Sunday

OMU: Thor -- Year One

Stan Lee & Jack Kirby’s first attempt at doing a straightforward superhero series resulted in “The Mighty Thor,” which found a home in the anthology title Journey Into Mystery, which eventually took on the name of its lead feature. It hit the stands the same day that Spider-Man and Ant-Man debuted in other titles, but whereas Spider-Man was creepy and neurotic and Ant-Man was teeny-tiny, Thor was a paragon of perfection—supremely powerful, supremely confident, and with a magical hammer that, especially in the early days, could do just about anything the plot required. His only true weakness was that, should the hammer be out of his grasp for more than a minute, he would change into a scrawny egghead with a limp. Though the series seemed to struggle in its early days, with both writing and drawing duties being passed to less dynamic talents, “The Mighty Thor” eventually developed its own distinctive style once Stan & Jack gave it their full attention. With Lee’s famous faux-Shakespearean dialogue and Kirby’s outlandish designs and pumped-up action scenes, it was a comic book like no other, and a Marvel mainstay for decades.

Note: The following timeline depicts the Original Marvel Universe (anchored to November 1961 as the first appearance of the Fantastic Four and proceeding forward from there. See previous posts for a detailed explanation of my rationale.) Some information presented on the timeline is speculative and some is based on historical accounts. See the Notes section at the end for clarifications.


I sing of... The True History of the Mighty Thor!


August 1949 – Odin, the immensely powerful ruler of the gods of Asgard, realizes that his son, the thunder god Thor, is almost completely lacking in humility, and is in danger of losing whatever ability he has to empathize with mortal beings. Only a few years earlier, Thor had been drawn to Midgard (Earth) and duped into fighting for the cause of the murderous Nazi regime in Germany, until the group of costumed freedom fighters known as the Invaders showed him the error of his ways. More recently, Thor had violated a treaty between the Asgardians and the Storm Giants of Jotunheim by tracking a monster into their realm and then fighting with the giants who tried to evict him. Therefore, Odin decrees that Thor will have to spend a period of time living on Midgard in the guise of a mortal. After much consideration, Odin decides to pattern Thor’s mortal guise on a young American medical student named Keith Kincaid, using his vast powers to create a virtual duplicate of Kincaid’s body, subtly altering it to preserve Kincaid’s individuality. Furthermore, Odin gives this new form a bum leg to teach his son a valuable lesson. His preparations complete, Odin takes possession of Thor’s mystical weapon, the hammer Mjolnir, strips his son of his memory and infuses his mind and spirit into the human form. Thus is created Donald Blake, who suddenly materializes on the campus of the Empire State University School of Medicine in Manhattan. A simple set of false memories impels Blake to enroll in the school and settle into the life of a promising young medical student.

June 1953 – After diligently devoting himself to his studies, Don Blake graduates from medical school with top honors. He secures an internship at Bellevue Hospital, where his keen instincts and sincere desire to aid humanity make him popular with patients and staff alike. His level of surgical skill quickly surpasses that of his peers.

Summer 1954 – At the urging of his mentors, Blake enters a six-year residency program in neurosurgery, where he soon proves his aptitude, developing an excellent reputation that would be the envy of more experienced surgeons.

Summer 1960 – His residency completed, Blake nevertheless signs up for a one-year fellowship to put the finishing touches on his medical education.

September 1961 – Donald Blake, MD opens a private practice in Manhattan and hires a pretty young nurse named Jane Foster. From their first meeting, both doctor and nurse feel strongly attracted to each other. However, Blake had made little time for romance during his years of medical training, and his frail form and awkward limp leave him feeling unworthy of a woman’s love. For her part, Nurse Foster pines for her handsome boss, seeing him as somewhat aloof and dedicated to the point of distraction. Still, she barely hides her affection, and even adopts a “mother hen” attitude towards Blake. Observing all this from Asgard, Odin is displeased for the first time in his son’s progress; for he knows that his son will find only anguish and heartbreak should he fall in love with a mortal, whose brief life will pass all too quickly.

Winter 1961–1962 – Both Blake and Jane follow with curiosity the newspaper reports of the quartet of super-powered adventurers known as the Fantastic Four as they make their debut and establish their headquarters in New York City. When the team prevents the Sub-Mariner from attacking the city, their reputation as heroes is assured.

April 1962 – Odin becomes concerned when he senses an invasion fleet of Kronans from the planet Ria speeding through space towards the earth after having observed the world from a secret base on one of Saturn’s moons. This is the third invasion attempt by extraterrestrials in recent months, following aborted missions by the Skrull and Tribbitite empires. Realizing that Midgard is in need of a champion, Odin devises a scheme to unleash his son’s might in the service of humanity without sacrificing the Blake persona. After diverting the Kronan scout ship to a remote area of Norway, Odin plants a suggestion in Blake’s mind that he travel to the Scandinavian country on an impromptu vacation. The next day, as Blake makes the transatlantic flight, Odin places Mjolnir, disguised as a gnarled walking stick, deep within the very cave in which Thor was born sixteen centuries earlier.

As a result of Odin’s machinations, the Kronan ship lands near a fishing village just as Blake arrives. Overhearing the hubbub in town as reports of strange sightings make the rounds, Blake’s curiosity gets the better of him and he decides to investigate. To his astonishment, Blake soon stumbles upon the strange stone-like beings. In a panic, he flees the scene, but the aliens spot him and his bad leg makes escaping nearly impossible. As a last resort, Blake limps into a cavern to hide. Finding himself trapped, he collapses against the wall of the cave to await his certain doom. However, the wall suddenly swings away, revealing a secret chamber behind it. There, Blake discovers the gnarled walking stick. A desperate inspiration leads him to try to use the stick as a lever to move the boulder that blocks his only escape route. His efforts are wasted, however, and in a rage of panic and frustration, he strikes the stick against the stone. In a blinding flash, Blake finds himself transformed into a supremely powerful being and the stick magically changed into a mighty hammer. Upon the side of the mallet he sees the following inscription: “Whosoever Holds This Hammer, If He Be Worthy, Shall Possess the Power of Thor.”

