Now this was a cover that captured my attention immediately. Ever since, years before, I had first read FLASH #225 featuring Professor Zoom, the Reverse Flash
I had been fascinated by evil twins, dark doppelganger versions of the main hero. And I wasn’t the only one apparently, as this particular ersatz Thor would turn up again and again over the years–never truly becoming a fully established character unto himself (at least a few future writers wrote him without being aware of his background or origins, which made him a bit more generic and uninteresting). But that wouldn’t start to happen for a long time yet.
It’s entirely due to the fact that this was the first time I’d encountered the concept, but I took new writer Roy Thomas’s current Ragnarok storyline very, very seriously. I knew that there had been previous occasions when the threat of Ragnarok had hung over the Gods of Asgard, but the jeopardy in this case seemed legitimate to me. Especially as Roy was using the actual classic myths as fodder for what he was doing, in a way analogous to what he’d been doing with CONAN for so long. By this point, the storyline had been running for four issues with no end in sight–a veritable epic by the standards of the period. Artwork was being provided by John Buscema and Tom Palmer, who were an effective combination, with palmer adding texture and depth to Buscema’s basic layouts and storytelling.
At the close of the prior issue, Odin had used his fabled Odin-Power to place the stricken Balder into a state of suspended animation, so as to stave off the prophesied Ragnarok, which was to kick off with the God of Light’s death. Momentarily off the hook, the All-Father turns his attentions to his errand son, Loki, intending to try him for his crimes against the throne. Loki, though, has his own contingency plan brewing. You see, Thor had been manipulated into bringing Earthly reporter Harris Hobbs and his film crew with him to the Golden City. And one of them, cameraman Red Norvell, had become smitten with Sif. But of course she had no eyes for him, her only love was for Thor. So Loki began to work his wiles.
So while Loki stalled matters at his godly hearing thanks to his slippery tongue, he is simultaneously entreating Red Norvell to go to Thor’s temple. Last issue,. Thor had handed Norvell his mythological Belt of Strength, which he’d needed for an extra juice-up during a battle. propelled by his desire for Sif, Norvell donned the Belt of Strength as well as Thor’s Iron Gloves in the manner proscribed by Loki, gaining the might and power of the Thunder God himself in the process. And so, before judgment can be rendered upon Loki, Red Norvell as the new Thor bursts into the chamber to confront his romantic rival, the genuine God of Thunder.
All eyes turn to Odin at this point, but the All-Father mutters some unconvincing excuses about not diverting his power from Balder’s safekeeping at this critical juncture, et cetera et cetera, and so Thor and his fellow Asgardians will have to take on this newcomer on their own. Which you wouldn’t think would be all that tough, but Norvell clobbers the first bunch of Asgardians who attempt to lay hands on him–and when Thor himself enters the fray, Red is able to catch Thor’s hammer Mjolnir in his gauntleted hand, claiming it as his own. Norvell, of course, is designed to look more like the classic descriptions of the Aesir Thunder God, complete with red beard and period armor and furs.
Now that he’s got the hammer in hand, Red Thor is pretty much unstoppable, and drunk on his own power. He proceeds to wreck the actual Thor, who refuses any help from his assembled comrades, making this a duel of honor to regain his mantle and weapon. Norvell himself has gone a bit nuts, but he’s got an instinctive understanding of the powers he commands, and he begins to pepper Thor with devastating blasts of power from his hammer. At a crucial moment, Joey, the third member of the film crew, races in and attempts to bring Red back to his senses, But he comes between Norvell and his intended target, Thor, an he gets struck down and roasted to death for his troubles. You would think that at this point some other Asgardian might stand up and do something, duel of honor or know. But little do you understand these Gods, my friend.
Flush with success, Norvell makes his wishes known: he wants to get it on with Sif. For her part, the Goddess swears that she will fight him all the way–at least until Red Thor threatens to use his newfound might to shatter the Odin-Shield keeping Balder alive, thus dooming all of Asgard. At that point, with no other option before her, Sif acquiesces, and she and Norvell take off for parts unknown, leaving the hammerless Thor behind. All of these events leave Odin deeply depressed–and as his spirit wanes, so too does the protective shield keeping Balder safely in stasis. To Be Continued!
4 thoughts on “BHOC: THOR #276”
Bought this at the newsstand back in the day. I wasn’t a regular reader of Thor, but the red-headed Thor on the cover drew me in… not so much that I would bother to pick up the next issue though. I always preferred Thor with the Avengers, and if solo…on Earth. Stories set in Asgard tended to leave me cold. I found out down the road that Red Norvel/Thor was a bit of Odin sleight-of-hand to save the real Thor from a death prophecy. Ugh…. clever maybe, but hardly heroic.
I was the worst kind of completist back then so of course I bough Thor religously despite never being a fan. Since I kicked the habit, I think I bought no issue of Thor between Warren Ellis’ short run and the first few of Coipel’s run and nothing since. What I specifically disliked about this era of Thor was it felt like Thomas was conducting a class , lecturing us on Norse mythology and German opera, while also keeping everything that was never apart of Norse myth. Aside from how useless Marvel Sif was in story, she never had anything to do with mythical Sif. And is it heresy to say I don’t like Palmer as a finisher? I think his work on full pencils was amazing but always felt like something intangible was missing otherwise.
This was the 1st issue of Thor I ever had. Came in a 3-pack from Appleton Market, along w/ an Avengers (reprint) story Tom’s covered before, vs. the Collector, featuring a mind-controlled (“collected”) Thor attacking Iron-Man. It also showed Pym regaining his Goliath powers, & ended with a video call from Cap, asking for “The Panther” to be accepted as his replacement. I can’t think of the 3rd book, but Appleton usually only sold comics that way. I wasn’t quite 7 yrs old. I knew Thor from friends’ Mego toys, stickers, & Slurpee cups. So it was easy to slip into the story.
I hated Red Norvell, & maybe that’s what Roy Intended. He looked impressive, but what an a-hole. I was old enough to get that he was a scumbag, without knowing that word, yet, & his word choice & behavior reminded me of some shady adults I’d seen in passing. At Cook-outs, & parties at other people’s houses. And his actions towards Thor & Sif really got a strong, repulsed reaction out of me. I was really upset he just utterly physically dominated Thor.
I don’t think I saw him again until Peter David’s “Hulk”, what, 14 yrs later. But I never forgot him. And as I aged, I started seeing more adults that sadly had his bad qualities. When I came across DC’s Earth 3 villains in the 80’s, I thought of Red as a evil Thor on some alternate Marvel Earth. But without the rough American low-life speech pattern.
I did really like the art in this. Still do. And I started to recognize John Buscema’s style soon after, seeing it on multiple titles. He’s largely responsible for me losing interest in Curt Swan’s Superman. I was more into DC than Marvel, but there was no denying J.Buscema’s thunder god just oozed more inherent power than Swan’s Man of Steel. I really wanted to see Superman drawn as well as that, & I loved the covers on the Superbooks by JLGL, Buckler, & Andru, though I wouldn’t understand Giordano’s huge influence on them until my early teens.
Anyway, classic issue.
Despite solid inks by Palmer and some nice zipatone effects, this Thor art, along with Avengers art later on, never stood up to the days of yore when they did Avengers in the late 60’s/early 70’s. Buscema wasn’t doing as full pencils, but wonder if it was partly to do with the plastic printing plates they were now using?