Sunday, June 13, 2010

"Still I am Mightiest of Them All!" Part 3.

Continuing my glacially-paced look back at a randomly-chosen run of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's Mighty Thor #'s 144-168 (1967-69) . Sorry it's taken me so long to get back to it.

#146: "If the Thunder be Gone"
If you recall, last issue we left the depowered-by-Odin Thor as he was the unwitting pawn of the rascally Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime, who planned to hypnotically enlist Thor's help to steal a gigantic golden bull. This time out, the plan takes place. We see Thor at the beginning, still unaware that he's joined the C of C, rehearsing by lifting a giant barbell, with Princess Python on one end and two of the Acrobats (did they ever get names? I dunno) on the other. The Ringmaster walks up and presents Thor with an unusual gift: a replica of his own costume. However, when the Thunder God dons it, it looks exactly like his own duds. Which begs the question- why couldn't Thor just go back to his house and get his real one? Perhaps he did before the evening's performance, don't know. Anyway, we get a little exposition and also some internal monologuing by our hero; he's bummed that he's been reduced to working in a carny, but he's determined to make the best of it.

Showtime! And another fun Kirby full page panorama:

Now, I don't know much about the business of running a circus, even back in 1967, but I don't see how Ringy ever gets a permit to pitch his tent, given his criminal record due to encounters with at least Spider-Man and the Hulk. Oh, well, I guess he can use his freaky hat and hypnotize the necessary parties, so there's that. Let's assume that's the case and move on.

The crowd is skeptical that it's the real Thor they're seeing, so Ringy has him throw his hammer through a granite barrier. Even de-powered, Thor has the strength to shatter the target, but when the crowd keeps heckling, asking why Thor's hammer doesn't return, Ringy hypnotizes them all into seeing it fly back into his hand. I suppose he suggests it to them, though Lee didn't have him actually speak the words. While scanning the crowd, Thor sees Jane Foster, who, if you'll recall, was Don Blake/Thor's love interest for the bulk of the early issues, before Kirby and Lee really got cosmic and mythological. She's with another guy, though, but since Thor's had some Sif action, he's not all that concerned, instead thanking Odin for "(managing) to ease the aching of her heart". Nice guy, that Thunder God. After the show, Ringy gets down to business and tricks our guy into looking at his hat once more, putting him in a trance so he'll help them steal that gigantic golden bull. The heist itself is a nifty example of Kirby action; while I'll always associate Ditko with the Circus of Crime, Kirby draws them in action very well. Here's how it goes down, click to see jumbo elephant size:

The guards finally extricate themselves from the coils of the Princess' python, and open fire. Ths shots startle Thor and break the hypnotic spell, and he drops the statue, pinning Princess Python against the wall. And that's how this issue ends- the police warning Thor to give up, or they'll fire; Balder, Sif and Odin looking on from Asgard (and Papa pretty much washing his hands of the outcome, nice parenting skills there), and the Princess kinda yelling/asking him to kindly get the two ton bull off her. Next issue: "THE WRATH OF ODIN!", which prompts me to ask exactly what he's got to be pissed off about.

If you'll recall, the Tales of Asgard feature ended last issue, and rather than continue it, Stan and Jack decided to showcase the still-fairly-new Inhumans, who they had introduced in 1965 but really, other than a few appearances in Fantastic Four, not much had been revealed about their beginnings. We see one group of humans (?) that are far advanced in comparison to their primitive fellow beings; eventually it's shown that they had to hide themselves away, creating a super-advanced city, yeah, that's right- Attilan, a city dedicated to research and knowledge. The whole Terrogen mist as a power-activator notion is shown here as well (for the first time? I'm not 100% sure but I think so), as we are privy to a conversation between two scientists and their leader Randac. The scientists can't decide if unleashing the mist on the primitive people will advance them or kill them all in a horrible Randac volunteers to step into the mist. No mention of the Kree connection or any of that stuff, so I'm assuming that all was thought up later. This is all Lee dialogue, for sure, but I think it's fairly obvious that Kirby's responsible for everything else...if you squint your eyes, this looks (and reads, just without the normal Kirby dialogue) like an early issue of New Gods or 2001- see example at left. Not long ago, I read a couple of the Inhumans' later exploits, credited to Kirby on both art and script, that wound up in Amazing Adventures around 1969 or so, and I was surprised by how different the dialogue scanned; it didn't read like Lee's at all, but wasn't like the Kirby dialogue style we all have come to know so well via his Fourth World series and subsequent efforts. Maybe someday I'll get around to putting some pages from them here. Anyway, that has nothing to do with the issue at hand except to show how restless the King was getting, even as far back as 1967, and I'd say that these were the first few steps towards his declaration of independence from Marvel.

Next, we find out if the police shoot Thor full of holes, and if Princess Python ever gets out from under the bull.

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