Thursday, May 05, 2022

If you could be either Chris Hemsworth, or you; yeah, nobody's going to understand why you chose you.

I really kind of miss this format, even though not unlike presige format books it wasn't always used for groundbreaking works and was often just a bigger comic. Sometimes that's fine, but there's some choices that seem odd here. From 1987, Marvel Graphic Novel #33 - The Mighty Thor: I, Whom the Gods Would Destroy, plot by Jim Shooter, script by James (Priest) Owsley, pencils by Paul Ryan, inks by Vince Colleta. 

This delves into the life of Dr. Donald Blake probably more than any hundred issues of Thor, as Don has lost faith after losing a patient. Drowning his sorrows in a bar, a patron seems to take a practiced interest in him (she suspects a divorce, asking if he lost the kids) until Sif makes an effortlessly dramatic entrance to offer him his walking stick. Don refuses, knowing Sif doesn't understand why he doesn't, or why Thor should even spend time as Donald Blake. When a guy gets handsy with Sif and gets thrown into the jukebox, Don has to step in to keep her from probably slaughtering the guy's friends in a bar brawl, which involves Don taking the beating himself. Don throws his stick back to Sif, demanding she leave, then goes home with the patron he spoke with earlier. I'm 90% sure we, and Don, don't learn her name! The attempt is to play it off as two people finding comfort in each other, but does seem a little sleazy? Also, we see Sif watching from outside in the rain, but she somehow gets the walking stick in there so Don has it in the morning. 

Don runs out, intent on throwing the stick off the roof, furious at Odin for putting him in that situation and convinced his father was laughing at him. He lashes out at the patron as well, but quickly realizes that wasn't fair, and tells her the truth, transforming into Thor. While he takes her flying, Sif returns to Odin, feeling like a little cog in the All-Father's schemes. She still loves Thor, but is at a loss as to what she can to for him; and Odin may (or may not) be in the same boat. He had put Thor into the Don Blake persona to teach him humility; a lesson Thor had long since learned, but perhaps Thor had learned something else: being a god was timeless, endless monotony; while mortality was a brief exhilaration. (Just because I've been recently: immortality is the trip to Disneyland from start to finish, the plane rides, the shuttles, the lines, the rest of your life afterwards...mortality is the two minutes on Space Mountain.) 

Thor briefly lavishes in the adulation of the bar patron, but when he tries to explain how he feels about mortality she doesn't get it: she feels like he could have everything; Thor has already had it. He leaves her on the roof of her building, probably regretting sleeping with Don and missing out on Thor...Thor then spends a chunk of his day doing super-hero stuff, saving a man from a construction accident, stopping a bank robbery and a fire; struggling to feel something besides envy and admiration for the mortals and their little struggles. This section has a panel you may have seen online, where Thor is offered a creamsicle! He wonders if the mortals are more alive than he could ever be, and curses his father for giving him that knowledge, making him feel things his fellow gods wouldn't. Flying into what looks like low earth orbit, Thor throws Mjolnir, aiming for "the farthest reaches of the galaxy," knowing it would take more than 60 seconds to return. 

Mjolnir seems to make good time, getting back in time to turn back into the walking stick close to Don, who is freezing and suffocating. Feeling Odin mocks him still, Don takes the stick and strikes it against his heel to turn back into Thor and save himself. Meeting Sif in a park, he laments--I know I've used that word in write-ups before, but you know Thor would definitely 'lament'--what he felt was weakness, in reaching back for the lifeline of immortality. Sif tries to sweet-talk him into returning to Asgard, but is interrupted by a small girl chasing her ball. The girl is afraid of them, but Thor gently returns it, pleased with "the wonder in her eyes," which seems to miss Sif. Changing to Don, he takes her to Bloomingdales for less-conspicuous clothing, and she almost starts a riot there refusing to give up her sword. (A guard calls her "sweet-cheeks," a phrase I've never heard outside of a comic but maybe I've never been cat-called, either.) She grudgingly agrees to have her sword delivered with her packages, and gets fitted: she's putting up with this for his benefit. Dressed up, Sif looks a lot like Wonder Woman in people clothes: still maybe not that inconspicuous. 

