Wednesday, December 17, 2008

History of the Marvel Universe, October 1962, part 2

Journey into Mystery #85

Thor’s universe begins to expand as this issue immediately takes us to Asgard, where we meet Loki, the god of Mischief, and get our first real indication that Donald Blake really is Thor, rather than just gaining Thor’s power. (Loki mentions that Thor imprisoned him on Asgard long ago, but has been missing from that place himself “for ages.”)

Loki escapes from Asgard and locates Thor on Earth. He briefly succeeds in hypnotizing the Thunder God, but Thor is soon himself again, resulting in a well-illustrated chase through and over New York City, with various acts of magic and feats of strengths tossed into the mix. Finally, Thor sends Loki back to Asgard in abject defeat.

This was a fun and important new direction for Thor to take. Not only does he meet his arch-enemy, but it’s established that he is literally a part of the Norse Pantheon. This will gradually open up storytelling directions that will allow Jack Kirby’s magnificent art to reach new heights of imagination.

Strange Tales #101

When this story opens, we find out that Sue Storm and her brother Johnny live (at least when not on missions with the Fantastic Four) in the suburb of Glenville. Everyone knows Sue is the Invisible Girl, but no one suspects Johnny is the Human Torch.

Huh? Waitaminute—over in the FF’s book, none of the four have secret identities. None of them wear masks and, in fact, in this month’s issue of Fantastic Four, they all appeared at a nationally televised ceremony at the U.S. Capital. Including Johnny. Without a mask or anything to hide his identity!!!!! But in Glenville, nobody suspects Johnny—the sister of the Invisible Girl—is the Human Torch. The general population of Glenville seems to be a few bricks shy of a full load, don’t they?

It’s a continuity glitch that will annoy me to no end throughout this series. In this story, someone is trying to sabotage the rides at a new local amusement park. Johnny keeps having to cause silly distractions so he can flame on without anyone noticing, allowing him to save the day when the rides start to act up. Eventually, he figures out who the mastermind behind the sabotage is and reveals it all to be yet another Communist plot. Blah, blah, blah.

Oh, well. As the series progresses, there will be some fun stories and we’ll get to meet some villains who will later go on to tangle with the entire Fantastic Four. Next month’s issue, in fact, will introduce us to the Wizard, who will eventually found the Frightful Four.

With this entry, we’ve covered the first full year of the Modern Marvel era. So far, the world has met the Fantastic Four, Hulk, Ant Man and Thor. Spider Man has made his debut, but his return to superheroics is still a few months away. Important villains so far introduced include Dr. Doom, Mole Man, Loki and the Skrulls. Prince Namor, originally created in 1940, has returned to take part in events once again. We’ve been invaded by aliens on at least three occasions and the U.S. seems to be infested with more Commie spies than you can shake a canister of reducing gas at.

Next week, we’ll start our look at the second year of Marvel heroics. Thor will take a trip to the future; the Fantastic Four (via their own book and the Human Torch’s solo adventures) will add a couple more villains to their rapidly growing rogue’s gallery; the Hulk will deal with some more of those pesky Commies; and Ant Man will take on a protection racket.

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