Ulik, MODOK and the future Adam Warlock were all part of another great year for the King.

In celebration of Jack “King” Kirby’s 100th birthday, we’re reviewing the man’s legendary creations with a year-by-year examination of his unparalleled career at Marvel Comics. Read on and witness the work that made him comic book royalty.

By 1967, Marvel editor Stan Lee knew exactly where to use his top artist, Jack Kirby. Together, “The Man” and “The King” whittled Jack’s output down to two main titles that year, with two main side-projects just to make things interesting. One might say it became a true “Summer of Love” between the Marvel creators and their fans at that time.

Stan and Jack continued to infuse FANTASTIC FOUR with way-out wonders and swingin’ splendors in ’67. They kicked off the year with a multi-issue tussle between the FF and Doctor Doom, and then wasted no time tossing them into a battle with the Negative Zone’s Blastaar in FANTASTIC FOUR #62, and the alien Kree Accuser named Ronin—another stand-out Kirby design—in FANTASTIC FOUR #65.

Though the fans might’ve been unaware of the history-making events occurring in FANTASTIC FOUR #67, Stan and Jack introduced another great concept in that issue’s “Him.” Jack’s visuals on the golden-skinned godling seemed a bit subdued and minimalistic, perhaps, but the character continued on to transform into Adam Warlock a few years later, one of Marvel’s most enigmatic yet engaging stars.

In the pages of THOR, Jack’s other blockbuster assignment, the Thunder God met his physical equal in Ulik the Troll in THOR #137, Kang and his Growing Man in THOR #140, and the Kirby tour-de-force of the Super-Skrull in THOR #142. Thor himself suffered under an almost-complete loss of his Asgardian powers in THOR #145, allowing Jack the opportunity to portray the majesty and grandeur of the character in an Earth-bound, civilian-dressed form.

After a break from Captain America’s adventures in TALES OF SUSPENSE, Jack returned to the strip along with Stan in TALES OF SUSPENSE #92 to kick off a storyline that illustrated the great depth of feeling from Cap for Agent-13, one of Nick Fury’s valued S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. After that, Cap met MODOK, surely the most unique Jack Kirby-designed character of the entire year, in TALES OF SUSPENSE #94, and temporarily retired to try and live a “normal life” in TALES OF SUSPENSE #95.

Apart form all the danger and drama delineated by Jack in 1967, he also poked some fun at himself and the rest of the Marvel pantheon through Stan’s latest brainchild, NOT BRAND ECHH, a comedy-parody mag. Utilizing Jack sparingly, but effectively, Stan included his star artist on the introduction of the Silver Burper in NOT BRAND ECHH #1, Sore, Son of Shmodin in NOT BRAND ECHH #3, and the ever-lovin’ origin of none other than Forbush-Man in NOT BRAND ECHH #5. What a way to go-go!

Stay tuned to Marvel.com for more on Jack Kirby and join the conversation on all of our social channels with the hashtag #Kirby100.

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The King helps introduce the Silver Surfer, Galactus, Black Panther and much more!

In celebration of Jack “King” Kirby’s 100th birthday, we’re reviewing the man’s legendary creations with a year-by-year examination of his unparalleled career at Marvel Comics. Read on and witness the work that made him comic book royalty.

Imagine a year in which the entire comics industry changed, and for the better. While the rest of the world danced to the beat of the British Invasion, thrilled to spy adventures on the big screen, and smiled ear to ear from the high camp on their televisions in 1966, Jack Kirby stood in the middle of a bonafide revolution in comic books.

In FANTASTIC FOUR #48, Jack and Marvel editor-writer Stan Lee brought a silver star down from the heavens to change the life of their family of super heroes forever. Legends tell of Lee’s astonishment to see a silver man on a surfboard in Jack’s art for the issue, and asked who it might be. The artist figured their bran-new cosmic baddie, Galactus, needed a herald of sorts, and the Silver Surfer sprang to life before the writer’s eyes. Soon, the herald would eclipse his big, purple master in popularity, and Jack’s simple design would go down in comics history.

The so-called “Galactus Trilogy” of 1966 showcased other Kirby art flourishes, such as Galactus himself, sporting a look that could only be described as Galactic Chic a la Jack Kirby. As the story continued into FANTASTIC FOUR #49 and FANTASTIC FOUR #50, readers marveled at Galactus’ “attack dog,” his mind-boggling personal spacecraft, and the ultimate weirdness of the Ultimate Nullifier, the one device that set the world-devourer quaking in his space-booties. It’s hard to imagine any other artist illustrating the tale and it creating an indelible mark on comics still felt to this day.

