Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Steering Clear Of Cosmic Woodpeckers

For a few issues during writer Gerry Conway's run on The Mighty Thor, when he would have the Asgardians clanging their swords and shouting their challenges to battle in the void, he and artist John Buscema reintroduced this eye-catching mode of transportation for them:

An Asgardian "starjammer," capable of "sailing" through galaxies and carrying the gods to their destinations.  It certainly must have made for a startling sight to Hubble-like telescopes on worlds looking up at the stars for signs of life.  Nor were its passengers any less impressed with its mechanics:

Though you'd have to get me drunk on Asgardian ale if you'd expect me to brave the cosmos in a ship made of wood:

But the starjammer allowed for some decent storylines by both Conway and fellow writer Len Wein, giving us diversions from both Asgard and Earth. And somehow it seems only right that we pay homage to the Muppet Show, as we explore these stories of:

The "Starjammer" evolved from a ship which, in its early days, took on more Asgardian missions closer to home, but was no less awesome approaching from the sky:

Thanks to our back-stabbing friend Sssthgar, we saw the tarp pulled off the starjammer for another mission when Thor and company went searching for Odin and their fellow Asgardians, who had been captured by raiders who intended to sell them at auction. Tracking down the Vrellnexians on another world, Thor was treated to a shocking sight indeed:

Since we've already gone over the tale of Sssthgar, suffice to say that Thor made it clear that Odin and his captured subjects weren't for sale at any price. And once they left Sssthgar and the Vrellnexians behind, Thor resumed his quest for the goddess Sif, which also ended in success. But no sooner had Thor returned everyone to Asgard than he had to board the starjammer again on a dire mission to investigate a danger facing the Rigellian Colonizers:

Yet once they reach Rigel, Thor and his party find the planet deserted. The Colonizers have fled their own homeworld, at the approach of the "Black Stars"--five planets travelling through space and destroying whole planets. Sure, it's a dramatic rather than accurate name for the threat, since these are really planets and not stars. But the exaggeration is understandable, give that it was probably a named begun and passed around by terrified populaces who saw these things approaching their region of space. Nor do the Colonizers or the Asgardians look any less aghast:

To detour from the plot for a moment, I must tip my hat not only to artist John Buscema, but to finishers Jim Mooney and Mike Esposito, who seem like a breath of fresh air to Vince Colletta's previous inks over Buscema in the Thor book. I wouldn't say I'm Mooney's biggest fan, but here he brings a noticeable enhancement in texture and detail--and meshed with the work of colorist George Roussos, part one of this story is simply exquisite to look at.

Take a look at this gorgeous two-page spread of the same scene, featured in the next issue. Imminent death never looked so good under Buscema and Esposito:

As to what the Black Stars do, they're basically scavengers for fuel. The inhabitants of one of the planets who later become involved in the story are giants who would make the Celestials look like specks. They have no concept of there being other forms of life in the cosmos, and so freely consume other planetary matter for power to distribute between the five worlds. A process which Buscema and Mooney portray here:

And in case you were wondering about the scale of these scoops and their giant creators, this should be a jaw-dropper for you, as Thor and one of his allies hitch a ride on one of the retracting scoops to confront the planet Rhun's leader, "Lord Kragonn":

And how about a splendid double-page perspective from John Buscema:

Talk about biting off more than you can chew. But with the help of Thor and his companions, Kragonn learns that the other worlds had long since become barren, their populations deceased. Which meant that Rhun was no longer bound to them, and the need to consume smaller planets for fuel no longer existed--saving the galaxy from the Black Stars.

So the starjammer sets sail for home.  But even though Conway drydocks the vessel after this adventure, we'll be seeing more of it when writer Len Wein dusts the old girl off after another 35 issues have passed. And when she next sails the stars, Thor will come face to face again with his oldest foes.


Kid said...

I was never too impressed with those Starjammer tales (storywise, that is - the art was great). I always thought the Thor series worked better on Earth, in the main.

Comicsfan said...

The letters pages in The Mighty Thor frequently went back and forth with readers who had that sort of preference, though it mainly switched between wanting Thor on Earth or Asgard. (Heck, even Thor couldn't make up his mind.) The space stories made Thor seem like a very small fish in a very big pond (or, rather, ocean), so it was always a little hard to swallow when he'd give shouts of defiance and laud his godlike power in the face of overwhelming odds (such as Kragonn). I suppose that's why it's important for the writer to come up with interesting characters in those space stories--so that, if we don't really care to read about Thor in space, we at least might enjoy reading a good outer space tale. Anything to distract us from wondering how Thor exists out there in the first place--I could never quite get my head around how his being a god allowed him to survive in the void, especially when we've frequently seen Asgardians bundling up in the frigid wastes of their land. :)

Iain said...

The Starjammer reminds me of the Hercules mini series where Herc flew into space on a chariot pulled by two flying horses, when asked how they survive in the vacuum of space by a regillian robot Herc states "Why it is the will of Zeus that sustains us." Of course that explains it all. ^^

Comicsfan said...

Iain, an excellent way to look at it! :D

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