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The Mighty Thor Debuts: Highlights of His First Marvel Masterworks Collection

Updated on November 19, 2014

Thor's Earliest Adventures in Journey Into Mystery, Including Loki's Debut!

Thor, one of Marvel Comics' mightiest heroes, debuted 50 years ago in a comic book called Journey into Mystery. One of the Marvel Universe's earliest characters, he has become one of the most durable and popular Marvel heroes.

Marvel Masterworks: The Mighty Thor Vol. 1 starts with Journey into Mystery No. 83, which introduced the character. The collection also includes the next 17 Thor stories and the first ''Tales of Asgard'' tales.

The ISBN of this book is: 0-7851-1267-7

Marvel Masterworks Thor Volume 1 Available on Amazon Today!

Marvel Comics has printed this collection several times, with different covers but the same content. So don't worry about which version you pick -- you'll get the same stories with any of them!

Thor Journey into Mystery 83
Thor Journey into Mystery 83

Thor Fights the Stone Men From Saturn!

Stan Lee Says, 'Why Not a God?'

Writer Stan Lee credits a radio talk show for the inspiration of Thor as a Marvel character. As Lee tells it in the introduction of this collection, he was on a radio show and the interviewer referred to Marvel's new superheroes as the 1960s generation's new mythology. That sparked Lee to remember he loved Norse mythology, and led him to the creation of Thor.

But as this debut story would show, Lee didn't completely tap into the Norse mythology right away. Instead, he based the character on Earth, giving him a secret identity so he would be similar to other superheroes. In this telling, lame Dr. Blake stumbled across villainous aliens from Saturn and hides in a cave. Finding a stick, he taps it on a boulder and turns into the mighty Thor! Later, it would be revealed that Thor's father, angered at his son's arrogance, cast him to Earth in the guise of Blake to teach him humility.

Thor Loki Journey into Mystery 85
Thor Loki Journey into Mystery 85

Loki, the God of Mischief, Debuts in Journey into Mystery 85!

Also, the First Glimpse of Asgard!

Lee began to introduce more Norse mythology in the third Thor tale, even beginning the story in Asgard with Loki escaping imprisonment. He travels to Earth to confront Thor, and the two tangle in a pretty silly series of confrontations. Thor eventually beats Loki and sends him back to Asgard.

In this issue, Journey into Mystery No. 85, Loki comes across as more of a prankster than truly evil. There's never really much danger, and there's no mention of him being Thor's half-brother. A few of the other Asgardians have cameos in this story, including Heimdall, Balder and Odin.

Writer Stan Lee must have realized he had a winner in Loki, because he would bring the character back in issues No. 88, 92 and 94. In the issue No. 94 tale, titled ''Thor and Loki Attack the Human Race,'' Loki begins to really show his villainous manner, and in an over-the-top sequence he takes control of Thor and has the Thunder God destroy the Taj Mahal, Eiffel Tower, the Golden Gate Bridge, Panama Canal and the leaning tower of Pisa!

Thor Journey into Mystery No. 90
Thor Journey into Mystery No. 90

The Carbon-Copy Man, Merlin, and the Demon Duplicator!

Thor's Earliest and Strangest Foes!

Except for Loki, the early Thor stories are filled with the type of foe that was typical of superhero comics in the early 1960s: aliens from outer space, gangsters and costumed bad guys from Earth.

And what a sad lot the early Thor stories contain. The Stone Men from Saturn were his first foe, but then came a mad South American dictator; a bad guy from three centuries in the future who didn't have any superpowers; communist soldiers and a wounded gangster. Later would come the original Merlin and a scientist who creates an exact-but-evil duplicate of Thor.

Probably the silliest was the Carbon-Copy Man in Journey into Mystery No. 90. In this tale, some evil aliens once again try to conquer the world. They have the power of impersonating anybody, i.e. becoming ''carbon copies'' of humans. Thor captures the lead alien and flings him into space, causing the rest of the alien force to chase after their defeated leader. Some of the bad guys are left on Earth, so Thor forces them to turn into trees! And as trees, they can't think about turning into something else so they will be harmless trees forever!

