THE MIGHTY THORMedium: Comic books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1962
Creators: Stan Lee (writer/editor) and Jack Kirby (artist)
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Like any other powerful and well known-mythical (i.e., public-domain) being, Thor has appeared in comic books many times, and been handled many different ways. The first was probably the Fox Feature Syndicate version. But when we think of him in this
medium, only one Thor really stands out — the one that has been a mainstay of the Marvel Comics Universe since the early 1960s.
Journey into Mystery, like all of Marvel's then-extant sci-fi/monster comics, was made over into a superhero book when that genre made its comeback. The 83rd issue (August, 1962) told the story of frail, lame Dr. Donald Blake, who found an ancient walking stick with an inscription. It claimed that the stick could be transformed into the hammer of Thor, imbuing its wielder with all the power of the legendary Teutonic thunder god. This was a handy thing to have, because right at the moment, Blake happened to need a lot of power to foil an interplanetary invasion. The deed done, he changed the hammer back into a walking stick, and himself back into the mild-mannered medical man.
Like the majority of Marvel's superheroes of the 1962-63 vintage, Thor was initially written by Stan Lee and drawn by Jack Kirby. Also, like most, Kirby stayed only a few issues. Joe Sinnott drew most of the Thor stories during the first year or two, but there was also an occasional fill-in artist. One issue, in fact, was drawn by Al Hartley, better known for his work on Millie the Model and Archie than anything having to do with superheroes.
Unlike most of the series Kirby kicked off during that period, Thor drew him back. He returned to do dozens more stories, throughout the 1960s.
More characters from the Norse pantheon turned up, starting in the third issue, when Loki, Thor's evil half-brother, became the series' first recurring villain. Before long, the thunder god was making regular trips to Asgard, where he would interact with such personages as Heimdal, Baldur, Sif, and even Odin himself. It became hard to reconcile the lame doctor with Thor's eons-old relationships with his fellow deities, so a retcon was concocted by way of explanation: Blake had been Thor all along, sentenced by Odin to inhabit a less magnificent body, his memory erased, until he got over his rather insufferable pride. The walking stick had been planted as a way of easing him back into the fold. Eventually, the Blake persona was completely written out of the series.
Thor's sojourn on Midgard (as Earth is called in this mythological context) brought him many lasting friendships. Among the most significant were his fellow members of The Avengers, a group that was formed when other Marvel characters — Ant Man, The Wasp, Iron Man and The Hulk — became involved in one of Loki's schemes. Thor has maintained active participation in the group fairly steadily over the years, and even now, frequently appears as part of it.
In the beginning, the sci-fi/monster stories continued to appear in the back pages of Journey into Mystery. That ended in #97 (October, 1963), when "Tales of Asgard" took over that spot. With #104 (May, 1964), Thor's name began appearing more prominently than that of the magazine's actual title. When, in 1966, the original title disappeared altogether, and its official name became The Mighty Thor, the event was scarcely even noticed.
As steady a seller as he's been in comics, Marvel's version of Thor has scarcely set foot into other story media. He was one of the stars of the half-hour Marvel Super Heroes animated series, along with Captain America and The Sub-Mariner, which was syndicated from 1966-68 — but considering the esteem in which those cartoons are held, that's no great honor. He appeared in one or two paperback novelizations of The Avengers. And something vaguely recognizable as the old Blake/Thor relationship was seen in one of the post-series Incredible Hulk TV movies. But that's about it.
But in the comic books where he was born, he has been a prominent part of the Marvel superhero scene since its very early days — and retains that position even now.