The House of Eddas: Valkyries, Fricka and More in Journey Into Mystery #91-92

Journeymyst91Welcome back to the series where I lark about comparing Marvel’s Thor comics to Norse mythology. I’ve got a little more to get my teeth into this time around, as the next to issues introduce a few more denizens of Asgard to the comic mythos…

Joe Sinott becomes the latest artist to take on Thor’s adventures in the Journey into Mystery #91 story “Sandu, Master of the Supernatural!” This one is an oddly convoluted narrative for a Silver Age comic, with a two-panel prologue that exists solely to set up a Chekhov’s gun (well, a Chekhov’s belt, but we’ll come to that later) followed by a second prologue which turns out to be occurring in medias res.

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But the plot underneath all this is straightforward stuff: Loki, still trapped in Asgard, looks down on Earth and notices a promising accomplice in the carnival psychic Sandu. After Loki boosts his preternatural powers, Sandu graduates from reading minds to levitating buildings.

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The House of Eddas: Journey Into Mystery #89-90

JourneyMystery89As I continue my series looking at how Marvel’s Thor comics stack up against Norse mythology, I’m going to have to face the elephant in the room: at this point in their existence, these comics have very little to do with Norse mythology. Our hero’s bumped into a number of bad guys, but so far, only one has been mythological in origin.

Let’s take a look at how Thor’s gallery of rogues has been shaping up so far. Up until this point, we’ve seen five villains, or villainous groups: Loki, the only recurring antagonist and the only one drawn from mythology; the sci-fi villains, represented by the Stone Men of Saturn and the time-travelling inventor Zarrko; and the Red Menace embodied by the Executioner and various generic Soviets. Now it’s time to meet two more additions to the league of evil dudes — and again, if you showed them to Snorri Sturluson, he’d be scratching his head.

First we have Journey Into Mystery #89 with “The Thunder God and the Thug!” After another adventure, Thor heads back to his medical practice – but is spotted by some patients. To distract them while he changes back to his secret identity, he rigs up a manikin to look like himself and chucks it out a window. (Thor’s been getting quite a bit of mileage out of dummies lately, having used one to foil Loki the previous month).

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The House of Eddas: Loki’s Back in Journey Into Mystery #88

journeymist88It’s that time again: to delve back into the age of Ymir (that is, the early 1960s) and see what Marvel’s Thor was up to!

Four-colour Thor first went up against Loki back in Journey Into Mystery #85, and every reader at the time must have known that the character would have been too good to use as a one-shot villain. And so, three months later, the two mythic figures had a rematch in “The Vengeance of Loki!”

The issue’s cover depicts Odin alongside the hero and villain: “Heed my words, Thor”, he says; “Though both of you are my sons, you must defeat the evil Loki… for the sake of mankind!” Oddly, despite this promise of a family feud, the issue itself makes only a single brief mention of Loki being a relative of Odin an Thor, when he refers to Odin as his father in the third panel.

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The House of Eddas: Thor the Cold Warrior in Journey Into Mystery #86 and #87

We’ve seen first three adventures for Marvel’s Thor; now it’s time for the next two storiea of 1962: “On the Trail of the Tomorrow Man!” and “Prisoner of the Reds!” As it happens, both of these use the Cold War arms race as a plot element…

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The House of Eddas: Loki Debuts with Journey Into Mystery #85

Journey_into_Mystery_Vol_1_85The first and second Mighty Thor stories were essentially generic superhero yarns starring a character who happened to be loosely patterned after the Norse thunder god. With Journey into Mystery #85, meanwhile, the series started making a stronger effort to engage with mythology. The title of this issue’s story says it all: “Trapped by Loki, the God of Mischief!”

What do the myths have to say about Loki? Well, the Prose Edda introduces Loki as “fair and beautiful of face, but evil in disposition, and very fickle-minded” before providing several narratives in which he plays a significant part. Across these, Loki emerges as a strikingly ambiguous figure. The first of these stories (second, if we count an earlier narrative that discusses Loki in relation to his family tree) casts him not as a villain as such, but as a member of the Aesir who gives the others bad advice which nearly results in the sun, moon and goddess Freya falling into the hands of the giants. Whether he does so as an honest mistake or in for the purposes of mischief is unclear. In the next narrative he is not a troublemaker at all, and simply Thor’s companion in Utgard; although intriguingly, the story includes a separate character named Utgard-Loki who does serve as a trickster.

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The House of Eddas: Journey Into Mystery #84

Journey_into_Mystery_Vol_1_84Time to delve once more into the earliest adventures of Marvel’s Thor! Having looked at the character’s alien-thrashing debut in Journey into Mystery #83, let’s take a peek at his follow-up adventure…

The second Thor story, “The Mighty Thor vs. the Executioner”, starts by introducing a favourite ingredient of the superhero formula: the love interest. Don Blake is given a nurse named Jane (her surname is not yet established) and we are told that the two love each other. However, neither can bring themselves to admit this. Don is afraid that she will reject him (“a girl so lovely would never marry a—a lame man!”) while Jane believes that Don is simply not the loving type (“he’s too darn stuffy to ever be a romantic!”)

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The House of Eddas: Journey Into Mystery #83

JourneyMystery83As a bit of a lark I’ve decided to do a series with a running comparison between Marvel’s Thor comics and the Norse mythology that inspired them, starting with the character’s first appearance in Journey Into Mystery #83 (1962).

Not that the story in this debut issue, “The Stone Men of Saturn” has much to do with mythology. It takes perhaps the most readily-recognisable image from the Eddas – that is, a hammer-wielding thunder god – and repackages him for what is otherwise a routine superhero story. It’s easy to imagine “The Stone Men of Saturn” rewritten as a first outing for Iron Man or Hulk, for example.

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