October 2, 1962
- Back to Thor! And back to hilarious covers. (Oh, what am I saying? We've never left!) Because this time, he's "Prisoner of the Reds!" Joking aside, it's actually refreshing to see someone as powerful and grandiose as Thor pitted against such unarguably earthbound foes, as before when he faced the dictator of San Diablo. Partly this is fascinating because the vast difference in power levels is so unexpected; partly because it's unusual to see superheroes face off against any realistic enemies (even ones using outlandish methods); and partly because when we finally get around to exploring Thor's heavenly home, with its gods and trolls and elves and frost giants, the comic will quickly and irrevocably transform into a largely fantasy-based setting. Which is fine, and will certainly give the title a striking contrast to all the other comics on the stand - but makes early stories such as this one far more interesting than they otherwise might have been.
- Something that has been pointed out whenever I've noted the alarming preponderance of atomic/nuclear bombs and mushroom clouds in these early Marvel comics is that they accurately reflected the fears and paranoia of the time. As quaint as it might seem now, the fear of imminent attack by a global superpower, either overtly or through insidious invasion, was clearly on the public's mind. Remember that this was only two decades after a certain European country threw the entire international arena into utter chaos in a war that caused countless deaths; and realize too that, without the broadened awareness we have today from globalization and instantaneous worldwide communication, such xenophobic fears of threats from without could find no rational evidence to argue against them. So this sense of a world ready to fall under attack at any moment, due to events outside the ken of the common man, must have been palpable - but was clearly also the seed for any number of nervous-making yarns.
- Fortunately, in these comics we can find both the thought-provoking ... and the fantastically dumb. The cover is not just a feint, for in the story proper we do indeed find Thor manacled by chains he can't break out of, as they've been "electronically treated". Which - wait, what? "These chains have been treated! You cannot escape!" "What have they been treated with?" "Um. Electronics?" "......You're just making this up, aren't you?" ... Similarly, we quickly learn that the Reds have been abducting top American scientists by exposing them to a certain gas - which hypnotizes them! In each of these cases, you get the sense that Larry Lieber had the general idea of what he wanted to get across, but the wrong words. If we didn't know better, we might not be faulted for wondering if the script had been translated from another language....
Don't you kind of wish more stories began this way?