Friday, May 6, 2011
On May 6th, 2011 the feature film, Thor, from Marvel Studios and Paramount Pictures, will be released. In honor of the new live-action, feature length film, I'll be doing this list of my top ten favorite comics on the God of Thunder himself, The Mighty Thor ! If you haven't already, to learn more about Thor in my videos, check out Part 20 of the History of Comics on Film, featuring animated television series,The Marvel Super-Heroes!
10. Thor #391
"The Madness of Mongoose"
A piece by Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz that is mainly on the list due to sentimental reasons. This was the first Thor comic I ever bought, mainly because Spider-Man was the guest-star of the issue. I usually have Spider-Man to thank for introducing me to the greater Marvel Universe, and this comic is no exception.
While this starts out as a typical team-up between Spidey and Thor against the villian called Mongoose, several notable events take place.
When Mongoose tries to flee the battleground, he destabilizes the structure of an enormous building in mid-construction. Thor finds himself holding the entire complex aloft until Spider-Man can create some makeshift support with iron beams and webbing. It's quite the impressive feat, to be sure.
Also this marks the introduction of Eric Masterson to the Thor comics. I would feel remiss if I didn't mention that it was Masterson's more modern speech that got me to buy Thor on a regular basis. I didn't come to have a great love for Shakespeare until my years at Loyola Marymount University. So when I was younger, I found the faux Shakespearean speech to be a bit of a turn off. When Eric Masterson ended up filling in for Thor, the traditional speech pattern was dropped for a current day vernacular.
9. Incredible Hulk Annual 2001
"The Hammer Strikes!"
My good friend, Michael Vargas, is the person who got me interested in and exposed me to the Message Board culture of the interwebz. One of the very first message boards he and I frequented long ago was the now defunct Wizard World Forums. Specifically the Super Hero Showdown board. It was quite common for me to get into endless debates over why the Marvel and DC heroes would triumph over the characters from the anime Dragon Ball Z or to detail the many ways the strongest to the weakest of characters would slay Wolverine.
What does this have to do with the 2001 Incredible Hulk Annual, you might ask?
My submission to you is that "The Hammer Strikes!", written by Erik Larsen and penciled in Kirby-esque styling by Jorge Lucas, is a living, breathing personification of a Hulk versus Thor message board thread.
Virtually every possible aspect of the match is engaged from Thor's control over space-time as well as the Hulk's propensity to gain increases in strength that correspond to a rise in anger. Each character is given equal screen time and weight in terms of how the fight progresses. The stand-alone nature of the annual does not confine the scope or length of the fight to fit within any particular ongoing story arc.
If you enjoy Thor or the Hulk, and you've ever participated in a versus debate on a message board forum over which one of your favorite characters would win in a fight,you'll like this comic. It's a fun, even-handed look at a slug-fest between two powerful forces of nature.
8. Thor v2 #10-12
"The Dark Wars"
Asgard is in ruins and The Dark Gods have enslaved the All-Father Odin.
Only Thor, aided by his new found mortal guise of EMT Jake Olsen, have any hope of defeating this terrible threat and returning Asgard to her former glory.
If you've ever heard me talk about what I like to call "Round 2 Power" (or if it's manga or anime, Round-O Twooo Pooowaaah!!!!), this story by Dan Jurgens is the picture text-book definition of the terminology.
As illustrated by John Romita, Jr.,the first round of the fight between Thor and the Dark God, Perrikus, is epic in nature. The shock and awe felt when the mighty, unstoppable, hammer Mjolnir is shattered like nothing more than a broken beer mug is like a sucker-punch to the gut.
Thor is then forced back into the form, of his then current mortal guise, Jake Olsen. He even discovers to his horror that his friends and compatriots,The Warriors Three , have been forced to work in a filth-ridden Gulag. Even the once Voluminous Volstagg looks more like Sam Elliot than Burl Ives.
The only hope against The Dark Gods is for Thor to be reunited with his hammer. Jake is granted a second shot to save the day with the aid of both Hercules,a fellow Avenger and ally to the God of Thunder, as well the The Destroyer Armor, a steadfast foe of our mighty hero.
