I’m having a not-so-good reaction to a tetanus shot I had on Tuesday at my annual physical. My arm & shoulder hurt like a mo’fo’, and I’ve got chills & exhaustion that comes and goes. I’m particularly wiped out in the evening, so I spent last night and this early evening reading Essential Thor, Vol. 1, a cheap b/w reprint of the first batch of Thor comics.
I don’t think I remember how hilariously bad these comics were. Sure, things got pretty insanely cosmic a few years into its run, but the first bunch of stories are just bizarre. It all starts with the wacky premise of an American doctor wandering through the Norwegian countryside. Oh, it’s not bizarre that a doctor goes traveling, but Dr. Blake is lame and walks with a cane, so it’s a bit weird that he’d go meandering through a foreign countryside on his own. Lucky for him, he finds a cane that turns out to be the hammer of Thor, just in time for him to fight off an invasion of aliens from Saturn. It was 1962; that stuff happened.
The collection is all kinds of awesome, even though Thor hasn’t quite started speaking in the mock-Shakespearean mode that Stan Lee would decide makes perfect sense for a Norse god’s speech. Oh, and it’s never quite clear as to whether Dr. Blake and Thor are two different people. If they’re not, then Blake doesn’t seem to have any recollection of, um, being Thor. The thunder god is treated just like any other super-hero with a secret identity. But that’s neither here nor there.
One issue’s plot â€” mobster wounded during getaway, henchmen kidnap Dr. Blake to fix him up â€” gets recycled three issues later. In another, mega-powerful shape-changing aliens invade earth and do puzzling things, like paint polka-dots on streets, to confuse mankind and leave us susceptible to invasion. But beyond the awful stories, there are some tremendous passages. At one point, Dr. Blake’s nurse Jane fantasizes about domestic life with Thor. This includes giving him a haircut for summer, ironing his cape, and â€” I’m not making this up â€” polishing his hammer.
My favorite moment so far, however, is from the subtly titled, “PRISONER OF THE REDS!” See, American scientists are suddenly defecting to the Soviets, and Dr. Blake suspects something is up. So he pretends to be developing a new biological warfare thing, and gets kidnapped. He goes into his lab to not really do anything and then we see . . .
A photographer reading a newspaper article about Blake’s supposed breakthrough! His thought balloon reads, “HMMMM… THIS DOCTOR BLAKE COULD BE ANOTHER USEFUL SCIENTIST FOR OUR CAUSE!”
The caption above it?
That’s right: FINALLY, AFTER DAYS OF FAKE SCIENTIFIC EXPERIMENTATION…
I’m starting to think Roy Lichtenstein was on to something.