Wednesday, December 3, 2008

History of the Marvel Universe--September 1962 (part 2)


While Ant-Man was battling commie spies here in America (see last week’s entry for details), the Mighty Thor was dealing with commie insurgents in South America.

We get a little bit of character development first. We learn that Dr. Don Blake is in love with his nurse, Jane Foster. But he can’t tell her because he’s convinced she could never love “a… a lame man.” Jane, in the meantime, is secretly in love with Blake, but won’t tell him because she’s convinced he’s not interested in her.

Okay, enough with the romantic gobbledy-gook. Let’s get to the superhero action. Blake and a contingent of medical personal (including Jane) volunteer to go to a war-wracked South American country to provide aid. But the leader of the communist army there doesn’t care for that idea, so he sends planes, tanks and men to wipe out the aid workers.

Thor keeps showing up to foil the attacks, though. Jane gets captured, forcing Blake to allow himself to be taken as well to get close enough to rescue her. In the end, the communist leader is shot by his own men.

All perfectly good stuff—but Thor still isn’t anywhere near finding his thematic “voice.” There’s still no hint that Blake actually IS Thor (rather than just gaining his appearance and powers when he whacks his walking stick on the ground) and the communist forces don’t really pose much of a threat for him. But Thor will get where he needs to be before too long—just be patient.


For the first two issues, Bruce Banner was turning into the Hulk at night, then reverting again to Banner at dawn. But Lee and Kirby may have realized this was too limiting in terms of story potential. So they begin this issue with the Army tricking the Hulk into a rocket and shooting him into space. Hulk’s friend Rick Jones manages to get the rocket back to Earth, but not before Hulk is zapped with enough radiation to change shake things up.

Hulk remains Hulk even after the sun rises. In fact, throughout this issue, we don’t know if he’ll ever turn into Banner again. In the meantime, Hulk is captured by the Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime, who use mass hypnotism to loot the towns they play.

By the end of the issue, the Hulk has escaped and the bad guys are rounded up by the FBI. But what is poor Rick Jones supposed to do with a Hulk that isn’t planning on ever turning human again?

That’s a problem to be tackled in the next issue. This story was a bit uneven—jumping awkwardly from one story element to another—but Lee and Kirby demonstrate that they are willing to play around with the character until they can refine him into a truly successful creation.

That’s it for September. October will bring us the further adventures of Thor, Ant-Man and the Fantastic Four. Also, one of the FF will have the first of many solo adventures.

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