Other than Loki, the only other early villains that would continue to appear regularly over the decades were the Radio-Active Man, Human Cobra and Mr. Hyde. The stone men and another bad guy, the Lava Man, would appear occasionally.

Thorr Panel Journey into Mystery No. 83
Thorr Panel Journey into Mystery No. 83

Thor? Thorr? What's in a Name Anyway!

The Last Panel of Journey into Mystery No. 83!

One of the funniest things about the early comics was the lack of quality control. Remember, back then the writers and artists didn't realize that they were creating stories that would resonate for decades and would spark television series and mega-Hollywood movies!

In the Incredible Hulk series, Writer Stan Lee introduced Bruce Banner, who would be turned into the Hulk because of Gamma rays. Then in a subsequent issue all the characters called Banner ''Bob,'' and nobody at Marvel Comics caught the mistake before the comic hit the stands! So what did Lee do? He renamed the character Robert Bruce Banner!

Another one of those early mix-ups occurred in the last panel of the first Thor story. After referring to the character as Thor throughout the story, here is Marvel's attempt at enticing readers back for the next issue. That's right, they accidentally spelled his name Thorr!

Al Hartley Thor Journey into Mystery 90
Al Hartley Thor Journey into Mystery 90

Al Hartley, Joe Sinnott and Don Heck

The Second-Tier Artists of Thor's Early Tales!

When you compare this collection with the other Marvel Comics of that era you definitely get the sense that Thor wasn't seen as a top-tier comic like the Fantastic Four or the Amazing Spider-Man.

Writer Stan Lee helped create the character, but he acted only as the plotter for most of these stories, leaving his younger brother, Larry Lieber, and later Robert Bernstein to fill out the tales. Lieber himself would later admit that superheroes weren't his strength, preferring to write the western comic Rawhide Kid. Bernstein was better known for his work at DC Comics, especially on the early Aquaman stories. His work never really seemed suited for Marvel.

But its the early art of the series that gives Thor the look of a secondary title. Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko were the two artists at the top of the early Marvel Universe, with Ditko handling the Amazing Spider-Man and Kirby the Fantastic Four. Kirby drew the first stories in this collection, then the art duties were passed to Al Hartley, Joe Sinnott and Don Heck.

Here is a sample of Hartley's work from Journey into Mystery No. 90, and wow is he a poor match for Thor. Hartley was a veteran comic book artist, but all of his work had been on humor comics, especially Patsy Walker (which chronicled the antics of a teen-aged girl and her friends). His work was no match for Thor, and in fact this was his only attempt at drawing a Marvel superhero comic during the 1960s.

Don Heck also penciled a number of stories in this collection. Heck, another long-time veteran, was passable but nothing special. Joe Sinnott also drew some issues, but he really was more talented as an inker of other artists' work.

Tales of Asgard Thor Journey into Mystery 100
Tales of Asgard Thor Journey into Mystery 100

Tales of Asgard Begin as Lee and Kirby Tap Norse Mythology!

...When a Back-Up Feature is Really Worthwhile!

In Journey into Mystery No. 97, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby began a back-up feature to Thor called ''Tales of Asgard.'' Kirby went wild in these four-page stories, capturing the grandeur of the Norse gods and their worlds in ways that would eventually be incorporated into the main series.

It was in these stories that Lee began to adopt an almost Shakespearean speech for Thor and the Asgardians. The manner of speech would make its way into the main feature eventually. Lee later said that he had been told that readers wouldn't like it if the writing was archaic, stylized or lyrical, but as time went by it really made the comic book stand out!

This scene is from the Tales of Asgard story in Journey into Mystery No. 100.

Journey Into Mystery Comics on eBay - Get the Original Thor Tales As They First Appeared!

I think the Marvel Marvel Masterworks series is a great way to read all the old comics, but if you'd prefer to read the originals there's always eBay. Good luck with your bidding!

The Mighty Thor Theme Song From the 1960s! - ''Across the Rainbow Bridge of Asgard...''

In 1966 Thor was one of the Marvel characters featured in the cartoon series The Marvel Super Heroes, which also featured Captain America, Iron Man, the Hulk and the Sub-Mariner.

