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Carbon Copy Crap: Al Hartley’s Thor

Journey Into Marvel – Part 76

Other men reveal their feelings! Why don’t I? Why don’t i just up and tell Jane that I love her?? What am I afraid of?? Blast it!! Am I a man or a mouse?!! I, who possess the greatest strength on Earth…who would battle entire armies…who would defy the heavens themselves! I fear nothing!…Nothing! Nothing…except the mocking laughter of a beautiful woman, upon learning that afrail, timid doctor is hopelessly in love with her! – Dr. Blake/Thor

It's all discombobulated.

It’s all discombobulated.

Extremites, Journey Into Marvel is bi-polar. One moment I’m reading a historically significant issue, that has far reaching repercussions for fandom, and the next I’m neck deep in  crap. After the last issue where Hulk crossed over with the Fantastic Four and changed comic book history, I return to a Marvel rush job with Journey Into Mystery. Read the rest of this entry

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Marvel’s Thor and Thermo-Nuclear War

Journey Into Marvel – Part 54

Thor and the Missiles.

Thor and the Missiles.

Extremites, we forget that at one time the threat of nuclear war was as present as the threat of a thunder storm on a humid day. In 1962, when the world came the closest it ever came to total nuclear annihilation — during the Cuban Missile Crisiscomic books all took a dark turn. Never has this turn been more clear then in today’s Thor adventure. Journey Into Mystery #86 is full of anxiety and shows that even wild stories, about time travel and feats of strength, can be full of zeitgeist ideology. Read the rest of this entry

There Is No Fate But What We Snake: How a Radioactive Cobra Humanized Marvel’s Thor

JIM98_vsCobraJourney Into Marvel –  Thor

The more and more I delve into the Thor mythos, the more and more it becomes clear that the relationship between Thor/Don Blake and, his nurse assistant Jane Foster, define the series.

I wrote in my last Thor related article how his father Odin forbiddance of his romantic involvement with the mortal woman sent Thor into an almost titanic fit of rage. This moment has stood as an important checkpoint in my Journey Into Marvel. It is such a wonderfully  cathartic moment and even more fantastic that it comes from a male character in regards to a female.

The Silver Age Marvel Universe seems to thrive on the ‘will they wont they’ relationship trope.

It began with Reed and Sue in the Fantastic Four, continued with Janet and Hank in Ant-Man and, is further confused by, the love triangle of Happy Hogan, Pepper Potts and Tony Stark in the Iron Man stories.

In the case of the mighty Thor, the trope seems to govern the evolution of the characters and, not a story goes by, that doesn’t revel in the star crossed-ness of Jane and Don.

Within this issue, the antagonist Klaus Voorhees/Human Cobra is purely created as a device to reunite Jane and Don after the proto-Shakespearian banishing that Odin created in the last issue.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying this is a bad thing. On the contrary. It is fascinating. Without the humanizing influence of these events, Thor would end up being a cheap imitation of DC’s Superman. Remember, Thor is a ‘Marvel realist‘ version of the Kryptonian.

Check out my article that directly compares the two.

DON BLAKE‘S INHUMANITY

Mjolnir. You see the trick.

Mjolnir. You see the trick.

From the get go, Thor fought an uphill battle for connection with the audience.

As I’ve written before, Thor is a parody of Superman and he carries along a lot of the same character problems of that DC model. Kal-El’s powers are divine,  meaning that the reader is forced to faithfully accept that he is powerful. Thor’s could be called the same if it weren’t for Stan Lee.

Stan Lee separated the character from the Superman model by first creating the limitation of the Mjolnir, in that Thor must hold Mjolnir to maintain his power and secondly, that Thor is limited by the rules and laws of his people.

Unlike Kal-El, Thor is subject to the laws his Asgardian monarch and father Odin. Kal-El’s race has been destroyed so this is a limitation that does not exist.

In the last issue, Thor was told by his father that if he chose to pursue a relationship with Jane his divinity would be forfeit. Subject to this law. Don Blake and Thor simultaneously distant themselves from Jane’s clear advances.

Jane, rightfully feeling undervalued by her employer, goes to work for Dr. Andrews who is Don’s mortal nemesis.

Side note: isn’t it odd how sexual interest and employment seem to go hand in hand in Jane’s character. Stan Lee, who directly wrote this one, proves once again that he cannot write women. 

These issues often focus heavily on the heightened Asgardian tales of Thor.

This one is a change of pace. We are presented with a human conundrum that could easily happen to many of us non-Asgardians. A father removing his favour because he disproves of his son’s choice in mate. It is a story as old as time.

EXAMINING KLAUS VOORHEES

THE COBRA!!!!

THE COBRA!!!!

As a character the Human Cobra is pretty contrived.

Even by Marvel standards he is tired.

