Wrapping up The Great Amulet Quest last week, I then was suppose to delve into The Great Bone Journey, examining the 9 volumes that make up the epic known as Bone. Instead, I felt I needed just a little more time to gather my thoughts before I let you know about the 9 volume saga of a little Boneville boy that travels out into the big world. So, as a bit of a detour, I decided to discuss a character that millions more are now more familiar with than ever before.
Now, with a successful movie, he’s more popular than ever.
Thor is an extremely difficult character to master and write. That is abundantly clear. For every acclaimed writer/artist run (an extended period of published single issues) on the book, there are at least 3-5 runs done by different creative teams that people can look back on and think “Meh”.
However, the Thor comic I’m talking today is not one filled with edgy and dark storytelling that examines the dark undermining of what makes Thor a god and how he can walk over all humans as the dominant force in the universe. No, it’s nothing simple as that.
No this is a Thor comic book, featuring the God of Thunder, which was intended to be an all-ages book. As such, I went out of my way to make sure that it held a spot in Mr. Acosta’s Class Library. I must say, though, that with all the praise that I heard for this comic, I certainly was more than pleasantly surprised to find it exceeding my expectations.
“Thor: The Mighty Avenger” was published by Marvel Comics in 2010. Written by Roger Langridge and drawn by Chris Samnee, this series was just one of many meant to generate interest in a new movie that was soon to be released. Any idea?
Thor. It was Thor.
So, to talk about “Thor: The Mighty Avenger”, I think talking about the high points of the writer and the artist are in order. Roger Langridge is a name I am hearing about more and more. Currently, the gentleman is heavily involved in writing quite a few other all-ages comics for BOOM! Studios, another comic publishing company. Within that company alone, he is currently writing many Muppet family books, a short-series of Popeye stories, and drawing and writing “Snarked”, a story based on the mini tales of “Through the Looking Glass” with Alice from Wonderland, like the Walrus and the Carpenter.
Let’s quickly talk about Langridge’s artistic buddy, upcoming superstar artist Chris Samnee. Up and coming in recent years, Samnee’s art has a classic look to it. Is it hyper realistic? No. Does it break the barriers of technologically-cool looking designs? Again, no.
There is something to be said for elegance and simplicity, and Samnee brought that to every panel that he created. It has a classic, old timey feeling look to it that I believe will stand the test of time. In this tale, this modern Shakespearean-myth, being able to convey emotions or angst is a great assistance. After all, this is a tale of the gods and how they interact with us mere mortals.
And there we find the great theme of Thor.
All super heroes, when you look at them really close, always will have some sort of theme or lesson. For Spider-Man, power and responsibility. For Green Lantern, living with no fear. For Batman, holding to an ideal. For X-Men, being the bigger people even when the odds are against you.
For Thor, it’s seeing the best in humans as the gods walk among us.
Years ago, when Stan Lee was jamming and creating some of the most recognizable characters in the entire planet, he had a collaborator. A partner. Someone that many people believe to be the true father of the Marvel Universe. His name was Jack Kirby. The New York born, raised on the mean streets artist enforced a strong sense of dynamic action in his artwork. But, even after he stopped working with Stan Lee creating a brand new universe, Mr. Kirby continued to create and work and his main focus?
Showing what it would be like if the gods walked and interacted with man.
So, how does “Thor: The Mighty Avenger” relate 50 years back to the man who helped create him in the first place?
Well, the all-ages story of “Thor: The Mighty Avenger” begins as such: Jane Foster, simple, low-placed curator for a small town museum is given the opportunity to gain a raise. So long as she keeps the museum in order when the main museum curator is gone, and keeps a priceless vase safe. Within ten minutes, the museum security is trying it’s best to restrain a large, muscular blonde man screaming in an indiscernible language.
Thor. It’s Thor.
What our Jane Foster comes to find out is that Thor has been banished to Earth and is trying to get to whatever is in that vase. Does she believe him? No. Does Thor stand a chance against the vicious Mr. Hyde who is also trying to obtain whatever is in that vase in the museum.
The adventures don’t stop there. The adventures of Thor and his Jane continue over two volumes. Unfortunately, because this series was unable to find solid ground amidst the large amount of stuff that Marvel was publishing at the time, this series was ended after only 8 issues.
Within those 8 issues we are given a love story and one of the single best Thor stories of all time. I did say that doing a great Thor story is tough, but author Roger Langridge and artist Chris Samnee do it in 8 single issues. What makes Thor so hard is that you run the risk of delving too far into the gods and their lifestyles, meaning you leave behind the humanity that’s needed to balance the story out.
If you leave the fact that Thor is the literal God of Thunder, then it takes away the grandeur of who he is. You turn him into another man with a red cape that flies and punches people. I think we’re set on that.
So, with “Thor: The Mighty Avenger”, the perfect balance is found. Yes, Thor is a god and he has a wonderful little habit of declaring it, even when no one asks him to. His power, unreliably strong. Whether it’s throwing down with Captain Britain in a good old-fashioned British Bar Room Brawl, or slamming his hammer into hordes of attacking robotic soldiers, his god-like powers are unrivaled.
However, what he learns is humanity from his Jane Foster. Whether it’s dealing with her leaving him alone on girl’s night out, or what it means to actually love someone besides himself. Jane Foster is his connection to the world of man.
So, all of this sounds great, but what does it have to do with it being in my Mr. Acosta’s Class Library? It’s meant as an all-ages book, after all.
I think what it really shows to my students is that humanity is something that doesn’t come easy to anyone, not even the gods. It’s something they’ll have to learn.
SIDE-BAR: Can’t get enough comics talk? Arnie Bermudez (of Bermudez Shorts here on the Tucson Citizen) and I now have “The Off-Panel” Webcast, where we talk about comics and anything else that relates to the world of pop culture. Episode 1 is up. Check it out and show your support!
- In addition to writing for the column “Comic Matters” for the Tucson Citizen website, Bobby Acosta is also a 5th Grade Elementary school teacher, frequenter of local comic book shop Heroes & Villains, and explorer of the importance of comics. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org