Journey Into Mystery started out as a horror anthology series published by Timely comics. It had a measure of success in the 1950’s but it evolved into a science-fiction and fantasy book some time after Timely’s successor, Marvel took over. Most of the stories up to issue #83 were forgettable.
Then, in June of 1962, issue #83 hit the stands and the magazine would be forever changed. The cover has the month of August as the release date but as often happened in comics at the time, the release month printed did not align with the actual release date. The cover showcases a powerful figure whirling a hammer so fast we can’t see what it is. The font boldly proclaims to have “The most exciting super-hero of all time!!” And it says in the upper left corner, the words that would bring in one of the most famous Marvel characters of all time, “Introducing… The Mighty Thor!”
The actual story is only 14 pages long but it does a lot of heavy lifting. Thor as we all know is the god of thunder from Norse mythology. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby ran with that idea but had their own take on and personality for the character they would show in their comics.
The first story starring Thor is a bit silly and a bit strange. To put it into context I will have to tell you a little bit about Dr. Donald Blake.
The average person who may or may not be a comics reader still knows who you are talking about if you say the names Peter Parker, Clark Kent, Bruce Banner, or Bruce Wayne. But if you say Dr. Donald Blake, a lot of people, even those who do read comics would be forgiven for not knowing who that is. Dr. Donald Blake is the mild-mannered alter-ego of Thor.
In the tradition of comic books at the time, all heroes had a secret identity and a heroic persona. In Marvel comics in particular these secret identities always had some flaw. It could be physical, emotional or mental but there was always some flaw. Dr. Blake has a heroic heart. He wants to save people and he has dedicated his life to medicine to do so. But he is also what the comic book calls “lame”. That’s as in the original definition of lame, meaning you have difficulty walking. Probably not a term we would use now.
Dr. Donald Blake finds himself on vacation in Norway when an alien craft full of “stone men from Saturn” land. It’s immediately clear they are a threat and want to take over the earth. Luckily for humanity, the good doctor overhears these creatures and tries to go get help.
Unfortunately for him, Dr. Blake is discovered and chased down by these aliens. He has no chance of running away so instead he hides in a cave. And it’s a good thing he did. In the cave is a stick he can use for a cane. But this is no ordinary cane. As soon as Dr. Blake taps it on the ground, he is turned into The Mighty Thor. From here the fantastic artwork of Jack Kirby simply leaps off the pages.
We get to see Thor as you would want to see him. A figure of power and confidence who can wield a magic hammer that proclaims, “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of… Thor!”
In the early pages of Thor’s debut it’s hard to tell if Dr. Blake simply has the power of Thor or is in fact the Thor when he changes. But it doesn’t matter because the star of the comic is once again, the artwork.
With the power of the god of thunder it’s no sweat to scare off a few aliens. And much like Superman can turn back into Clark Kent at a moment’s notice, Thor can revert to Dr. Donald Blake, thus saving the world but saving himself all the unwanted attention of explaining who he is or how he does what he does.
In the last panel of the story there is a teaser ad for the next issue of Journey Into Mystery telling us that Thor will appear regularly in its pages. Thor is misspelled as Thorr right on his own hammer in this panel but the sentiment is still correct. Thor and most of his supporting cast go on to appear regularly in Journey Into Mystery. Essentially, once Thor appears here he basically takes over the comic. It sells well enough that Thor doesn’t even get his own name in the title of the series until issue #104 when it becomes Journey Into Mystery with The Mighty Thor.
With the introduction of Thor in the pages of 616 continuity we now have three of the five original founding members of The Avengers. It will take some time before that team is formed but those heroes would have a lot less muscle without the god of thunder at their side.
Next on the reading list we follow along further with Thor in Journey Into Mystery #84.
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