Monday, October 22, 2012

Minds Over Matter


Name This Marvel Villain??

It would be understandable if the identity of this villain has--slipped your mind! Ha ha! That's a little joke, given the specific threat Kronin Krask represented. But there's nothing funny about his determination to live forever. He had all of the spoils of life at his disposal--but, in his own words:

So who better to choose to join you in a mind transplant experiment than the immortal Thor, God of Thunder?

Krask set the ball in motion by contacting Dr. Jim North, who knew of the experiment Krask was interested in, and who would be able to perform the procedure--informing him of his kidnap of Jane Foster, North's nurse and lover, whom he would hold hostage to secure North's cooperation.  Krask had also kidnapped the doctor who developed the experiment, forcing him to reveal his secrets. And Krask is a well-informed villain, because he also knew of Jane's connection with Thor; consequently, he also knew that North would turn to Dr. Don Blake, who's "gotten in touch" with Thor before, to obtain Thor's help in coming to their aid.  As a result, Thor fell into Krask's trap--an immortal body, ripe for the mind transferral that Krask, er, had in mind.

But Thor was just playing along. He saw Krask's attempt on his life as a challenge--and as Krask's ultra-oscilloscope launched their brainwaves at each other, he met that challenge, well, head-on:

Alright, that was the last cranial joke, I promise.  Suffice to say that, since the title of this comic isn't "The Mighty Kronin Krask," it's probably easy to guess who came out on top:

Thor was victorious--and Krask, bolting from his lab table screaming, fell to the floor, dead. Still, comics being comics, this wouldn't be the last we'd see of Kronin Krask. He made a few more appearances before meeting his ultimate fate--as a compact disc. Yes, you heard me. Hey, I don't write these things.

This issue of Thor by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby was classic Lee-Kirby second-hand collaboration. Kirby would basically go ahead and draw the story--and later, Lee would see what he had to work with and add the dialogue. Unfortunately, Lee, with all the books he had on his plate to script, would often make his part of the bargain a rush job. This issue probably stands out mostly because of Jane Foster, who figured so prominently in Thor's early issues--but there's little else to distinguish it. The dialogue is sparse, the characters are somewhat two-dimensional, and the reader's suspension of disbelief is put to the test often.

So Jane gets star billing, since she remains a great hook for Thor readers.  And plastered right on the cover, just to stack the deck:

As for that suspension of disbelief--for one thing, it seems to me that Blake being the go-to guy for getting in touch with Thor is common knowledge that Blake should be doing his best to discourage.  Otherwise, he'd have people lined up outside his door (hell, outside his building). Also, North is so worried about Jane's safety that he doesn't involve the police--yet he wants to involve the God of Thunder, who isn't exactly known for stealth and would hit Krask's compound like a one-man army? And Krask can predict North's behavior so exactly? He's so fond of kidnapping doctors--why didn't he just go to the source, and kidnap Blake and force him to deliver Thor?

I mean, at this point, if you Googled "Don Blake," I think "has Thor on speed-dial" would come up:

But Lee had only one issue to bring all of this about and conclude it. Nor was there a lot of room for exposition, given the large size of word balloons in those days. He relied a lot on Kirby to develop and pace a story, which Kirby did extremely well. I imagine that with a little more diligence from Lee, this issue and these characters could have made more of an impact, rather than just ending up as one more issue off the Marvel assembly line meeting a monthly deadline.

Which is a shame, because it had a really cool cover:

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