Still bereft of his memories, Thor cannot suspect he has finally assumed his true form once more. Easily moving the boulder with his bare hands, he exits the cave and begins to experiment with the hammer’s enchantments. He first discovers that, if the hammer is out of his grasp for more than a minute, he changes back into Don Blake. Then, the thunder god finds that if he hurls the hammer away, it will return to his hand. When thrown, the hammer proves to be an irresistible force. Furthermore, it allows him to summon the elements of the storm: lightning, wind, and rain or snow. Lastly, he learns that if he strikes the handle once upon the ground, he can control the transformation between his godly and mortal forms.

Then, seeing the descending fleet of spaceships easily defeat a squadron of NATO fighter jets, Thor leaps into action. By throwing his hammer and hanging onto its leathery thong, he finds he can fly through the air. Thus, he hurls himself into the thick of the disembarking invasion force. The aliens’ most powerful weapons prove useless in the face of Thor’s wrath, and the Kronans are quickly routed. Fearing the earth has armies of such warriors, the Kronans call off their invasion and flee the solar system. Not wishing to make a spectacle of himself until he understands the nature of his transformation, Thor changes back into Don Blake before he is spotted by the advancing NATO troops, who are baffled by the aliens’ sudden retreat. The military covers up the invasion attempt, and Blake soon returns to America, vowing to use his powers only in the cause of justice.

May 1962 – Shortly after his return, Blake learns from Jane that a revolution occurred in the South American country of San Diablo while he was away. The pro-communist forces are led by a ruthless killer called “The Executioner,” for his propensity to send his enemies to face a firing squad. Nevertheless, when the call goes out a week later for volunteer doctors to treat the ravaged country’s sick and dying, Blake immediately agrees to go, and Jane valiantly decides to accompany him. However, while en route, their ocean liner is attacked by four jet fighters, causing Blake to transform himself into Thor for the second time. The thunder god makes short work of the warplanes, but his battle is witnessed by all on board the ship. Blake preserves his secret identity by pretending to have fallen overboard, and returns to the ship to hear the passengers speculating about their savior, who, they say, wielded a mighty hammer like the mythical Norse god Thor.

After the ship docks in San Diablo, the doctors’ vehicles are ambushed by the Executioner’s snipers. Blake is able to summon a storm to drive them off without transforming himself. However, when several tanks roll into view, he becomes Thor again, darting from the trees to the amazement of the other medical men. Although Thor destroys the tanks, his attack is called off when the guerillas take Jane prisoner. He retreats and surreptitiously follows them back to the Executioner’s compound. He bravely enters as Don Blake and demands Jane’s release, but the communist warlord merely orders him before the firing squad. Rather than allow Jane to barter her sexual favors for his release, Blake challenges the Executioner to single combat. In the confusion, Blake is able to regain his walking stick and strike it against the bullet-riddled wall, the blinding flash dazzling all present and covering his transformation. Thor easily defeats the guerillas, who turn on the Executioner as he tries to desert his troops. He is gunned down without mercy before his own execution wall.

With the guerilla leader dead, the pro-democratic faction takes control of the little nation, and the medical expedition spends the next two weeks on their mission of mercy, before finally returning home. During that time, news of Thor and his incredible powers spreads around the world, with most people assuming that a new superhero has merely drawn inspiration from the Norse myths for his modus operandi.

June 1962 – Upon his return to New York, Thor goes public and is accepted by the adoring crowds, awed as they are by his physical strength and sheer masculine beauty. He even volunteers to do charity work, such as entertaining the patients at a children’s hospital. Shortly afterward, however, while dealing with a bizarre phenomenon on a city street, Thor encounters a sinister-looking man, whose clothing suddenly transforms into a strange green and gold garb. Despite Odin’s blocks on his memory, Thor instantly recognizes his adopted brother Loki, the god of mischief. In an attempt to make Thor do his bidding, Loki hypnotizes the thunder god, but in so doing, he causes Thor’s memories of Asgard to return; and after shaking off the effects of the hypnosis, Thor’s true personality begins to reassert itself over the false Blake persona. After a chase across the length and breadth of Manhattan, Thor finally catches Loki and uses the power of Mjolnir to forcibly return him to Asgard, where Odin, Balder, and the other gods are waiting.

Seeking the goodwill of the American government, Thor next volunteers to help the military test a number of experimental weapons. During one such test, a compact prototype cobalt bomb is stolen by a bald man who materializes out of nowhere in a small metal pod. As the pod then fades from sight, Thor hurls his hammer at it, managing only to knock a small fragment from its hull before it disappears. The scientists on hand deduce that it must have been a time machine, and so Thor flies to a nearby mountaintop to request the aid of his all-powerful father. Odin instructs Thor to strap the metal fragment to his uru hammer and then create a vortex which will carry him to the object’s point of origin. Sure enough, Thor finds himself thus transported to the year 2262, where he learns that the thief, known as Zarrko, used the threat of nuclear devastation to make himself a dictator over the peaceful society. Thor easily overcomes Zarrko’s defenses, seizes the cobalt bomb, and ends the tyrant’s brief reign. The thunder god then returns the bomb to 20th-century New Mexico and resumes the tests. By the time he returns to New York, the story has leaked to the newspapers.

