Thor and Green Lantern had a lot in common. Abin Sur, in 1959, sent for a man who would be worthy to be his successor; Don Blake found a cane/hammer, giving him powers, “if he be worthy”; both had time limits; and other similar gimmicks. For two years, very typical stories were published. Both answered to a higher source (Odin and the Guardians). Both had colorful brethren (The Asgardian Gods and The Green Lantern Corps). Both had time limits to their powers and both originally fought aliens. Thor was also similar to the Original Captain Marvel. They both obtain their powers from mythological beings. Both had a complete “change of body” when they got their powers. And while Don Blake was lame, Captain Marvel wasn’t, but his young assistant, Freddy Freeman aka Captain Marvel Jr. was.
Jack Kirby would soon eliminate any similarities. Thor, at first had the usual gimmicks and weaknesses and fought aliens, communists and crooks. His stories were earthbound and certainly not on a grand scale. But that would begin to change. The transformation starts in Journey into Mystery #97 when Jack Kirby returned to the strip and began to give Thor a back story. Not a typical “things you did not know about Thor’s origin” type story, but they started a second, five page, feature, “Tales of Asgard,” which was Marvel’s precursor to the graphic novel.
Kirby also slowly introduced Thor’s friends, Heimdall, Balder and Balder’s sister, Sif. Thor rescues Sif, from Hela, Goddess of the Underworld. Here, Hela tells young Thor that even an immortal can die from her touch. So unlike the Superman characters I grew up with, this makes Thor vulnerable and his adventures are not without risk. No longer does it seem that Dr. Blake becomes Thor, but Thor becomes Dr. Blake. The themes of Tales of Asgard, begin to overtake the lead story starting in Journey Into Mystery #104. Odin visits Earth and aided by Balder and Thor fights the Storm Giants. Heimdall is portrayed in the main story and his history is shown in that issue’s “Tales of Asgard”.
While the next few issues of the main story is Earthbound, with battles with Cobra, Hyde, Magneto and others, in “Tales of Asgard,” we are given the backgrounds of Balder, The Norn Queen and the Trolls. In Tales of Asgard we see young Thor grow up, how Loki is adopted and how his evil is inborn.
In issue #119 the stage is set for a epic story, both in the main story for the first time and, separately in “Tales of Asgard.” Here, Kirby will introduce Fandral, the Dashing; Hogun, the Grim; and Volstagg the Enormous, who will accompany Thor on an epic odyssey. Stan Lee has often said that the “Tales of Asgard” strip was all Kirby, but Stan’s dialogue (Thor’s “Old English” gradually begins here) and character development is important and memorable.
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