The First (Marvel) Loki Story

VENUS was a weird comic book, one that went through a myriad of tone and genre changes across its 19 issue lifespan. It was first launched in 1948 during a time when Marvel (then Timely) was attempting to establish a beachhead of female-led super hero titles. So along with VENUS, also launched at that point were SUN GIRL (who was also featured with the Human Torch in MARVEL MYSTERY COMICS and his own magazine), NAMORA (same thing, except with the Sub-Mariner) and BLONDE PHANTOM (who took over ALL SELECT COMICS, where she’d debuted). VENUS was the only one with any staying power, and that was largely due to the flexibility of the concept: it was about the actual Roman goddess who came to Earth again after several centuries and fell in love with a magazine publisher, signing on board as the editor of Beauty magazine as a result. Venus wasn’t really a super hero, although she did possess a series of godly powers and got into adventure situations quite regularly. The stories skewed all over the place–some were adventure yarns with a mythological bent, some were straight-up romance stories, some were humor strips, and eventually (once Bill Everett, the Sub-Mariner’s creator) had come aboard to take over the strip, supernatural horror and science fiction. Really, this title did everything.

But what we’re interested here is the sixth issue of the series, published in May of 1949, most of which was taken up with a long three-part story in which the title character was forced to contend with the evil ambitions of Loki–despite the fact that the God of Mischief came from an entirely different pantheon of mythological gods. The creators on VENUS didn’t seem to care very much about historical accuracy, and so they mixed and matched their godly and mythological figures from across everything.

Credits for this particular story are largely unknown, in particular who wrote it. In terms of the artwork, pencilers such as Don Rico, Pierce Rice, Pete Tumlinson and Chu F. Hing are among those speculated as to having been involved–and it’s entirely possible that more than one artist worked on this job, given its length and the fact that it was broken up into chapters. Valerie Barclay may have done some or all of the inking on it as well. One thing is certain; Syd Shores did the cover.

Nevertheless, this issue of VENUS represents the first time that a version of Loki was used as a villain in a Marvel-published comic. As you’d expect, over the years different dealers have boosted up the back issue price on it, labeling it as a “prototype” or a “precursor”, but really it doesn’t have any relation to the later God of Evil who bedeviled Thor in the pages of JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY apart from the fact that both stories were drawing from the same mythological roots. So it’s a fun artifact of a bygone age, but nothing more noteworthy than that.

This version of Loki owes a bit more to the typical impression of a demonic lord, a Satan figure, both in appearance and in action. He’s said to be the Prince of Hades in this story, which represents another mixing up of the mythologies. But this whole series is rife with such things.

For some reason, for a short time at the end of the 1940s, it was the format for the Timely stories to open not with a splash page, but rather a preview panel from further into the yarn (often colored in monochrome or duochrome) with a title block next to it. I’m not sure what this was supposed to accomplish, but it was a decidedly unattractive arrangement.

5 thoughts on “The First (Marvel) Loki Story

  1. This brings to mind a “What If” idea.

    What is the modern Marvel Universe started in 1948 with an All-Female Squad? Maybe The Submariner and the Torch would need to be rescued on a regular basis by the female heroes. This could create a new comics fandom with mostly women and girls creating the zines and comic conventions. DC would need to start following the new hip trend but somehow manage to get it wrong, perhaps being too patriarchal.

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  2. I’ve had a soft spot for Venus since she reappeared in Silver age Sub-Mariner. I’d like the Agents of Atlas version better had they not felt the need to pulll a Thomas and neuter her into being a siren.

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  3. The writer has a nice all-round knowledge of mythology! I guess Hades was already established as a way to avoid saying Hell, and Pluto was starring in his own series of wildly popular cartoons, so they moved on to the next most popular god-of-evil name…

    I’ve never read this one before, and it’s surprisingly entertaining! I might have to read the whole history of Venus now; I’ve only seen her in modern-day revivals.

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