Soon after, Blake learns of a series of suspicious defections of top research scientists to the Soviet Union and decides to investigate. He takes a jet to Washington, DC, where he meets with his old friend, Colonel Edward Harrison of U.S. Army Intelligence. Blake convinces Harrison to let him make himself a tempting target for the Communists, as he wants a chance to serve his country after his bad leg kept him out of the Korean War. Harrison approves the plan, so Blake sets up a phony research project, then announces to the press that he has developed a new virus to be used for germ warfare. Sure enough, Soviet agents kidnap him the very next day, by means of a trance-inducing gas. Many hours later, Blake awakens to find himself a prisoner behind the Iron Curtain. At the first opportunity, Blake transforms into Thor, frees the captured scientists, and reduces the prison to a pile of rubble. In order to preserve his secret identity, Thor then rejoins the scientists as Don Blake, and they make their way slowly to the coast, aided by the underground resistance. They are smuggled aboard a transatlantic freighter and eventually reach the United States and freedom.

July 1962 – Blake is working in his laboratory when he is suddenly confronted by Loki, who challenges him to a battle in Central Park. Thor takes up the challenge, but Loki tricks him by placing Jane in dire peril. When Thor leaps to rescue her, Loki is able to seal the uru hammer within a magical force field. Sixty seconds later, Thor reverts to his powerless human persona, and Loki goes on a rampage, wreaking havoc around the globe. The next day, Blake stages an elaborate ruse to trick Loki into dropping the force field. Blake immediately regains his hammer and is transformed back into his godly form. Realizing he is beaten, Loki tries to escape, but Thor catches him and forcibly returns him to Asgard.

One evening, a gun battle erupts between police and a gang of mobsters in the street outside Dr. Blake’s office. Jane’s presence prevents Blake from going into action as Thor, and worse, two armed gangsters burst into the office moments later and take them prisoner. After tying Jane to a chair, the criminals force Blake into their car. He is taken to an estate outside the city, where he finds the mob boss “Thug” Thatcher in bed with a bullet in his shoulder. After Blake digs out the slug and treats the wound, the ungrateful crimelord orders the doctor executed. With a little help from Odin, Blake gets the drop on the gunmen and transforms into Thor. The thunder god makes short work of his mortal foes, but Thatcher escapes in the confusion and, with his girlfriend Ruby in tow, he makes his way to Blake’s office to hold the helpless Jane hostage. Thor rescues Jane, but the slippery Thatcher escapes once again and heads to a nearby construction site. He attempts to hold Thor off with both bullets and a bucket of hot rivets, but Thor nevertheless apprehends him. Finally, as a boon to the lovesick Ruby, Thor entreats Odin to remove all memory of Thatcher from her mind, so that she might find happiness.

Soon after, Thor decides that the time has come to declare his love to Jane and reveal his dual identity in the process. However, at the fateful moment, Odin intervenes and expressly forbids his son to reveal his secret to any mortal. Though he feels frustrated, Thor obeys. Later, when the city is thrown into confusion by the sudden passage and enforcement of nonsensical laws, Blake is dumbfounded when Jane suddenly seems like a different person. He transforms himself into Thor and flies to confer with Mayor Robert F. Wagner, Jr., with whom he has established a friendly relationship. However, upon reaching City Hall, the mayor orders his guards to attack the thunder god. Thor deduces that he is dealing with impostors, and soon discovers an alien spaceship half-hidden in a wooded area outside the city. There, he learns that it is the spearhead for an invasion fleet from the planet Xarta. The Xartans prove to be shape-changers, but Thor defeats their greatest warriors. The invasion fleet is thus deterred, and the remaining Xartans are tricked into assuming the form of trees, which renders them essentially mindless.

August 1962 – As the summer continues, Thor is feeling very pleased with himself in light of his recent successes and his growing celebrity. Despite Odin’s injunction, he persists in entertaining romantic feelings for Jane Foster, and socializes with her more openly in his mortal guise. Attending a carnival together, Blake and Jane encounter a sideshow mentalist, who tells them Blake loves a woman with the initials J.F. Embarrassed, Blake shrugs it off, though Jane is delighted. Soon after, Thor begins investigating a series of inexplicable crimes, such as entire bank buildings and jewelry stores vanishing into thin air, the victims often stripped of their memories with no physical cause. He first suspects Loki is to blame, but Odin assures him that is not the case. Thor becomes frustrated when he fails to find any leads or clues and the bizarre crime wave continues. Finally, the perpetrator reveals himself, announcing to the helpless authorities that he is Sandu, Master of the Supernatural—in fact, the very carnival mentalist Blake and Jane had encountered earlier, his powers now expanded to the nth degree. Thor confronts Sandu and challenges him to single combat, but is almost immediately defeated when tons of steel girders materialize directly in his path and he is knocked unconscious. Thor revives moments later, finding himself lying in a muddy ditch, wrapped in a heavy chain, and buried beneath the floor of a building. Helpless and humiliated, Thor calls upon Odin for aid. His father offers him his enchanted belt of strength, and sends two ethereal valkyries to place it around Thor’s waist. Revitalized, Thor smashes out of his makeshift grave and confronts Sandu, who merely taunts the brash young god. Enraged, Thor hurls his hammer at Sandu, but the villain teleports out of harm’s way, then transports both Mjolnir and himself to another dimension. Unable to follow, Thor finds himself defeated again, and can only count the seconds until he reverts to his mortal form. However, at the last moment, Sandu reappears, having burned out his powers trying to overcome Mjolnir’s enchantments. Declaring the villain no longer a worthy foe, Thor allows Sandu to be taken into police custody. Humbled, Thor then returns the belt of strength to his father’s care.

