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Friday, March 1, 2013

THE TOP 5 GREATEST BATTLES OF THOR


THE TOP 5 GREATEST BATTLES OF 
THE MIGHTY THOR


By
John "THE MEGO STRETCH HULK" Cimino


THOR
Created by: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Larry Lieber  First Appearance: JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #83 (1962)

When fanboys talk about the Super-Heavyweights of comics, there can be no doubt that the Mighty Thor will rank at the top of their lists. It's almost impossible for him not too, because when it comes down to pure overall power, the Thunderer is almost without equal. Thor is the Asgardian God of Thunder, the Prince of Asgard and an unparalleled warrior who wields the mighty, mystic Mjolnir war-hammer which is easily one of the most powerful weapons in the Marvel Universe. This magical weapon grants Thor with such a vast array of powers that he has been worshiped by humans on Earth as their savior for thousands of years. He is also considered the final line of defense on the Avengers (or the "cavalry"), any villain who wants to hurt his teammates or the innocent must contend with his righteous wrath.

What makes Thor so special is not just the fact that he possesses untold levels of power that could shatter whole planets at will, but that he is a truly worthy possessor of that power. He is a proud, noble spirit that will protect those who are in need no matter what the cost. He is a majestic and all-powerful figure that truly understands how precious and fragile life is. While he is the champion and protector of Asgard, Thor also considers himself as the champion and protector of Earth as well. It's this understanding that earns him such great admiration by the population of Earth and his heroic peers.

Although Thor is well known for his nobility and honor, he is also a proud Norse-Warrior-God who enjoys the occasional challenge to his "manhood." He relishes being the hero and the champion of good and usually gives off long speeches of his legend during combat. But truth be told, despite how brash Thor can be, he has been involved in some of the most prolific battles and rivalries that helped define the Marvel Universe into what it is today. And what also makes Thor so influential in the annals of comic history is that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby went totally cosmic with his exploits. The scope of his adventures and slugfests where bigger than any other single superhero during the Silver Age - and because of this, his reputation is second to none.

So, read on with god-like gusto true believers and be prepared for some of the greatest action in the history of the medium! Witness 5 absolutely amazing throw-downs that defined this character into the Greatest Warrior to ever come out of a history book. Because let's make no mistake, when Thor cuts loose, there is usually more "Kirby Krackle" being emitted from the comic book pages than any reader can be prepared for. So let's shout it all together while marching into the halls of Valhalla... "FOR THE GLORY OF ASGARD!!!"




5.) THE MIGHTY THOR #380 (1987)


Writer: Walter Simonson  Art: Walter Simonson and Sal Buscema

When you use words like "epic," "grandiose" and "scope," you have to talking about this classic. Truth be told, not many slugfests have ever come any bigger than this one. It's an entire comic made of splash pages with the captions told in verse and rhythm as if translating from the Edda of Norse myth. A tale of valor and glory that demands a full orchestra and choir of the highest caliber... it's absolutely perfect for a majestic character like the Mighty Thor! In this battle, the Thunder God and Jormungand, the Midgard Serpent battle as never before. They unleash terrifyingly powerful and deadly blows against each other that literally shake the heavens (and comic book reader). When they end up clashing one final time, striking with unfettered might (creating like unto a new star), Jormungand lies dead, and Thor... his armor lies empty. This is the stuff of legends.


4.) THE DEFENDERS #10 (1973)



Writer: Steve Englehart  Art: Sal Buscema and Frank Bolle


Without any doubt, one of the biggest and most anticipated match ups in the history of comics is "Hulk vs Thor!" When these two Super-Heavyweights square off, everyone stands back and enjoys the main event. Thor usually has his way with the other big guns in the Marvel Universe (and most of them pretty easily), but it was the Hulk who always gave the Thunder God his toughest challenge. And Thor being the proud Warrior he is, desperately tries to best the Green Goliath to prove once and for all that he is beyond this mortal brute and the most powerful being on Earth. Each of their slugfests are so legendary that they have defined both characters into the imaginations of readers time and time again. Their fights are always such a big deal that fanboys continue to use them as references to prove their claims on which of their favorite is the strongest or most powerful superhero in the Marvel Universe. While there are many epic "Hulk vs Thor" slugfests to choose from, this fight was the one that truly defined Thor and established his overall power (especially in the 70s) more than his other famous fights due to the fact that he was able to match Marvel's strongest character in a test of strength for over 90 minutes. I personally asked writer Steve Englehart about this historic issue and he told me this;

I just found them both to have a claim on "strongest thing around," and couldn't decide for myself who was stronger, so I went with "not proven."

When the Defenders and the Avengers clash for pieces of the Evil Eye in individual encounters, it is no surprise that the Hulk and Thor (the two true “royal” Super-Heavyweights on each team) pair up for a legendary rumble. The whole city suffers as these two have no trouble letting their big egos and fists do the talking for them. When their team members find out that they are fighting, they all know they have to put a stop to it before both combatants destroy the entire city. Dr. Strange will finally stop the two titans who have been locked in a test of strength and grappling for over 90 minutes. Thor's legend is established here as he matches strength with ol' Jade Jaws, but ultimately, both Hulk and Thor fanboys still didn't get the answer they wanted... ahhh, such is the life of a comic fan.



