Issue(s): Thor #392, Thor #393, Thor #394, Thor #395
Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz continue to take us in a very traditional Silver Age-y direction. These issues also introduce a slew of new characters, including some supporting cast that will carry through to the Eric Masterson period, and also some new super-characters of varying longevity.
In issue #391, we saw Hogun getting sent to Earth from Asgard. He lands in Central Park at the beginning of #392 here, but the difficult journey (due to the destruction of the Rainbow Bridge) has rattled his senses, so instead of seeking Thor for aid against the Egyptian god Seth, he goes on a rampage in New York.
Meanwhile, another dig at James Owsley...
...before foreman Jerry Sapristi and Thor, in his Sigurd Jarlson identity, go to see Eric Masterson, about a new job. Masterson is the architect that Thor brought to the hospital because he was injured during the Mongoose's attack last issue. We meet Eric's executive assistant Susan Austin, and Eric's son Kevin.
Eric is wrapped up in custody issues over Kevin with his ex-wife. Thor also detects something terrible in Masterson's future, but why, WHY?!
Masterson's new job is at a new nuclear facility that is being protested. And Masterson doesn't have the job yet; he's just bidding on it. His competitor is Jackie Lukus, who will much much later turn out to be the villain Bloodaxe.
The protestors have some creative signs that, in the Marvel universe at least, reflect legitimate concerns.
But someone shows up to take the opposition beyond peaceful protest: a new super-villain calling herself Quicksand.
Sigurd sneaks away to transform into Thor (Jerry Saptristi, who knows his ID, covers for him). I get the feeling we're going to be seeing scenes like this a lot under Frenz.
Thor goes up against the cataclysmic savagery of Quicksand.
It's interesting to see Tom DeFalco introducing a character with the same powers as Sandman, who he's responsible for reforming.
And it's disappointing to see Thor claiming to find it unseemly to fight a "frail" woman. We're four pages into the fight at this point and Quicksand has proven herself to be anything but frail already.
The fight threatens to damage Eric Masterson's remaining good leg, but at least Thor is creating plenty of car room at the nuclear plant.
Quicksand eventually flees when Thor unleashes his full godly power, now even Quicksand is talking about how Thor is holding back because she's a woman.
The manager of the nuclear reactor tries to get Thor to not talk about Quicksand's attack because of the bad publicity. Thor's response causes him to literally hang his head in shame.
Quicksand resurfaces to trigger a meltdown at the nuclear plant. Earlier, it was said that the plant wouldn't be activated until they got approval from the government, but that apparently didn't meant that radioactive materials weren't already on site, just a button push away from being activated. I'm... not sure that's how the process goes. At least i sure as hell hope not.
And now we get confirmation that the sexism in this story is really DeFalco's, not Thor's. We learn Quicksand's motivation, and it's a sad sack of an old trope. She used to be beautiful until a nuclear reactor changed her into this freak monster. Seriously, Tom DeFalco, there are some parts of the Silver Age you don't have to bring back.
Thor saves the day by teleporting the nuclear reactor to another dimension.
Quicksand escapes while Thor is dealing with the plant. And when it's all over and Thor leaves, Sigurd Jarlson's convenient return gets Eric Masterson connecting the dots
Meanwhile, Daredevil shows up to try and stop Hogun's rampage.
Back in Asgard, the Norse gods are having difficulty against the Egyptian Seth's minions, especially due to their teleportation powers. Even the Enchantress lending her magic to enhance Heimdall's already heightened senses doesn't help.
Vizier sends a page named Valdor to summon Balder, because he's sensed Hogun's troubles on Earth.
But they aren't able to do anything about it, and the fight continues, even after Daredevil hears Hogun say that he needs Thor's help (i mean, he must have heard it, right? He's Daredevil).
The fight goes on for a while, and eventually Hogun turns away from Daredevil when Daredevil puts himself at risk to save a civilian (unsure what that looked like to Hogun, who was seeing everyone as demons). Then, since he's in town, Hogun decides to take a tram to Roosevelt Island, and that's when the SWAT team riddles the tram, and apparently Hogun, with bullets.
