The House of Eddas: Loki and Sindri in Journey into Mystery #108

RCO001Marvel-Loki’s been the topic of discussion lately because of a series on a streaming service I don’t subscribe to, so now seems an appropriate time to take a trip back to the sixties and see another one of his four-colour battles against Thor. This time, I’ve dug up Journey into Mystery #108…

The main story “At the Mercy of Loki, Prince of Evil!” opens with bystanders panicking as Thor prepares to smash up a chunk of the city with his hammer, but he turns out to have legitimate reasons: the vibrations from his destruction lead to a traffic accident being averted. “I shall reimburse the city for the damage I’ve done by using the emergency fund which the Avengers keep for such a purpose”, he reassures the reader.

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The House of Eddas: the Death of Balder (Sort Of) in Journey Into Mystery #107

Thorgarg0This month’s main story is “When the Grey Gargoyle Strikes!” After some more scenes of Don Blake/Thor pining over Jane, we get a new villain: French chemist Duval, who turned his hand to stone in a laboratory accident (“Ohh! I have carelessly spilled the potion on my hand!”) Not only is this appendage permanently made of rock, but anything it touches – except, conveniently, Duval’s glove – is similarly turned to stone for half an hour. With this trick up his sleeve, Duval is able to both petrify his victims and transform himself into a stony-skinned supervillain, with the ultimate aim of stealing Thor’s hammer and obtaining immortality – this is, I believe, the first time the comic has established that the weapon gives the user longevity.

The Grey Gargoyle is the first street-level villain introduced by the comic since Mr. Hyde back in issue #99; between the two, every opponent faced by Thor has either been an Asgardian antagonist or someone recycled from an earlier issue. And once again, we see the at Lee and Kirby still viewed Thor as, ultimately, a conventional superhero who went up against conventional supervillains: a gargoyle-themed evildoer who turns people to stone could easily have been cast as a denizen of Utgard or an offspring of Loki, but instead he’s given a mad scientist origin.

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The House of Eddas: Meet Balder in Journey Into Mystery #106

Thor106“The Thunder God Strikes Back!” concludes the story that began in the previous issue, with Mr. Hyde and the Serpent teaming up against Thor. Exploiting a loophole in the only-a-worthy-person-can-lift-the-hammer rule, the two antagonists use a mechanical crane to grab Mjolnir. Thor is eventually able to get it back and send the villains packing, but due to a misunderstanding he ends up with Jane Foster angry at his mortal alter-ego, Don Blake.

So, another conventional superhero yarn, then. Perhaps the most significant thing about this story is the time it takes raising the profile of Mr. Hyde in Thor’s rogues gallery. The Serpent is dealt with some time before the climax, leaving Hyde to take centre stage as Thor’s most evil enemy: “Of the many foes I have battled – even including the crafty Loki – you are the most completely evil – the most thoroughly wicked of all!!”

Clearly, while Marvel was introducing an ever-larger number of mythological figures into the Thor mythos, these took no precedence over the comic’s superheroic aspects: hence, the frankly generic villain Mr. Hyde being bigged up at the expense of Loki.

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The House of Eddas: Brimer, Nedra and a Vanna in Journey Into Mystery #105

Time for another look at the often fraught relationship between Marvel’s Thor comics and Norse mythology…

The issue opens with a story about Thor in his more conventionally superheroic incarnation. “The Cobrta and Mr. Hyde!” open with the god of thunder hanging out alongside his fellow Avengers (who are bored because there’s nothing to do) before setting off on his own.

He runs into his previously-established, non-mythological foes the Cobra and Mr. Hyde who have been tailing him with the aid of Hyde’s latest invention: a “time reversal ray” that projects images of the target’s history. Using it, they find that Thor entered the office of Dr. Blake – but they don’t see enough to realise that the two are the same person.

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The House of Eddas: Giants Walk the Earth in Journey Into Mystery #104

Screenshot_2020-11-06-16-19-08-1There are a couple of things to note about this issue. First off,  Thor’s name now dominates the cover: although Journey Into Mystery wouldn’t be officially retitled The Mighty Thor until later, the change is clearly being prepared for. Secondly, there’s been a bit of a development in how the comic engages with mythology.