3.) THE MIGHTY THOR #387, 388 and 389 (1988)






Writer: Tom DeFalco  Art: Ron Frenz and Brett Breeding

The scope and grandeur of this battle is what separates Thor from most heroes of the world. It was so magnificently cosmic that it shows you the levels of power that Thor truly possessed and the levels of power that he went up against. The story also captures the true essence of Thor as a proud and fearless warrior-born! It didn't matter the odds or the consequences, he would do whatever was necessary to protect those in need. So when he went up against an omnipotent space race of gods known as the Celestials and he had no chance of winning, Thor would stand his ground and face them until the bitter end!! This saga is what I consider a "pure" superhero story written at it's finest and I can never give it enough praise.

When Thor crashes on Pangoria, he discovers that this world and its inhabitants are about to become exterminated by Arishem, the Celestial judge. Despite the impossibility of this task, Thor prepares for war against the Celestial by donning his Magical Armor and Belt of Strength combined with the full-power of his enchanted hammer, Mjolnir. Thor fights valiantly, but Arishem is beyond anything he has ever encountered before and beneath the Celestial's notice. Remarkably, this doesn't discourage Thor as he continues his all out assault on the space-god. That is, until an even bigger threat appears in Exitar The Exterminator!  

Thor now goes forth to battle the massive Exitar and surprisingly manages to breach the Celestial's armor! The Thunder God then fights his way through armies of drones deeper and deeper into the space-god's head. Finally reaching the brain casing, Thor attacks it by wrapping his Belt of Strength around Mjolnir and unleashing a tremendous energy bolt that actually manages to hurt Exitar, even if just a little. Completely out of options, a battered Thor slumps to the floor and notices that Mjolnir is shattered to pieces. This angers the Thunderer as he rises once again and continues to battle on using only the handle of Mjolnir to help him. He fights off overwhelming odds, but the armies and drones are endless. All the Thunder God can do is hurl himself at the Celestial's brain and tear at it with his hands. Exitar then begins to sort through Thor’s memories and study him and his physiology, before spitting him out. Arishem and Exitar enact their judgment, destroying the harmful elements of the world, while sparing the worthy ones. A Replicoid then appears, restores Thor’s health and armor as well as Mjolnir, and tells him never to interfere with the Celestial's plans again before they teleport him back to Earth... WOW!



2.) JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #125 / THE MIGHTY THOR #126 (1966)






Writer: Stan Lee  Art: Jack Kirby and Vince Colletta

Another absolutely huge Super-Heavyweight rivalry in the annals of the Marvel-mythos is "Thor vs Hercules!" Both of these immortals are considered the strongest and greatest warriors of their respective pantheons (Olympian and Asgardian) with legendary histories that have made them worshiped and idolized since the early days of man. They have very similar physical statistics and skill-sets making them easily two of the most powerful beings walking the Earth and are always in the conversations of fanboys when talking about strength and ability. They are close allies and true peers that are full of pride and very proud of their heritage, so this also makes them highly competitive with each other. It's easy to see why Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had these two legendary warriors knock heads every now and then.

When they first clashed in Journey Into Mystery Annual #1 (1965) it was inconclusive and readers anticipated their next meeting. Lee and Kirby did not disappoint as their second encounter was a wild brawl that became so legendary that it took this rivalry into the realm of "Hulk vs Thor" or "Hulk vs Thing" for a period of time. Lee and Kirby were on an unmatched creative roll during the 60s and this story and throw-down was just another example of their mastery. Even today, this fight is considered a standard in the comic world and is regarded as one of the greatest ever produced during the Silver Age.

Thor transports himself to Asgard to turn the Norn Stone over to Odin. But he soon realizes that Odin is furious at him for breaking his decree when he revealed his identity to Jane Foster. The angry All-Father refuses to allow Thor to return to Earth unless he passes the "Ritual of Steel" where he must fight not only against his best friend Balder, but an army of Asgardians all ordered to slay him. 

On Earth, Hercules has been taking in all that New York has to offer, eating a grand meal in a dinner club and attracting the attention of many beautiful women. Hearing the commotion from her hospital room just as she is being discharged, Jane Foster believes that it's coming from Thor who has kept his promise to return to her the next day. However, when she goes to the streets she finds that it is Hercules, who is taking the glory and praise for stopping a bunch of crooks. Finding Jane to be very striking, Hercules leaves with her.