Back in Asgard, the Vizier reports that Hogun is dead.
You know that Hogun isn't really dead, but this incident is a data point on the question of the Asgardians' vulnerability to bullets. I wouldn't say it's a definitive one, though. Hogun was clearly affected by his transport to Earth, and there's no saying that he couldn't have been weakened physically in addition to mentally. He did spend two whole issues failing to defeat Daredevil, after all. I'll steer further conversation on that topic to the comments of Sub-Mariner #36-37, of all places.
Daredevil is able to perform CPR at the start of the next issue and bring Hogun back from the "dead". It's confirmed at this point that Daredevil was aware that Hogun was searching for Thor. Back in Asgard, they are still operating on the assumption that Hogun is deceased and Thor is "missing". And with that, one of the weirdest, most awkward transitions i've ever seen in a fill-in with a framing sequence. The Asgardians wonder where Thor is (which we know: he's at the site of the nuclear reactor), and the scene shifts to an actor in Hollywood playing Thor (and still in the old armor).
This is the segment of the story by Stern/Hall/DeZuniga. A screenwriter named Maddie Arnstein is approached to do a re-write on the Thor movie script to take it from being a "special effects movie" to something with human interest. She starts doing research into the real Thor, contacting people who met him and turning this into almost a Marvel Saga style issue. See the References for most of this, but i'll note that reporter Harris Hobbs shows up and tries to warn Arnstein off of investigating Asgard, because it's bad news.
Since a lot of stories involve Jane Foster, Arnstein eventually interviews her, too.
We also see her son Jimmy and husband, Dr. Keith Kincaid.
Arnstein decides the "dared to love a mortal" angle is what she was looking for, so she writes up the script.
Hell, i'd go see that movie.
When it's all over, though, the studio decides to go in a different direction.
Hell, i'd see that movie too.
But, um, can we get back to our story, now? Thanks. The opening splash of issue #395 says it's been sixty minutes since the end of issue #393. Thor hears the news about Hogun and heads to the hospital. He and Daredevil just miss each other.
In the "dark and nameless dimension of Seth, the Serpent God of Death", Seth, aware that Thor is about to learn from Hogun about his invasion of Asgard, surveys his Cobra-La troops...
...and decides to reach out to those in the hospital who "are on the edge of oblivion... and are about to enter my realm" and offer them an extension of their lives if they'll stop Thor. He finds three such people, and lies to them about his motivations.
And he transforms them into these Hanna-Barbara looking dudes.
They agree to kill Hogun even though Seth won't tell them why.
They have to get past Thor to get to Hogun.
Thor constructs a magical dome around the surgeons working on Hogun so that Earth Force can't get to them. Meanwhile, Hogun's spirit arrives in Seth's world...
...but Hogun doesn't accept Seth's offer of eternal piece, and fights Seth, and eventually gets sent away again.
Back on Earth, Earth-Lord and Wind Warrior decide that killing is wrong after all, so they grab Skyhawk and fly away.
Hogun is stabilized, as long as there are no further complications. In Asgard, knowing that Seth is about to attack, Balder decides to call back "the power of Thor" even though it will leave Thor himself "defenseless". And on those ominous notes we're actually going to end it, since we need Thor to do some things on Earth before the final confrontation with Seth.
I am loving Ron Frenz's idealized Kirby art but i wish we could get it without an equally fetishized Silver Age story telling. Or even just get DeFalco to plot but not script. I think it's great to have this island of traditionalism surrounded by the Punishers and Venoms and all the X-angst, but it doesn't need to be so overtly retro even in the dialogue.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: Enough time has passed since issue #391 that Eric Masterson's leg has been put in a cast and he's been released from the hospital. Daredevil appears here between Daredevil #258-259.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showAloysius R. Jamesley, Balder, Bloodaxe (Jackie Lukus), Daredevil, Earth-Lord, Enchantress, Fandral, Harris Hobbs, Heimdall, Hogun, Jane Foster, Jerry Sapristi, Jimmy Kincaid, Keith Kincaid, Kevin Masterson, Quicksand, Seth, Skyhawk, Susan Austin, Thor, Thunderstrike, Valdor, Vizier, Volstagg, Wind Warrior
What was up with Marvel's tendency to depict Egyptians as *gray*-skinned? I guess it can partially be chalked up to the (printing) limitations of the medium, and it made a little more visual sense than depicting them as phenotypically identical to contemporary Caucasians, but it still always struck me as a diversity/representation fail.
