Welcome to Marvel Librarian. Having missed out on comics in my formative years, I’m reading Silver Age Marvel comics for the first time, and writing about their highs, lows, and general weirdness.
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that Thor was my favorite of the Avengers in the MCU. That’s true, but a big part of why I like the Thor material is because of this guy.
He’s funny, he’s charismatic, he’s always out for himself, you’re never quite sure where his loyalties lie, but he also probably has a secret heart if he could stop stabbing people in the back for five minutes.
We’re a long ways off from this
variant version of Loki, though. It starts here, when Lee and Kirby realized that maybe their Norse god superhero could fight another Norse god.
And look, classic Loki is a lot of fun, but I can’t get over that outfit. it looks like he’s wearing a golden chainmail bikini over a green jumpsuit.
I don’t think the spiky… brown… cowl? With a ponytail? I don’t think that really helps the overall effect.
I previously talked about my interest in mythology as a kid, and I really do appreciate we’re getting a mythology-inspired story this time instead of a generic “vs. communists” story that could run in any of these books.
The opening page is based off an actual myth. Loki is trapped in this tree until “[his] plight causes someone to shed a tear.” No one likes Loki, so he’s trapped there for a very long time. Finally, Heimdall, the guardian of the Bifrost walks by. Loki causes the tree to blow a leaf into his eye. Heimdall’s eye waters, technically causing him to shed a tear because of Loki, and Loki escapes.
Loki wants revenge on Thor, who imprisoned him in the tree. He has a convenient mental link to Mjolnir, something which doesn’t come up later when it could be very useful to him. Thor is entertaining kids in a children’s hospital, which seems potentially dangerous.
Loki arrives on Earth, assuming his own human disguise. I have to say, this is a better look for him than the chainmail-bikini-jumpsuit-thing.
Loki decides to get Thor’s attention by doing whatever the heck this is. I’m not sure what’s going on here but it’s a cool effect. Thor runs to the rescue, generating anti-matter particles by spinning his hammer quickly, in order to change them back. Thor, buddy, I’m pretty sure that would destroy the world but okay.
CRACK! Loki changes back to his normal outfit, but Thor doesn’t recognize him.
This is where Thor’s secret identity as Donald Blake starts to get real weird. Loki obviously has a long history with Thor. However, Thor doesn’t remember any of it and only knows Loki from legends. How does this work, exactly? Frankly, Lee and Kirby can’t decide, as there are upcoming issues where Thor does indeed act like he knows Loki from before.
Also, Jane Foster has the honor of being the first Loki fangirl ever. Tumblr would be proud.
I mostly chose this panel because of the little note at the bottom. Usually the narrator isn’t warning our heroes like this. I wonder if the art was slightly too small for the space, and they had to quickly add in that little box to make the layout work.
Loki goads Thor into following him on his magic carpet. Thor uses his hammer as a helicopter rotor. Loki… somehow… uses the flashing light off of Thor’s hammer to hypnotize him. This kind of thing happens a lot in these books. If I had to rate how contrived that is, on a scale of One to Stan Lee’s Understanding of Magnetism, I’d give it an eight.
Loki quite reasonably decides that he needs to separate Thor from his hammer. He first asks Thor to hand it over, but Thor can’t do it. He then gets Thor to throw his hammer away, but it just returns to him. Finally, he conjures up an illusion of Thor and gets Thor to hand the hammer to himself, which is reasonably clever.
The problem is that Thor turns back into Donald Blake if he’s ever separated from the hammer for more than a minute, which actually works to his advantage this time. Turning back into Donald breaks the spell, which, sure. He walks to where he dropped the hammer – now surrounded by curious people trying to pick it up – and changes back into Thor.
Loki tries to escape in an enormous flock of pigeons. I just love that.
Thor and Loki do battle across the city. Loki keeps throwing civilians in harm’s way to slow Thor down. In a subway station, he pushes people onto the tracks just as the train approaches. Instead of simply grabbing the people and taking them to safety, or stopping the train, Thor does this, which seems way more dangerous and disruptive than either of those other options.
Loki turns a winged horse from a gasoline station sign into an actual pegasus, then flies around smashing advertisements, which honestly sounds rad.
Thor knocks Loki into the water, where his powers are useless. This is just such a bizarre weakness that seems to have no basis in the mythological Loki. In fact, I looked it up, and it seems that this weakness was never used again, which is understandable.
The thing is, you don’t really need to give Loki some contrived weakness. His weakness is that he is not physically as strong as most of his superheroic foes, and has to rely on trickery and magic. That works perfectly fine.
Making water his weakness just makes me want to see him fight Namor. Can you imagine those two drama queens battling each other? I hope this happens.
Also, this is the first instance of Thor saving Loki’s life even though Loki was trying to destroy Thor moments earlier. Somehow, I feel it won’t be the last.
Thor ties Loki to his hammer and throws him to Asgard. This would be perfectly fine if Thor were simply the mythological god, but the fact that he didn’t seem to know Loki earlier makes this weird. If he doesn’t have Thor’s memories, how’d he know where Asgard is to throw Loki there? How does he know he can even throw his hammer all that way? Odin calls Thor his eldest son, which is fine, but where does Donald Blake fit into that?
