Saturday, March 10, 2012

167: Journey into Mystery #107

Journey into Mystery #107
June 2, 1964

  • This issue sees the introduction of Marvel baddie The Grey Gargoyle - who, though he would never go on to become anyone's archnemesis, is still a decently solid villain. As implied by his name, the Gargoyle's fearsome power is the ability to turn anyone to stone with but a touch (albeit temporarily); refreshingly, this is one of the more unique superpowers to grace the pages, and not something we've seen a hundred times before. Oddly enough, despite his power's similarity to that of the Medusa of Greek legend, the character is instead named for the carved stone creatures seen to perch at the edges of buildings ... and yet the only time he's ever shown in that pose is on the opening splash.

    Wow!  Now that is one creepy image.

  • Meanwhile, the Don Blake / Jane Foster subplot which had been simmering the past several months gets a bit of resolution. When Jane happens to enter Blake's office just after he'd turned into Thor, he decides to cover by demanding the location of Blake, intent on making Don pay for having sold him out. Not only does his ruse work, but Jane in fact pleads with Thor to spare Don Blake - because she still loves him, you see. Struck by this revelation, Thor flies out the window and immediately starts flying up and down the sky in joyful abandon, giving us one of the more cartoony sequences we've seen in the strip for some time. Is it silly? You bet. But that's not unappreciated!

    Thor does his best impression of Daffy Duck.

  • Lest you think Thor's "She loves me! She loves me!" antics are the only break of levity to be had, the rest of the issue provides quite a bit of Goofy Silver Age Writing as well. Chief among them are the Gargoyle turning a paper airplane into a stone one and then hurling it into the wall, as well as the revelation that he's not covered in stone all the time - but rather, has to periodically touch himself all over in order to spread the stone effect across his body. (No mention of that hard-to-reach spot between the shoulder blades.) The coup de grace, though, comes when Don Blake requisitions a special "3-D type projector", mounts it to the front of a motorcycle, and drives all over the city to entice the Gargoyle to chase a flying hologram of Thor. Surprisingly, it works on GG for much longer than it should!

    The Norn Queen gets quite the portentous intro.

  • By contrast, this month's "Tales of Asgard" backup is a much meatier story - and impressively, still in just the standard 5 pages! Loki, jealous of the favor that Odin bestowed on Balder the Brave in the last installment, seeks out the mystic Norn Queen and learns from her that Odin forced all living things to protect the hero in question ... except "the tiny mistletoe made no such pledge!" Armed with this deadly secret, Loki bids the trolls under his command to forge him a (rather shiny) blowgun, and lies in wait to pierce Balder with a dart made from this innocuous plant. At the deciding moment, however, the Norn Queen gets in the way and scuttles his plan, reminding Loki that she too swore that same pledge. This is where the story deviates from the original mythology; for in the legends, Balder is indeed slain. And yet, although this last-minute save does work wonderfully to preserve the format of an ongoing comic story, it does beg the question: Does the subject of Balder's weakness ever come back, to some time be successfully exploited? After all, the Norn Queen can't watch out for him all the time! (Answer: This story will in fact be told to its mythic conclusion - but not until 1978!)

    I'm, again, stunned at the level of craft on display here.  Balder's mail,
    Loki's expression, the mosaic on the walls... Breathtaking!