At this point the “Tales of Asgard” stories have introduced a number of Norse mythological characters into the Marvel canon, but so far none of them had turned up in the main features. For all intents and purposes Marvel had publishing two separate Thor universes: one in which Thor lives on modern-day Earth and battles various costumed supervillains (with occasional appearances from Loki, Odin and Heimdall and maybe the odd Asgardian extra) and one taking place in a more recognisably mythological setting, featuring the likes of Surtur, Balder, Hela, Sif, Mirmir, the Norns and Ymir.

But that changes, if only in a small way, with Journey Into Mystery #104: for the first time, mythological figures introduced in the back-up feature are folded into Thor’s superheroic adventures.

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The House of Eddas: Thor Helps to Create Humanity in Journey Into Mystery #103

Journey_into_Mystery_Vol_1_103While Journey Into Mystery’s back-up stories had introduced more mythological figures to play with, the main stories were, at this point, still using a very limited cast of Asgardians: Thor, Odin and Loki, plus some extras (if you’re feeling generous you could maybe count Heimdall as a significant character, although his main role was simply to fail at preventing Loki’s escape from prison).

That changed with issue #103, which introduces two more Asgardians into the Marvel Universe. Which ones, you might ask? Well… let’s just say you won’t be recognising them from anything Snorri wrote.

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The House of Eddas: Sif and Hela in Journey Into Mystery #102

Journey_into_Mystery_Vol_1_102Welcome back to another look at how Marvel Comics processed Norse mythology to create its Thor comics. In this issue, the main story is “Slave of Zarrko, the Tomorrow Man”, which concludes the storyline beginning in the previous instalment.

There’s not much to do with mythology here, although Loki gets a small part in which he refers to Thor as “the stepbrother whom I despise”. I believe that this is the first time the comics have acknowledged Loki’s complex family background: in mythology he’s not a biological son of Odin but rather the son of the giant Farbauti (his mother is named either Laufey or Nal, depending on the text). The main plot is not concerned with genealogy, however, but with the newly-enslaved Thor being taken in to the twenty-third century by the evil genius Zarrko, who forces him to sow discord by smashing the city’s central control mechanism.

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House of Eddas: Thor vs the Forces of Evil in Journey Into Mystery #101

Welcome back to another post in the series that looks at old Thor comics from Marvel and sees how they stack up against the Norse myths that inspired them…

Journey Into Mystery issue 101 starts off with Thor in a bad mood, stomping through town as bystanders look on in awe (“Did you see that? His foot clipped a piece out of that lamppost as he passed by!”). After he expresses a complete lack of interest in the “puny, petty lives” of mortals, he smashes the front off some guy’s truck and cold-shoulders his fellow Avengers when they try to intervene.

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The source of his ire? He’s still smarting about the end of the previous issue, when Odin doubled-down on forbidding his relationship with Jane Foster. Meanwhile, Odin and Loki watch from Asgard. “You have ordered him to forget her.. but still he broods! Is this not rank disobedience?” says the trickster. “Yes, Loki”, replies Odin. “It is! And by thunder, it shall be punished!” And so Odin halves Thor’s powers until he stops troubling himself with thoughts of Jane.

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House of Eddas: Thor vs. Storm Giants in Journey Into Mystery #100

JourneyMystery100Time for another jaunt back into Norse mythology, as reimagined by 1960s Marvel comics…

Journey Into Mystery #100 opens with “The Master Plan of Mr. Hyde!” which concludes the storyline from last month. At the start of the tale Thor is a wanted man thanks to Mr. Hyde impersonating him while robbing a bank (how Hyde pulled off such a convincing transformation is never explained: was he wearing a latex mask and fake muscles, or does he have an additional shapeshifting form?). Trying to forget his troubles, Thor returns to his mortal guise as Don Blake and enjoys dinner with Jane Foster – until Mr. Hyde kidnaps the pair of them.

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The House of Eddas: Fiery Surtur and Mr. Hyde in Journey Into Mystery #99

JourneyMystery99Time to cross the rainbow bridge (how very appropriate for Pride month) and return to the world of Norse mythology. Or, rather, the world of Norse mythology as filtered through the inky pages of Marvel comics. This time, let’s peek at the ninety-ninth issue of Journey Into Mystery and find out what mystery Thor’s journeyed into…

The main story this month is “The Mighty Thor Battles the Mysterious Mister Hyde!” The comic introduces its latest villain in Calvin Zabo, a crook who applies for a job with Dr. Don Blake (“I have heard of him! He is the famous lame doctor!”) in the hopes of robbing him, only to be turned down as the good doctor has heard about Calvin’s track record.

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