Sometime later, Thor agrees to perform the stunts for a film about Vikings, since the proceeds will go to various charities, and he returns to Norway. During the shoot, however, his enchanted hammer mysteriously streaks away and disappears, leaving Thor to crash painfully to the ground. He quickly entreats Odin to aid him, and so his father transports him to Asgard. There, Odin charges Thor to search the length and breadth of the realm for Mjolnir—alone. Thor sets off, happy to be home again at last, and eager to explore. However, despite his absence of many years, he finds the place little changed. Eventually, he wanders into a forest, where the trees suddenly attack him. No sooner has he defeated this threat than the clouds overhead transform into fearsome dragons. Gouging a makeshift hammer out of the side of a cliff, the thunder god destroys the magical beasts. Suspecting that Loki is responsible for this latest adventure, Thor quickly discovers that his brother has, indeed, escaped the prison Odin made for him. The All-Father then takes his wayward son into custody again. Once back in Odin’s palace, Thor realizes he would prefer to return to his life on Midgard and its bizarre challenges, rather than remain in the familiar (and predictable) land of his youth. With a satisfied smile, Odin sends him on his way.

Near the end of the month, Blake volunteers for a Red Cross mission in India, where a limited border war has erupted with Communist China. When the mobile hospital base comes under attack, Blake changes into Thor and deals the Chinese army a humiliating defeat.

September 1962 – A week later, a green glowing man appears in midtown Manhattan and issues a challenge to Thor to meet him in battle. The police are helpless in the face of his fantastic powers, as the aura of radiation surrounding his body can melt bullets. He is quickly dubbed “the Radioactive Man” as news of him spreads across the city. However, at that moment, Blake is in the middle of a delicate surgical procedure, and cannot abandon his patient. Hours pass as the Radioactive Man waits for Thor to answer his challenge, and the public becomes concerned. Finally, Thor arrives on the scene, but the Radioactive Man counters his every attack. The villain wins the first round by hypnotizing Thor and forcing him to hurl away his hammer, which falls into the Hudson River. Luckily, by the time the thunder god reverts to his mortal form, the crowds have fled in panic and his opponent has gone in search of the hammer. The hypnotic spell is broken by the transformation, and Blake returns to his office. There, he learns that the Radioactive Man has come from China to take revenge on Thor for routing their forces at Chogi Pass. Despite his lameness, Blake manages to retrieve Mjolnir from the river and becomes Thor again. He immediately uses the enchanted hammer to create a vortex that carries the Radioactive Man back to the mountains of China.

When a test rocket carrying a nuclear warhead goes out of control, Thor is summoned to save the day, and he hurls Mjolnir at the missile, destroying it at the very edge of space. As the hammer is returning to him, however, Thor is distracted by the apparition of a dragon and the hammer strikes him at the base of his skull. Recovering, Thor experiences a personality inversion, magically effected by his cunning brother Loki. He immediately returns to Asgard and frees Loki from his prison, joining forces with him against Odin. To convince their father to surrender his throne to them, Thor and Loki fly to Earth to wreak havoc. The thunder god causes severe storms to rage around the globe, and personally destroys such landmarks as the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Loki’s spells cause similar chaos and devastation. However, the Asgardians conspire to return Thor to normal and defeat Loki, and Odin uses his incalculable power to undo the damage and erase all knowledge of the incident from mortal minds. In retaliation, Loki plagues Thor with a bizarre and nonsensical dream in which Dr. Blake is an inventor of sentient androids and his friend Professor Zaxton is a diabolical mastermind with a device that creates evil duplicates of Thor. A few days later, Blake’s office routine is disrupted by an unscrupulous medical researcher named Calvin Zabo, who is seeking a job. Blake knows of Zabo’s reputation, however, and sends him packing. Zabo vows to get back at him and storms out of the office. Blake thinks little of it.

While saving the occupants of a bus that skidded off a bridge into the East River, Thor learns that a sarcophagus thought to hold the remains of the legendary wizard Merlin is being unloaded from a ship for transport to a Manhattan museum. The next day, when another missile test goes awry, Thor flies up to save it. He naturally assumes Loki is once again responsible and flies to Asgard to confront his imprisoned brother. However, Loki is incensed that Thor thinks he would try the same scheme twice, and so reveals that the true culprit is the revived Merlin. Thor tracks the wizard to the White House in Washington, DC and drives him onto the National Mall. Their battle reaches a stalemate until Thor tricks Merlin by changing into Blake and claiming to be a shape-shifter. Fearing Thor’s magic is far more powerful than his own, Merlin agrees to return to a state of suspended animation within his sarcophagus.

Soon afterwards, while catching up on paperwork at his office, Blake hears a strange, garbled message come over his transistor radio: a call from the Teen Brigade for help in finding the Hulk. Blake immediately remembers reading reports earlier in the summer of the brave young ham radio enthusiasts and their dealings with the green-skinned brute, and so he decides to investigate as Thor. Thus, the thunder god makes his way at once to the Teen Brigade’s ramshackle headquarters in Quemado, New Mexico. Upon arrival, he is joined by three other super-heroes who also received the mysterious summons: Iron Man, Ant-Man, and the Wasp. While the heroes confer with the concerned teenagers, Thor spots the Hulk lurking outside and goes after him alone. He soon learns, however, that it is merely a phantom image of the Hulk, and immediately recognizes it as Loki’s handiwork. The thunder god leaves directly for Asgard and, after securing Odin’s permission, journeys to the dismal Isle of Silence where Loki has lately been imprisoned. The way is fraught with peril, but Thor perseveres and soon meets his adopted brother face-to-face. Neither Loki’s magic nor his Troll allies are a match for Thor, and once defeated, the god of mischief admits having orchestrated the events that brought the four heroes into conflict with the Hulk. Thor takes Loki to Earth to expose his duplicity, and, after a brief scuffle, the super-heroes succeed in trapping the villain in a lead-lined tank filled with nuclear waste. Thor announces that when Loki has been sufficiently humiliated, he will be returned to his prison in Asgard. Before the heroes go their separate ways, Ant-Man and the Wasp suggest that they band together as a permanent team. Remembering his youthful days battling alongside the Warriors Three, Thor agrees to the proposal, and thus is born the Avengers.

