Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Words of Advice for Young People

What I love about the comic books of the 1960s is their off-key relationship with youth culture. Comics positioned themselves as a part of that culture, but until the mid-70s, when fans started turning pro in appreciable numbers, they were being written and drawn by folks far older than their intended audience. That is, the Baby Boomers were reading them, but the creators themselves were mostly guys who had grown up in the Depression. So when the comics addressed youth issues and the lives of young people, the results tended to be a little... well... muddled.

So I was reading the Marvel Visionaries: Jack Kirby, Volume Two hardcover the other day and ran across a sequence that made me both laugh and well up. It’s from The Mighty Thor, issue #154, July 1968. Stan Lee wrote the dialogue, but the story was heavily co-plotted by penciller Jack Kirby.

Which is by way of saying that I don’t know precisely whose idea this bizarre little interlude was—in which the titular hero, Asgardian demigod Thor, attempts to enlist the aid of a band of hippies in his efforts to track down his nefarious half-brother Loki (although I have my suspicions, of which more later).

Needless to say, the hippies want nothing to do with this bit of cosmic vigilantism...


They admire Thor’s style, sure, but the idea of actively fighting evil? Ugh.


Thor is not pleased, and gives the young ne’er-do-wells a stern dressing-down.


(Are you clicking through for the full-sized pictures, by the way? You really should. I'm not a massive Kirby fan, as so many are—I appreciate his contributions to the artform, but it's an appreciation that comes from the head, not the heart. Most of his art, I admire more than love: but his work on Thor I do love, and always have—and blown up huge, it is just spectacular.)


“Not by dropping out, but by plunging in.” Awesome. If I didn’t love Jesus so goddam much, I would totally worship Thor, for that alone.

But wait, it gets even better...


Get it? Because hippies call each other “man” all the time!

And finally, the Thunder God graces us with this bon mot:


Whew. You tell ‘em, Thor.

Here’s the thing, though—it’s ham-fisted and kind of stupid in its way but: Is he wrong? Kirby, whose strong moral sense shines through all his works (and makes me guess that this sequence was his brainchild), was a tough Brooklyn Jew who spent his teen years kicking Hitler’s ass; you’re gonna tell him that making your own separate peace is the way to make the world a better place? Screw that. Sometimes, you’ve just got to recognize that it’s clobberin’ time, and no two ways about it.

And if there's an irony in his using an Aryan ubermensch such as would make Himmler soil his uniform as a mouthpiece, well, that irony tastes deeee-licious.

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