Jim Johnson recounts some of the best Thor stories, since the character’s arrival in the Marvel Universe fifty years ago! From Jack Kirby and Stan Lee to Walt Simonson, you can’t go wrong with these classic tales.
JJ here, Back to the Past Pop Culture TV, and this week I’m talking about the mightiest Avenger of them all, none other than the Mighty Thor. It seems hard to believe that Thor first appeared in Journey Into Mystery #83 fifty years ago, and it’s often overlooked that Thor was one of Marvel’s first immediate successes, right behind the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man. And like those titles, Thor has seen many great and lengthy runs over the last half century. Sit back, and I will show you some of them.
The first, of course, started with that very first appearance, which as everyone knows was one of many great Stan Lee / Jack Kirby collaborations. Kirby was along for most of the ride, but when he left to go to work for DC in 1970, young up & comers John Buscema and Neal Adams stepped up later in the run. But Stan Lee stayed on through issue #192 in 1971, on a run that was nearly as long as his and Kirby’s on Fantastic Four. Most of the familiar characters like Loki and Odin were introduced early on, but there were also cool appearances by Galactus and Warlock. This era featured a lot of great stories that got overshadowed by Lee and Kirby’s other work.
In 1978, veteran writer Roy Thomas came onboard, and kicked off with a Ragnarok storyline that featured the apparent death of a longtime supporting character and also the introduction of Red Norvell, the first of many characters who would temporarily usurp Thor’s identity. Thomas continued with a lengthy story featuring the Eternals, the Celestials, and an adaptation of Vogner’s Ring of the Neebolung, believe it or not. Sadly, Thomas didn’t get to finish the 18-month storyline he started, but his two years on the title was full of great adventure, and it was educational, too.
And when one thinks of great runs on Thor, one automatically thinks of Walt Simonson’s epic four year stint starting in 1983. His first issue, #337, with its surprising development and stunning visuals, caught just about everybody by surprise, and was one of fandom’s early “hot” comics. The most popular of Thor’s usurpers was introduced, Beta Ray Bill, and became a longtime supporting character. The last third of the run, though, which included Simonson turning Thor into a frog, was unfortunately quite a bit weaker than the earlier majority, but overall it remains a fondly remembered and influential era.
There have been other notable runs; Dan Jurgens, Warren Ellis, and J Michael Straczynski have all put some pretty unique spins on the character. And Thor’s died twice in the past several years, so apparently being an immortal isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Do you have any favorite Thor stories? Let us know! JJ, Back to the Past Pop Culture TV.