A few days later, Thor attends the first official meeting of the Avengers, held at the Fifth Avenue mansion of Iron Man’s employer, the industrialist Tony Stark. Here he meets Stark’s butler, Edwin Jarvis. During dinner, the Wasp flirts with Thor shamelessly, but he takes no notice. Then the team begins working out the details of their charter and by-laws, though Thor finds he has little patience for such dull business.

October 1962 – The Wasp’s flirtations make Thor realize he can no longer deny his feelings for Jane Foster, despite his father’s injunction against revealing his true identity to any mortal. As Don Blake, he goes into his office on his day off, knowing Jane will be there doing inventory work. He finally tries to tell her how he feels about her, but is hampered by his obedience to Odin’s will. Unaware of Blake’s dilemma, Jane grows impatient with his apparent indecision, and admits that she knows what he’s trying to say—and that she wants him to say it—but that she can’t wait forever for him to make up his mind. She leaves in a huff, prompting the frustrated Blake to turn back into Thor and confront Odin. The thunder god petitions his father for permission to marry Jane in spite of her being a mere mortal. Odin absolutely forbids the match, and Thor is devastated. All night, he wrestles with the idea of forsaking his godly heritage to be with Jane, but when she returns to work in the morning, she immediately announces that she has accepted a job with another doctor. She explains to the stunned Blake that she cannot trust herself not to give in to her own feelings despite his weakness of character.

Heartsick, Blake wanders the city in a daze until he happens upon the scene of the latest menace to the people of New York: a smoldering, rock-like humanoid from beneath the earth’s surface, a being dubbed “the Lava Man” in the press. Soldiers are attempting to evacuate the sections of the city where the Lava Man is advancing, their weapons useless against him. Thirsting for battle, Blake changes into Thor and attacks the creature in a rage. He pours all his anger and frustration into the fight, which tears up several deserted streets. At length, he uses Mjolnir to form a vortex that carries the Lava Man back to the volcano from which he came. To end the threat, Thor smashes a nearby mountain peak in order to seal up the volcano forever. His emotions spent, he returns to his office and assumes human form. Once there, however, he runs into Jane and her new employer, the debonair Dr. Andrews. Jane chastises Blake for neglecting her during the crisis and says a final goodbye. In the throes of heartbreak, the mighty thunder god wrecks his office. Dismayed by his son’s temper tantrum, Odin summons him to Asgard and advises him to put all thought of Jane out of his mind, but Thor steadfastly refuses and returns to Earth.

Thus, it is a sullen Thor who attends the next weekly meeting of the Avengers, during which Iron Man and Ant-Man continue to hammer out the details of the team’s organizational structure. The bad-tempered Hulk participates halfheartedly, and his teenage pal, Rick Jones, is all but ignored by the others. The Wasp continues to flirt with Thor and ogle his physique, but the thunder god is in no mood for camaraderie. He grimly tells the others to continue without him and departs. As Blake, he finally decides he needs to get away from everything for a while, and plans to return to the Red Cross hospital in India to check on things there.

While traveling through Bombay, Blake learns that one of his mentors, Professor Ezekiel Shecktor, a famed humanitarian, is on his deathbed. Immediately changing into Thor, he flies to Shecktor’s remote laboratory, but as there are too many witnesses to his arrival, he must visit his old friend in his godly form. However, the dying man reveals to Thor that he was, in fact, murdered by his lab assistant, Klaus Voorhees, a man mutated by a bite from a radioactive snake into a superhuman killer. Thor vows to hunt down Voorhees, who now calls himself “the Cobra,” and destroy him. He tracks the villain all the way back to New York City and confronts him. The Cobra’s serpent-like abilities, as well as his arsenal of exotic weapons, make him a surprisingly formidable opponent. During the fight, Thor loses his enemy in a cloud of chemical vapors, but catches up to him again in the office of none other than Dr. Andrews, whom the Cobra is attempting to rob. Jane’s screams bring Thor crashing into the room to save her life. Although Jane is rescued, the Cobra makes good his escape.

Disgusted by Dr. Andrews’ cowardice in the face of the Cobra’s threats, Jane returns to Blake’s office and asks for her old job back. Though he maintains a reserved fa├žade, Blake is overjoyed. And so it is a lighthearted and jovial Thor who attends the next organizational meeting of the Avengers. While the others attempt to discuss their petition for government security clearance, Thor waxes poetic about the glorious deeds they will perform and the songs that will be sung in their everlasting honor. In the end, it is left to Iron Man and Ant-Man to do the actual work of getting the team up and running.