Klaus a disenfranchised and ignored assistant to a much more appreciated scientist, of indiscriminate focus, named Dr. Shektor.

Voorhees and Shektor are working on some project in the remote parts of India.

Coincidentally, it’s a part of India that is populated only by caucasians. Seriously, from the looks of Don Heck’s art, there are no Indians in India.

They seem to be experimenting by injecting radioactive materials into various animals.

While trying to kill his boss for some perceived slight, Klaus gets bitten by a radioactive cobra whose venom goes to work on mutating Klaus into a Human/cobra hybrid. Rather then.. you know… killing him.

Everything about this story is over done. From the personal slights to the radioactive cobra bite. He’s essentially a villainized version of the Spider-Man origin story.

Klaus Voorhees is an empty character that is created to further the romance between Jane and Don.

After some coincidental business between Thor and Dr. Shektor, (Don just happened to be both Shektor’s former protege and in India to stop Cobra from killing the doctor) the Thunder God fights Cobra across the world until he ends up in the office of Dr. Andrews holding Jane Foster hostage.

Human Cobra is so thinly designed that in one panel he is an angry loner who wants recognition, only to change two panels later inexplicably into an antagonist that suddenly wants to take over the world.

Voorhees is a melodramatic trope who’s single function is to take Jane Foster hostage. This thin conception bothers me.

I understand the sheer amount of writing that was going on in this period of Marvel, however, it is disrespectful when a writer dupes the audience with a two dimensional villain that has no clear goal beyond foiling the protagonist. This is not only lazy writing, it is writing that is exploitative; mindless words to fill a money making comic.

the-cobra-attacks-jane-foster

Cobra performing his function.

Ignoring my frustrations with the conception of Klaus, let’s take a look at this all important romantic moment shall we?

Klaus enter’s Andrew’s office coincidentally and promptly takes Jane Foster hostage.

Cobra has just flown from darkest India, with Thor hot on his heals, to battle the god in New York City. Apparently the lack of landmarks in the jungle makes it hard to fight.

He does not go there for any reason beside a sudden need for world domination.

After a few skirmishes that end up being hilariously unbalanced in Thor’s favour, somehow the Human Cobra ends up with his slithery hands all over Jane. This is tackily convenient, I can sense 10 year olds groaning over this, five decades later. This is a convenience that straddles continents and defies geographic logic.

Anyway, accepting the coincidental nature of this whole event, Cobra is ready to kill Jane and Dr. Andrews cowers in his presence.

Suddenly, Thor bursts in and saves the day!

Thor chooses to console Jane instead of pursuing the Cobra and Voorhees gets away. Not a common ending when Thor is involved.

Out of nowhere, spurred on by this rescue from Thor and the cowardice of her new boss, Jane decides to go back to work for Don because she “needs a real man.”

Wait a minute… Jane has many times accused, often without provocation, Don of cowardice. Suddenly, he’s not a coward?

Why?

He wasn’t even present at this event. Jane has no clue Thor is Don. Does Stan Lee still remember this?

This whole realization is entirely spontaneous.  Another example of exceptionally bad writing.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Jane is now back working for Don. He can totally admit his undying love for her, right?

No.

Don knows there are still threats that exist upon the Earth, having let the Cobra go. Therefore, Thor must still exist to protect the world from its ills.

Thor says: “It seems I can never abandon my legendary identity! For when there is a need, Thor must respond.”

Add martyr to the list of Thor’s godly traits.

I am troubled by Jane’s choice in romantic partners.

Stan Lee. Internizer.

Stan Lee. Womanizer.

Stan’s women define their romantic partners singlely through who they work with. Their selection seems to be defined by other direct authority figure. This is seen in Iron Man, Ant-Man, and here.  I wonder why Stan chose to write Jane this way?

Wait… it might lead to a retroactive sexual assault charge.

Fearing a libel charge, I’ll not conject.

Stan has a tendency to rely on cliche and stereotype when he is cranking out work just to sell issues. Judging by the conveniences present in the conception of the Human Cobra and the blankness of Jane Foster’s romantic life; I’d say that the shear amount of titles Stan Lee and the other creatives were responsible for was beginning to lower the collective quality of issues.

Journey Into Mystery has generally been the strongest title. If this one is plummeting, so goes the rest.  Journeying On: Julian Munds

Story I Read:Challenged by the Human Cobra” (Journey Into Mystery #98 Nov. 1963)

Rating: 2 out of 5

Pros: The focused writing on Don Blake really develops the character. Thor in this one clearly functions as an alter ego making firm lines as to how the relationship works.

Cons:  The coincidental writing of the whole issue. The two dimensionality of Jane Foster. The veiled racism. Human Cobra.

