How Loki’s Second Appearance Signalled the Coming of a Titanic Change at Marvel
Journey Into Marvel – Part 64
Extremites, what is it about Thor and Loki? Loki tries to take Thor’s hammer, either fails or briefly holds power until Thor rights everything and we as fans come back in droves to see versions of this story over and over.
I wrote an article that took Forbes to task for calling Loki “Marvel’s only decent villain.” Forbes is wrong. There’s plenty of decent villains in Earth-616. However, they are correct in noticing the mass appetite for Loki. But why?
Today’s Journey Into Marvel deals with Loki’s second appearance. The sales of Journey Into Mystery by the open of 1963 were pretty good.
Sometime around autumn 1962, as Thor was finding it’s legs, sales began to drop off. There’s a couple reasons for this. Creative staff was hurting. The sudden onslaught of new titles and new characters were extending the Early bullpen to their limit. The new hires like Steve Ditko, Don Heck, were still not involved in the creation of the world. Stan and Jack were the backs that Marvel rested on. Something needed to happen. Something did happen, and it came from DC.
Over at DC, Batman was also floundering and hokey villains were alienating long time readers. In response, they reintroduced the retired Joker to the comic. Issues flew off the shelf. Marvel needed to combat this but they had no Joker.
The creatives wanted Loki to be a one off, maybe appear every so often, but keep the Asgardian drama to a minimum. Until this issue, where it was decided for longevity of the comic, more gods needed to be worked into it. Loki was therefore allowed to escape.
This appearance is very different from his last one. The last story told a run of the mill conflict between a white hat and a black hat. This issue focuses on what motivates Loki: “a jealousy of Thor’s strength and prominence” and, perhaps more important, Odin’s boundless love for Thor.
Loki captures the hammer in a force field, forcing Thor to change into Don. Loki is allowed in on the conceit that Don is Thor. Loki even devises his own alter ego and pays a visit to Don’s practise where he insults Jane and in a wonderful melodramatic moment removes his fake whiskers and challenges Don to change to Thor. Our green god of mischief is more powerful.
Everything about this story screams a different perspective. It’s clear with the attention to detail, the time spent introducing Heimdall, reintroducing Loki, and showing Asgard as a complex place with its own dramas, Stan and Jack – and Larry Lieber, where building a mythos to maintain Thor. They wanted to give the relationship between Thor and Loki enough juice that they could crank out more issues. This same perspective would lead these two men to kick start the largest collected continuous world in fiction.
I still haven’t answered what it is about Loki that attracts us and why his selfishness is so appealing. Taking a stab at it, I’d have to say it’s the fact that we all wish we could have the fortitude to live every moment for itself. If he wants to turn New York traffic into Ice Cream? He does. Turn into a dove to fly around? He does. His life is about presence. Thor’s motivations are a higher ideal, existing in the future. He is a character that cannot be present enough in the moment to see that his nurse is madly in love with him. Thor is what humans are. Loki is what humans desire to be.
Until next time, Extremites, I remain: Julian Munds.
Story I Read: “The Vengeance of Loki” (Journey Into Mystery #88 Jan. 1963)
Rating: 5 out of 5
Pros: Loki, Thor, The character development. The detail in establishing Asgard as its own place of drama. Loki’s week long parade of pranks across the world. The panel depicting New York traffic as ice cream needs to be framed and sold as art.
Cons: Jack Kirby needs to take lessons on female anatomy… has he never seen a woman?
Next Review: “The Human Torch Meets Paste-Pot Pete!” (Strange Tales #104 Jan 1963
Last Review: “The Hordes of General Fang” (The Incredible Hulk #5 Jan 1963)