Wednesday, January 6, 2010

10: Journey Into Mystery #83

Journey Into Mystery #83
June 5, 1962

  • As Amazing Fantasy #15 was the first Marvel Silver Age comic not to be drawn by Kirby, so too was Journey into Mystery #83 - the debut of Thor - the first not to be written by Stan Lee. After adding to his workload so many new titles that he was personally scripting, Stan quickly realized he was reaching a breaking point. As a result, he had to start handing off some of the new titles to others to pen - in this case, his younger brother, Larry Lieber. So while Stan came up with the basic character of Thor, he didn't actually write him for the first year, which is why the character is missing the faux-Shakespearean dialogue that would come to be his hallmark.

  • Still, it reads well enough like a Stan Lee tale - even down to the ill-conceived genre-mixing seen in the first two issues of The Incredible Hulk. This time, Stan decided to top all else - super-team and hulking brute and spider-teen - by going impossibly grand, and creating a hero who can actually change into the thunder god of Norse mythology ... but they do it by having his origin tale pit him against the Stone Men from Saturn. (Seriously?!) It would be a couple of issues before they realized that the best way to convey Thor's grandeur might be to call upon more of the Nordic mythology, and flesh out an actual pantheon.

  • And yet, while the scripting itself might be fairly pedestrian - in two pages, Thor runs through all of his powers as if checking off a shopping list for the reader - one can't deny that the concept holds true. A superhero in the form of a god is one that hadn't been seen much before, and the secret identity - often just tacked on, out of adherence to the genre - actually serves double duty here. While it still satisfies the function of wish fulfillment most famously illustrated in the Clark Kent / Superman paradigm (i.e., the frustrated reader identifies with the weaker aspect, yet knowing they have an inner strength hidden away), the dual identity also provides a tether of relatability. For while The Mighty Thor might be a bit too gradiose for readers to really connect to, his other identity was not a billionaire playboy, but a harmless doctor - and one with a lame leg, to boot. In fact, his adventures begin when he trips and falls down a hill ... and what's more mundane than that?