For Your Consideration: Marvel’s Thor by Walter Simonson Omnibus

Thor By Walter Simonson Omnibus

Thor By Walter Simonson Omnibus

by Robert Greenberger

Marvel’s Omnibus program has generated several worthy collections of material at affordable prices given the sheer volume of material you get between the covers. While most of these have come from the dawn of the Marvel Age, their March release comes from the 1980s and this run of Thor is perhaps one of the best bodies of work produced in modern times.

Walter Simonson was no stranger to Asgard, having previously illustrated a series of stories written by Len Wein. Before then, he told me, “I was reading Thor comics back in the 1960s. And for me, the highlight of the run was from Journey into Mystery #114 through Thor #139 or thereabouts. That was the stuff I was really reading as it was being published, and I was blown away by. I was inspired by it.”

So, when Mark Gruenwald invited Walter to write and draw the series, he was more than ready. And now, the entire run from Thor #337-355, #357-369, #371-382 and Balder the Brave #1-4 is being packaged in Thor by Walter Simonson Omnibus.

It was this prime Stan Lee/Jack Kirby run that inspired Simonson to craft a Thor tale as a teen reader and he returned to those core concepts for his first storyline. “At that time, in Thor, there was a giant blade called the Odinsword, which sat in Asgard,” he explained. “There was no history for it. It was basically a giant blade lying in a giant scabbard. The legend around it was that if someone ever withdrew the blade from the scabbard, the universe would end.

“My contribution to that part of the story was to give the Odinsword a history. It was the blade of Surtur, a fire elemental, one of the very first beings, who sat in a realm of flames. At the end of time, at Ragnarok, he would take a burning sword and set fire to the universe. I thought it would be cool if the Odinsword was really Surtur’s blade, the one with which he would set fire to everything at the end of time.” Given that the Odinsword had been broken just prior to Simonson getting the assignment he came up with a new plan.

“I just decided to have Surtur make his own sword. That was my backstory. And I ran a series of front stories as the new blade was being forged.”

Thor By Walter Simonson Omnibus Variant Cover

Thor By Walter Simonson Omnibus Variant Cover

But the 1192 pages are not just about the Odinsword. Oh no. After all, the series also debuted Beta Ray Bill, wielding something akin to Mjolnir, the mighty uru hammer of Thor.

“My thought was that I wanted a story that didn’t feel as if it had already been told. I figured someone new should pick up the hammer and we go from there. The hammer had been around for 20 years, real time and no one in the Marvel Universe had picked it up. And I took that as an indication that no existing character in the MU back then could pick up the hammer, a belief I still hold, subsequent stories notwithstanding.

“It had to be somebody brand new; given the [hammer’s] inscription, it had to be somebody worthy, whatever that means.  So I created a character that would have a tragic but heroic background, someone as selfless as Thor. I needed someone who was a warrior, so I created someone who gave everything up to be the greatest warrior of his people. He was selfless because he was trying to save his entire race. He allowed himself through terrible, agonizing means to become a great weapon. In the end, that allowed the hammer to recognize this guy as worthy to use it.”

Visually, Simonson put his own stamp on all the Kirby creations and added to them with his own characters. Whenever he needed help or a break, Sal Buscema ably stepped forward. It was a revelation, as Sal did some of his most visually interesting work in his career.

And then there’s the entire storyline when Walt turned Thor into a frog. But for that, you have to go read the book – its well worth the effort.


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