No one contributed more to the Thor mythos and the world of Asgard than Jack Kirby. Outside of some help early on in Journey Into Mystery, Jack Kirby spent over 8 years of his career on The Mighty Thor (Journey Into Mystery #83, 1962 to Thor #179, 1970). Kirby was the driving creative force, bringing these myths and legends to life for a new generation.
The Fantastic Four were explorers, not so much heroes in the classical sense, but Thor, on the other hand, was that hero, a noble prince of a fairy-tale world. Exactly the medium Kirby loved to work in with his larger-than-life art style. Working under the Marvel Method with Stan Lee, Kirby structured and drew the 20 pages of art from Lee’s rough paragraph outline, which Lee would then add the dialogue.
There’s no doubt that Kirby and Lee’s strengths worked very well together, but this title really allowed Kirby to shine as it was so far beyond the New York setting of the Marvel Universe. The Asgard that Kirby created was a complex blend of legend, fantasy, and science fiction. They used the Tales of Asgard 5-page backup feature to explore and establish Asgard’s backstory, its colourful cast of characters, and the diverse worlds of the Nine Realms. The richness of Kirby’s efforts flowed into The Mighty Thor’s main storylines.
While I could write a master’s thesis on their 8-year-run and the various phases Kirby and Lee moved through, but instead I’ll focus on something a bit more digestible. Here are a few memorable moments during that run that you should really should experience.
Journey Into Mystery #112
How can you not fall in love with this comic? “The Epic Battle of the Age!” Thor vs. Hulk. The story’s a clever retelling of the battle between the Avengers against Sub-Mariner and the Hulk. What’s really fun is the use of Thor to tell the story to an audience of fans who were having an all-out Internet flame war, 1960s style. Kirby’s art is stunning in this issue with the hard, bold lines of Chic Stone, who stands as my favourite Kirby inker.
And speaking of inkers, I’m going to be upfront before I continue and tell you that I never liked Vince Colletta’s inks over Kirby’s pencils. Rather than embellishing them, Colletta’s inks imposed his own style, overpowering the pencils, softening and dulling Kirby’s bold and proud work. Colletta’s inks were a mismatch as his work often simplified Kirby’s efforts, even in some cases deleting details and background scenery and characters. Colletta was a proficient inker and always met his deadlines, but he was never a good fit with Kirby.
The first year of Thor’s newly re-branded comic book title, The Mighty Thor, stands as some finest storytelling of their run together. Thor’s adventures pull you along on his journey from Mount Olympus to deep space, back to Earth, and then to Asgard. This run kicked off with Hercules introducing the Olympian pantheon to the Marvel Universe. The logical and advanced Rigellians recruit the God of Thunder to explore the Black Galaxy where he encounters Ego, the Living Planet. Thor returns to Earth to learn that Jane Foster’s been kidnapped by the High Evolutionary to teach his New Men all about the modern world. His love for Jane reaches it’s apex here as does the conflict between which world he wants to live in. Thor confronts his father, Odin the All-Father, to make Jane an immortal. Unfortunately, Jane isn’t ready for godhood and their romance cools down with Sif becoming a new love interest.
And yes, all of that was in a span of 13 monthly issues! The visuals and design of the Olympian gods, Pluto’s underworld, the Rigellians, Ego, the High Evolutionary and his evolved animal men, all sprang from Kirby’s imagination.
Galactus made his first appearance in the Fantastic Four, but his origin was finally told in the pages of The Mighty Thor. But, before Thor could learn this secret, he had to intercede on Ego’s behalf to drive off Galactus. A handful of issues later, Thor confronts Galactus, god-to-god. By this time, the title ran a full 20 pages of story, no longer having to share 5 pages with the Tales of Asgard. The origin of Galactus starts with a dying universe and ends with its rebirth along with the cosmic being who would come to be known as Galactus. dying and big bold splash pages and over-sized panels. And Kirby fit all of this into the confines of a mere 40 pages, including sub-plots.
There’s a lot of more amazing things in their groundbreaking run. I’d also recommend you check out Journey Into Mystery #103-106 (more Chic Stone goodness), Thor #154-157 (the Magog Saga),165-167 (vs. Adam Warlock), and 170-175 (inked by legendary Bill Everett).
Jack Kirby always felt more at home with Gods and he certainly found a worthy home in the grand of halls of Asgard. This work still stands today as a testament to his legendary creative genius.