November 1962 – At the Avengers’ first meeting for the month, Thor becomes fed up with the Hulk’s brutish manner. The ensuing argument is cut short by the arrival of the Wasp and Ant-Man, who sports a new costume and announces that he will now be known as Giant-Man. After a while, the meeting is interrupted by an intruder entering the mansion. The Hulk volunteers to deal with the situation, but when he returns he is more hostile than ever. Finally, Thor must break up a fistfight between the Hulk and Iron Man, at which point the green behemoth smashes through the wall and stalks off into the city. Frustrated and angry, the Avengers adjourn and Thor returns to his medical practice as Don Blake. Later, however, the Wasp arrives—Thor had given the team Dr. Blake’s name as a point of contact—and says the Avengers need the thunder god’s help against an alien shape-changer calling himself the Space Phantom. The interplanetary plunderer had been impersonating the Hulk earlier to make the world’s champions fight against each other. Soon, Thor and the Wasp are flying to Stark Industries’ Long Island plant, where the Space Phantom is defeated when Thor turns his own power against him, causing the menace to be cast into Limbo. The Hulk, however, is disgusted with the way the others have treated him, and, seeing it as a betrayal, he angrily quits the team.

At their next meeting, the Avengers decide that the Hulk is too dangerous to be allowed to run around loose. Thor suggests they contact Rick Jones, who has returned to his home in New Mexico. Rick agrees to help, and, late the next morning, he radios the team with news of the rampaging Hulk’s whereabouts. Consequently, Blake closes the office early, transforms into Thor, and heads back to the desert outside Quemado. He arrives to find the Hulk already in pitched battle with the other Avengers. The Hulk deals them an ignominious defeat and makes good his escape. For days, the Avengers search, but can find no trace of the Hulk. Upon their return to New York, however, the team receives a radio message from Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner, claiming that he and the Hulk have joined forces to challenge the Avengers to a showdown at the Rock of Gibraltar. Thor is eager for the battle, and they make their way across the Atlantic Ocean in an experimental submarine from Stark’s factory. No sooner do the heroes enter the network of caves and tunnels under the promontory than they are attacked. While Iron Man and Giant-Man deal with the Sub-Mariner, Thor finds himself engaging with the Hulk, and their battle leads them away from the others. Relishing the challenge, Thor entreats Odin to suspend his hammer’s enchantments for five minutes so that he can test his strength against the Hulk’s in hand-to-hand combat. Odin agrees, and the fight rages furiously within the cramped confines of the labyrinth. Finally, the sheer force of their blows causes the tunnel to collapse, and the combatants are separated. The five minutes elapsed, Thor rejoins the battle with the Sub-Mariner, only to be ambushed by the Hulk. The tables turn when, all of a sudden, the Hulk abandons the fray, and the Sub-Mariner, bitterly realizing he is now outmatched, retreats to the ocean depths. Thor decides not to pursue him, and so the team returns to New York.

His thirst for battle quenched, Thor once more turns to matters of the heart, and journeys to Asgard to press Odin for permission to marry Jane Foster. Again, Odin dismisses the matter out of hand, but Thor now asks him to make Jane immortal so that she may become his wife. The Lord of Asgard is outraged, reminding his son that an immortal must possess virtues far beyond those mere mortals possess. Thor lashes out in anger and Odin chastises him, but, feeling sorry for his son, also promises that if Jane should prove herself worthy, then he will consider his son’s petition. Bursting with hope and joy, Thor returns to Earth and resumes his identity as Don Blake. However, no sooner has he entered his office than the door is smashed down by a large, brutish man in a cloak. Savagely, the intruder shoves Blake out the window, to Jane’s horror. By striking his cane on the side of the building, Blake manages to transform into Thor, but by the time he returns to his office, his assailant is gone. Distraught, Jane tells Thor that the man called himself “Mister Hyde,” and Thor assures her that Blake is safe.

The next day, Thor discovers he is wanted by the police for a bank robbery and suspects Mister Hyde has impersonated him. Not wanting to battle the authorities, he assumes human form and returns to his office. Upon his arrival, Jane reminds Blake that it is her birthday and that he promised to take her out to dinner. Though it had completely slipped his mind, Blake says he made plans to take her to the most glamorous restaurant in town. Jane is thrilled, and Blake wonders how she might prove herself worthy to Odin. That night, however, Mister Hyde appears at the restaurant and kidnaps Blake and Jane at gunpoint, forcing them to drive to a remote mansion in the country. There, he ties up Blake and sets a time bomb to go off in 24 hours, then takes Jane and departs. Blake struggles to reach his cane, which is laying on the floor close by. When he finally manages to reach it, he quickly stamps it on the floor, transforms into Thor, and snaps the ropes holding him. He sets off at once to track down the villain and his hostage. He soon finds Mister Hyde trying to steal a nuclear submarine from the Brooklyn Navy Yard on the East River. Thor pursues Hyde into the bowels of the ship, but Jane, believing Blake will be killed by the time bomb, prevents Thor from capturing Hyde, who then disappears into the night. Thor promises Jane that he will rescue Blake and takes to the sky. Unfortunately, Odin is disgusted with Jane for interfering in the battle and tells his son she is not fit for immortality. Thor remains defiant, though his frustration is growing.

The following week, Thor joins the Avengers as they search the North Atlantic Ocean for the Sub-Mariner, who has been terrorizing coastal areas since his defeat at the Rock of Gibraltar. Near the Gulf Stream, the team discovers the body of a man in tattered Army fatigues drifting in the open ocean. Bringing the soldier aboard their submarine, the Avengers make a startling discovery: the man is alive, albeit in suspended animation, and beneath his rotted uniform is a colorful costume that identifies him as Captain America, the lost hero of World War II. Revived from his comatose state, the disoriented Cap reacts violently and scuffles with his rescuers. Thor recognizes him from their first meeting decades earlier, and the other Avengers are baffled. However, Captain America convinces them he is the genuine article, and together they piece together what happened to him in the winter of 1945 and how he came to be preserved in ice for almost 18 years.

