Every other week, Jason will highlight an issue or a run of issues pulled from the horde of comic book long boxes that occupy more room in his house than his wife can tolerate. Each of these reviews will delve into what made that issue or run significant as well as discuss the creative personalities behind the work. “Long Box” refers to the lengthy, white cardboard boxes most comics find themselves stored within – bagged, alphabetized and numerically ordered.
The Might Thor #337
Writer/Artist: Walt Simonson
The purchase of The Mighty Thor #337 back in November 1983 was purely an impulse buy because of its unforgettable cover. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Thor back then having enjoyed a few issues by Roy Thomas and Keith Pollard. However, that changed the moment I saw that cover with some kind of alien version of Thor smashing through the comic book’s logo.
The Might Thor logo was the only Marvel logo at that time that had never been changed since the mid-1960s. Simonson actually cut up a copy of the logo from the previous issue and broke it up on a transparent overlay that sat neatly overtop of the daunting image of Beta Ray Bill.
With issue #337, Simonson’s relative inexperience certainly didn’t show. His first issue on this title is perhaps the most effective textbook example of how to tell a great comic book story. Simonson’s distinctive art style certainly caught your attention and charged each page with energy, bringing it to life in a strong cinematic fashion that sparked your imagination. The action scenes sprawled beyond the panels, emphasizing its bold, larger-than-life feel. Thor was drawn physically more impressive and also with a certain nobility.
The first three pages set up a subplot that will eventually become a major story line, the Surtur Saga. In this opening sequence, a mysterious figure of cosmic proportions is forging a foreboding weapon. Simonson captures the tension of the moment and over the storyline of the next year, he paced this subplot, moving it ahead slowly, building on this rising tension.
Not only does this issue thoughtfully introduce establish characters, but it features the debut of Beta Ray Bill and the Enchantress’ sister Lorelei who will both be instrumental during Simonson’s run and beyond.
It featured one jaw-dropping twist after another. Not only was Beta Ray Bill as powerful as Thor was, not only was Bill somehow worthy enough to wield Mjolnir, Beta Ray Bill with Thor’s powers was mistakenly summoned to Asgard by Odin. And that final page, with Donald Blake standing atop the wreckage of Bill’s spaceship and crying out to his father Odin, was simply spectacular. That image still sticks with me today whenever I think about an amazing cliffhanger ending.
The worse part of all of this was that my local convenience store never got a copy of Thor #338 or Thor #339. It would be a year later before I discovered a comic book store and found those back issues, finally concluding that story!
I can’t write about this issue without mentioning letterer, John Workman. This issue was his first as the new regular letterer and while the change was a bit more subtle, his style added a distinctive Norse feel to the book. This new lettering style worked well with Simonson’s explosive fonts that broke through panel borders leaving a clear ring in your imagination. THRAKKT! BARROOOOM! KRANNG!
Jason Shayer has recently joined the Biff Bam Pop! writing team. He’s been trying his best not to grow up for that last 30 years and comics books are one of the best ways to keep him young at heart. He’s also known as the Marvel 1980s guy and has probably forgotten more than you’d ever want to know about that wonderfully creative era. Check out his blog at: marvel1980s.blogspot.com.