Monday, January 25, 2010

18: Journey into Mystery #85

Journey into Mystery #85
August 2, 1962

  • Though Thor first appeared in JiM #83, this issue is just as significant - if not moreso - as it's here that we're introduced not just to Loki, the God of Mischief and Thor's eternal enemy, but also their heavenly home of Asgard and such gods as Heimdall, Balder, Odin and more (if just in passing). After a hokey sci-fi origin issue, and then an impressive second issue pitting Thor against a realistic South American dictator, this is the issue that finally points the way towards what the character and series would most become.

    With these first two panels of the story, readers are immediately signaled that
    something far grander is starting than what they've seen before

  • In something of a shock, the introduction of these elements is so well done that it's hard to believe this is the same Larry Lieber responsible for Ant-Man's monthly escapades. Rather than devoting the entire story to a grand and sweeping tour of all the Norse elements, as one might expect, they're deftly introduced in an almost offhand fashion - with all-father Odin himself barely making a one-panel appearance. Recall that although such subtlety in storytelling can be found in many (if not most) of the comic books of today, back in 1962 such restraint was practically unheard of. And this in just a 13-page feature!

    Pigeons?  Well, they don't call him the God of Terror....

  • Honestly, this makes me wonder a bit more about the creative process involved between Lieber, Stan Lee, and Jack Kirby. Based on what I've read of Larry's work so far, he's seemed serviceable ... but not exactly inspired. And so I had assumed that Stan maybe gave Jack the basic plot, and then had Larry dialogue the art. But these mythic elements are introduced in such a skilled way that it's hard to conceive of them having come from only a brief outline, as Stan usually did with Jack. For instance, the Loki-in-tree scene sounds so completely authentic that I was surprised to find no references to it in the original mythology - though the requirement of a tear (perhaps intentionally, perhaps not) echoes the tear Loki refused to shed that consigned Balder to the underworld. Either Stan was giving Jack & Larry a thoroughly detailed plot for the story - something famously uncharacteristic of Stan, especially for a short story - or I may have to revise my estimation of Mr. Lieber from here on out....

    After ending on his end, a smart man might have called it quits.
    Luckily for us, Loki is not that man.