By Order Of Odin – FIVE Ishs Of The Mighty Thor – What Sayest Thou?!
“They are brave, Vizier… braver than any gods before them, or any who will come after, I think. Would that I could sail with them… but Asgard holds me… ‘Twas not so long ago my son and I were enemies sworn. I hope that I have not sent him to such a terror… with enmity still burning in his breast. ‘Twould be too great an irony for this elder god’s mind to bear” – Odin.
Why, Brad wouldst hath flown atwixt the fiery jaws of Fafnir the Dragon isself if ‘twould ensure the completion of another blogpost!!
For the last three months now, trying to describe the joys of Bronze Age comics (commonly referring to those ishs published between 1970-1985) has proved to be an unnecessarily difficult chore. Amass some suitably groovy ishs and discuss their merits: how could such an innocent task be so… troublesome?
Only the God of Thunder – one of my all-time favourite Marvel characters – could lure me out of this annoying phase of inactivity. Gladly, a copy of The Mighty Thor was snapped up back in the day, and one of the objectives of my recent Bronze Age expeditions involved searching for as many back ishs of this title, as possible!
Enjoying the God of Thunder’s scene-stealing turn in Avengers: Age Of Ultron the other week, and my copy of Thor: Ragnarok (for the umpteenth time!) this past week reminded me how, not so long ago, the idea of a study based solely on those exceptional ishs of The Mighty Thor – all dating from the ’70s (of course!) – would be fun to compile. Besides, such great ishs doth lie in easy reach, for they can be – and yea! Verily, are – read and reread, and never become tiresome.
So, from whence do we begin?!
Rereading #218, with its bold and suitably heroic splash page (see above!) provides tne ideal point with which to commence this scintillating journey through Asgardian awesomeness.
Tana Nile: “Silas, beware! We’ve fallen afoul of the mutant class – the underground dwellers of Rigel, creatures deformed both in body… and mind!”
Silas Grant: “I can see that, lass… Tell me now what I’m to do about it! They’re all around us!”
The Mighty Thor #218 (December 1973) turned out to be SO EPIC that it’s very title: “Where Pass The Black Stars There Also Passes… Death!” did not appear until a special double (explosive) spread across pages 16-17.
By The Golden Gates Of The Eternal Realm!
The five Black Stars are among the deadliest threats to be witnessed in the Marvel Universe. Ever.
Gerry Conway is on top form here.
‘Pon Odin’s orders, doughty vessel: Starjammer carries Odinson and his faithful companions: Balder, Sif, a Rigellian woman named Tana Nile, and curiously, a Midgardian sea captain by the name of Silas Grant, to the planet Rigel, only to find it abandoned. The Colonizers – billions of them crammed into a gargantuan fleet, hurtling across the stars – are fleeing the threat of the Black Stars, which ultimately consume their planet in full graphic – and irresistible – John-Buscema-detail!
For those itchin’ to seek out Classic Thor, this ish – with that striking cover produced by Rich Buckler – provides an excellent point at which to jump in. Why, page 18 on its own is absolutely frameworthy:
“Even as we speak, the menace of the Black Stars grows more ominous... their terror greater with each passing second… Look… and tremble at a sight few gods have lived to describe… a vision which staggers the very imagination! The Black Stars… each three times the size of Jupiter…” – The Grand Commissioner.
Grombar: “I say thee, young warrior… make the best of matters here! Verily, to dwell in dark Valhalla be not as tragic as thou dost think! After a time, thou shalt come to accept things for what they are. Mayhap thou shalt come to enjoy them!”
Thor: “Accept this madness, old one? Enjoy it? Thor doth say thee- – Nay! I say thee- – nay! NAY!! A thousand times do I say thee- –
You know Brad: once he starts droning on (and on) about Odinson, Hela: the Goddess of Death won’t be far behind.
#251 To Hela And Back! (September 1976) did not reach my grubby paws until shortly after publishing this Post about her:
Despite not making a dramatic entrance until page 26(!) there is still plenty of thrills to savour amid these grim proceedings. Part of the “If Asgard Should Perish” storyline, Thor confronts the Vizier concerning the missing Odin’s whereabouts. Vizier tells him that he has scanned everywhere, except the Dimension of Death, because he cannot see into it. Thor decides to ride there to look for his father.
Once there, Thor is confronted by the legions of Einherjar. The God of Thunder sees a shadowy figure that looks like Odin. He fights his way to him, only to find it is Grombar, not Odin.
Hela lets Thor leave her realm untouched.
The late Len Wein took over script-duty from #242 (December 1973), thus establishing one of the classic tenures of the Bronze Age.
“Aye, Harokin… he is free to continue his quest for his missing father! When the Goddess of Death doth come at last to claim the mighty Thor, ’twill be on her terms… and in her own good time!” – Hela.
“If ’tis action thou dost seek, friend Thor, methinks thou hast found all thou couldst desire! A great alien vessel hath swooped silently up behind us… discharging a heavily-armed band of angry-visaged beings!” – Hogun.
Strangely enough, the Avengers #191 not only introduced me to the Grey Gargoyle – who swiftly, and surprisingly, trounced Earth’s Mightiest Heroes! – but briefly referred back to The Mighty Thor #258 If The Stars Be Made Of Stone! (April 1977). Most grateful for the tip, ‘cos this tale – part of the “Quest For Odin” story arc – is such a swashbucklin’ cosmic caper of the highest order!
Riding the spaceways aboard the incomparable Starjammer, our heroes are set upon by a pirate vessel, its animal-headed crew led by the Grey Gargoyle.
