A post from my decade-old Marvel blog, part of a sequence detailing the early Marvel books that I read that did not make me a fan of the company.
So, bringing people up to speed from yesterday: in my formative years, I wasn’t much of a Marvel fan. For many years, I actively decried the Marvel output. And these comics are why.
The seventies weren’t the best time for comics overall. The number of venues carrying the books was dropping, the printing was often, at best, lousy, and the page counts were dropping (at the low point, a new comic only contained 17 pages of story). At certain points, cost-cutting measures were employed, such as having the artists draw a page sideways on the board, and then printing it as a double-page spread (with oversized lettering compared to the rest of the book and thick inking that was intended for greater reduction, looking as though it had been done with a stick.)
Even in the best of times, THOR can be a difficult sell. And 1975 wasn’t really the best of times. Attempting to cash in on the barbarian fad in comics started by CONAN, THOR often vacillated between trying to look like a sword-and-sorcery comic and a super hero comic–largely to the indifference of both readerships.
Here’s what I wrote about THOR #233 a couple years ago:
Much like Captain America #183, which came out at the same time, Thor #233 was one of my early purchases which made me, for a long time thereafter, an avowed hater of Marvel Comics. And, unlike Cap #183, even today it’s not very good.
Thor is a series that, in my opinion, experienced a long creative nadir following the departure of artist/plotter Jack Kirby and then writer Stan Lee. It went from being a series packed with startling vistas, compelling concepts and sweeping epic scope to something more akin to a boring, tepid pseudo-barbarian comic. Maybe this shift in direction was partly due to the tremendous success of Conan in the early ’70s. But in any case, the incredible played as the mundane on too regular an occasion.
This issue is no exception. Written with a pretentious tone by scribe Gerry Conway, the story concerned an attempt by Loki to gain his revenge on Thor by invading Earth with a legion of his troops while Odin has mysteriously vanished. Gerry tries to make this seem weighty and important–in fact, he tries too hard, and the result is long passages of text or dialogue that are difficult to get through and even more difficult to care about. Gerry’s written some excellent comics in his time, but Thor always seemed to fit badly with his approach.
The artwork by the always-at-least-competent John Buscema is similarly hampered by incompatible inking by Chic Stone. Stone’s bold, direct, simple linework was an ideal match for Jack Kirby’s stylized, impressionistic figures and compositions in the ’60s, but atop Buscema’s more lyrical illustrations, the effect is rather crude and unattractive.
Both this issue of THOR and yesterday’s CAPTAIN AMERICA were the end product of hit-and-runs: my father was a heavy smoker, and so would regularly be heading over to the 7-11 to restock his favorite brand. And whenever we’d go there, I’d inveigle him into buying me a comic. With these two books, however, we were in something of a rush, so he dashed into the store, grabbed the smokes and the book and came back out to the car, so I wasn’t actively involved in the purchase.
Afterwards, I lectured him repeatedly about the fact that I didn’t like Marvel comics–that they stunk. I was so adamant about it that the whole argument came back to bite me in the behind a few years later, when I started reading the Marvel books–he would parrot my own comments back to me. Had he lived long enough to see me actually working for Marvel, it would have been a source of never-ending amusement for him.