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I think this blog can stand at least one Walt Simonson appreciation post every decade.

§ September 20th, 2019 § Filed under thor § 11 Comments

So I recently took in a few short boxes of, shall we say, well-loved comics from the ’70s and ’80s that I’ve been going through and pricing cheap cheap cheap, and in there was this comic:

This is Thor #336 from 1983, probably best known for being the issue before the following month’s #337, with the beginning of Walt Simonson’s highly-regarded run on the title. (I wrote a bit about that, eep, 12 years ago.) It’s a cover I’d seen plenty of times, over and over again, mostly at the previous place of employment. And it did sell, on occasion…it’s, I think, weirdly a connected artifact to the Simonson era, if only as an example of what had come before Beta Ray Bill was on the scene.

Though perhaps, if you’re a completist, to bring up a topic much discussed on the site this week, you may want #336 for the ballyhooing of the next issue featuring a piece of Simonson’s art:

To be honest, I’ve never read #336, despite seeing it plenty. In fact, I still haven’t really read it, despite that very copy pictured above currently sitting on the desk next to me as I type this. I mostly just kinda flipped through it, trying to get an idea of what Thor ‘n’ pals were up to before the big Unleashing of Thor, as per that letters page ad.

I actually hadn’t read much Thor prior to picking up that first Simonson issue…I think mostly just whatever was in the old Origins of Marvel Comics paperback (and if anything was in Sons of Origins). Simonson was, more or less, my introduction to the character. I knew the basics from reading the origin in that paperback way back when, and maybe saw him in some comic or ‘nother as I expanding into sampling various Marvel comics, but hadn’t really had any Big Thor Action via his own book.

Anyway, looking through #336, I can really see the contrast between what had been coming out and what Simonson was about to serve unto an unsuspecting public. Like, this is the last panel of #336:

…And then, suddenly, this is the last panel, or rather full-page splash, of #337:

Hokey smokes, hold on to your winged hat because ol’ Walt’s got a roller coaster for you to ride.

Okay, this isn’t entirely fair, I’m comparing golden apples with…well, regular apples, I guess, here…one’s the concluding panel to a mostly low-key Marvel-style soap opera-esque thingie, with Thor’s mom being wistful and worried about her son’s love, Sif. And it’s the second of two stories…the first ending with Sif being kinda sad about Thor’s double life as a regular human taking him away from her. Basically, an issue of mostly quiet character conflict.

As opposed to that #337 ending, which is meant to propel you into more action after hitting you with a bunch of action already. It’s the big ol’ beginning of an adventure, not the downbeat ending of characters at emotional odds. Not really trying to say anything was “bad,” as such, just pointing out the contrast. What Simonson was doing was just so different from what had come before…only the Thor comics by Kirby himself (which I had read since experiencing Simonson’s run) could compare to the new visual excitement that was brought to this book.

I like Simonson’s Thor run, is what I’m saying. A big, hold, dynamic presentation that didn’t skimp on actual storytelling…again, not trying to diminish anyone else’s work on the character, but Simonson sure upped the ante for tales starring our Thunder God. Even thirty years on, Marvel still dips into the richness of that run for stories today. Even good ol’ Beta Ray Bill is still around, which would probably shock those Thor fans back in ’83, reading that #337 and wondering just what the heck was going on.

Special thanks to Bully, the Little God of Stuffing, for production assistance on this post!

The post I would have called “Super-Villainesses in Civvies Saturday” if I were still doing that sort of thing.

§ September 17th, 2011 § Filed under thor § 10 Comments

So you peel Hela out of her usual super-being get-up, put her in some grown-up clothes, and, well, she cuts quite the imposing figure:

Pretty much the exact crossroads of “eye-catchingly attractive” and “somewhat terrifying.”

image from Thor #189 (June 1971) by Stan Lee, John Buscema & Joe Sinnott

Five ways Walt Simonson kicked my ass with Thor #337 (Nov. 1983).

§ September 19th, 2007 § Filed under thor Comments Off on Five ways Walt Simonson kicked my ass with Thor #337 (Nov. 1983).

1. The cover. – Who didn’t look at this cover and think “What the holy heck is going on here?”

That was our very first clue that this wasn’t just another rack-filling, copyright-protecting issue of a comic long past its prime. It signaled to us that, hey, maybe something cool and unusual is finally happening in a comic long since taken for granted.

2. “DOOM!” – The first occurrence of this mysterious being, forging…something…in some unknown realm. Not even the lousy printjob can diminish the power of this full-page, full-bleed image:

We’ll see this fella for the next year or so, a page or two at a time, and the suspense will just keep building until his plotline finally intersects Thor’s.

If I may quote the Unsinkable Chris Sims on the matter:

“It’s a full-page shot of a giant making a sword out of a dead star. And the sound ‘reverberates through a billion billion worlds.’ That’s like eighteen zeroes. Eighteen!”

Indeed. Simonson finally brought back some god-sized storytelling to a comic that had been far too mundane for far too long.

3. “I am called Bill — Beta Ray Bill!” – Thor’s first confrontation with, and our first full-on view of, the alien warrior with the remarkably unlikely but absolutely perfect name:

He looks like a completely formidable opponent for Thor, and he certainly looks like a nasty, evil fellow, but that assumption is turned upside down within just a couple pages….

4. Beta Ray Bill acquires Thor’s hammer! – Thor is defeated and has reverted, unconscious, to his mortal form of Dr. Donald Blake. Bill picks up Blake’s cane, finding it in the hammer’s place. Frustrated, Bill smacks the cane against the wall:

Whoa, hey now. According to the inscription on the hammer itself, by Odin’s own decree, “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.” So maybe Beta Ray Bill’s not the bad ol’ nasty we thought he was.

5. Odin’s not too big on detail work. – Thor’s old man pops in, requiring the presence of his son…and since Bill’s currently holding the hammer and the power of Thor, that’s who Odin grabs:

…leaving Thor trapped in Blake’s form, crying out for the father who has forsaken him:

…And then Walt Simonson proceeded to continue kicking my ass on this comic for the next few years, giving us the best Thor comic stories (outside of Kirby, of course) ever published. I can’t believe this comic came out 24 years ago…it still feels just like yesterday when I found the last copy of this book on the newsstand.

Even after all this time, even after being a funnybook salesman for as long as I have…I can still feel the sense of wonder this comic gave me when I originally read it back in ’83. It’s good to know that I’m not entirely jaded.