Captured aind shackled, our heroes are banished to “work” in th furnace room, but there is such a delicious twist in this ere tale! Again, created by those indomitable co-auteurs of awesomeness: Len Wein and John Buscema, you can find this very ish invariably atop the nearest comics pile @ my gaff.
When setting out to accumulate the Bradscribe Collection just over two years ago, this was exactly the sort of cosmic classic yours truly set out to find.
The continuation of this particular adventure in #259 is – no surprise -equally splendid!
Fee-Lon: “Considering the way he is decimating our forces, only your invincible touch of stone can hope to defeat him! Or… are you perhaps afraid of this Thor?”
The Grey Gargoyle: “I advise you to hold your rebellious tongue, Fee-Lon… unless, of course, you wish to feel my touch yourself!”
Thor: “Stand ye DOWN, base villain! Stand ye down from this throne… whilst thou still canst WALK!”
Loki: “Tsk tsk. I see thy temper hath not yet mellowed, my brother. And I had so hoped thou wouldst take my good fortune well.”
Know ye this:
by the time we reach The Mighty Thor #264, Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me! (October 1977) the sprawling quest (story arc) for the long-missing Odin All-Father at last is over!
Bone-weary but unbowed, the Thunder-God and his stalwart companions return to Asgard only to find that Loki: God of Mischief, Lord of Tricksters – and (by the Norn!) Thor’s own half-brother! – hath usurped the Golden Throne!
If we’re going to have Hela in this Post, then we’ve always got space for her malevolent Dad.
Big John Buscema had already departed this title, but the ever-reliable Walt Simonson took up the pencils. His style is very impressive; here, his rendering of Loki is devilishly distinctive. Fortunately for us, Len stayed to handle some supercool scripts; ultimately, this ish provides rollicking good fun.
All the while Thor and his companions had endured cosmic capers aboard the Starjammer, the Enchantress and Executioner plotted wicked deeds in Asgard. This ish proves no exception – they steal the sleeping form of Odin. While a couple of unruly Storm Giants take up Thor’s thunderous time, the Warriors Three: dashing Fandral, grim Hogun and the voluminous Volstagg, must rescue the All-Father from the evil duo.
Thor bursts into the Throne Room to confront Loki, but the mischievous one vanishes: “leaving only the bitter stench of brimstone behind, as befits him!”
In a dramatic final one-page panel, who else but The Destroyer comes crashing through the wall!
Below, it reads: Next Issue: When Falls The God Of Thunder…!
And don’t forget the small print: “Thou shalt be here, right?”
Volstagg: “…When we find them, thou shalt see why Volstagg’s mere presence makes women swoon and brave men quake with fear…! Pfah! Thine enchantments are no match for mine own fabled battle prowess!”
Enchantress: “Away thou over-stuffed mutton-sack! Thine awesome girth doth threaten to squeeze the very breath from me!”
Iron Man: “…That leaves us only… Project 13!”
The Beast: “My sweet stars and garters! The Doomsday Device?! Isn’t that a little extreme, Shellhead?”
Nick Fury: “I’m with ya, Fuzzy! The way I heard it, that gizmo can waste this whole blamed planet if anythin’ goes wrong!”
You know when people say that Cap America: Civil War is a more superior Avengers movie than Age Of Ultron?
Well, one thing is for sure:
The Mighty Thor #271 Like A Diamond In The Sky (May 1978) is a whole lot better than some Avengers ishs produced around this time. What an irresistible cover, featuring The Vision, Scarlet Witch, The Beast and Thor and Iron Man fighting side-by-awesome-side.
AND special guest star: Nick Fury!
The Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. is another of my all-time fave characters, and to see him ponse about displaying his trademark badassery amidst the hallowed pages of Bronze Age Thor provides my own morsel of comic book heaven.
Fantastic scenario, this:
The Thunder-God and Shellhead transport inside FAUST th super-machine but are repelled by its multiple defences. It warns our dynamic duo that it has absorbed the contents and properties of the chest that was stolen by Stilt-Man – aha! Been wondering when that particular bounder would put his treacherous, albeit extended, foot in it! – and, if they attack, it will fire a laser designed to obliterate New York. Against Thor’s protestations, Iron Man attacks anyway. The laser blast disperses harmlessly in the sky and FAUST begins to self-destruct. Easy-peasy, Shellhead explains. Thor’s lightning changed the properties of the chest, so that when FAUST absorbed it, it unwittingly altered its own structure into a fragile state.
This ish is notable for being Len Wein’s last ish as a writer of this series. In the closing panel, as Thor soars into the sky above NY City, a billboard can clearly be seen in the background with the text:
“So long, Len – good luck!”
Thor: “Praise be to Odin! IRON MAN DOTH LIVE!”
Iron Man: “You’d better believe it, Asgardian… if you can call this living! Hang on a second, while I discharge the excess energy your little transfusion fed into my armor… and then the two of us can start taking this place apart!!”
Praise be to the late, great Len Wein.
These ishs offer a deliciously deft masterclass in how to craft top swashbuckling SF mixed with Norse goodness. And lo! He even cleft the chaff in twain! It has been an absolute pleasure over these last few months getting to know – at last – his wondrous way with words.
When Thor: Ragnarok director: Taika Waititi remarked how his main aim entailed capturing the the spirit of Thor’s “cosmic adventures from the ’70s,” these are probably among the very ishs from which he drew inspiration.
Yea, that, dear reader, wrappeth up this intriguing screed for the nonce. Verily, methinks Brad hath got thy mojo back!
And Fafnir can wait!
“The gates of Hel are filled with the screams of his victims!
“But not the screams of the dead, of course. No, no… wounded screams… mainly whimpering, a great deal of complaining and tales of sprained deltoids and… gout” – Thor.