Friday 26 April 2013

Thor# 209. The Demon Druid.

Thor #209, the Druid
Well, what an exciting week it's been. Not only did the temperature actually manage to rise above zero for the first time in what seems like years but we've seen not one but two big occasions - both on the same day.

It's been St George's Day and the latest Thor trailer's been unveiled.

I should explain to our overseas readers that St George's Day is the most important day of the year in England. It's a time when we celebrate our national identity by dancing round the Maypole, bursting into tears of pride as we run the flag up the pole we've erected in our garden, and we give three cheers for such epoch-making titans as Shakespeare, Isaac Newton and One Direction.

Granted, none of what I've just said may be true but I've always felt that the fact that most people totally ignore our national day should be a greater source of pride than the fact that we have a national day in the first place. In my book, apathy and cynicism are supremely underrated qualities.

"But, Steve," I hear you ask, "Thor? St George's Day? What possible link can there be between the two?"

None whatsoever but it does give me an excuse to look back on one of my bitterest childhood memories - Thor's visit to England.

I must warn you that I hated this story when I first read it in the pages of Marvel UK's weekly  Spider-Man comic. Its depiction of England was so far wide of the mark that I wanted to personally punch writer Gerry Conway in the mouth every time any of the characters in the tale opened their mouths. Will a second reading, as an adult, prove to be more agreeable? Or will it just stir up personal demons I thought long-since buried?

Sulking over Odin acting like a complete tool again, and the disappearance of Sif, Thor lands in a London backstreet. We can tell at once that it's London because all the streets are cobbled, there's a fog in the air and the city seems to be lit by the hi-tech wonder they know as gas.

Unfortunately, the power of Thor's transformation back to Don Blake awakens a long-buried giant called the Demon Druid who proceeds to stomp all over the English countryside in between bouts of repeatedly knocking Thor unconscious.

Fortunately, there are brighter people than Thor around, and a local police inspector ultimately tells him to butt-out so the Demon Druid can use Stonehenge as a launchpad to return to the alien planet from whence he originally came.

So, did I enjoy the tale more on second reading?

Not really. The portrayal of England seems even more bizarre than it did when I was a kid, with people talking in a manner that suggests they learned to speak English by watching Crocodile Dundee. But the truth is that, nowadays, such inaccuracy amuses rather than annoys me and I suppose it's better than the horror that German readers had to put up with, with all members of their nation routinely depicted by old-style Marvel as obsessive wearers of lederhosen.

I suppose that, on reflection, the main problem with the story isn't cultural inaccuracy. It's that, while perfectly competent, it all feels a bit pointless. Basically, it's just a spiritually empty fight between two god-type beings, with nothing noticeably at stake. By this stage in the strip's history, we'd got used to the grand cosmic soap opera of Asgard and its neighbours and, with its total lack of relevance to the bigger picture, this tale feels somewhat throwaway in comparison to such grand intrigue.


Kid said...

But, Guv, think of the lovely interior art by John Buscema and Vince Colletta, cor blimey, luvaduck.

Steve W. said...

Crikey, mate, you're right. It's proper bonza.

Oops. Hold on. I've turned Australian again. I blame Gerry Conway.

Anonymous said...

Count your blessings - a year or so later, Conway had the bloody Kangaroo appearing in a Spider-Man issue - how do you bloody think he let on to the bloody readers that the Kangaroo was bloody Australian?

Too bloody right.

PS this was the last issue of Thor I bought for several years...that Colletta inking was just too much.

B Smith

Steve W. said...

Poor old Vince. I do feel I should do a post about him at some point.

Kid said...

I always thought that Vince was THE inker for Thor - especially over Kirby and Buscema. Some poor quality reprints with missing detail partially explains his bum rap.

(Bum rap - there's a feature for Steve Does TOTP if I ever saw one.)

Joe S. Walker said...

Not long ago I read a load of Bronze Age Thors, and it really went nowhere for years after Kirby left - plotline after plotline with Odin exiling Thor to Earth, Odin abandoning Asgard, Thor and an entourage of old supporting characters being exiled to Earth, searching for Odin, finding him and celebrating back home in Asgard, Thor returning to Earth to fight some old-time villain and being exiled there by Odin again two issues later.

Then Roy Thomas wrote a ten-issue story tying together Marvel's Norse gods and Wagner's Ring. That was worse.

Ade Salmon said...

Dammit Steve I just bought a copy off ebay - couldn't help myself.


Steve W. said...

Ade, I shall be interested to hear what you think of it.

Ade Salmon said...

Thanks for highlighting this comic Steve - your review was spot on! Anything with Stonehenge involved will gets my vote.:)

Steve W. said...

Thanks Ade.

By the way, if you like Stonehenge-based stories, you'd probably love The Many Ghosts of Dr Graves #41, if you've not already read it: