Issue(s): Thor #178
...something is very much amiss here. The scripting is just awful. Really stiff, really primitive feeling, like i'm reading a Thor comic written in 1963. Is it because Kirby is gone? I know that the degree to which Stan Lee was contributing to books, especially this late, is in dispute, but i did still believe he was still writing the dialogue.
But now i'm not so sure. The dialogue here is clunky, it's overly expository, and there just isn't any oomph behind it.
Even beyond the scripting, the plot for this is pretty bad. The basic set-up is fine. The Abomination accidentally summons Thor to the Stranger's planet while the Stranger is away, and tricks him into thinking that the Stranger is kidnapping creatures and collecting them on his planet.
Well, the Stranger actually is imprisoning creatures (note that despite the dialogue the creatures all seem to be of the same pink goblinoid race except for the one gargoyle)...
...but it'll turn out that they're all criminals and other unwanted elements. Your mileage may vary on how acceptable that is. But the situation is definitely misrepresented to Thor, setting up a classic misunderstanding fight, although unfortunately not a very exciting one.
I would have liked to see the fight used as an opportunity to explore the differences between deities like Thor, who are clearly immortal and powerful but tied to a specific planet of worshipers, and a truly cosmic entity like Stranger. But in light of other problems with this issue i'm not going to focus on that sort of thing. (Another thing i wouldn't have minded learning about is what it is, exactly, that the Stranger does with these prisoners. In addition to the generic aliens and Abomination, the Stranger has also imprisoned Magneto and the Toad.)
During the fight, the Stranger creates duplicates of himself to confuse Thor. What a lame, old hat trick (prior to that, the Stranger made Thor fall into some quicksand; almost equally boring).
But after Thor quickly dispatches the duplicates, he decides to run away, "to better learn the nature of the danger I face", he tells himself.
Thor then turns back into Blake (because how better to explore an alien world than as a lame doctor?), and discovers the truth about the Stranger's prisoners.
And now is when it gets really bad. Because what's Thor's solution here? Apologize to the Stranger? Fight the Stranger anyway like a true Norse god and then apologize later? No, he travels back in time and this time doesn't fall for the Abomination's trick.
I haven't read a lot of Silver Age Superman stories but from what i've read this seems to be the sort of shenanigans that went on in them. Ok, at least no one turned into a gorilla. But this is not what we'd expect from a Marvel comic circa 1970. Sure, Thor did some time travel in his earliest stories, but only to the far future, not to reset his own actions in the recent past. If he could do that, why not always do it? No explanation. Really an incredibly Holy Crap! bad ending.
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: This issue begins with the Asgardians having a feast in the aftermath of the previous arc, so Thor probably shouldn't appear elsewhere in between.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Quasar 13-18 reveal that the Stranger has not only been capturing criminals but heroes like Gargoyle and Jack of Hearts. Maybe the Stranger changed his policy. Alternately, maybe there were innocents among the Stranger's captives and Thor failed to notice them.
Posted by: Michael | February 11, 2013 7:57 PM
After doing a little digging, it has come to light the generic aliens are in fact disgruntled Walmart employees..:) It may be better to just look at the nice pictures in this book as Buscema still makes it visually stimulating, the cover alone was a reason to spend 15 cents!
Posted by: Rocknrollguitarplayer | June 16, 2016 12:43 PM
Thor: "Thou can't not pit thy mortal power against the son of Odin!"
It's really hard for me to believe Stan Lee scripted that bit of dialog. Then Thor seems to turn tail, and run away from the Stranger, twice? And Thor is able to KO the Abomination with one punch? None of this seems very consistent for either Thor or the Abomination, who if I remember correctly is supposed to be more powerful than the Hulk?
I don't remember ever reading this issue before. The inconsistencies are very striking.
Posted by: James Holt | October 5, 2017 12:52 PM
I completely believe Stan scripted this. It's about his same level of quality as his early Marvel work before Kirby and Ditko really took control of their books. It is better than Larry Lieber, and is missing the obvious tics of Roy Thomas.
And the mediocre plotting definitely fits Stan on his own. Stan tended to be good on the humanistic subplots and soap opera, but his villains tended to be quite ordinary and trite in their motivations and actions. Nothing of the grandeur or menace of Kirby's villains, or the creative and interesting plots of Ditko.
I love Stan's work, and he has tremendous strengths, but his weaknesses are also well known.
Posted by: Chris | October 5, 2017 4:01 PM
Not sure if I'm missing something, but I find fans often credit Ditko and Kirby entirely for any plots of comics they worked on with Stan (they definitely deserve full credit on many issues, I'm just not sure whether it's all of them), but give Stan the full blame for, say, the plots on Lee-Colan's Daredevil, assuming that is Stan working on his own. From Romita's comments about Stan only caring about dialogue & not particularly caring about the details of the plots they worked on together, I suspect Stan was happy to leave Colan (or whoever) to do much of the plotting legwork which he would then script over.
So maybe this issue is bad because Stan plotted it, but I suspect he didn't plot it at all, & it's bad because Stan left it to an artist who wasn't Ditko or Kirby to plot it.
Strikes me that Buscema could have plotted this entirely - he'd drawn both the Stranger & the Abomination recently in Silver Surfer so it might have been natural for him to think of using them again, perhaps he did the plot & Lee simply scripted the panels he got?