Posted by: Cullen | June 27, 2014 3:56 PM
It is weird, Cullen. I think it got less complaints that the Asian coloring in Master of Kung Fu because there were fewer and less prominent characters, and a lot of them are unusual types of characters, like Seth (a god), that for a long time i didn't realize that they were supposed to be depicting an actual skin color. I had no idea Asp of the Serpent Society was meant to be Egyptian until Chris pointed it out, for example. The Arabian Knight is colored pink, for what it's worth.
Posted by: fnord12 | June 27, 2014 4:34 PM
Really love Frenz's artwork during this period. Just look at the style in some of those scans. Retro or not, he definitely wasn't being lazy.
As to the coloring debate, for what it's worth Marvel wasn't alone in doing this. At the time, DC was also using a grayish skin tone to depict Middle-Eastern people. Not sure why.
Posted by: Robert | June 27, 2014 5:52 PM
To be fair to DeFalco, I'm not sure if Quicksand's anxieties about her appearance are really any worse than Ben Grimm's- Ben might have turned out like her if he didn't have the FF and Alicia to support him. At least she's not melting before anything in pants.
Posted by: Michael | June 27, 2014 6:00 PM
I was pretty clear in granting some leeway to the printing technology, though i also think if people in power cared, they could have figured something out.
And it may be technically true that "Egyptians are neither black nor white"(those 'racial' concepts weren't operant in the time of the Pharaohs), but it's not at all true that (many, especially ancient) Egyptians couldn't be represented by the same skin-tone-coloring used for African-Americans, Wakandans, and crazyevil terrorists from made-up countries.
btw - Not trying to get too far afield, and i'm only about 5 posts in on this site, so I'm not trying to start a big debate! I want to keep this disagreement respectful and will defer to limiting the discussion as the admin desires. That said, it's a topic i have given a lot of thought to.
Posted by: Cullen | June 27, 2014 8:30 PM
There's some debate but most historians agree that ancient Egyptians were darker-skinned than, say, Romans, but not as dark skinned as contemporary African-Americans. That's the problem- they weren't identical to *contemporary Caucasians* or *contemporary* Africans.
Posted by: Michael | June 27, 2014 8:53 PM
The answer to the debate is that it's all true, there were a variety of hues in various strata of society at various times. Egyptian society over the course of 6,000 years had a lot of variety. This diversity is, in fact, still true in Egypt today. So it's telling that colorists (or whoever was dictating to the colorists - editors?) would rather depict Egyptians (especially ancient ones, e.g. the Egyptian pantheon in the Handbook) as a color that *no human being has ever been,* rather than "erroneously" use the same brown hues they use for other Africans.
Posted by: Cullen | June 27, 2014 9:18 PM
On the subject of Quicksand's "I'm going to blow up a nuclear reactor and kill thousands because i used to be pretty", i think it's way worse than the Thing's early "I'm anti-social and dangerous because i was turned into a monster". I'll look for further development of Quicksand's character in future issues, but from her debut, her motivation as presented is extremely simplistic and the fact that DeFalco throws in a "I was beautiful" makes it very different than the Thing lamenting his loss of humanity. (This is also kind of a rehash of DeFalco's story from Machine Man #15 where he also makes sure to emphasize the lady scientist's looks before she's turned into a monster.)
On the coloring issue, i agree with Cullen that the inhuman grey is just wrong. It literally had a dehumanizing effect, at least for me, since as i mentioned i did not even realize it was meant to be depicting a real skin tone. White people aren't literally white and black people aren't literally black, so coloring mixed race people grey because they are somewhere in between doesn't make sense, and it doesn't make sense for Arab/Middle-Easterners either. Marvel didn't try for such nuance when depicting, say, Irish people vs. Italian people, and if they tried and the result was green or something, they'd recognize that it was a mistake.
