Friday, September 23, 2005

"Thor is not a homo"

Nobody leaves this Comic Art Friday without singing the blues.

At first glance, Thor, the Norse god of thunder, seems a peculiar subject for a superhero comic book. That is, until one considers that the gods and demigods of ancient mythology really were the first superheroes. The labors of Hercules, the quest of Jason and the Argonauts, the magical voyage of Odysseus — all the nascent stuff of adventure fantasy that one finds in the pages of comics began with mythology.

Not so strange, then, that when Stan Lee went to Jack Kirby — or Jack went to Stan; you know they never could agree on who came up with what idea first — and said, "You know, we could do Thor," that the answer came back, "Yea, verily and forsooth."

Thus heroes are born.

Although I wasn't a huge fan of Marvel Comics' Mighty Thor in my comics-reading heyday, I always had a soft spot for the long-haired galoot with the winged helmet and flying hammer. I think I liked Thor because he didn't talk like a superhero. Instead of uttering the usual pompous blowhardisms (Superman) or self-referential wisecracks (Spider-Man) that constituted most superheroes' dialogue, Thor spoke with the unique flavor of a guy who had been marooned on a deserted island for twenty years with a King James Bible and The Complete Works of Shakespeare, and just sort of made up his own version of the King's English. The incongruity of a Norwegian semi-deity speaking in a bastardization of Elizabethan syntax mattered not to my preadolescent brain. (If the guy spoke English at all, instead of the more logical Old Norse, where on Earth would he pick up a version of it that made him sound like a cast extra from the Renaissance Faire?) Thor just sounded cool, with phrases like "I say thee nay!" streaming from his lips.

The other fascinating element about Thor was that he came complete with a whole host of supporting characters who were nearly as majestic and heroic as he was. Most superhero sidekicks were kids like Batman's Robin the Boy Wonder, or nerds like Superman's Jimmy Olsen, or bald-faced comic relief like the Spirit's Ebony White. Thor hung out with bad Asgardian mammajammas like Balder the Brave, and the Warriors Three — Hogun, Volstagg, and Fandral. These guys kicked serious butt. Period. Even Thor's girlfriend, the Lady Sif, was no Lois Lane damsel-in-distress, at least not all the time. Sif could swing a sword when she had occasion, and swing it with aplomb.

Because he was never really Marvel's most popular hero — it's tough for kids to identify with a hammer-toting hippie in a Viking helmet — Thor got jerked around a lot. There was the whole business of his secret identity as Dr. Don Blake, the pathetic cripple (a false front at long last dumped entirely by Marvel writers), then a spate of time wherein Thor kept getting replaced by giant frogs and horse-faced space aliens and dorky Thunder God wannabes like Eric Masterson aka Thunderstrike, and finally the ignominy of losing his self-titled monthly comic.

I was thrilled, therefore, to read the first issue of the new miniseries Thor: Blood Oath, and see that Thor is back to being Thor. Writer Michael Avon Oeming doesn't quite have the knack for Thor's peculiar speech pattern than Stan Lee did — Oeming's Thunder God drops his accent more often than Kevin Costner in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves; Thor should never use contractions or modern slang — but he gets close enough, enough of the time. Artist Scott Kolins adds an appropriately vigorous rendering style. The first installment was great fun, and I look forward to reading the remainder of the series.

But I hear you shouting, "Nay, enough of this, mortal villain! We demand comic art, and we demand it anon!" And by Odin's beard, you shall have it.

Below, we feature a classically styled rendition of the Asgardian Avenger, created by longtime comics stalwart Bob McLeod.

And for a more stylized take on our thunder-making hero, here's a dramatic showdown between Thor and hammer-wielding wannabe Steel, drawn by the incredibly talented Trevor Von Eeden and embellished by veteran inker Josef Rubinstein.

Need I encumber these power-packed artworks with additional explanatory blather? I say thee nay!

5 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger Joel offered these pearls of wisdom...

Good post but I don't get the title.

7:33 AM  
Blogger SwanShadow offered these pearls of wisdom...

In director Chris Columbus's debut film, Adventures in Babysitting, one of the main characters is a little girl named Sara (played by Maia Brewton) who idolizes Thor. She wears a toy helmet that's a replica of the one Thor wears in the comics. That helmet figures prominently in the plot and becomes the signature visual element of the movie.

During one of the early establishing scenes, Sara's older brother Brad (Keith Coogan) -- teasing his little sister as big brothers do -- initiates the following exchange:

Sara: Thor's my hero.
Brad: Thor's a homo.
Sara: He is not.
Brad: Yeah, he is.
Sara: He is not!
Brad: Thor's a complete homo.
Sara: Take it back, Brad. Take back what you said about Thor.
Brad: No.
Sara: If you don't take it back, I'll tell Chris about all those love poems you write about her.
Brad: Okay, okay, I take it back. Thor is not a homo.
Sara: Thank you. Hi, Chris!

At which point Chris the babysitter (played by Elisabeth Shue) enters, and the main story ensues.

Even people who've never picked up a Marvel comic remember "Thor is not a homo," one of the most famous lines from a pretty quotable '80s film. (Another classic line from the film referenced in this post: "Nobody leaves this place without singing the blues.")

8:14 AM  
Anonymous Bruce England offered these pearls of wisdom...

For cool talk, I was always partial to Dr. Strange. "By the mystic moons of Munnapor" and all that. Is he still around? I don't think I've seen him since the 70's. Steve Ditko's Dr. Strange was my fave.

9:07 AM  
Blogger Geof_Ish offered these pearls of wisdom...

With his square jaw firmly set, and biceps matched only by The Hulk, it seems to me no one could accuse Thor of being "homo"! The biggest challenge to drawing Thor is always that winged helmet. Get that right , and the rest is easy...

4:47 AM  
Blogger Janet offered these pearls of wisdom...

It's funny. The only reason I know of Thor is because I saw Adventures In Babysitting.

2:52 PM  

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