Directed by Kenneth Branagh, Thor is the latest comic book to turn blockbuster, released in the UK last weekend. Here, comic expert and author of Masters of Comic Book Art (1978), Peter Garriock (alter ego Doc) recounts the origins of The Mighty Thor. Consider this an education…
Thor was one of the characters brained by American comic writer Stan Lee in the inexorable march of Marvel creations in 1961/62, which began with Fantastic Four, and was followed by the Hulk and Spiderman. The original story was written by Larry Leiber (Stan Lee’s brother), plotted by Stan Lee and drawn by Jack Kirby. It featured a feeble (almost tubercular) weakling who finds a wooden stave in a Norwegian setting and for some reason or other, pounds said stave on the ground and is transformed in a gigantic flash of lightning into the mythological god THOR! And the stave becomes Thor’s hammer. Almost immediately, other Norse gods were introduced, Odin Ruler of Asgard, Loki, Thor’s half brother and god of mischief and chief villain. Balder the Brave and Heimdall, Guardian of the Rainbow Bridge between earth and viking heaven.
Kirby’s artwork on Thor was astonishing – his best work appeared in this feature, as he drew characters who were all gods and goddesses with grandeur; there were huge battles and intricate armour. Fantastic Four had superb renditions of machinery and complicated laboratories and Thor was filled with other-worldly fantasy landscapes and figures a truly monumental scale. The writing by Stan Lee became a Marvel trademark – seen also in the Doctor Strange stories. Lee mangled biblical and medieval English by having characters talk with thee’s and thou’s and hath’s and hath not’s – “Thor says thee nay!”, and when Lee left the book in 1971 and Kirby in 1970, the book lost its monumentality (in all senses).
Keep your left eye peeled for the next insider instalment from Doc!