I’m not one to break my old loosies out of mylar and mothballs. Too often, I’ve got a backlogged stack of trade paperbacks waiting for my eyes, and it’s too risky to bring a collectible outside with me on errands anyway. So it’s been a long, long time since I read Walter Simonson’s epic, 4-year run on the golden haired Avenger. But when Amazon offered me a copy of the Omnibus: 1,192 pages for $77 bucks and free shipping, I couldn’t say no.
So, was it worth the money? Hit the break!
That’s the short answer.
Most “old” comics–i.e., pre-Quesada Marvel, are pretty wordy, and that can distract from the artwork–and it also generally makes them more of a chore to read. You don’t have to tell me everything; the picture can tell the story, too. And although this book does have a little bit of that, it’s really the only flaw. This is simply one of the greatest runs of all time–I’d forgotten how brilliant it was.
It’s important, first, to put the run in context. I was never much of a Thor reader, and really most people weren’t either, but the title began with Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby setting the stage well (all of their old golden age work was terrific–albeit a little dated), and then the title pretty much dropped off. There were decent tales here and there, and most of the best creators in Marvel’s wheelhouse got their hands around the character (Romita Jr., DeFalco, Conway, Thomas, Gruenwald, etc., etc.), but there really wasn’t a sense of who Thor was. At least for me, there was never enough of a hook to make me want to buy the book.
Then Simonson came along. I was just 13 in 1983 when Thor #337 came out, with an orange-skinned, horse-faced Thor smashing his own logo. All I could do is stare, stunned, at the rack and say:
“What the hell is that thing?”
Of course, it was Beta Ray Bill. And he is far and away the best reason to drop ducats on The Mighty Thor By Walter Simonson Omnibus. But here’s 10 other reasons . . .
TOP 10 REASONS TO BUY THE WALT SIMONSON THOR OMNIBUS
10. The Lettering. Nowadays, there’s not much of an art to comic book lettering. It’s done by computers, mostly. But back then, John Workman, Jr., hand wrote every word. It’s like the difference between a drum machine and an incredibly talented drummer. Both can keep the beat, and both can be almost perfect at it, but the human adds emotion. And you can see it in the style.
9. You can use it as a weapon. Seriously. Don’t try reading this on the bus or anything. It weighs as much as a small child.
8. The sound effects! Greg Pak’s Hercules run was surely influenced by Simonson/Workman’s words–written in huge, varying styles: Schrakkle! Krakk! Thakk! Skkattoom!
7. The fascinating evolution of Walter Simonson’s art. He starts out as a kind of John Byrne lookalike in many ways. Look at the faces in particular. But by the end of his run his style was distinct, unmistakable, and unique. And it marked him as one of the greatest artists in the history of comic books.
6. A guest spot by Clark Kent! Seriously! See issue #341.
5. The creation of the rich, vast, extended world of Asgard. Sure, others had touched on it, hinted at, explored the fringes, but Walt created an entire universe. You didn’t need the Avengers or a guest shot by Spider-Man. This was a whole universe you’d never really seen before like this. Others in the 1980s spent time developing their own worlds, but mostly that was in indie books like Dreadstar or Elfquest or Cerebus. Walt brought this to mainstream comics. Now, folks do it all the time. In fact, JMS did it with Thor when he presided over the second-best Thor run of all time….
4. The development of a terrific supporting cast including Volstagg the Voluminous (who defeats an assassination attempt by literally sitting on the would be killer, and telling him stories for an entire issue) and Balder the Brave (who gets his own feature in “Whatever Happened to Balder the Brave?”–issue #344).
3. A chance to see, in one volume, the work of a writer/artist. There’s something special about a guy who can draw his own pictures–you get a truly unique, and consistent, take on a character. In the 1980s, there were quite a few of these (John Byrne , Dave Sim, Frank Miller and Jim Starlin, to name a few), but nowadays we almost never see this. I wonder where they all went?
2. The recoloring. It’s truly beautiful and vibrant. This is comic books as art.
1. FROG THOR.
It couldn’t be any other.