Docking at a pier in New York, the Avengers are met by a crowd of reporters, who are looking for a scoop about Namor. Suddenly, however, there is a blinding flash and everything goes black. The next thing Thor knows, he is in a warehouse facing Captain America and a green-hued extraterrestrial. Cap explains that the alien is a castaway who had made a deal with the Sub-Mariner: in exchange for using his unearthly technology to turn the Avengers to stone, Namor would salvage his spaceship from the bottom of the ocean. However, the Avengers agree to help with no strings attached, and so they travel to a small rocky island in the Atlantic, near which the ship lies submerged. Working together, the heroes raise the ship from its watery grave and the alien goes aboard to affect his repairs. Just then, though, the team is attacked by the Sub-Mariner and his elite guard. When Namor reveals he is holding Rick Jones hostage, Captain America joins the fray. However, the battle comes to a sudden stop when the launching spaceship causes a massive shockwave that rocks the island and the Sub-Mariner leads his forces back to the sea, convinced his enemies will perish when the island sinks. As the dust settles, the Avengers, impressed with Captain America’s fighting prowess and awed by his reputation, invite him to join the team. Cap accepts the offer, and they return to New York and the ensuing media frenzy.

The Avengers take Captain America out to New Mexico to investigate sightings of the Hulk, but even with the help of Rick Jones, the trail is cold. Hearing news reports that the Hulk is now on a rampage in New York City, the Avengers race back to their Fifth Avenue headquarters. The Fantastic Four have failed to stop the Hulk’s rampage, and the green-skinned brute arrives at the mansion to confront his former teammates. Believing they have betrayed him, the Hulk attacks the entire team at once. Thor immediately realizes the Avengers are merely getting in each other’s way in the confined space of the mansion. Spotting Rick, the Hulk grabs him and smashes out of the building. The Avengers and the Fantastic Four converge on the Hulk down the street, but the two teams only trip each other up, allowing Hulk to get away with Rick. Setting aside their pride, the two super-teams agree to work together, and they pursue the Hulk to a construction site on East 63rd Street. The half-finished skyscraper is effectively demolished in the battle, but despite the best efforts of the assembled heroes, Hulk manages to dive into the river and escape. Though disappointed, the Avengers and the Fantastic Four part on friendly terms. Thor returns with his teammates to their headquarters to inspect the damage, and then they all go their separate ways. Soon after, Dr. Don Blake arrives at his medical practice to get caught up on his work.

December 1962 – Two weeks later, the Avengers assemble to investigate a series of disasters caused by powerful sound waves. Tracing the mysterious phenomenon to the New Mexico desert, they discover a gigantic rock slowly rising out of the ground. Iron Man tunnels down to find the source of the monolith, and when Thor and his teammates follow, they discover an advancing army of Lava Men, bent on invading the surface world. Being the only Avenger able to withstand the intense heat of their domain, Thor goes on alone to meet the leader of the Lava Men’s subterranean kingdom. There, the thunder god encounters the very same Lava Man he met two months ago, and learns his name is Molto. The king of the Lava Men reveals the secret of the so-called Living Stone and its deadly sonic blasts, which could ultimately shatter the planet. Upon returning to his teammates, Thor learns that Giant-Man has devised a plan to safely implode the monolith. Unfortunately, at that very moment, the Hulk attacks them, still intent on exacting his revenge. As this new fight begins, though, Thor is blasted by the Lava Men’s witch doctor’s energy staff and unexpectedly reverts to the form of Don Blake. Separated from his teammates by a cave-in, Blake is dazed for several minutes before regaining his wits. Assuming his godly form once more, Thor drives the hordes of Lava Men back to their deepest caverns and seals off their access to the surface. He then rushes to join his teammates, only to find they have managed to trick the Hulk into striking the Living Stone’s weakest point, thus destroying it safely. With the threat ended and the Hulk nowhere to be found, the Avengers return to New York.

The Avengers are soon called to arms again when New York City is menaced by a squad of super-villains, which includes the Radioactive Man, the Black Knight, and the Melter. The evil trio wreaks havoc by spraying Adhesive X, a super-strong glue, all around town. The Avengers are helpless until they obtain an extremely powerful solvent from an incarcerated criminal known as Paste-Pot Pete; then they initiate a bold plan with the help of Rick Jones’ Teen Brigade. Captain America is convinced that the mastermind behind the villains’ rampage is an old adversary from the Second World War, the Nazi scientist Baron Heinrich Zemo. Cap suggests the other Avengers switch foes, so their enemies will be unfamiliar with their fighting styles. Impressed by Cap’s natural leadership abilities, Thor goes to confront the Black Knight and his winged horse. Quickly defeating the Knight and his high-tech weapons, Thor rejoins his teammates in time to witness Baron Zemo’s airship fleeing the scene. However, thanks to Cap’s quick thinking, Zemo had mistakenly taken a canister of tear gas rather than the solvent he was after. As a result, Zemo loses control of his ship and is forced to make an emergency landing. Unfortunately, he manages to slip away before the police can capture him. Thor turns the Black Knight’s flying steed over to the authorities for safekeeping.

Soon after, while Thor is flying over the city, a hand of mystic metal materializes out of thin air and seizes Mjolnir from his grasp. Startled, Thor begins to plummet to the ground. However, the hand vanishes as suddenly as it appeared, allowing the hammer to return to him. Recovering from his free-fall, Thor uses the hammer’s enchantments to trace the source of the magical attack. Unfortunately, somewhere over Greenwich Village, Mjolnir suddenly loses the trail, and Thor is left without a clue. Undaunted by this random act of perfidy, the thunder god continues on his way.

