The Great Marvel Stories: Thor by Walter Simonson, the rebirth of the Asgardian

The Great Marvel Stories: Thor by Walter Simonson, the rebirth of the Asgardian

The Great Marvel Stories

Imagining a divine figure within a complex superhero pantheon, in hindsight, seems to have been a gamble on the part of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, yet it would be difficult to imagine the Marvel Universe without Thor today. Like many other heroes of the House of Ideas, the God of Thunder has faced different periods, in which his existence was strongly shaped by the care of the different authors who have told his deeds, but few have left an indelible mark like Walter Simonson. , a true tutelary deity of the Asgardian mythology, who in the 1980s reworked the myth of Thor in a contemporary yet incredibly epic key. Now that the blond hero returns to the cinema with Thor: Love and Thunder, the reinterpretation of this cycle, recently published by Panini as Thor by Walter Simonson - Omnibus, is a recommended step to better understand the value of this hero, also in a cinematic key. .

Starting from Thor's cinematic context, we can see how his portrait on the big screen was twofold. The first two chapters (Thor and Thor: The Dark World) relied on a more heroic vision of the character, close to the mythological ideal of the character, an aspect diluted by Waititi's grammar, which in Thor: Ragnarok and Thor: Love and Thunder , aimed more at camp irony and humor. A betrayal, for some True Believers, who have badly received this variation of the role of the Asgardian, traditionally treated in comics as a divine being, albeit alien in substance, and often seen as the severe judge of human baseness, even of his own. fellow heroes, as we've seen in sagas like Avengers: Divided or Siege. Criticisms that are understandable, but that could be reconsidered by re-reading the Simonson saga, which in effect rewrote the myth of Thor by finding an adamantine crasis between epic and modern heroism.

Thor and Walter Simonson: the rebirth of the Asgardian of the Marvel Universe

From the origins to the arrival of Simonson The rebirth of Thor Epic and irony

From the origins to the arrival of Simonson

“How can you make someone stronger than the strongest person of all? Eventually I understood: don't make him human, make him a god. I decided that the readers were already familiar enough with the Greek and Roman gods. It would have been fun to explore the old Norwegian legends. Also, I imagined the Norse gods as the Vikings of the past, with flowing beards, horned helmets and war clubs. Journey into Mystery needed new ideas, so I chose Thor as the owner of the title. I wrote a basic plot with the story and characters I had thought of, and I asked my brother Larry to write the script because I was too busy, and it came natural to entrust the drawings to Jack Kirby "

On multiple occasions , comic critics and literary connoisseurs have identified in modern superheroes the spiritual heirs of the gods of the classical tradition, new actors of an epic and a current mythology that affects the collective imagination on a similar narrative level. Beings who, however much they tend to exalt their human side, remain idealized as superhuman heroes, a perception that in Thor's case borders on the divine. It was precisely on this basis that Thor made his debut in Journey into Mystery in 1962, which collected the adventures of Thor and his human alter ego, Dr. Donald Blake, in which the epic nature of the character was declined in a contemporary context, inserting him in a larger superhero community and which eventually led to him being part of the Avengers. On the other hand, the birth of the Mightiest Heroes on Earth is due precisely to Thor, or rather to his half-brother Loki, who in an attempt to use the Hulk as a weapon to wreak havoc pushes some of the Marvelian heroes of the period to join a team led by Iron Man. Idea that will also be the inspiration for this moment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as seen in Avengers (2012).

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The rebirth of Thor

When Simonson is called to take over Thor's reins, we are at the gates of the 1980s. The Silver Age is veering towards a less sweetened vision of the role of the hero, the plots of comics are moving towards more heartfelt and intimate tales of the heroes, also showing their frailties and breaking points. An opening that was allowing, at Marvel, to give life to cult such as The Demon in the bottle or God loves, man kills. For Simonson, this freedom becomes a fascinating tool, which could prove to be a starting point for the myth of the Asgardian.

The mythological component of Thor, given his militancy in the earthly dimension of the Marvel Universe, was slowly becoming weakened, a course that Simonson immediately decided to reverse, so much so that today we can consider as the main legacy of his successful management to have found a perfect balance between the visual narrative, influenced by pop art, and an epic declination of the didactic component of comics Thor, following a principle that Simonson himself never hid:

“I too was inspired by the original Norse myths. I tried to capture something of the range of those tales without having to revisit them and then regurgitate them. I wanted to tell epic stories; I wanted to tell small-scale stories with elements of humor, to tell plots of epic exploits and terrible betrayals, of betrayed loyalty and disappointed hopes, embellished with a sudden laugh "

Epic and irony

What immediately amazes readers is the feeling that Simonson's desire to wink at a science fiction narrative does not betray the epic tradition of the character. An authorial will that involves not only the purely narrative aspect, but that seeks graphic solutions that impart further personality to reading, supported by the art of Sal Buscema. A study that led to the creation of tables that pass easily from vertical development, designed to create a rapid rhythm in the sequences, to a more explosive presence of splash pages that instead appeal to the epic and mythological nature that dominate like never before on a format that , for size and foliation, it would require a more contained use.

Reason for which Simons, decides to point to another epic-like trait: the captions. Even before the revolution implemented by Barry Windsor-Smith with Arma X, Simonson sees in the captions and in the balloons a powerful narrative medium, which therefore becomes a means to convey the mythological tone of the character, with a presence of terms that are sought after and dear to the folkloristic tradition. , and a surprising use of lettering, which changes towards a rune-like definition in the presence of divine elements, such as the appearance of Odin.

Simonson must be recognized for a careful study in the management of Thor, which is not easy search for dynamics that reconcile the reading of a comic, expected as a dynamic and exciting story, and the construction of a heroic figure in the traditional sense, direct heir of the classic epic. Not surprisingly, in some passages the captions seem to recall a fruition mindful of the early years of the genre (as typical of Raymond's art), in which the balloon was an absent element, and combining it with the presence of brief ironies typical of satire English politics of the late 19th century, with a synergy between image and word. Trend that has found its best incarnation in Thor Croaking! , first chapter of the surreal and funny amphibious version of the Asgardian, Thorg, in which humor and epic coexist in a sublime way.

I'm not satisfied with this double dynamic, for the his Thor Walter Simonson expands the use of onomatopoeia, designed to be an integral part of the narrative, echoing the power of clashes. A disruptive, cubital presence, often emphasized by the recovery of kinetics, which Buscema uses mindful of the school of the previous great masters, bringing it back to the most dynamic scenes in a countertrend with the period, in which this element was now outdated. All these components, graphic and narrative, are indicative of how Simonson has led to a real revolution of the character, delivering him to a new era, and a new audience, preserving his specific traits and, in some cases, emphasizing them.

Thor by Walter Simonson - Omnibus is a great way to retrace this Asagardian period. Panini's volume, in line with the tradition of reviving important cycles in these titanic editions, perhaps lacks an analysis that places Simonson's work within the history of comics, giving credit to its essential impact on the sector. The choice not to reproduce the original color but to present a more lively and modern color can be a choice brought closer to contemporary taste.

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