Original artwork from Journey Into Mystery #89, found on Pinterest.
How Many Issues?
Twelve issues, Journey Into Mystery #88-99.
Plotter: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby (88-89, 93, 97-99)
Scripter: Larry Lieber (88-91), Robert Bernstein (92-96), Stan Lee (97-99)
Penciller: Jack Kirby (88-89, 93, 97-99), Al Hartley (90), Joe Sinnott (91-92, 94-96), Don Heck (98-99)
Inker: Dick Ayers (88-89, 93), Al Hartley (90), Joe Sinnott (91-92, 94-96), Don Heck (97-99), George Roussos (97, 99)
Was It Good?
No, not especially. The creative teams changed every few issues, so the characters didn’t really develop much in 1963. It wasn’t until Stan Lee and Jack Kirby returned to the title at the end of the year that we started to see some changes, and that progress was only with the Jane Foster/Donald Blake romantic subplot.
The problem with Thor in 1963 is that he is far mightier than his opponents. The stories are gimmicky and become convoluted as they strain to provide a challenge to Thor. They rarely succeed. Despite having Loki as the primary villain in three issues, most of these bad guys are simply underwhelming.
The Tales of Asgard back-up stories have disappointed so far, too. They are given only a few pages to tell epic stories, which leads to Stan Lee writing a ton of prose summaries, instead of the punchy dialogue that he is actually good at. Jack Kirby’s art is nice, but he really needs more pages to tell a decent story.
What About the Sub-Plots and Continuity?
It can be fun to track the minor story points throughout a year’s worth of comics to see what ideas were developed, which were quietly dropped, and what weird trends emerged.
- In 1963, Thor battled: Cobra, the Lava Man, Loki (three times), Merlin, Mister Hyde, Professor Zaxton and his duplicator, Radioactive Man, Sandu and his magical powers, Thug Thatcher, and the shape-changing Xartans.
- Even though Loki is imprisoned on Asgard, he is able to use his magic to cause Thor issues; he can even monitor Thor remotely. These are not secrets; no one in Asgard chooses to do anything about them, though.
- Loki is aware of Thor’s alter-ego. He could easily defeat Donald Blake, but the is not enough challenge or satisfaction in that; he wants to defeat Thor.
- Professor Zaxton also learned that Thor and Donald Blake are one person. He dies before he can do anything with that information; he did make an evil duplicate of himself, but Thor assumes that the evil duplicate of an evil man will be good, and that his secret is safe.
- Many people witnessed Blake transforming into Thor, but failed to understand the significance. Most of the time, Thor gives terrible explanations for how he appeared and Blake disappeared (like “I threw Blake out of a multistory building for his own safety”), but not always. For example, he purposely transformed from Thor into Blake to defeat Merlin. This was done in public, in the Washington DC mall area, so you would think that someone else — perhaps a journalist or photographer covering their battle — would have observed or understood the Blake/Thor connection. Apparently not.
- Thor is still a bundle of ridiculous powers. In addition to needing to tap his hammer X number of times to access certain abilities (lightning, storms, etc.), we are also blessed with goofy things like super-breath and super-ventriloquism.
- In addition to his workload as a general practitioner (that occasionally performs surgery), Donald Blake is also an advanced mechanical engineer: he built an intelligent, super-strong android. That android was sabotaged and destroyed, and I doubt it will ever be mentioned again.
- Jane Foster eventually got tired of Donald Blake’s shenanigans and quit her job to work for (and date) another doctor. This lasts one issue.
- The subplot of the year is Odin forbidding Thor from revealing his identity to any mortal. This is meant to keep him and Jane Foster apart. Later, Odin relents a little, staying that he could make Jane immortal if she really, really earned it, and then it would be okay for Thor to marry her. Note: Jane is completely unaware of all of this.