As the movie Thor is about to be released, I thought it’d be helpful to briefly present the two Thors that Kirby drew before he co-created Thor with Marvel’s Stan Lee and Larry Lieber.
In National Periodical Publications’ June 1942 Adventure Comics 75, Kirby and his partner Joe Simon produced the cover-featured ten page Sandman story “The Villain From Valhalla!” The story involves Sandman and Sandy stopping Thor and his crew from plundering the city. Thor throws his hammer and is invulnerable to police bullets. The art is notable for not only a cover and an opening story splash, but an internal splash, as well.
Fifteen years later, in National’s August 1957 Tales Of The Unexpected 16, Kirby produced a a six page story “The Magic Hammer!” A western tale, it tells of a man’s discovery of a hammer that, when thrown to the ground, brings thunder, lightning and rain. It’s also shown to destroy a tree. The man makes some money as a rainmaker and considers the riches the hammer could bring, when the god Thor shows up to retrieve his hammer, which was stolen from him by the mischievous Loki.
And then, five years later, in Martin Goodman’s August 1962 Journey Into Mystery 83, came the Marvel Comics Thor. In Kirby’s thirteen page story with Stan Lee and Larry Lieber, frail, vacationing Dr. Blake wanders the coast of Norway, where he hides in a cave to escape aliens who have just landed and left their spacecraft. Blake finds a cane and attempts to use it to move a boulder to block the cave entrance, but fails. In frustration, he strikes the boulder with the cane, which causes Blake to be magically transformed into Thor and the cane into his magic hammer. Blake/Thor discovers the powers of the hammer, which involve the aforementioned transformations, the boomerang-like return if thrown, its invincibility (demonstrated with the breaking of a tree), control of the weather, and by throwing it and maintaining his grip, personal flight.
Jack Kirby had a lifelong interest in mythology, beginning with stories told to him by his mother while a growing up in the ghetto.
(Scans adjusted in Adobe Photoshop for fun. – R)