Friday, February 28, 2014

No Pretty-Pretty Is Safe

In prior postings, we've already covered a little ground where, in the early 1980s, The Mighty Thor title was in a bit of a rut. Let me rephrase that. The title was in a sinkhole, one that seemed to be expanding every month. We saw the Thunder God fighting the likes of mathematicians, and slum lord mercenaries, and religious fanatics, and vampires, and even bullfighters. Only we completists probably stayed with the title at this point; after all, this was Thor we were talking about, one of Marvel's flagship characters. Nobody at Marvel was going to just stand around and let Thor get to the point where it had to be cancelled, or so we steadfastly thought.

The book needed a firm hand, someone who would again give it scope and vision. In late 1983, that hand would belong to writer/artist Walt Simonson, who had been aboard the book previously as artist but who would return and also take over scripting and plotting reins and pull the Thunder God out of his downward spiral. In the meantime, the wait would be excruciating in terms of some of the stories readers had to slog through. And if you think that means unscrupulous bloggers like myself would take advantage of the many, many sub-par stories which are just begging to be made into posts...

...why, I'm shocked at the implication.

I'm also shameless in confirming it.

I look at it this way:

If I and others had to suffer month after month, pulling these issues off the rack and reading each and every one, feeling like we were in some kind of Asgardian purgatory and wondering who the heck at Marvel had lost their sanity and somehow thought that this was Thor at his best--then, in the interests of fairness, you should experience the same uncomfortable winces that we did.

"WHICH ONE THIS TIME??" you gasp, quickly covering your eyes--and well you might. What mortal threat is going to require all the power of the God of Thunder to defeat? Why, no less than...


So you'd better hold onto your chairs and pray for Thor, because:

This story occurs when Thor is giving some thought to his alter-ego, Dr. Donald Blake, moving his practice to Chicago, at the urging of Blake's friend and colleague, Dr. Shawna Lynde. In fact, the story's first few pages have us wondering if writer Doug Moench might be getting a few bucks under the table from the city's tourism office, given how both Thor and Blake are all but giving us the grand tour:

Caught that bit about the Manhattan Project and bleachers, did you? Well, just where do you think our maniacal actor is chasing his hapless actress-victim?

But, c'mon, you point out--the Manhattan Project was back in the forties. What's that got to do with a movie crew? Well, thanks to a disgruntled passer-by, accidents will happen:

And not only is our "Zaniac" born, but it seems he's truly burying himself in the part.

Naturally, with Dr. Lynde now a hostage, once Blake shakes off the cobwebs from the blast he's going after this guy as Thor:

Calm down, Thor. It's not like Odin is sending you on a glorious mission here--you're hunting a crazy actor. And since you are Thor, we're thinking this fight should be over and done with in three panels:

But with the Zaniac's super-strength, I'm cutting Thor some slack and assuming he's just caught off-guard by this guy's resilience, just like Moench is proposing:

Zaniac takes off while Thor is--sorry, it's right there in front of us--digging himself out from a pile of garbage cans. At least Dr. Lynde is safe and sound--but, still going by his old film script, Zaniac now heads for the "Home for Women" in the Loop, where he plans to slaughter all the "pretty-pretties" he finds there. Fortunately, Thor has thought to get some info from the film's director on the villain's next move, and arrives at the location in time:

And as they battle, Thor spells out what we've already been led to believe by this point:

So, how to stop the Zaniac? Thor ends up using Zaniac's own irradiated "knives" against him. I don't know why that would work in combination with the metal railing of the El tracks they battle on--but, admittedly, I don't know why it wouldn't work, either:

Yes, let's mull over what Thor said here: "My powers are useless in stopping him!" I'm betting your jaw dropped to the ground right alongside mine after reading that.

Suffice to say, the threat of the Zaniac is over, and Brad Wolfe is carted away by ambulance to be treated for radiation poisoning. As for Thor, he's decided (as Don Blake) to relocate to Chicago after all--which, all things considered, has the city's tourism office now wondering whether that's a good thing or a bad thing. Particularly with a "next issue" banner like this one:

See? We've got lots more of these Thor stories to hack our way through. You lucky dogs.

Mighty Thor #319

Script: Doug Moench
Pencils: Keith Pollard
Inks: Brett Breeding
Letterer: Diana Albers


Anonymous said...

For me the most memorable Thor run came in 1980 when Thor #294-300 became a sort of adaptation of Wagner's Ring Cycle operas - after such a long time I can't remember what on earth it was all about but I do remember being gripped by the whole thing. Unfortunately I couldn't get Thor #300 so I never saw how it ended - stupid British distribution meant double-sized U.S. Marvel imports were difficult to get - I couldn't get X-Men #137 from the same time either.

Comicsfan said...

I wasn't the greatest fan of those Thor issues you speak of, Colin, but I can at least point you to a rundown of issue #300. It was a fine cap to the whole storyline.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that, CF - nobody seems to have been fond of that Nibelung saga but I loved it. I hope to read it again one day as a Marvel Essential tpb and see if I still think the same.

Murray said...

I don't know whether to be proud of my getting the hell off a sinking ship or contrite for not sticking with "Thor" in those dire years.

I started buying "Thor" at #182 and bought every issue consistently until, I believe, #303. I'm afraid I'm also with the majority of fans in considering issue #294 and the beginning of the Eyeball retelling Der RIng des Nibelungen akin to driving headlong into a mountain of rancid succotash.

#300 was a misery. I always thought Kirby's Eternals, Deviants and Celestial mythology to fit the Marvel Universe like adding a smelly frat party to an already crowded subway car. To have the same Celestials treat the Asgardians, the Odinsword and the Destroyer as some quaint natives waving flint spears was a slap in the face. And then the stories, and lord, especially the art went spiralling down immediately after.

So I quit. But, I did keep an eye out for that day when "Thor" might be worth my time and money again. Thank you, Mr Simonson!

Murray said...

I forgot to mention my great delight with "Thor" #355 and the Nibelungen. When troubled about the variant tales of Odin's origins, Thor's great-grandfather makes a simple, but profound, observation: "...were I told conflicting stories by father and a floating eyeball, I know which I should believe."

Well, I know which one I vote for!