Your favourite superheroes are over 50 years old! Before they got dark and gritty, they did some goofy things. Welcome to Midlife Crisis on Infinite Earths where we look back at the less than illustrious adventures of some of the biggest characters in comics.
Thor, the Asgardian god of thunder has been a staple of the Marvel Universe for over 50 years. While people are sharing their feelings about Thicc Thor from Avengers: Endgame, Marvel has been doing dumb shit with Thor for years. Let’s take a look shall we?
Let’s talk about that first appearance…
A lot of people think that Thor first appeared in Journey into Mystery #83 published in 1962.
How can you really blame people? It’s Silver Age Marvel Comics at its best. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby taking the myth of Thor and modernizing it for the audiences of the time. It combined Norse mythology, 60s era science-fiction, monster movies, and Cold War hysteria.
However, Thor actually appeared earlier in Venus #12 published in 1951. Venus was a series published by Atlas Comics, a predecessor to Marvel Comics. The series started off as a sort-of romance comic about the Greek goddess known as Venus coming to Earth to become — I am not fucking kidding — a fashion model. Near the end of its run, Venus couldn’t decide if it was a romance comic, an adventure series, or — still not joking — straight on horror.
Anyway, Venus #12 features a story where the titular character is kidnapped by Sultan Khorok the ruler of the Middle Eastern country of Cassarobia thanks to a spell cast by Loki. Thor appears in two panels to lend a hand.
If that isn’t enough of a shirtless Thor in a skirt for you, don’t worry, he makes yet another appearance in Venus #13. In that comic, Venus clashes with a disgraced soldier named John Dark. Dark creates an unstoppable machine to destroy the world for revenge. Venus then calls Thor and Mars to help. Mars — the god of war — tries to talk John down. When that doesn’t work, Thor — dressed in hotpants — tosses lightning bolts all over John Dark’s shit.
So what the hell is going on here? Is this part of continuity? The answer is a weak yes. If you’re a mega-nerd like I am, and you read editions of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe confirm and deny it. So, really, it’s up to how you choose to accept it. Do you want to remember Thor as a red bearded man in hot-pants or the iconic character created popularized by Lee and Kirby.
With all this dubious cannon material out of the way let’s talk about Thor’s origins…
an origin with a limp
In his “first” appearance in Journey into Mystery #83, Thor was a lame doctor named Donald Blake. His vacation in Norway is interrupted by an invasion of stone men from Saturn.
Blake then flees from the naked stone men and hides in a nearby cave. There, Blake is trapped and finds an old walking stick.
Striking the cane against a wall causes the scrawny Donald Blake to transform into the Thor, the god of thunder, for the first time.
After spending precious time trying out his powers and gawking about them like a giddy teenager, Thor finally gets around to repelling the invaders from outer space.
After thrashing the Stone Men from Saturn, the aliens decide to flee in fear that everyone on Earth is like Thor. This may sound stupid to you, modern reader, but this happened a lot when aliens invaded Earth in old Marvel books. At least the Stone Men were a little braver than the Skrulls that appeared in Fantastic Four #2 who were scared away from Earth with clippings of monsters out of comic books.
what’s going on here?
Some of you younger comic book fans out there might be confused. Thor was always an Asgardian thunder god, right? Why is he a weakling with a limp who transforms into Thor?
Well, depending on who you talk to the reasons are many. In his book “Excelsior! The Amazing Life of Stan Lee”, Stan said he wanted to one-up creating the Hulk and went with Thor since it was an easy thing to do. A while back, Jack Kirby (circa 1997) said in an interview with Prisoners of Gravity that he wanted to tell modernized tales of Norse mythology. Kirby had a raging boner for mythology and the book “Chariot of the Gods” to the point where all his work was derivative of these two themes, but that’s another story for another time.
If you poke around the internet you see a lot of content aggregators (aka the scum of the internet) making the claim that Thor was just a rip-off of Superman. Naturally, shitty websites like CBR and Screen Rant don’t have any evidence to back up their claims. That’s because there isn’t any really. Nobody has ever come out and said, officially, Thor was a rip-off of Superman. The assumption here is that they are similar in many ways. A meek weekling who turns into a god like individual and the red cap. That’s about all the similarities here.
However, it’s kind of a weak assumption that Thor was a direct rip-off of Superman. The Man of Steel first appeared in 1938, over twenty years earlier. By this point the secret-identity-nearly-unbeatable-hero shtick had become so commonplace that Thor is more a derivative of the super-hero trope than he is a direct rip-off of Clark Kent.
