THORMedium: Comic Books
Published by: Fox Feature Syndicate
First Appeared: 1940
Creators: unknown writer and Pierce Rice (artist)
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When Marvel Comics launched The Mighty Thor in 1962, that character was unique in comic books — an authentic mythological god, complete with pantheon, descended from on-high to cavort with the ordinary superheroes in a
regularly-published series. Son of Vulcan offered a reasonable facsimile of a mythological god, but came along later and lasted only a little while. But earlier, the idea of drawing superheroes from Bullfinch wasn't all that uncommon. Thor himself was anticipated by Fox Comics (Wonder Man, The Bouncer) as early as 1940.
This version of Thor was originally a regular human, a scientist named Grant Farrel, who was working on a revolutionary new electrical conductor. In Fox's Weird Comics #1 (April, 1940) — the same issue that introduced The Bird Man, another namesake of a later character — a thunderstorm was going on while he did his experiments. Naturally (this being a comic book), lightning struck him. Equally naturally (for the same reason), this rendered him super-powered (immensely strong and able to project lightning bolts of his own) instead of dead, and again equally naturally, he took this as his cue to adopt a secret identity for purposes of fighting crime. From then on, lightning would strike and power him up again, every time he was in danger. Compared to the more over-dressed superheroes, his crime-bashing ensemble was of the minimalist variety. He wore what looked like swim trunks with nothing else escept a helmet and a cape. Even his feet were bare.
The lightning bolt had been sent by the original Thor, the one of myth and legend, who was looking for a successor in the modern world. Because of this connection, Grant could call on his supernatural namesake for useful weapons such as strength-conferring gauntlets and, of course, The Hammer. Also, with the more famous Thor's assistance, he could get from place to place by riding lightning bolts.
Nobody knows who wrote Thor's first story — or any of his subsequent ones, for that matter. The artist on all of them was Pierce Rice, who had a hand in creating at least a couple of other minor players on the funnybook scene, Fawcett's Atom Blake (a kid scientific whiz) and Harvey's The Zebra (who wore a prison uniform as a superhero get-up). Thor appeared in the lead position of the first few issues of Weird Comics, but not once was he seen on the cover. The usual occupant of that spot was Dr. Mortal (a villain protagonist like The Yellow Claw or The Brain), but The Sorceress of Zoom (who ruled a fantasy realm like Amethyst or Lady Death) also had her hand in.
This Thor didn't enjoy the enduring popularity of Marvel's. In fact, he lasted only five issues. In Weird Comics #6 (September, 1940) he was replaced by a completely unrelated character called "Dynamite" Thor — a guy whose last name happened to be Thor, whose nickname came from his method of getting around (blowing himself into the air with that substance, and by the way, no relation) — and that was the end of him.