The series only lasted a few months, in part because of poor production quality. The stories were adapted from comics that had already been published, and the cartoons consisted of a comic's panels with some minor movement (such as a person's lips or arm moving). It seemed really cheap. For more details see here.

Even so, the theme songs for each superhero were kind of cool. Here is Thor's:

Thor, the Movie Star!

Thor became a movie star in 2011, with the movie ''Thor'' becoming the 15th-highest grossing film of the year (according to Box Office Mojo.

It was a really fun movie, though it took only the very basics from the origin by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Thor is cast to Earth because of his arrogance, but he doesn't assume the guise of lame Dr. Donald Blake. And he returns to Asgard fairly quickly.

The movie places much more emphasis on Asgard and its realms than Earth. It is well worth seeing, and you can buy a copy at Amazon today.

Do You Prefer the Comic Book Version or the Movie Version?

Thor Journey into Mystery No. 83
Thor Journey into Mystery No. 83

Which Thor Do You Like Best?

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Marvel Masterworks vs. Marvel Essentials - Full Color vs. More Stories!

Marvel Comics has two reprint series. The Marvel Masterworks reprint volumes have fewer stories in each book, but they are in wonderful full color that presents the tales in all their original glory. The Marvel Essentials series publish the stories in black and white, on lesser quality paper, so each collection contains more than twice the stories for about the same price.

Which Series Do You Prefer?

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Marvel Masterworks on Amazon

There are now more than 180 Marvel Masterworks volumes, ranging from the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man to less high-profile superheroes including Sub-Mariner, Dr. Strange and the Inhumans. Other volumes include the war comic Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos and such pre-Marvel stories as All-Winners Comics and Young Allies (from when the comic-book company was known as Atlas).

You can find them all on Amazon. Order one today!


Here's a Great Collection of Comic Books!

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Stan Lee Talks About the Creation of Thor

Lee's Attempt to Find a Thor Writer - Marvel Comics: The Untold Story

The recent book Marvel Comics: The Untold Story is a fascinating history of the Marvel Age of comics, and author Sean Howe explains in it how overworked Stan Lee tried to give up the writing of the Thor series (among several series) in 1962 but just couldn't find anybody who could do the narration and dialogue the way he wanted. He could depend on the artists for plotting, but he trusted only himself.

For more details, please read the book, which is available on Amazon. It's a great history book for anybody who grew up reading comic books!

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About Goldenrulecomics

For more about who we are and what we write about please see here:

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Thanks for stopping by and reading this review of Marvel Masterworks Thor Vol. 1. Now it's your turn to share what you think about the collection, Thor, this lens or anything else on your mind!

What Do You Think of the Early Thor Stories? - Please Share Your Opinion Here!

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      anonymous 3 years ago

      I must have liked them I bought ALL of them. Thor was definitely cool!

    • profile image

      hptouchupdate 4 years ago

      Dude, Thor is awesome! They did a thor vs superman, but thor lost, imo he deserves to win.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      You have me wondering if Mom has some of our old Marvels tucked away somewhere....she sure has saved plenty of other things....I'm thinking one of those upper cabinets in my old bedroom. I loved the art work more than the story line, we had a lot of them but they did get read maybe too many times....fun! :)

    • Hairdresser007 profile image

      James Jordan 4 years ago from Burbank, CA

      You own these? how cool!

    • Nightcat profile image

      Nightcat 4 years ago

      I only got to see bits and pieces of the early Thor comics, they seem to be better than the ones I collected and devoured in the '80s. Blessed! :)

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 4 years ago from UK

      I grew up on marvel comics/etc in my early teens. Used to get through 3 or 4 a week, they all went to my cousin who later had a shop in Birmingham devoted to these comics and associated products. He eventually became quite well-known and was featured in local newspapers and television. he is now retired from the business.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 5 years ago from Canada

      I grew up during the time when every kid had at least a comic book or two tucked onto his bed shelf board. They were our reading material. You do a great job of featuring the past and modern Thor Marvel comics. I know the name Stan Lee from the Big Bang show but did not realize he wrote comic books. Got it now lol.