Thursday, December 24, 2015

Physician, Reveal Thyself

In the very early days of Thor's appearances in Journey Into Mystery, writer Stan Lee took the tried-and-true humorous approach in his treatment of the slowly budding romance of Jane Foster and Dr. Donald Blake--at first having Jane practically trip over herself at how "dreamy" Thor was, with Blake cracking a smile at the thought of her never realizing how close she was in proximity to the one she idolized. Blake, for his part, found that he was having fast-developing feelings for his nurse--to the point of pining for her, feeling helpless to take matters further due to both his physical affliction as well as an edict by Odin never to reveal his true identity to any mortal. But eventually, Jane began developing feelings of her own toward her employer--not nearly on the same level as Blake's, but getting there.

The disturbing part of this progression was that, thanks to Lee's take on the matter, Thor continued to be an unofficial part of this love triangle for Jane--not to the extent of Jane wanting to make a play for the Thunder God, but as a model for comparison. I.e., why couldn't the man she had feelings for be, well, more of a man? It's been a long-standing formula in comics since the Golden Age, because it retained its element of humor as long as the line wasn't crossed:

But in the case of Blake and Jane, Blake was coming closer and closer to stepping over that line--and as a result, Jane's relatively harmless comments that compared Blake and Thor evolved into outbursts that seemed to make it clear that Blake wasn't measuring up in Jane's eyes.

Things came to a head when Blake finally decided to reveal his feelings in full, and ask for Jane's hand in marriage. And while it's clear that his indecisiveness (due to his existence as Thor) influences Jane's curt response...'s also apparent that she still holds Thor as the standard in terms of the strength of character she wants to see in Blake.

And while it's no crime to wish to see other qualities in the one you love, Jane arguably sets the bar far too high in Blake's case. In the meantime, Blake is faced with another complication--the fact that Odin has now made it clear in no uncertain terms that his petition to wed Jane is denied.

To her credit, it doesn't take long for Jane to see the light, when the Cobra attacks Andrews' office looking for medical supplies and Jane finds that the courage of "that wolf" only extends to his pursuit of women.

(They don't call her "Flighty Foster" for nothing, folks.)

From this point, it seems that Blake's only roadblock to Jane lies in his decision on whether to defy Odin and reveal to her his identity as Thor. Well, we already know the answer to that, don't we--but exactly how did it come about?

Which leads us to a lovesick-laden

Marvel Trivia Question

When did Donald Blake finally reveal his identity as Thor to Jane Foster?

(Don't be so sure you've already been shown the answer!)

We can probably all agree that popping the question is hard enough without having to first reveal to your girlfriend that you're a god--but Thor finds it's a necessary prerequisite that he has to gird himself for. And after another tiff with Odin in Asgard--this time over his refusal to remain there to take his place again at Odin's side--Thor decides to throw caution to the wind and make his announcement to Jane, spurred by his argument with Odin which leaves him with the feeling that he's not truly worthy of godhood, and that he should renounce his heritage and become mortal in order to be able to marry her.

And that's the odd thing about Thor's decision to reveal his identity: Why make that kind of announcement, if he's planning on giving up his identity as Thor altogether? His desire to share his secret identity with Jane is understandable--but what purpose does it serve in light of the decision he's made to give up that identity? Wouldn't it put her in an uncomfortable position? "Darling, I'm giving up godhood and immortality for you, but really, it's okay..."

Nevertheless, Blake's path is set.

Unfortunately, back in Asgard, Odin has been witness to the entire scene, and has flown into a rage at Thor's decision. As a result, he removes Thor's power, which certainly expedites Thor's decision to live his life as a mortal. It does nothing, however, for Blake's efforts to prove to Jane that he's not delusional.

Ordinarily, it would make sense for Blake to consider the matter settled--after all, this is what he wanted, isn't it? Odin may have had a knee-jerk reaction to this decision, but it's done, and Blake now has achieved the means by which to marry Jane--nor does he need to worry about trying to convince Jane of a life that no longer exists, since the decision has essentially been taken out of his hands. But as we know, Blake was no ordinary doctor, and there were many undesirables who dropped by his office looking for Thor--and one of them, the Grey Gargoyle, picks this moment to attempt to force Blake to take him to the Thunder God. The crisis passes when Asgard intervenes--and Odin relents and restores Thor's power to him, leaving the decision regarding Jane in his hands. But Blake is now having second thoughts on the matter.

Eventually, however, the decision is take out of Blake's hands, when Jane becomes severely distraught and depressed at Blake's constant, extended, unexplained absences; and after being hospitalized following a deadly encounter with the Cobra and Mister Hyde, and after a period where Blake had again left her side to tend to, well, being Thor, Jane reaches a point where she can no longer bear the secrecy.

Believe it or not, Thor actually does leave her side again, even after all of that, to tend to his duty--which leads to Jane taking up time with Hercules and, soon after, the mother of all battles. But things are eventually resolved between Thor and Jane--and even with Odin, who finally gives his consent to their union. Yet Jane would have only a brief learning curve in discovering what it would entail to be wed to the God of Thunder.

Another look at the cover of Journey Into Mystery #113, adapted later for Thor's third annual!


Anonymous said...

In one of the panels Jane says "he was so masculine..." - what, with that girly hair ?? The Thor of Norse myth had a beard and he'd be horrified to see his Marvel portrayal - he'd be even more horrified to learn that Jane Foster is now Thor in the latest Marvel version.

Comicsfan said...

I haven't been keeping up on the Thor shuffle, Colin, but that's truly shocking news. On the other hand, I can easily picture Jane now enjoying a huge laugh at Odin's expense.

Big Murr said...

Thor is back in the driver seat as Thunder God, and now Jane is the First Valkyrie of a new generation of Valkyries. (all the rest, including the Valkyrie we knew from The Defenders, have gone to Valhalla as permanent residents, not just making deliveries)

On a side note, those images of Dr. Andrews brought up a question that has bubbled up in my brain recently, because Andrews looks like Stephen Strange. The geeky question I have is "Who was the better surgeon/doctor? Dr. Stephen Strange or Dr. Donald Blake?" Dr. Blake was certainly nicer than Dr. Strange, but for sheer skill, who was the Medical Man?

Having a much greater appreciation of The Mighty Thor comics in my youth over Dr. Strange, I'm biased.