Thursday, October 17, 2013

Marvels: Journey Into Mystery #89

"The Thunder God and the Thug!" by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers
(February 1963)

This has to be Thor's most filler-y story yet. Even within the story there are pieces of filler, because the story is so slight that it can't stand without a few pages (and this whole thing is only 13 pages long) of additional material.

The main story is basically this: Mob boss Thug Thatcher is being led to prison for selling substandard steel, but his men rescue him, resulting in a gun battle in broad daylight. Thug is hit with a bullet right outside of Donald Blake's office, so Thug's men kidnap the doctor and take him for a ride to perform impromptu surgery on Thug. Then Don changes to Thor, chases Thug for a while, saves Jane Foster from him when he tries to use her as a hostage, and then chases him up a building that's being constructed. Thug threatens to knock a bucket of hot rivets on the crowd below unless Thor stops chasing him (because heaven forfend these NYC lookie-loos just get their asses out of the way). Thor agrees, but Thug is a victim of his own substandard steel when the building frame collapses. Thor catches him, and it's back to prison for Thug Thatcher.

So, besides how uninteresting the story would normally be for Thor tangling with commies or gangsters, there are a lot of weird, added asides. For example, the story opens with Thor returning from some great feat or other, but he can't go back into Blake's office because the crowd is watching. What's an Asgardian to do? Well, Thor heads into a closed dress shop, uses material lying around to dress the mannequin as Thor, and then throws it miles away so people will think Thor's flying off and won't suspect he and Donald Blake are the same person. There's also a retelling of Thor's origin (I guess technically of Donald Blake-as-Thor's origin, I'm still not a hundred percent sure how they share the body, really--they're the same person but not really... Captain Marvel is so much easier, there it's just magic powers). And then there's this bizarre aside:

Jane's domestic fantasies of Thor are kind of hilarious in an Archie Comics kind of way, but also sort of weirdly insulting. I mean, this is what Larry Lieber thinks a woman would fantasize about when it comes to Thor? Serving him and looking after him? I don't know, maybe I'm jaded by Tumblr, because over there when women talk about wanting to polish Thor's hammer they usually mean something completely different.

One of my biggest problems with a lot of these early Marvels is that where Stan Lee is at least trying to turn Sue Storm into a three-dimensional character in Fantastic Four and trying to find Betty Ross's character in The Incredible Hulk, Larry Lieber is over here writing Jane Foster as "The Girl" in the Thor stories, and doing it with basically a third-grader's understanding of how girls think. And to be fair to Larry, some of the writers that will be populating the bullpen soon aren't even going to go with that level of nuance!

I'm also a little uncomfortable with the ending, where Thor asks Odin to help him out by taking Thug's girl Ruby and completely wiping out all of her memories of Thug Thatcher. Because it's not her fault that Thug was a nogoodnik and now she'll be free to find someone else to love and all of that. That's not how a person achieves personal growth, Thor. I mean, I know you think you're doing something to help, but it's maybe not so good that you think a light magical brainwashing is something helpful for women. Just saying. I mean, I'm no feminist scholar, but I feel like there's an ethical issue here. Don't make me get into a whole privilege discussion over a not-that-great story.

Next time: the return of the Wizard could be cool.


Paradox Al said...

I enjoyed reading your posts on classic Marvel, but I came back here to thank you for doing that post on the Yotsuba&! manga cos it got me to check it out..and it's WONDERFUL!

I got it a few days ago, and I've read the first volume and I'm looking forward to the next. So, once again, thanks!

SamuraiFrog said...

Ah, that's great to hear. It's one of my favorite things in existence. Glad you liked it!