The Small Lebowski:
Issue(s): Thor #364, Thor #365, Thor #366
(*A frog! Thor's become a frog!**)
(**This and subsequent text in this post is translated from the vernacular into English for the benefit of those to whom the language of the beasts is a closed book.)
It's easy to think of Walt Simonson's run on Thor as being awesomely epic (which is true) and forget that there's also a lot of lightheartedness and humor as well. This is true even when Thor isn't a frog (the McBurgers during the Surtwar, Beta Ray Bill's references to his "secret identity", and of course Volstagg), but these three issues exemplify this side of things.
Not that this story, which depicts a war between the frogs and rats of Central Park, isn't also epic.
Thor points out that he is an "enchanted" frog and therefore seems to have abilities beyond normal frogs, including the ability to think and write (not that it helps him get a message to Jarvis).
He was also wearing his Belt of Strength at the time he was transformed, giving him greater strength, allowing him to leap higher and fight off rats with ease.
He's also gigantic.
Thor falls in with a group of frogs led by a King Glugwort, who is soon killed by a group of attacking rats, leaving Princess Greensong in command. The other main frogs in the story are Thor's friend Puddlegulp and a troublesome frog named Bugeye that reminds Thor of Loki.
Thor is hesitant about helping the frogs due to the fact that he needs to get back to Asgard before the naming of Odin's replacement, but when word arrives that the rats intend to poison Central Park's reservoir system, Thor realizes that the problem is big enough to affect humanity as well.
Since most of the frogs aren't really capable of standing up to the rats, Thor decides to investigate the frog's legends about "dragons" that live in the tunnels under the park. They turn out to be alligators, under the control of the Morlock Piper.
I also want to point out that the Avengers have heard rumors of alligators living in the sewers under New York but they apparently have never investigated.
Piper's music also gives him the ability to control Thor...
...but thanks to his own inherent Thor-ness, even while in frog form, he's able to resist enough to knock away Piper's instrument...
...and lure the alligators out into the park.
The Piper follows, and sees what Thor is up to, and decides that he'll help out by luring the rats away, like a good Pied Piper should.
Really nice use of a Morlock, a very not-Thor type of character, except that by playing up on the fairy tale allusion of the Piper's name and theme, it works perfectly with this story. Both the Morlocks and the frogs will figure into Thor's involvement with the Mutant Massacre later this year.
Thor has to gently let Queen Greensong down...
...and we also learn that Thor's friend Puddlegulp used to be a human at one time.
While Thor is on his frog adventure, the Great Althing, a gathering of all Asgardians that will determine who replaces Odin on the throne, begins. Loki initially nominates the Grand Thane, Odin's trusted advisor and confidant, as lawgiver, the administrator of the event. The crowd agrees. We haven't seen the Grand Thane before (to my knowledge), and i'm surprised that this role wasn't played by the Asgardian Vizier.
While Loki's seemingly benign actions so far start to win over the crowd, Heimdall is more suspicious, and becomes even more so when Volstagg's daughter Hildy arrives with news about Surtur's sword having been found by Loki. He works with Harokin, who disguises himself as Thor, to stump Loki and slow down the proceedings. However, Loki discovers the deception (don't try to trick the trickster god!) and grabs Harokin's fake hammer, which he uses to validate his "worthiness" to the crowd.
But who cares about Asgardian politics when Thor is a frog? So back to that. He eventually makes his way back to where his goats are patiently waiting for him.
And he realizes that he can reclaim his power if he lifts his hammer.
Which he does manage to do, in time to fend off a final attack by some rats. But, um, he's still not quite himself.
What's amazing is that we're now three months in to a story where Thor is a frog, and he's now a super-frog. Thor is the sort of book that i imagine attracted a more serious kind of reader who might, in the abstract, object to Thor being a frog for three issues. But i believe the response to this series was positive (i'll update with reactions from lettercols soon) and this storyline is certainly remembered fondly today. And the reason for that is it's really well crafted. It matches the tone of the rest of the series and finds a nice balance between playing things straight and embracing the silliness.
Anyway, Thor arrives in Asgard and quickly whisks Loki away from the crowd. He tries to force Loki to restore him, and we learn that now that he's got his hammer he can speak, because among Thor's "power" is the power of speech.
That said, Loki does expect that the spell will become complete and Thor will eventually revert to being a pure frog. But Thor soon becomes Chuggarumphingly berserk with rage, and Loki finds that he may not survive that long.
While all of this is going on, Volstagg's daughter Hildy becomes sick, and Volstagg reasons that it's because she had been near Surtur's sword. So he takes her back to the site where the sword fell.