Despite my questions, I have to say that this is overall a huge improvement over the first two Thor tales. As with Namor and Doctor Doom, you can see how a lot of their most beloved and successful villains are the ones that are completely over the top. Loki’s magic powers make for a fun and creative fight, and the touches of mythology are nice flavor.
I mean, if he’s faded into a different year, maybe he’s not really your problem any more?
Here we are, Earth three centuries from now, where war and weapons have been abolished. Our villain, Zarrko, has created a time machine, intending to go back in time, steal a great weapon of war, and bring it forward in time to conquer a civilization with no weapons of its own.
The weapon he chooses to steal is a nuclear bomb. Okay, yes, that’s one of our most powerful weapons but it’s also not exactly the sort of weapon that one guy can easily use. At the very least I think you’d need a bomber plane or something. This guy doesn’t even have any followers. What’s his plan, just run around with the bomb in his arms yelling that he’s the president of Earth now?
Back in the 60s, Thor is helping the US military test atomic weapons because hey, why not. I’m not really sure how having Thor stand next to the bomb will test a human’s reactions to it, given he’s clearly not human. For that matter, why do you even need to test a “human’s physiological reactions” to standing next to an exploding cobalt bomb? I’m pretty sure I can tell you what will happen.
Obviously, what really happened was the military guys thought it would be sweet to watch Thor survive a nuclear explosion and Thor was like “thou art correct, that would be sweet” and then they invented some excuse.
The cobalt bomb was a real weapon idea, although it seems like one was never actually built. The idea behind it was that it would spread long-lasting fallout more effectively than other atomic bombs, to render the land uninhabitable for a long time. If you’ve heard of it before, that’s probably because it is the type of bomb used in the doomsday device in Dr. Strangelove.
Zarrko arrives in his time machine, steals the bomb, and disappears again, leaving behind a scrap of metal. Some random military guy takes a look at the metal and immediately declares that it’s like nothing they can produce on Earth. I like the above guy’s reasoning for why it must have been a time traveler. Technically if time travel exists at any point in time, doesn’t it exist at all points in time?
Thor climbs to a mountaintop to summon Odin, who grants him the power to move in time. This is the first major appearance of Odin in these comics.
Thor ties the piece of metal to his hammer, spins around really fast, and travels to the year 2262.
I kind of like the future fashions here. A lot of pop culture of this time goes for really outlandish stuff that would be impractical to actually wear. These clothes are mostly just normal 60s clothes with slightly weird stylings. In fact, the woman’s jumpsuit is pretty nice. Of course she’s into Thor – Thor gets a lot of panels of women drooling over him that other superheroes don’t.
Anyway, Zarrko has actually succeeded in conquering the Earth, and the civilians beg for Thor to help them. Again, how exactly did he do this? It’s not like he could set off the bomb he was holding without killing himself too. Did he plant it somewhere and take everyone hostage? Did no one think to just jump him and take it from him when he was running around with it?
Thor runs from Zarrko’s guards. A mysterious figure in a black robe overturns a tree and stops some of them, allowing Thor to reach Zarrko. What’s Zarrko’s plan for defeating Thor?
This is the kind of plan you come up with when the brainstorming session on “how to kill Thor” has been going on for four hours and you really need to use the bathroom and you hate everyone else in the room.
Anyway, it turns out that this poor guy is just one of the civilians dressed as Thor. He agreed to be used as a decoy so that the real Thor – the black robed man from earlier – can surprise Zarrko.
But Zarrko has another trick up his sleeve, and – wait. Wait wait wait. I thought all weapons were abolished, so where did he get this “delta electron gun”? If he had this all along, why not use this to conquer Earth instead of his plan with the cobalt bomb? If this somehow doesn’t count as a weapon that was abolished, then do other people have them apart from Zarrko? If so, why not use them to stop Zarrko?
Anyway, I like that it’s a gun that sends you into another dimension instead of just killing you. That’s peak kid-friendly comic book logic.
Thor stops the gun by blowing it out of Zarrko’s hands with his mighty breath (really), and then this happens. Again, if this was an option, why didn’t he just do this? If he had used his guns and robot army to take over the Earth, not involving the past at all, then Thor would have never gotten involved and he’d never be defeated.
One of the robots grabs the hammer from Thor’s hand. So the robot is worthy? Or it’s exempt from the worthiness clause? Kind of takes the drama out of Vision being able to wield Mjolnir if some random future robot also can.
Thor has only sixty seconds to get the hammer back before he changes back into Donald Blake. The panels have an actual countdown of the seconds running across the top. All I can think of is the Sonic the Hedgehog drowning music.
What does Thor do with those sixty seconds? Does he beat up the robots? No, he rips up the floor to find a water pipe and floods the room, causing the robots to short circuit, because apparently technology three hundred years in the future isn’t waterproof.
Zarrko escapes into a spaceship with the bomb, which at least kind of explains how he was planning to potentially use it. Thor grabs it out of the sky when he goes to drop it.
Zarrko survives the crash, but has apparently lost his memory, something that no one questions.
Anyway, I think we’ve learned an important lesson about how easily dangerous weapons can fall into the hands of bad actors. Indeed, maybe no one should have access to such weapons at all.
Or I guess we’re just gonna hand it back to the military with zero reflection. That’s fine too.
Next time on Marvel Librarian! The Human Torch gets his own solo comic.