If that didn’t constitute a revolution, Lee and Kirby wasted no time in filling the rest of the year with such triumphs as the poignant “This Man, This Monster” story of FANTASTIC FOUR #51, the ground-breaking introduction of the Black Panther in FANTASTIC FOUR #52, and the return of the Silver Surfer in FANTASTIC FOUR #55. Lee, knowing Jack’s penchant for delineating Doctor Doom, also arranged to end the year with the newest assault by the Latverian monarch in FANTASTIC FOUR #57.

Across the Rainbow Bridge in fabled Asgard, Stan and Jack promoted their Thunder God into his own book with THOR #126, and in an effort to put their star through his paces, tossed him into the fires of Pluto’s underworld to rescue the wayward Hercules. Jack’s art never looked better as he fashioned incredible set pieces to make us believe in Pluto’s evil and the fiery world around him. Thor later met a living planet named Ego in THOR #133, and pondered the mysteries of the High Evolutionary—another fantastic Kirby design—in THOR #134.

Jack’s inventiveness and creativity extended past his art, of course, and over a few issues of Nick Fury’s adventures, he proved it by not only co-plotting a few stories with Lee and others, but handling full scripting chores along with his cover and layouts on STRANGE TALES #147.

Stay tuned to Marvel.com for more throughout Kirby Month and beyond! And join the conversation on all of our social channels with the hashtag #Kirby100.

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Mark Waid looks back upon a classic Thor/Hercules tussle from The King!

1917 to 2017: 100 years of Kirby.

Join us this month to celebrate Jack “King” Kirby’s 100th birthday by learning about the characters and stories he created that changed comics forever. To commemorate Jack’s centennial, we’ve sat down with the modern-day creators he influenced—and the decades of work he gifted us all.

A few days ago, we talked about how it can take some time to get used to an artist as dynamic and bold as Jack Kirby. By his own admission, AVENGERS writer Mark Waid didn’t take to “The King” when he first experienced some of his comics at the Distinguished Competition as a kid. If you’re wondering what made him change his mind about the artist, it came in the pages of JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #125 and THOR #126130.

“One of my all-time favorite Kirby stories is the ‘Verdict of Zeus’ epic, which I read at age 12 and was my introduction to Marvel Kirby,” Waid said. “The sheer drama in that Thor/Hercules saga, with all its grandeur and all its humanity, was an education for me.”

These issues contain many amazing moments bound to convert anyone to Camp Kirby. The first issue kicks off with a battle between Thor and a Norn Stone-enhanced Witch Doctor for several pages before shifting focus to a napping Hercules who helped move a downed tree from the train tracks.

After returning the Norn Stone to his father on Asgard, Thor attempts to tell his father that he revealed his secret identity to Jane Foster, but the elder god already knew! In his rage, Odin demands the other warriors present attack his son in “the Ritual of Steel.” The Odinson fights valiantly and earns his trip across the Rainbow Bridge back to Midgard where he finds his beloved at a soda parlor with Hercules!

Journey Into Mystery (1952) #125

Journey Into Mystery (1952) #125

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A wonderfully epic, titanic battle erupts between the two gods in the very first issue of THOR! How epic, you wonder? Well in addition to wielding enchanted uru hammers and Power Staffs, the two use trailer trucks, streets, heavy machinery, buildings, and bare fists to knock each other silly.

Hercules not only wins that battle, but also parlays the victory into a gig working on a gorgeous movie set overseen by mysterious supernatural figures disguised as humans. Meanwhile, Thor returns to Asgard where he stops an interloper from stealing Odin’s power, but nearly at the cost of his own life.

Eventually, Thor heals up, which gives him the strength to help Hercules get out of a boneheaded deal he made to become ruler of the Netherworld, thus cementing a camaraderie that continues to this day.

Stay tuned to Marvel.com for more throughout Kirby Month and beyond! And join the conversation on all of our social channels with the hashtag #Kirby100.

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The Living Planet clashes with Thor in his earliest incarnation!

Every Friday we use the powers of Marvel Unlimited to look back at the very first appearance of a major character, place or object that made waves this week.

In the pages of this week’s ULTIMATES 2 #8, Al Ewing and Aud Koch brought two powerful cosmic entities into conflict once again as Galactus faced off against his old foe Ego. We’re not going to spoil how that encounter ended, but we will talk about the Living Planet’s first recorded bout!

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced readers—and the title Asgardian warrior—to Ego on the very last page of THOR #132 back in 1966. You might wonder what brought the God of Thunder into outer space at the time. In THOR #131, Jane Foster’s former roommate Tana Nile revealed her true identity as a Space Colonizer. Since no one else cared about the backwater planet Earth, she called dibs and took control. When Thor came to visit the missing Jane, he discovered Tana’s secret and battled the supposedly unbeatable Colonizers from Rigel. He allowed himself to get captured and easily broke free to confront the entire organization in issue #132. After a battle, the Colonizer leader told Thor of the true threat, a being living in the Black Galaxy.

