Them All!" Part 2: Mighty Thor #'s 144-168 (1967-69)

Continuing to look back at some 1967-1969 issues of The Mighty Thor that I recently read.

#145 picks up where last issue left off, with the aftermath of Thor's battle with the Enchanters (two of them anyway), and dealing with being stuck on Earth with Sif and Balder, powerless
and unable to return to Asgard to aid Odin in his battle with the third member of the terrible trio.

Recap: Having bested Brona and Magnir in battle, Thor turns the equally powerless pair over to the police. We then abruptly head back to Asgard, and witness Odin, last seen rocketing through the cosmos in a fireball with Forsung, the third Enchanter, standing over his vanquished foe, just like that, and loudly proclaiming "you better recognize", or at least what passes for that in Asgard. I mean really- check these pages out for some truly epic chest beating:

Now that is some cold blooded shit right there. Having dispensed righteous godly justice, Odin turns his attention to his son and his entourage, restoring their powers and summoning them home. But.

Thor isn't so sure that he should go back home, because he has grown attached to Earth and believes (rightly so) that he can do much good as Dr. Donald Blake, and says as much to Odin, which pisses Odin off no end because he's just got done kicking Enchanter butt and doesn't want any lip from his wuss of a son. In another ongoing theme that was happening before this run and probably continued for a long time after, Odin decides to teach Thor yet another lesson and says "OK, fine, you want to stay on Earth? Then you can stay- but without your powers! Because I don't want any more of your lip!" And that's just what happens. Now, I don't really understand why Thor just couldn't get a haircut and continue to practice medicine as Dr. Blake, but apparently that's out of the question so he decides to go out and find a job, no easy task for a long-haired young man in 1967. But look who Thor winds up running into:

Yep, the freaking Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime! Small world, isn't it? Thor is apparently unaware that the Circus of Crime and its slimy Ringmaster have battled the Hulk and Spider-Man, this being the Marvel Universe of 1967 and not the Marvel Universe of 2010 (crossovers were more limited, even then), so when they ask him to try out for the vacant strongman position, he is more than happy to oblige and demonstrates his might for them:

The Ringmaster, slimy bastard that he is, returns the favor by hypnotizing Thor with his hat, and instructs him to carry a giant bull made out of lead (colored brown by the colorist- oops) for fifty paces before setting it down. Thor succeeds, of course, and Ringy reveals his true plot- they want to steal a giant calf made of solid gold, and need someone strong enough to lift it, then carry it to a waiting conveyance. More on the actual heist next issue, next time.

The Arabian Nights-inspired "Tales of Asgard" backfeature concludes this issue, as Thor and the Warriors Three, with the help of Prince Aladdin, I mean Alibar, use magic and might to defeat the evil wizard Mogul and rescue Hogun's people in the land of Zanadu. Volstagg gets to carry his big-ass cannon around for a while too. Ya gotta love Volstagg- check out the page at right, and the aftermath of the abrupt defeat of Mogul:

Comments: I'm a father, I understand a little about parenting, but the constant "gotta teach Thor humility" events that were a hallmark of this comics' golden era kinda strained the old disbelief meter a bit. Still, this was 1967, and the Generation Gap, with parents and their difficulties with their kids (and vice versa) was very much on everyone's minds at that time- and of definite interest to the Counterculture crowd that Marvel was aiming at in those days. So Thor kept getting "bugged at his old man" for a long, long time.

Boy, talk about odd dramatics- the sudden end of the Odin/Forsung battle came across almost as an afterthought. I would have thought it would have been stretched out for more drama, but I guess that wasn't the case. I wonder if Kirby drew a battle, but they decided to leave it out because of space considerations?

It shows how used to today's comics I am, I suppose, that I find it hard to believe that Thor didn't recognize the Ringmaster and his outfit...I mean, he was in the Avengers, for heaven's sake, and I know it was early on but surely they had files on all the costumed creeps, even then!

Kirby's art is often very powerful in places this issue; I was especially impressed by the staging and the bulky, strong figures of Odin and the fallen Enchanter on page 3. I liked his Ringmaster, as well- Kirby drew him fiddling with his gloves a lot, and generally made him look as unctuous as he could be. I usually associate the character with Steve Ditko, since they were regular Spidey foes for a while there, but I guess Kirby was first, when they appeared in an early issue of The Hulk.

Next time, will Thor help the Ringmaster get his golden calf, and what will replace the Tales of Asgard?

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