Of course, by the rematch (or Round-O Twooo!) of the fight, Thor magically heals up his Hammer, with a less than satisfactory explanation (typical of gaining a second wind in the Round 2 scenario), and proceeds to kick the snot out of Perrikus.
All-in-all a entertaining romp filled to the brim with action and excitement.
7. Thor v3 #7-8
This two-issue tale that features Thor as the current heir to the OdinForce of Asgard is the highlight of JMS's run on Thor for me. Thor has recently expended the full might of his father's gift to return all the citizens of Asgard who were trapped in mortal form to their true selves.
In the past when Odin was weary, to replenish himself and his powerful energies he would engage in what was called the OdinSleep. Said to be a halfway point between life and death, it is now Thor's turn to restore his own waning powers.
Here in the OdinSleep he encounters his fallen father, who now battles endlessly against the Fire-God Surtur. For a character whose entire crux seems to be Father-Son issues, this book does a great job laying those issues to rest. The son and father make peace with one another as Thor gets to join Odin in the fight against Surtur for one special day. If you enjoy stories that deal with father-son relationships as I do, you won't be disappointed by this heartfelt tale.
6. Thor - Godstorm #1-3
This 3 issue mini-series by writer Kurt Busiek and artist Steve Rude features a nice look at Thor through the generations. Each issue features a glimpse of Thor through the eyes of two Viking boys named Wilf and Uller, who are reminiscent of a young Thor and Loki.
An elder Viking uses the Runesticks and Talestone to tell the boys the tale of Thor's fight with the rebellious personification of the weather called the Godstorm.
The first issue features Thor aiding Viking sailors in the days before he came to reside in Midgard permanently. Loki tricks the Godstorm into believing that Thor takes its power for granted, because his hammer Mjolnir gives him command over the weather. This brings the Godstorm into violent conflict with Thor.
The second issue pays homage to the Lee-Kirby runs of both Thor and the Avengers. The Godstorm possesses the Avenger's villain Weather-Maker and propels him from a laughable Paste-Pot-Pete level foe, into a dangerous force to be reckoned with. There are some great lines from the Viking children about Thor also having the mortal form of Doctor Donald Blake.
The final issue features the final confrontation between Thor and the Godstorm in present day. The Viking children again serve wonderfully as a storytelling tool to inform the reader of Thor's then-current human form, EMT Technician Jake Olsen.
5. Thor v1 #363
"This Kurse'd Earth!'
I guess because I'm a big Superman-fan I've always liked these brutishly powerful foes, like Doomsday, that super-heroes are always called upon to face. The character of Kurse, created by writer/artist Walt Simonson, although created long before Doomsday, is one such villain for The Mighty Thor.
The Dark Elf called Algrim The Strong has been empowered by the omnipotent disco-looking Beyonder with power beyond imagining. Kurse has already defeated Beta Ray Bill, who at one point stood in for the God of Thunder with his hammer StormBreaker. Even the kid super-team Power Pack, who thought they had defeated him when a building collapsed upon him in battle were mistaken. Now Kurse comes to face Thor himself to put a cap on the Beyonder's little experiment regarding the emotion of rage.
A very cool fight which takes the combined might of both Thor, Beta Ray Bill and the kids from Power Pack to deliver a Kamehameha-esque final blow to stop Kurse from wrecking all of New York City.
4. Thor v1 #126-#130
This five issue story arc from the original Thor comic by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby is a lot of fun. In the first part titled, "Whom the Gods Would Destroy!", It's fairly amusing that Thor and Hercules fight over the affections of Jane Foster. C'Mon, God Bros before Midgard Ho's, guys!
If not for Odin being all pissy about Thor telling Jane who he really was, Thor may have had a fair fight with the Prince of Power. However, in the middle of the contest, Odin removes half of Thor's powers as a form of punishment.
Thor winds up being summarily defeated by Hercules and then Jane finally comes to her senses and decides Thor is the only God for her.
By the second chapter called "The Hammer and the Holocaust!", the weakened and defeated Thor returns to Asgard where he finds his father's aide Seidring has duped Odin into providing him with the powers of the Odin Force. Thor doesn't put up with that kinda crap and threatens to destroy all the nine realms if Seidring's shady ass doesn't return the Odin Force back to his father.
