Loki ‘The Vice:’ Marvel’s Thor Goes Judeo-Christian

Journey Into Marvel – Part 80

A building rising in the air and then vanishing! People losing their memory for no physical reason! It smacks of supernatural mischief…and that smacks of the god of evil, my old enemy…Loki!

The Movies don't even try and pretend... Milton could see the similarities. (Joke only works if you get that JM was blind)

The Movies don’t even try and pretend… Milton could see the similarities. (Joke only works if you get that JM was blind)

Extremites, like most western fiction the comic’s roots lie in campfire stories. Religious stories, mythologies, and legends all descend from these roots. One of the recurring archetypes that comes out of these traditions is the vice character. I have brought him up before in this series; think Satan or any crux character that coaxes the hero to act against his or her nature. Thor, based out of Norse myth, is the closest Marvel line to these roots.  It’s right that his line has the strongest and most obvious vice character in Loki.

I’m not in any way arriving upon a new idea. It’s obvious that Loki, the trickster — the model of opposition in the pantheon of Valhalla,  is the vice in Norse myth. From his first appearance he is placed in opposition to the messianic Thor for no reason beyond that he is evil. Some men – ahem gods— just want to see the world burn, to use the Nolan cliche. 

Loki in this issue never physically faces Thor. In their last battle Odin chained Loki in Asgard after Thor dragged the god kicking and screaming there. Stan Lee and Larry Lieber must have in a creative pickle. Loki is beloved but he can’t always break out of Asgard and be thrown back to Asgard. That story would grow tired.

What if Loki fought Thor by proxy? He’s at least as omnipotent as Thor.

Sandu... Loki's weapon

Sandu… Loki’s weapon

Sandu, a simple weight guessing carnival conman — with some limited extra sensory perception — is possessed by the power of Loki and becomes an automaton weapon for the god. Through this turban wearing conman Loki uses his powers to reap havoc across New York and the world.  Loki, through Sandu, apparates and disapparates  buildings, sends banks and landmarks to the moon and does  a plethora of other tricks. Sandu with Loki’s mellifluous voice challenges Thor to brawl. Sandu is never developed more then his costume and day job. He doesn’t matter.  Just like Satan through the body of the serpent in Judeo-Christian myth Loki uses his influence to corrupt souls from the prison of another world.

The Valkyries and the Belt

The Valkyries and the Belt

Thor is very Miltonic in this story. As a parody of DC’s Christ figure Ka-Lel/Superman, Thor has always had a lot in common with Jesus. There is a panel where Thor gets down on his knees and has it out with his dad Odin. When the stalemate with Sandu draws both characters to a plane of equality Thor climbs to the highest cliff and prays to Odin for help. Odin sends down one of his golden Valkyries with a belt of strength. In later issues we will come to know this belt as Megingjord but, for now, Stan and Larry just call it ‘the belt of strength.’ Using this new strength Thor crushes Sandu and Odin finds Loki influencing from Asgard. The whole plot is quashed but not before we readers realize that when it comes to Loki Thor can loses without the help of his father. This plays into Thor’s position as a messiah meaning he is not a ‘be all and end all’ God figure.

To accentuate the mythological tones in this story, Stan and Larry use an epic narrative style that they have not yet used. Check out my article discussing what I mean by ‘Epic narrative’ in Shitty Moffatisms. The creatives want it to be clear that we are not reading the simple exploits of  a superhero. We are reading a modern legend.

Stan intended to use Thor as way to teach readers about Norse myth and with the later addition of Tales of Asgard these stories become more literate. Loki’s puppetry of Sandu and Thor’s piousness is only the beginning of the psuedo-religious heights the Journey Into Mystery stories will about to become.

Strap in, Extremites, there’s gonna be a lot of Christian allegory to digest in the next coming Thor reviews.

Until next time, Extremites, I remain: Julian Munds.

Story I Read:Sandu, Master of the Supernatural” (Journey Into Mystery #91 Apr. 1963)

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5

Pros: Joe Sinnott’s Earth-616 debut as penciller is great; although reductive of Jack Kirby (this is editorial pressure). The subtle changes he makes to Sandu’s face when he’s under Loki’s control are great. The first two acts of the story are exciting and rich.

Cons: The ending is hasty. Sandu is blown away and Loki say’s “nuts, failed again” and that’s that; no mention of Odin’s wrath or anything of that nature. Major continuity problems; I thought Don Blake/Thor lived in New York but while he is in his office the narration says “Meanwhile, in another city…” and cuts to the UN building. That building is in New York.

Next Review:The Painter of a Thousand Perils!” (Strange Tales #108 May 1963)

Last Review:Prisoner of the Slave World!” (Tales to Astonish #41 Mar. 1963)


About Julian Munds

I possess a degree in Theatre and Drama from the University of Toronto. I own my own theatre company called Snobbish Theatre. We focus our work on new versions of classics.

Posted on May 29, 2015, in Comics, Loki, Marvel, Odin, Thor and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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