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | October 5, 2017 5:12 PM
Both Kirby and Ditko are renowned for their ideas, especially Kirby. His long work with Joe Simon prior to working for Stan, and the work he created later at DC and then his return to Marvel really showed that. Ditko's legacy is not as great or successful, but his work at Charlton and DC also show many varied concepts (Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, Question, Creeper, Hawk & Dove, and Shade the Changing Man among many others). We know in both cases that several times Stan's contributions to plot was sometimes merely a single sentence. And both Kirby and Ditko demanded to be given plotting credits. They were clearly the dominant creative minds even if someone else scripted for them.
In contrast, artists like Don Heck, Gene Colan, and John Buscema weren't renown for their character creation or plotting. I don't remember any stories, hearsay, or rumors where they asked for plotting credit, or stories to the effect that Stan would merely give them a one sentence "plot". Stan clearly had to give these artists a lot more direction on what to do, even if they could be relied upon to not need panel by panel or even page by page instructions.
One reason I think we see Stan's writing contribution go down during this time is that he clearly has to write much more detailed plots because he can no longer rely on Kirby and Ditko to do all the heavy lifting. He has to spend more time plotting, and therefore gave Roy Thomas more and more work.
Posted by: Chris | October 5, 2017 6:07 PM
I can't recall Stan Lee ever claiming to script anything while using the Marvel method, at least as far back as Fantastic Four #1. In every interview of his which I've read, he said he would initially give a plot synopsis and/or character description to an artist. This might be written on one page or less, or it was often given to the artist by word of mouth, sometimes over the telephone. Then, using the Marvel method, which Lee said he invented, the artist would plot the story, right on the penciled art pages, much like a storyboard for a movie. The artist might or might not include dialog or narrative box suggestions. Lee would then take the finished art pages and write the final dialog and narrative for it in his own distinctive style, which was a truly formidable style in most people's opinions, including mine. (I don't remember at what stage he said the inker would ink it, and maybe that varied.) The last step would be for the letterer to letter it before the finished pages were sent to the printers.
A "full script" such as Larry Lieber would write was never considered part of the Marvel method. A script would usually be typewritten, and many pages long. It would describe everything verbally, sometimes but not always including thumbnail sketches. It would include dialog, plot, and everything. The penciller was expected to follow the script exactly, one page and panel description after another. Ditko, Kirby, and Romita worked with Lee using the Marvel method...
Posted by: James Holt | October 5, 2017 6:07 PM
... and so did John Buscema. I'm not totally sure but I suspect Gene Colan and Sal Buscema worked the same way. Stan might have (rarely) written plot synopses, but usually it was a short verbal synopsis. On this point, John Buscema, Ditko, Kirby, and Lee all agreed in various interviews. So in other words, Lee never, to the best of my knowledge, ever claimed to plot any story. He might have written plot synopses, but credited the artists with plotting the story in storyboard fashion. He wrote what went in the dialog balloons and narrative boxes, and dictated their placement to the letterer. That in his opinion was what made him the "writer."
The "can't not plot" dialog error I cited above might very well have been a copying error on the part of the letterer, but it seems to me like an unlikely error. I was mainly just trying to note the inconsistencies between this relatively early John Buscema plotting and the issues that were plotted by Jack Kirby. The inconsistencies startled me, and they do suggest that the artist was writing part or all of the dialog. Kirby claimed to write all of the dialog. I believe he wrote a large part of it. Examination of original art pages has shown that Lee sometimes changed some or all of it. In this particular issue, I suspect Buscema might have written at least that one dialog sentence. Nowadays most writers if not all write full scripts. I'm not sure how Roy Thomas worked but I think he was also using the Marvel method.
Posted by: James Holt | October 5, 2017 6:08 PM
Belatedly, I see my error now... I typed "It's really hard for me to believe Stan Lee that bit of dialog," when I meant to type "It's really hard for me to believe Stan Lee wrote that bit of dialog. Is my face red... once again, I've totally embarrassed myself. Sincere apologies. I need to proofread more carefully before posting. *kicks self*
Posted by: James Holt | October 5, 2017 6:42 PM
Yet again! I so wish I had an edit or delete button: *correction*
Belatedly, I see my error now... I typed "It's really hard for me to believe Stan Lee scripted that bit of dialog," when I meant to type "It's really hard for me to believe Stan Lee wrote that bit of dialog. Is my face red... once again, I've totally embarrassed myself. Sincere apologies. I need to proofread more carefully before posting. *kicks self*
Posted by: James Holt | October 5, 2017 6:46 PM
James, I think in the case of the line you cited, the letterer may have mistakenly penned “can’t” instead of the archaism “canst,” and proofing failed to correct the error.
“Thou canst not pit thy mortal power...etc.” would make better grammatical sense, and would sound much more like vintage Lee scripting. However, the emphasized words (thy, Odin) make me hesitate; Lee was always better with that sort of thing. Ironically, the off-key emphasis here reminds me of Kirby’s dialogue tics in his New Gods work.
Posted by: Chris Z | October 5, 2017 7:27 PM
Chris Z, Thanks for picking up the thread I damn near broke, I owe you one. I think you're probably right.
Chris, Good post, sorry for stepping on it. We were both posting at the same time. I loved Ditko's work on all the Charlton and DC titles you mentioned.
Jonathan, You didn't miss anything-- I did. I meant to write "write" instead of "scripted."
Everyone, Sorry for the quadruple post and multiple blunders. Good night.
Posted by: Holt | October 6, 2017 4:10 AM
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