Back on Asgard, Thor has managed to fight off his fellows, even fighting past Heimdall and escaping across the Bifrost Bridge to Earth. When Balder throws himself at the mercy of Odin for failing to slay Thor, Odin forgives him and decides instead to watch what his son intends to do on Earth. There, Thor finds Jane in a restaurant with Hercules, she is upset with the Thunder God for abandoning her. When he tries to explain himself, Hercules tries to greet his old ally but Thor wants nothing to do with him. The Prince of Power takes this as an insult and strikes the Thunder God. Thor already incensed, rises to attack the Olympian Demigod. The two immortals clash over Jane with their pride preventing them to put an end to the fight and stop the destruction they are causing the city. While in Asgard, Odin is still furious over Thor's disobedience in first revealing his double identity to Jane and returning to Earth against his wishes. The All-Father now calls forth Seidring the Merciless to exact punishment on his son. He orders Seidering to drain Thor of half his strength. This of course turns the tide of the battle, however, Hercules realizes that Thor has been weakened and no longer desires to fight an inferior foe. Angered by this, Thor continues his attack but is eventually knocked out. 

With the battle over, Hercules is swarmed by the spectators and departs. When Thor revives, he finds that the crowd has lost interest in him and even begin to mock him. Feeling the rejection, Thor is confronted by Jane who says that she only went to lunch with Hercules to make him jealous and that she loves him. Feeling that he has lost honor in the face of this defeat, Thor leaves Jane and tells her that he will not return to her until he has restored it and his full-strength. Jane is upset, until she is contacted telepathically by Odin, who tells her that he is remorseful toward his son and that she should go to him. Heeding this command, Jane follows after the Thunder God.




1.) JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #112 (1965)






Writer: Stan Lee  Art: Jack Kirby and Chic Stone


As you can see so far, the Mighty Thunder God has had a rich history in classic battles that helped define the medium. But when we are talking about Thor's greatest battle of all time, is there any doubt that his very first cover-to-cover punch up with the Incredible Hulk was not going to be it? Let's just say, one of the most heralded and legendary rivalries ever in the history of comics starts right here!

As much as Thor would hate to admit it, the Hulk always brought out the best in him. No other Super-Heavyweight in the Marvel Universe has ever tested the Thunder God the way the Green Goliath did, and truth be told, Thor was always infuriated by it. The battle that takes place within this comic was so full of power that it could well be the greatest ever in the history of Marvel Comics. It showed why Stan Lee and Jack Kirby are easily considered the greatest creative pair in the history of the medium (they aren't dubbed the John Lennon and Paul McCartney of comics for nothing).

Not since the Hulk squared off with the Thing a year earlier in Fantastic Four #25 (1964) had a fight been in such high demand by readers. But everyone knew that the Hulk was going to pummel the Thing in that famous brawl. This one was waaaaay different! Thor and the Hulk were the two physically strongest characters in the Marvel Universe and fans demanded to know which one of them was the stronger. Readers went into such a frenzy for the answer that they flooded the Marvel offices with letters. Lee and Kirby even pay homage to the insanity in the opening splash page with Hulk and Thor fanboys arguing over who the real champion of the Marvel Universe is? This fight stands as one of the true standards in dynamic storytelling that is on a level very few have ever achieved and it still remains a major influence today... now that's power!

Thor retells the tale to a bunch of teenagers of the fight he had with the Hulk back in Avengers #3 (1964), when they were both off panel. The two "royal" powerhouses of Marvel engaged in a tremendous war to see who the stronger was. Thor asked Odin to take away the enchantment of Mjolnir for 5 minutes so he could challenge the Hulk in hand-to-hand combat. But as this happened, the Hulk never took his eyes off the hammer and wanted to destroy it. They went back and forth in an absolutely spectacular battle that shook the entire industry to its very core while both combatants were shouting out their superiority over the other. The Hulk eventually throws Thor against the underground cavern wall causing an avalanche separating them. Soon, the Hulk digs himself out and would find Thor fighting the Sub-Mariner and the rest of this scrap continues back in Avengers #3. Later, we see the Hulk in the desert shouting out to the world that he will one day defeat the Thunder God. How could any comic book reader not shout out "MAKE MINE MARVEL" after they read this issue back in the day? Super-heroic action doesn't get any better!!!!



Agree? Disagree? Let's hear it fanboys!!


Check out other "THE TOP 5 GREATEST BATTLES OF..." here:

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   John "The Mego Stretch Hulk" Cimino
John Cimino is a Silver and Bronze Age comic, cartoon and memorabilia expert that runs a business called "Saturday Morning Collectibles." He buys, sells, appraises and gives seminars on everything pop culture, so if you got something special, let him know about it. He contributes articles to ALTER EGO, BACK ISSUE and THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR from TwoMorrows Publishing and has appeared on the AMC reality show Comic Book Men. He also represents some of comicdoms biggest stars and brings them to a Comic Con near you. John still thinks he's really Captain Marvel, people just don't have the heart to tell him he's just an obsessed fanboy that loves to play superheroes with his daughter Bryn. Contact him at johnstretch@live.com or follow on twitter at @Elastic_Hulk and have some fun.