A week later, Thor participates in the Avengers’ first annual Christmas charity benefit, which garners the team some good press. Public reaction to the colorful adventurers remains generally positive, and Thor is celebrated as one of the greatest heroes of the modern age. However, the festivities merely cause Thor to brood over his forbidden love for Jane Foster, and his mood grows ever darker. He knows he must soon confront Odin again and make his case, no matter what the consequences.


Notes:

August 1949 – The truth about Donald Blake, MD was first revealed in Thor #159 and revisited much later in Thor #415. Empire State University is the Marvel Universe equivalent of NYU. Bellevue is the teaching hospital affiliated with the NYU School of Medicine. Thor would ultimately dispense with the Don Blake persona altogether during Walter Simonson’s celebrated run on the book. The thunder god’s visit to Earth during World War II is chronicled in Invaders #32–33.

April 1962 – Thor resumes his godly form and takes up his hammer in the cause of justice beginning in Journey Into Mystery #83, in which he routs the “Stone Men from Saturn.”

June 1962 – Loki and the other gods of Asgard begin to appear in Journey Into Mystery #85, although few are seen clearly. Odin’s face is revealed in the next issue, and other gods, such as Heimdall, begin to appear later.

July 1962 – Robert F. Wagner, Jr. was not named in the story featured in Journey Into Mystery #90, but he was Mayor of New York at the time. This issue is reviled by many fans for the crude artwork supplied by Al Hartley, who, to be fair, was certainly out of his element and probably working under intense deadline pressure.

August 1962 – Sandu, Master of the Supernatural, though a pretty lame bad guy at first glance, pretty much kicks Thor’s ass in Journey Into Mystery #91, as Joe Sinnott takes over the art chores for a few issues. Loki, of course, is responsible for Sandu’s exponentially increased powers, and I suspect Odin was not unhappy to see Thor served up a generous helping of humble pie. Likewise, Odin may have allowed events in the next issue to unfold as they did to ensure that Thor remained willingly on Midgard, where he was needed, rather than seeking to return to Asgard now that his memory had been fully restored.

September 1962 – Journey Into Mystery #94 features the first of many instances where Odin erases the story’s events from all living memory, a motif I find particularly annoying. The story in the following issue, in which Thor faces Dr. Zaxton and his duplication machine, is so hare-brained I can only write it off as a product of Loki’s demented imagination. Don Blake is a surgeon, not an inventor of super-strong, super-intelligent, super-invulnerable, and super-volatile sentient androids. And it’s inconceivable that mid-twentieth-century technology—even in the Marvel Universe—could produce a device the size of a slide projector that can duplicate any object, from a typewriter to a jumbo jet, out of nothingness. It could even duplicate Thor and Mjolnir many times over? Please! Zaxton must have been the greatest scientific genius in the universe! And what happened to the (at least) fifteen duplicate airliners and all their duplicated passengers? It strains credulity far beyond the breaking point. I admit the early Marvel Universe was pretty much a free-for-all, but this story goes too far. Don Blake’s encounter with Calvin Zabo is seen in flashback in Journey Into Mystery #99. Zabo will return to menace Blake after transforming himself into Mister Hyde. JIM #96 features cameo appearances by President John F. Kennedy, his daughter Caroline, and Press Secretary Pierre Salinger. “Merlin,” it turns out, is not the true wizard of King Arthur’s court, but an impostor—one who would later be known as the Warlock and the Maha Yogi, among other things. Loki’s next scheme unfolds in Avengers #1, as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes assemble for the first time and one of Marvel’s flagship titles is launched. The team’s first official meeting was shown, in abbreviated fashion, in one of the many flashbacks in Avengers #280.

October 1962 – Journey Into Mystery #97 saw the introduction of an interesting back-up feature, “Tales of Asgard,” in which Stan Lee & Jack Kirby explored the history of the Asgardian race and developed Thor’s backstory. It ran for several years and was a way for Kirby to keep a hand in the book until he eventually returned as regular penciler. It also gave him free rein to indulge his love of mythology. The Avengers’ organizational period was never detailed in any canonical story, though the Wasp was seen ogling Thor in a brief flashback in Avengers #227. Given Thor’s mood swings during this time, his teammates must surely have wondered if the thunder god was bipolar. But Stan Lee makes it clear in JIM #99 that Thor’s emotions are as magnified as his strength and endurance in comparison with mere mortals.

November 1962 – Between the events of Avengers #2 and 3, Don Blake can be seen making his rounds at the hospital in a brief cameo in Tales of Suspense #49. Also, Thor’s battle with the Hulk during Avengers #3 was later fleshed out in Journey Into Mystery #112. The inconclusive battle with Mister Hyde brings us up to Journey Into Mystery #100. Then, after thawing out Captain America in Avengers #4, Thor participates in Marvel’s first major crossover event, featured in Fantastic Four #25–26, which then wraps up in the first couple pages of Avengers #5.

December 1962 – Avengers #6 sees the introduction of the team’s opposite number, the Masters of Evil. Thor’s mystifying experience in the skies above Greenwich Village is the result of a fight between Loki and Doctor Strange, as seen in Strange Tales #123. Thor remains ignorant of the true cause of his close call, however. While the Avengers’ annual yuletide charity events are well documented, the first one was never shown in any canonical story. Thor’s frustration over his relationship with Jane will soon come to a roiling boil, as depicted in the opening scene of Journey Into Mystery #101. But that’s a story for another time.


OMU Note: Thor’s final canonical appearance was in Thor #432.