Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Hammer and the Hair Band

Put on your best costume, because it's time for a new

Marvel Trivia Question

Which unheralded Thor costume came and went faster than you could say "So Be It"?

And nope, it wasn't this one:

(But you're in the neighborhood.)

I swear, this really isn't a member of Whitesnake:

(with thanks to Adey for the dramatic portrayal)

Dreamed up by artist Mike Deodato, Marvel gave this version of Thor's costume a "try-out" in Thor #502, the final issue of Thor's original run--and one of the oddest issues I've ever read for a comic that ended a series. The issue was an interlude of sorts, taking place in the middle of a desperate battle with Onslaught--a kind of calm before the storm. And there was no explanation for the costume change. Prior to this issue, Thor's "costume," if you can call it that, consisted of nothing but a pair of pants and boots--given to Thor by the Enchantress, who didn't much care for the costume Thor had previously worn during his time with the High Evolutionary's "Godpack." In fact, considering the Enchantress preferred for Thor to spend most of his time in bed, I'm surprised her new costume for him only left him half-naked.

So in this issue, without word or warning, Thor's costume is changed. For this one issue--the last issue of Thor's book. Which is the odd part--because when the battle continues with Onslaught in the Onslaught series, Thor is back to his half-naked self. In that battle, along with other Marvel heroes, he disappears. And when we next see him in a relaunch of his own series, presto-chango: he's back to his original garb, with this new costume just a blink-and-you-missed-it memory.

To be fair, the saga with Onslaught was basically a setup for the "Heroes Reborn" series of books spearheaded by artists Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee, so to say that Marvel was in disarray during this time is an understatement. Consequently, it's no surprise that left hands didn't talk to right hands--and the character of Thor, whose own book had been directionless and spiralling down for some time (helped in no measurable way by writer Roy Thomas's stint on the book featuring the Godpack), seemed to take the brunt of Marvel's flailing about. I remember feeling pretty shocked at how Thor, one of Marvel's flagship characters, was neglected to such an extent and allowed to end so dismally--allowed to end at all. Once the fight with Onslaught literally took Thor out of the picture, the Thor book continued as Journey Into Mystery: The Lost Gods, with Thor noticeably absent and which finally ended with Asgard completely destroyed.

For Deodato's part, he really only designed the costume for a Thor statue:

which finally came to fruition, through various sources:

The final issues of Thor and The Avengers were the only places he was able to slip it into a comic.

As for Marvel, interest in the costume apparently died with the company's interest in Thor himself. Two other books published around this time (1996) seemed to make an effort to feature it in actual use. One was Incredible Hulk #440:

But get a good look at the cover--because oddly enough, nowhere in the issue was Thor pictured in the costume. Instead, he was back to being half-naked.

The only place the costume got a real workout was in the four-issue series, DC vs. Marvel Comics, which came out in the same year and where Thor battled Captain Marvel:

Why they gave the thumbs-up for it here, I haven't a clue. Perhaps because it was the most recent costume Thor was pictured in within his regular book--as opposed to the Onslaught series, where he was last seen. I doubt even Marvel could explain why.

I have mixed feelings about the costume. I like the costume well enough--I just don't know if I like it on Thor, where it makes him look like a member of an '80s hair band. (The new hairstyle itself does him no favors in that respect, either.) And the long chain on the hammer handle just seems impractical. The costume was a good effort by Deodato, who probably never expected to see it in publication--but perhaps it's best that when Thor eventually returned, he decided to leave his new threads hanging back at the crib.

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