To my regret and disappointment, I decided to quit the Facebook group for Twomorrows’ Back Issue Magazine this week. I had posted a comment to the effect that DC characters of the 80s who seemed heavily influenced by Marvel (or more specifically Kirby Marvel characters) failed to find a long-term audience. I cited Jade and Obsidian from Infinity Inc. – who owe a lot to Wanda and Pietro, as the rest of the team echo the Avengers- and Blue Devil.
One member of the group took issue with my only passing familiarity with the latter, fairly obscure character. Another poster went to great length to “mansplain” how BD’s creators was more overtly influenced by Ditko- whose Creeper is revived by DC every decade with no real commercial impact, I might add.
While I don’t think my point was invalidated at all, the condescension and antagonism was most unpleasant and it’s making me reassess whether it’s worth venturing an opinion on comical books for the vituperation of (other) middle aged men.
Clearly no influence.
Nonetheless, here are my thoughts on a collection of Bronze Age Thor comics. I picked up this b/w library copy because it reminded me of my own school days when US Marvels were spottily distributed. Also the thumbnails printed in the sporadic but thrilling FOOM Magazine marked Kirby’s return to the title after half a decade. The third reason was the debut of Walt Simonson as Thor’s penciller. Another series with which I’m largely unfamiliar is the 80s Thor run , apart from a few of the Malekith/Casket of Ancient Winters issues. Simonson’s Manhunter for DC seemed like a Marvel hero manque ( as we’ll see when I come to post on Deathlok and Skull the Slayer). His very brief reboot of the Avengers at the end of the decade is an oddball favourite of mine.
Authorship of the God of Thunder’s adventures had passed by 1975 from sci-fi writer Gerry Conway to another DC creator, Len Wein ( who would originate the All-New X-Men in the same time period.) The bulk of the artwork in this book is by John Buscema, who lends a savage grandeur to Thor’s worlds.
This is most noticeable in the reprinted Thor Annual 5, which I believe was repurposed material from an aborted b/w Thor the Mighty magazine. Steve Englehart retells the first clash between Thor and Hercules in a Tolkeinesque saga, stripped of most Kirbyisms.
However, in the regular monthly series, Wein revived many Lee/Kirby antagonists for Thor: Mangog, Ulik, the Grey Gargoyle, the Destroyer and even the Stone Men from Saturn. He also revisited the very worn trope of Loki seizing the throne of Asgard with the aid of the Enchantress and Executioner. The Rigellian Recorder joined the supporting cast once again while Jane Foster was suddenly replaced by Sif, in a rather arbitrary reversal of their Rick Jones/Mar-Vell sytle melding.
While, by the end of the collection, Wein decided to reset Thor’s status quo as an Earthbound hero, interacting with fellow Avenger Iron Man and Nick Fury ( and with cameos by Mar-Vell, Daredevil, Nova and Shang-Chi), the majority of the run features aliens and monsters. One of the few two-parters I bought at the time ( issues 256-57) is a sci-fi/horror tale with a twist.
The decaying worldship Levianon is very similar to the vessel in Space 1999‘s Mission of the Darians. The Kirby Klassic monster Sporr, in its motivation, is also very like the creature from the “Conan: The Crawler in The Mists” record album that was adapted for the barbarian’s newspaper strip.
The book also reprints the 1977 Thor Annual. This is the prologue to the Korvac/Avengers storyline, pitting the God of Thunder against the 70s version of the Guardians of the Galaxy and the world-beating cyborg himself.
It’s rather bland and workaday but it features a cute homage to Cap’s revival from the ice, as the Guardians rescue Thor from floating in space.
Unfortunately, this whole collection felt a little stale and second-hand. While the distinctive and ornate Norse trappings of Simonson’s vision are evident from his second issue (#261), the quest for Odin, trapped on the Doomsday Star strongly reminded me of Conway’s God-Jewel and Black Stars epics. Wein is a more stylish writer than Conway- certainly more so than his contemporary, the saccharine, overwrought Marv Wolfman. But, as with his JLA scripts, his nostalgia for the Sixties stifles invention, aside from the automated Adamantium menace of FAUST. This is largely dull fare, although the artwork is gritty and regal.
Coming soon : Deathlok, Skull the Slayer and Magik
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