Posted by: fnord12 | June 28, 2014 8:56 AM
I think the easiest way to comment on the mess of Quicksand is this: she's still good looking even after becoming a monster...she's just made of sand now. (by comparison, Ion is pretty much an amorphous blob)
And I guess that they realized that "Frog-Thor" was too ridiculous...and thus they just changed it to "Dog-Thor" because it rhymed and people could accept a superhero as a dog.
Posted by: Ataru320 | June 28, 2014 10:09 AM
For what it is worth, I don't think the idea behind the strange grey skin coloring of Egyptians (also shown with Scarlet Scarab) was that they were "mixed race" and therefore a combination of white and black. I think they just tried to give the Middle East its own skin color to distinguish them from other races, but failed even more horribly with that than with the pale yellow.
I'm not sure how often or consistently it was applied. Ancient Egyptians tended to be "white" while modern Egyptians were "grey". Not sure what the skin color was during the X-Men's Living Monolith story for the Arabs there, or when it changed. The Asp's skin coloring really stood out as FNORD12 indicated other Arab skin coloring had been modernized - so there must have been some reasoning behind it. I'd bet dollars to donuts that if the Asp is still colored grey, there's probably an explanation why.
Posted by: Chris | June 28, 2014 1:04 PM
'Marvel didn't try for such nuance when depicting, say, Irish people vs. Italian people, and if they tried and the result was green or something, they'd recognize that it was a mistake.'
I found some depictions of Banshee in the Silver Age borderline offensive, harking back to negative depictions of Irish people in Punch magazine in the 19th century. The subhuman upper lip and so on. He looked grotesque while supposedly being a human-looking mutant. Thankfully, despite the dodgy 70s hairstyle, Cockrum onwards drew him SO much better.
Posted by: Harry | June 28, 2014 3:31 PM
Ron Frenz is utterly amazing. Oddly and amazingly enough, this era of THOR was what introduced me to the silver age Marvel style. I was so intrigued with the blurbs and cover designs and faux-Kirbyness that somehow, the 9 year old me *knew* it was "classic" before I knew what classic Marvel looked like. I cannot believe this is 26 years ago now, I simply can't.
Posted by: George Gordon | June 28, 2014 7:38 PM
"the time Thor fought a dragon in the Bronx (which i think refers to Thor #273)"
Might this instead be Fafnir from #342?
Posted by: S | June 29, 2014 12:55 AM
I was never a Thor fan and the 2 issues I ever bought back in the 80s were written by DeFalco -- he did nothing to convince me Thor was worth reading. I've recently read Simonson's take and I can't believe how interesting stories can actually be.
Posted by: JSfan | June 29, 2014 8:00 AM
@S - i did check that one and it's specifically said that the construction site where they fought is in Manhattan. In #273 a location isn't given but it's at a Stark International facility and Thor seems to be seen flying away from Manhattan to get there.
Posted by: fnord12 | June 29, 2014 9:36 AM
"But they aren't able to do anything about it, and the fight continues, even after Daredevil hears Hogun say that he needs Thor's help (i mean, he must have heard it, right? He's Daredevil)."
Posted by: clyde | June 22, 2015 1:48 PM
Hogun is speaking English. Daredevil reacts to things Hogun is saying on pages 20 & 22. Which is why i thought it was odd that Daredevil would continue the fight when Hogun says he has to find Thor because his people need him (instead of, say, trying to find Thor or trying to reason with the guy). It's true that Hogun is out of his mind, but i question the way Daredevil handles the situation. It's a quibble, to be sure.
Posted by: fnord12 | June 22, 2015 1:57 PM
One Frenz full-page panel in #395 appears to be an outright swipe of the first page of Thor #129.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | July 15, 2015 10:31 AM
That is one great looking "FOOM", it must be said.
Posted by: MindlessOne | May 23, 2017 8:44 PM
Comments are now closed.
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