Anyway, whatever the case may be it really seems that, at least to start, the intention was that Don Blake was just a normal guy who turned into a modern day Thor as opposed to the once from ancient mythology.
So who the fuck is donald blake?
At first, the series had Thor battling the same types of menaces that were common place in comic books: alien invaders, mad scientists, and the scourge of communism. As the series progressed, Thor began speaking like a Shakespearean actor, interacting with other gods (particularly his father Odin and half-brother Loki), and soon there were no more distinctions between the Thor of myth and the guy who Don Blake turned into whenever he tapped his walking stick on the ground.
Eventually, this became a large enough elephant in the room that they finally decided to finally address the problem seven years after his debut in Thor #159.
As it turned out, years earlier, Thor was growing arrogant and turned into quite a bit of a dick. This pissed off Odin so badly that he decided to teach his son some humility by banishing him to Earth disguised as a man with a disability until one day that he proved his worthiness.
This of course leads to Don Blake becoming a doctor and learning to help people, thus earning back his worthiness. Once Odin was satisfied that his son learned his lesson, he influenced Blake to go to Norway leading to Thor’s battle with the naked rock people.
So this story leads you to believe that Don Blake was merely a mystical alter-ego of Thor, case closed right? Wrong…
The trouble with being don blake
For years, Thor used Don Blake as an alter-ego to varying degrees until the events of Thor #337-339 when the horse-man known as Beta Ray Bill (more on him later) was also given the power of Thor and a new hammer, Stormbreaker, was made for him. Odin had transferred the enchantment that turned Thor into Donald Blake from Mjolnir to Stormbreaker. That was that until Thor #475 when the thunder god happened to return to the cave where Blake first found the walking stick where he found…
As it turned out, Don Blake was a real guy after all and was trapped in the cave for years as Thor masqueraded as Don Blake this whole time. Once the full scope of what happened sunk in, namely that Jane Foster — the woman he loved — had a failed romance with Thor then married some other guy and had kids, really set off Blake. He wasn’t happy about the idea that a god stole his life while he was standing in a cave like an idiot.
Did this add a new dimension to the character? Well Don Blake kind of hung around a bit for a few issues and did next to nothing except for whine about how his life got messed up. However, during this whole period Blake began getting weaker and could only survive by drawing energy from Thor until in Thor #482..
Yeah this whole time Don Blake wasn’t a real person by an artificial construct. As it turned out, on the day that Thor regained his powers Sigyn — the wife of Loki — wanted to get revenge against Thor after her husband was trapped in a tree (long story) and through a lot of coincidences and mystical mumbo-jumbo created this Don Blake construct by accident. Or as Loki later explained…
Okay, wow, so that clear that up no more Donald Blake right? Wrong again.
the inevitable return of the great white don
Fast forward a number of years again, and Thor was killed off during the Avengers: Disassembled storyline. We’ll get into that later. Anyway, this put Thor on a hiatus from the Marvel Universe for the whole Civil War event and other nonsense. When the thunder god finally came back he was once again it was in the form of Donald Blake recovering his long lost hammer in Fantastic Four #537. He finally returned in 2007 in Thor #1, and the pair had to work together again.
The pair were bonded together until the Fear Itself event where Thor was killed during the battle against the Serpent and later brought back to life. This led to Thor and Blake living separately from one another again.
In the Mighty Thor series thereafter, Blake insisted he was a real guy (again) since he had memories that dated back before he first found Thor’s hammer. So he sought out the Enchantress to help him understand what was going on. The writers, probably not wanting to go down the “Don Blake is a real guy” road again had her chop his fucking head off to prove he was just a magic spell suffering from Pinocchio syndrome.
Still as a severed head, Don Blake still took the opportunity to bitch at Thor for stealing his life.
Ultimately, Don blake was given a “final reward” so to speak. His severed head was given to the Mares, dream creatures that allowed Don to live out his days in a dream version of his ideal life.
Since this is a comic book and situations like that don’t tend to turn out so hot for people, I doubt we’ve seen the last of Donald Blake.
When we come Back
If your head is not ready to split open from all the mind-numbing convolution, our next part has this topped! If you thought Thor’s origins were complicated now, just wait until I tell you about the time they tried to shoe-horn a 19th century German composers big boner for Norse mythology into the mix!
While you wait, why not slide into the comments section and tell me who you’d like to see me profile next in a future edition of Midlife Crisis on Infinite Earths!