Previous Review:Return of the Omnipotent Baron Mordo” (Strange Tales #114 Nov. 1963)

Upcoming Review: “Tales of Asgard – Odin Battles Ymir, King of the Ice Giants” (Journey Into Mystery #98 Nov. 1963)

 

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The Star Crossed Lovers of Silver Age Marvel: Thor/Don Blake and Jane Foster

Journey Into Marvel

Story I Read: “The Lava Man” (Journey Into Mystery #97 OCT. 1963)

Odin commands Thor to end his love affair.

Odin commands Thor to end his love affair.

Recently, like most of you, I journeyed through the cold and blustery snowbanks of Canada to my local cinema in order to bask in the glow of Thor: The Dark World. I won’t go into much detail about the film, as I am sure most of you are Chris Hemsworthed out, for I know I am, but I will say that the film focused on an aspect of the Thor mythos that was not present in the first film; his forbidden relationship with Jane Foster. I loved how the film embraced, and thankfully not nauseatingly, the predicament the two are in. Thor is a godlike alien and Jane is a lowly human. In a Galactic racist sense, it makes … well… perfect sense for the relationship to not totally please all extended family involved. Like any good love story Jane and Thor overcome their differences and love conquers all in the end.

This love story is certainly not the creation of Hollywood, it finds its roots in the comics, and this issue is the first time we get to experience the difficulties beyond the ‘will they/wont they?” cliche.

As the story begins we find Thor doing what he does best, saving the world from ultra criminals, but in the back of his mind he is tortured by the thoughts of his beloved Jane. She just doesn’t seem to love him back. If Thor just told Jane he loved her all of this turmoil would be fixed. The crux of the issue, as is shown through a ghostly window appearance of Odin: the All-Father, is Thor cannot admit his love for her or he’ll loose his divinity.

OH the ASGARDITY! 

Things are never simple for Gods.

It doesn’t make much sense for Odin to forbid this love affair out right beyond the, as I said before, galactic race thing, but it happens.

The reason why Jane can’t admit her love for Don Blake, because she still doesn’t see Don Blake as Thor, is far more selfish. She doesn’t think Don is strong enough to handle a woman. She bases this on the fact that he is disabled (for Mjolnir appears as a cane, and a very stylish one at that, when Thor is Don) and shy. I gotta say, all the women presented thus far, with the exception of Jean Grey, in the Silver Age are written really vain and unpleasantly.

I wonder if Stan Lee and the others were working a personal something out.

Anyway, Jane tells Don that she is going to move her base of operations to Dr. Blake’s nemesis Andrews’ practise.  I assume Dr. Andrews is Don’s nemesis as Don reacts pretty violently to his name. This is the first time Dr. Andrews has been mentioned.

You are probably wondering why I am focusing in so much on the soap opera that is going on with Don. This focus is because this is the meat of the issue. The fight

Lava Man!

Lava Man!

with the Lava Man (who in later comics is referred to as Molto) is little more then a sideshow.

Lava Man arrives on the Earth’s surface having popped out of a volcano to take back the surface-world for his people.

Oh look another subterranean race who hates humans. 

How many civilizations are down there, I wonder.

Loki also managed to make a cameo in this one. His presence is becoming more and more prevalent. I love that these two, Thor and Loki, seem to be in constant combat. However, my love doesn’t extend to the banality of forcing pointless cameos into a narrative that does not need one.

Loki only pops up to explain that he set the Lava Man loose. Why is this necessary?

Can’t we have a villain spurred on to defeat Thor without the extra motivation that he is doing it either for, or in spite of, Loki?

This goes back to my earlier discussion about Loki being the only decent threat to the Thunder God. No other character seems to even come close.

The Lava Man poses no threat. Thor smites the Lava Man with a single blow of Mjolnir.

There is one small moment when the God is trapped in concrete lava, but he quickly makes mince meat of that predicament. The balance always seems to be off.

Even though the balance is always off in Thor stories, I always find myself grinning like the Cheshire cat after I read them.  What is it about Thor that makes me become a child, bowled over by the melodramatic goings on of Don Blake and Jane Foster, and totally willing to overlook tacky moments with Loki?

Maybe it’s because as the most recent Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D episode said: “Thor is dreamy.”

He certainly is and his stories are always wildly fantastical

Rating: 3 out of 5

Pros: Don Blake and Odin’s conundrum over the relationship with Jane, the fireworks with the Lava Man and Loki’s cameo.

Cons: Jane Foster’s unlikability. The cliche of the Lava Man. Loki’s cameo.

Previous Review:  “Music to Scream By” (Tales to Astonish #47 Sept 1963)

Upcoming Review Tales of Asgard “Home of the Mighty Norse Gods” (Journey Into Mystery #97 Oct. 1963)

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To celebrate the upcoming new Thor film, watch Metro.co.uk’s selections of the best hammer scenes in movies!

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