Journey into Mystery, Part II

As THOR first appeared in Marvel Comics in the 1960s, it didn’t take long for creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby to settle in on Thor’s evil half-brother Loki, the God of Mischief, as the series’ main antagonist.

The central conflict of the series involved Thor and his half-brother Loki, the God of Mischief.


Loki, always bitterly jealous of Thor and longing for Odin’s throne, would unleash evil scheme after evil scheme in efforts to either destroy Thor or discredit him in the eyes of Odin the All-Father. Some of Loki’s plots have resulted in the creation of new foes for Thor to deal with. Let’s take a look at a couple:

In JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #114, convicted felon Carl “Crusher” Creel is slipped an enchanted mickey by Loki. The potion grants Creel the power to absorb the physical properties of anything he comes into contact with. Grasping the steel ball and chain which was locked to his ankle, Creel takes on the form of solid steel, and promptly busts out of prison, taking off on a rampage of destruction that quickly gets the attention of Thor.

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After a classic Kirby battle, Thor decides to outwit the newly dubbed “Absorbing Man,” (not too difficult from the looks of it,) by using his control of the elements to surround Creel with helium gas, which he involuntarily absorbs, becoming a gaseous entity which helplessly drifts away. A popular villain, mostly on the strength of his visually striking powers (not to mention one of the oddest-shaped heads in all of comics), Creel would return again and again to duke it out with Thor.

Another of Loki’s schemes gone awry took place in THOR #148 (the magazine’s title having changed from JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY along the way). The most recent of Loki’s transgressions against Asgard had resulted in his sorcerous powers being removed by Odin. Loki, in hiding on Earth, was laying low in a dingy New York hotel room attempting to contact a former ally of his, Karnilla the Norn Queen, in the hopes that Karnilla would grant him new power. While he’s in the midst of what passes for a transdimensional phone call, who should drop in looking for someone to rob but Dirk Garthwaite, a.k.a. “The Wrecker,” a former construction worker turned costumed criminal in the midst of a citywide crime spree. So the Wrecker knocks out Loki, and decides to try on his wacky horned helmet just as Karnilla arrives, looking to juice up her old buddy Loki. Apparently not paying too much attention, Karnilla grants the Wrecker the power intended for Loki (Hey, only one guy in the room with horns on the hat, right? Gotta be him…).


The Wrecker now had unimaginable physical strength and toughness and his trademark crowbar had become virtually indestructible. The Wrecker would also continually return to bedevil Thor, and later would inadvertently split his power with three other inmates in a prison break (that’s what happens when other people are touching your crowbar during an electrical storm; personally, I never let inmates touch my crowbar, but that’s just me…) and form the Wrecking Crew: The Wrecker, Piledriver, Bulldozer and Thunderball.

Other than the Lee/ Kirby Thor issues, the most acclaimed run on THOR is the mid-1980s issues by writer/artist Walt Simonson. Lasting for 30 issues, Simonson brought a new vitality to the series it hadn’t seen in years, and his classic, illustrative art style returned THOR to a scope and grandeur it had been missing since the days of Jack Kirby. As for the writing, Simonson brought two aspects to the series that were sorely needed: a return to the strong emphasis on Norse mythology, and a genuine sense that anything could happen. One need only look to Walt Simonson’s first issue, THOR #337, to see that philosophy in action.


Sent by SHIELD agent Nick Fury to investigate a mysterious space vessel nearing Earth, Thor engages in combat with a mysterious orange alien, and in the process is separated from his hammer. Thor changed back into Don Blake, and the hammer Mjolnir transformed back into a cane. That is, until the alien picks it up and whacks it against a wall, and in a flash is transformed into an alien version of Thor. Remember the inscription? “Whosoever holds the hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.” Well, all of a sudden, Thor wasn’t the only worthy fellow around, and suddenly there was a new Thor in town: Beta Ray Bill.


In succeeding issues, it was revealed that Beta Ray Bill was the sole protector of his race, who had lost their homeworld and were in suspended animation aboard a fleet of starships while Bill, a bioengineered superbeing, stayed awake to protect the fleet. Bill was determined to keep Thor’s hammer to use to protect his people. And when Thor and Bill met in formal combat once more, by Odin’s decree, Bill once more triumphed, although he refused to kill Thor.


The hammer was his, although he felt guilty for keeping the weapon Thor was meant to carry. Odin solved the problem by commissioning the dwarves who forged Mjolnir to make a new hammer for Bill, which Odin named Storm Breaker.


Thor had his hammer back, Beta Ray Bill could retain his newfound power, and all was well. That is, until Bill started putting the moves on Thor’s babe Sif. But that’s another story…

Another example of Simonson at his innovative prime came in THOR #364, when Loki managed to transform Thor into a frog.


After a sweet little adventure in Central Park in which Thor rallied the frogs against the invading rats, Thor-turned-frog returned to the site of Loki’s attack, where the hammer Mjolnir still lay.


After a mighty struggle, Thor finally succeeded in lifting the hammer with his froggy frame, and with a flash of lightning, there stood a fighting mad six-foot-six frog in Thor’s costume, and soon the green slimy god of thunder was off to Asgard to track down his scheming half-brother.


When do we get to see this in the movies?

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