When he arrives, he destroys the machinery that Loki was using to drain the sword of its power. In his own way, of course.
This restores Hildy's health and also restores Thor to "human" (godly?) form, albeit still with the scars from his last encounter with Hela.
However, while Thor ensures that people see that Loki can no longer wield Mjolnir...
...he does not expose the degree to which Loki was scheming.
Thor also renounces the throne, suggesting that Balder should take it. Balder is still missing per the events of his miniseries, but Hogun goes to find him.
Really a delight of a story.
Issue #364 is devoted to "Catapult, Carl Banks, and all the other heroes and villains of Duckburg". Old Froggie Catapult was a 1958 Donald Duck comic.
We see in #366 that Malekith (in shadow, but obviously him if you know him) is a "guest" of Loki's.
Probably best for his own sake that he's there, since Kurse is now in Hel looking for him, thanks to the Beyonder.
Both Puddlegulp and Greensong will have several more appearances, with Puddlegulp eventually becoming Throg, the Frog of Thunder, for the Pet Avengers.
Quality Rating: A+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Last issue ended with Thor being transformed into a frog, and this begins soon afterwards, with Thor not having left the alley where his goat wagon was parked. But Beta Ray Bill arrives in Asgard at the start of issue #364 here, and we know he spent Thanksgiving on Earth with Franklin Richards and Power Pack in Power Pack #19 after last issue (which was a crossover with Power Pack #18). Therefore we either have to assume that Thor spent possibly as much as a day as an actual frog before regaining control of his intellect (and luckily not straying far from the alley), or the scene with Beta Ray Bill arriving in Asgard takes place out of sequence. If it's the latter, it's worth noting that the first place that Thor goes after realizing he's been turned into a frog is Avengers mansion, where he's noticed by Franklin Richards and Jarvis. Since Franklin also appears in PP #19's Thanksgiving story, it may mean that Franklin appears here before that story and much of this takes place concurrently with the Power Pack issue.
This story takes place concurrently with Balder the Brave #2-4.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (4): showBeta Ray Bill, Fandral, Franklin Richards, Frigga, Greensong, Gudrun, Harokin, Heimdall, Hela, Hildy, Hogun, Jarvis, Kurse, Loki, Malekith, Piper (Morlock), Puddlegulp, Sif, Thor, Toothgnasher, Toothgrinder, Volstagg
The problem with placing this story is a conflict between Secret Wars II 9 and New Mutants 38. New Mutants 38 takes place after Secret Wars II 9. In Secret Wars II 9, Thor appears and he's his normal self. In New Mutants 38, Dani encounters Thor, who's still a frog. Personally, I think the whole problem is with New Mutants 38- Secret Wars II 9 takes place a few weeks after Secret Wars II 6, which takes place the same day Thor was turned into a frog- there's no way Thor stayed a frog that long.
Posted by: Michael | October 18, 2013 7:53 PM
I feel that somebody should be counting the number of times Jarvis deflects people from calling the Avengers for help, especially from other superheroes. Maybe this guy really was the Crimson Cowel...
Posted by: Max_Spider | October 19, 2013 11:29 AM
Walt Simonson later referenced this storyline in his "Orion" series for DC. One of the last few issues has Mister Miracle talking about those odd, remarkably strong frogs that he knows.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | July 20, 2014 10:44 PM
Walt Simonson has often dabbled in cross-universe continuity; it would be neat to compile a list of such proponents (Englehart another huge one, obv.)
Posted by: cullen | July 21, 2014 12:41 AM
Some of the readers complain about the Quality Rating fnord gives issues (and to be fair, I occasionally do as well). But he gives this an A+ (namely because it is FRIGGIN AWESOME) and the average rating from 23 Reader Ratings is ***. I'm definitely going with fnord on this one - Frog of Thunder!
Posted by: Erik Beck | June 5, 2015 6:24 AM
Thunderfrogs and werewolves fighting sharks get an A+ from fnord. I have no beef with that whatsoever.
Posted by: JP | June 5, 2015 6:28 AM
The war of the frogs and rats is a variation on the plot of BATRACHOMYOMACHIA, an ancient Greek poem about a war between frogs and mice. In the poem the frogs are saved by crabs summoned by Zeus, so there's no question Simonson's story was a homage. Possibly he'd read the poem itself, possibly he knew the story through some children's version.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | June 5, 2015 10:11 AM
Didn't a drunk swear to go on the wagon, twice, during this misadventure?
Posted by: D09 | May 31, 2016 2:40 AM
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