Next, in "The Power of Pluto!", Thor recovers from his injuries after his victorious battle against Seidring. Meanwhile, the Greek God of the underworld, Pluto, has duped Hercules into signing an Olympian Contract that would bind Hercules to the lower realm in his place. Even Hippolyta of the Amazons gets in on the revenge bandwagon.
By the 4th chapter, "The Verdict of Zeus!",Thor has returned to Migard, where to escape the onslaught of curious bystanders and pushy onlookers, the God of Thunder travels New York City by Cab.
The Cabbie reminds me a good deal of Jack "The King" Kirby, with his war record and down to earth treatment of the Son of Asgard.
At the same time, Hercules has already been abandoned by his fellow Gods such as the God of War, Ares, who refuses to take arms up for his struggle.
Even Zeus himself cannot alter the contract Pluto tricked Hercules into signing.
In an ironic turn of events, the only person willing to come to the aid of Hercules, is the man whom he bested in battle. The Mighty Thor agrees to fight Pluto's minions in Hades on behalf of Hercules.
The fifth and final chapter,"Thunder In the Netherworld!", is truly awe-inspiring. To watch Thor throw himself into combat on behalf of his rival with such abandon, speaks volumes of his integrity, and displays just how far the character has grown.
If anything is proof that Thor has learned the concept of humility, fighting on behalf of Hercules to save him from getting dragged down into Pluto's Underworld is surely a key piece of evidence. Thor's attacks are so damaging and unstoppable that Pluto is forced to concede the contract and his very hold over Hercules.
Thus, The Prince of Power and the God of Thunder's relationship goes from hated rivals to new found friends. While it is indeed difficult to single out one of the many great stories from the Lee-Kirby run, this remains quite the entertaining and fulfilling journey to take with The Mighty Thor.
3. Thor #493
"World Engine Part 3"
I seem to have a proclivity to be drawn to the totally wrong kind of woman. In comics they are usually coined as Bad Girls. Even when dealing with fiction as opposed to the real world, this nature of mine also seems to extend to any parings made between heroic protagonists and their very own bad girls as well.
If you've read my Superman blog, you'll know I have a soft spot for the Almeracian Princess Maxima. I'm also a fairly big fan of the marriage between the Earth-2 Batman and Catwoman as well.
Here in the third part of the Warren Ellis written "World Engine", that very same personal foible of mine repeats itself. Extending to the Mighty Thor and his femme fatal, Amora, otherwise known as The Enchantress.
Even though the artwork by Mike Deodado is some of his early work, it doesn't make me like it any less. Especially when his subject matter is as beautiful a vision as The Enchantress. You can't help but to admire her and take some devilish glee in the union of these two characters, however brief.
"The Gentleman's Name is Juggernaut!" and "The New Warriors!"
A tie-in to the Marvel Event called Acts of Vengeance which featured Marvel Heroes being assaulted by super-villains who they had never faced in battle before. This stratagem was devised by the dastardly of the Marvel Universe in the hopes that when dealing with an unexpected foe, the hero would be taken by surprise and fall.
So while the X-Men were facing off against Iron Man villains, Thor would come to blows with the X-villain The Juggernaut in the two part story from Tom Defalco and Ron Frenz. Of course when Juggernaut's not too busy crying over the same WTC he wrecked in X-Force years earlier, he's throwing literal bus-loads of people at the Scion of Asgard.
Finally Thor has had "all he can stands, and he can't stands no more!"
At this point in the comic's run, Thor's civilian identity was that of Eric Masterson, who would later go on to become his own Super Hero spin-off, Thunderstrike.
Also this tale serves as a semi-prequel to the super-team the
New Warriors. While the story takes place after the team's first issue, these issues were the first on the newsstand, and thus the New Warriors first appearance. Luckily when Thor loses round one to the Juggernaut, the teen heroes are on the scene to help our hero out.
By Round 2 it's time to bust out the God-Force and send Juggernaut on his merry way to exile in a far-off distant dimension. Sort of the Thunder God version of wet cement, if you get my drift.
1. Thor #380
An all-splash-page-battle-issue, featuring a climatic clash between The Mighty Thor against Jormungund, the Midgard Serpent. This comic was one of the first of its kind, if I'm not mistaken, and one of the greatest!