Taking a walk through the park again, Sif asks when they're going to get to a nice part of the city; and gets progressively less impressed with mortals as the day goes on. At dinner, she asks "What is a single moment among an infinity?" Don describes it as precious, something he would remember forever; but to Sif it passed like any other. She walks out on dinner and goes home with Don, possibly just to get her sword; but he gamely tries once again to explain why he spends so much time as a mortal. He kisses Sif, which is greeted a bit condescendingly, like he's been playing a game but it's time to stop. Don tries to contain his anger and fails; feeling that 'Don' was not a disguise but who he was, yet whenever he was in trouble he could reach back for the comfort of immortality, with a tap of his stick. He nearly throws the stick into the fire, but is body-checked by Sif, who still thinks 'Don' was a facade created by Odin and he didn't need to be doing this. Tearing off (most of) her mortal clothes and retaking her sword, she storms out: she was what she was, and didn't see what his problem was. Although tempted, Don doesn't go after her--OK, not to be mean, but he couldn't. Don was lame, Sif was six-foot-two and moving at a full huff; at a dead sprint he'd have never caught up to her. But, his beeper goes off... 

Dr. Blake is called in for surgery on a little girl, victim of a hit-and-run. No other doctor in the area could save her, it was down to him, but Don's confidence was currently zeroed out, and he runs out before the start of the operation. Outside, Sif comforts him, perhaps now seeing a bit of his strength: few other gods would care about the death of a little girl, like the falling of a tiny sparrow. She points out Thor could face any threat without fear; couldn't Don do the same for this threat? He realizes, this was his battlefield, and steps into the operating room to continue the fight. Don doesn't know if he's worked through his identity crisis, but he wonders if perhaps Odin has stopped laughing. But, on the last page, Odin ponders "new mischief against the scion of Odin," not in the sense Loki would, but seemingly indicating Odin had other lessons planned for Thor to learn. That almost makes me wonder, how much of this was orchestrated by Odin: Don losing that first patient? The hit-and-run girl? Odin cares about mortals the same way you care for a bag of rice: you might lose a few here and there, oopsie.

OK, recap aside: this came out in 1987, per Mike's Amazing World, same month as Thor #387--which was about four years after Thor lost the Donald Blake persona in 1984's Thor #340, where the enchantment was given to Beta Ray Bill! This had maybe been on the shelf for a while, then: Paul Ryan's Wikipedia page seems to indicate it would've been before D.P.7; but even that would've been after Thor #340. (Incidentally, Ryan's art wasn't quite to it's usual level; either because this was early work or Colleta's inks? Although, Sif always looked great, and that could be Colleta's influence as well.) Did Shooter suspect Donald Blake would return; that it was an integral part of the character, like Clark Kent and Superman? Shooter was fired by Marvel April 15, 1987; several months before this would come out. But, pound for pound this was more page time given to the Thor/Blake dichotomy than in maybe the entire 257-or-so issues that it was a thing. And Don Blake has managed to return, a couple times more than I thought he ever would.  

1 comment:

Mr. Morbid's House Of Fun said...

Wow, Sif REALLY does look a lot like Wonder Woman here, not a bad thing mind you.
Was the hit & run girl the same one who was seen earlier when Thor gave her her ball back? That would actually be pretty apropos if it was.

All in all, sounds like a really good story showcasing why the Thor/Don Blake dynamic worked & was needed. Of course he's not now, but I'm sure someday in the future, some writer will bring back a dual identity for Thor much like how Jake Olsen was a thing back in the late 90's/early 00's.

Bruh we ALL would love to be Chris Helmsworth unless you're already someone just as cool or even cooler.