Mar 10, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 744: Thor #272, June 1978

A bit more sword and sorcery, though the first words in this comic are "Portrait of a super-hero." Thor has always been a tricky one for me. I think it's that attempt at faux-Shakespearean dialogue that puts me off. Even people in Shakespeare's time didn't speak like that. It's poetry, not conversation.

Today's comic fits into a neat little subgenre that I might have to start tracking: the text of mettle. Thus far I can think of only one other example in my collection, though I imagine there's others. The basics of the genre are thus: a hero wanders into a situation in which they are faced with having to perform a certain number of tasks or they'll be imprisoned/killed. The tasks seem easy enough (i.e., in this issue, Thor is tasked with lifting a house cat), but, for some reason, are virtually impossible. Once the tasks are all failed, the hero thoroughly confused about said failure, the antagonist reveals themselves to have been testing the hero's fortitude, and that the challenges were actually remarkable feats (the aforementioned cat, for example, was actually the Midgard Serpent, which Thor managed, impressively, to lift slightly), and that the hero has proven themselves worthy. There's a Supreme back-up story in one of Alan Moore's Supreme issues with a very, very similar tale. And I'm sure that both of these stories draw inspiration from older pieces. I'm curious to see if such stories appear every now and again in a superhero's myth, at moments where, either narratively or ontologically, it makes sense to test and reaffirm the fortitude of hero. I'll think some more on this.

To be continued.

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