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. You can read past editions here.
This is the third part at our look back at the life and times of Marvel Comics’ Thor. Last time we looked back at Thor’s mythological history. It was all incest, murder and dwarf orgies. It left us all feeling kind of dirty afterward. So to cleanse the palette we’re going to take it back to the early 60s and make fun of some dated Thor stories. Sound like fun? Great! Let’s go!
Thor vs Communism!
In the 1960s it wasn’t uncommon for Marvel heroes to go up against foes that were communists. It was hamfisted propaganda, but it was the times. With most other heroes it was kind of a fit. Iron Man was an American industrialist, Captain America was the personification of America and as everyone knows communists think spiders are icky, hence Spider-Man. But when it comes to Thor, there was no other out of place or utterly outmatched opponent than a thunder god. Also, Thor is part of a society run by a theocratic monarch, so it’s weird that he is depicted here as a defender of democracy. Early on in his run, Thor smashes communists from all points of the globe. like…
The cubans! (Sorta)
In Journey into Mystery #84 — Thor’s second appearance — he’s fighting communists. In that story, Don Blake goes off with a team of other doctors go to the nation of San Marco to provide aid to the people under the oppressive thumb of a dictator calling himself the Executioner.
Naturally, the humanitarian effort is endangered by the Executioner’s armies forcing Donald Blake to turn into Thor and stop these attacks. Since this was a time where Thor was keeping a secret identity it resulted in Donald Blake going about some flimsy attempts to maintain his secret identity. Nobody seems to make the connection.
Eventually, Don’s love interest — Jane Foster — gets captured by the Executioner. When Don goes after her he gets his walking stick taken away and put in front of the firing squad. However, the Executioner gives Jane an ultimatum…
Don doesn’t like this so he goads the Executioner into getting close enough to grab his walking stick and transforms into Thor in front of everyone.
When faced with the god of thunder, the Executioner turns into an instant coward and he shows his true stripes.
With the communist dictator gunned down by his own men and the rebels securing the nation, Don Blake and Jane return home to America to leave the San Marcans to sort things out on their own.
Now that Thor had crushed the sort-of Cubans, Stan Lee decided that Thor needed to crush other communist ethnicities. Next up were the Russians in Journey into Mystery #87.
In that story, a number of scientists have suddenly defected to the Soviet Union. Deciding to do something about it, Don Blake goes to Washington where he is immediately allowed to meet with military brass to present a plan to help get to the bottom of this mystery.
What is really troubling with this story is the fact that a guy who is a regular New York City doctor is allowed to see a high ranking military official and starts suggesting that he start making biological weapons. That’s a huge red flag. Instead of tossing Blake in a jail cell, they go along with the plan.
Sure enough, when Blake makes it known that he is making bio-weapons for the United States a Russian spy shows up disguised as a reporter and hypnotizes Blake so he defects from the United States and goes to Russia.
When the trance wears off, Don finds himself a prisoner of the Russians along with the other scientists. When nobody is looking, Don changes into Thor and begins fucking things up for the communists.
The commies force Thor to surrender by threatening to blow up their fortress and kill all the captives. Thor surrenders, but manages to slip out of his chains after being separated from his hammer for 60 seconds and changes back into Don Blake. Which, back then, was one of Thor’s few weaknesses
Once he has his powers back, Thor quickly destroys the communist headquarters so he and the other scientists can escape.
Still, having Thor smash regular communists hardly makes for entertaining stories since they are all more or less the same. To change things up a little, Stan Lee created a super-powered communist for Thor to fight in Journey into Mystery #93.
In that story, Don Blake decides to give medical aid to soldiers in India who are defending their borders from neighboring China. When things look bad, he turns into Thor creating another international incident for the sake of democracy.
The officials in China are not happy with this and so their supreme leader orders a scientist named Chen Lu to come up with a means of stopping Thor… or else!
Chen Lu’s solution to the problem is to bombard himself a powerful dose of radiation. Whereas most people would turn into a liquified pile of screaming agony, Chen Lu is transformed into the Radioactive Man.
Smuggled into America, the Radioactive Man then takes on Thor. Apparently, radiation gives the Radioactive Man the power of hypnotism, however he sucks at it…
As one would expect, Thor is freed from Radioactive Man’s hypnotic trance when he turns back into Don Blake. He then recovers his hammer and faces his foe once again. Radioactive Man then threatens to go critical mass. Thor doesn’t stop this so much as he tosses the Radioactive Man all the way back to China.
The Viet Cong!
Then we’ve got Journey into Mystery #117. In this story, Thor had just lost the Trial of the Gods against Loki due to the fact that Loki cheated using the mystical Norn Stones. In order to cover this up, Loki sends the Norn Stones to Earth, smack in the middle of America’s most unpopular war: Vietnam!
After getting shot out of the sky by enemy artillery and is knocked out for some reason. He wakes up in a village that is resisting the Viet Cong but leaves them to look for the Norn Stones. Deciding that it is too tough to wander through the rice paddies with a cape he changes back to the mortal form of Donald Blake.
In typical form, the moment he changes back to Don Blake, Thor is captured by the enemy army and held hostage. Adding an extra layer of drama, the family who helped Thor earlier is taken hostage. As an added twist, the leader of the Viet Cong army is their long lost son. Is this a happy reunion? Well…
To be clear, while mom and dad are getting murdered by their son, Blake has turned back into Thor and is busy looking for the Norn Stones. Apparently, proving that Loki cheated in a silly competition is more important than protecting the innocent. When he finally stumbles upon this tragic scene his reaction is pretty dismissive.
So to recap: A super-power goes to a conflict zone on the pretense of offering humanitarian affair, clashes with a foreign government just long enough for a prefunctary victory then leaves the country to sort out the damage done on its own. If you ever wanted an apt metaphor for modern American military action, you couldn’t find a better one.
We’re not done with Thor yet! A character like Thor is so epic you can’t just stop there. When we come back we’ll be looking at more ridiculous Thor stories and after that we’ll be diving into the life and times of Jane Foster, the female Thor!
Until then, let me know which character you want me to cover for MLCOIF in the future in the comments section below.