Agreeing to face this unseen enemy head-on, Thor flew off in a space ship with a humanoid robot called The Recorder. The duo witnessed the Living Planet as a beautifully rendered Kirby collage at the end of #132, and then far more fully in the next issue. Upon the Thunder God’s landing on Ego’s surface, the enormous creature revealed seemingly unlimited powers like the ability to peer into minds and manipulate the molecules around them to create familiar environs. He quickly exposed his desire to use these powers to escape the Black Galaxy and take over “all of space.”

Thor (1966) #133

Thor (1966) #133

  • Published: October 10, 1966
  • Added to Marvel Unlimited: September 17, 2008
  • Penciller: Jack Kirby
  • Cover Artist: Jack Kirby
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Ego further explained that his plan revolved around using the Thunderer as a molecular model to create an army of powerful anti-body-based minions that would travel from the Black Galaxy to fulfill his machinations. Though the Living Planet offered plenty of obstacles for Thor and Recorder to survive, the Son of Odin called down a storm of epic proportions that allowed them to free themselves from his grievous gravitational pull. In his rage at losing, Ego swore to seal off his bio-verse and never attack an outside world again.

Flash Forward

Of course, Ego’s vow of non-violence didn’t stop another cosmic threat from threatening the Living Planet! Galactus stumbled upon Ego during one of his many searches for sustenance and the two quickly came into conflict in THOR #160. Meanwhile, Tana Nile appeared on Earth to bring Thor to the Black Galaxy to help stop this war of cosmic proportions. The Thunder God joined the fray, fighting Galactus for the very first time, in an effort to defend Ego from being devoured. Thanks to some help from the Wanderers, who provided equipment to enhance Mjolnir, the heroes drained Galactus of his life energy and sent him packing! Ego offered his thanks by giving the Wanderers a place to live on his surface.

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Thor and the Warriors Three go monster hunting!

With so many classic creatures on the loose in Monsters Unleashed, we turn to their earlier adventures thanks to Marvel Unlimited.

Even though those new-fangled super heroes stole the show in the early 60’s, creators like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby still created plenty of monsters for them to fight. That duo did exactly that in a back-up story found in THOR #137 called “The Tragedy of Hogun.”

In this tale from 1967, the title character, while traveling with Fandral, Volstagg, and Thor, came across Saguta, a fellow countryman. With his dying breath, Saguta identified his attacker as Mogul, sending Hogun into a fit of rage at the name’s very mention.

Hogun called out a challenge for Mogul who appeared without fear of the assembled Asgardians. Before a true battle could commence, a giant green hand reached down and snatched up the villain. Said appendage belonged to none other than the Jinni Devil who quickly carried Mogul away.

“Mogul has ever been served by his giant jinni slave—the last of a species whose origin is unknown, but who possesses powers which defy the imagination!” Hogan explained.

Though he intended to track Mogul down on his own, Thor and the other Warriors Three vowed to help their friend in a story that continued on in many a THOR back-up. The Jinni Devil reappeared at the end of the story in issue #139 to take on the Asgardians, carrying over into the next issue.

Fiercely joined, the battle raged as Mogul and his cohorts watched from the underground city of Zandu. One of the rogue’s advisers revealed that “with the fall of night, the temperature doth change the very body fabric of the mindless Jinni!” Another added that this weakness during the dark times lead to the race’s demise.

As shadows fell on the Jinni Devil, it literally disappeared before our heroes’ eyes, leaving them to continue their quest to find Mogul. The creature did reappear in 1994’s THOR #474 in an issue by Roy Thomas and Sandu Florea that recounts the Mogul story while adding new pieces like additional scenes with the Jinni Devil.

The most popular tree in fiction stomps into public consciousness as Groot debuts in TALES TO ASTONISH #13.

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Take a journey back in time to witness the first appearance of the Dark Elf!

Every Friday we use the powers of Marvel Unlimited to look back at the very first appearance of a major character, place or object that made waves this week.

Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman launched a new storyline in this week’s MIGHTY THOR #15 featuring the continued schemes of Malekith as his desire to conquer the 10 Realms lead into the Asgard/Shi’Ar War. As battles rage between gods and aliens, let’s jump back to Malekith’s first foray into villainy.

The most famous resident of Svartalfheim broke out onto the scene in the pages of THOR #344 by the legendary Walt Simonson in 1984 and stuck around to cause problems until issue #349. We’re introduced to Malekith as Balder encounters Loki while on an errand for Odin. The trickster described the Dark Elf as, “He whom Odin did banish to the limbo of endless night so many ages agone.” Balder himself notes that Malekith and his master represent the threat Odin needed to see Loki about.

Malekith quickly discredits Odin and reminds Loki that his step dad regrets adopting the halfling before reminding him, when the old standards come crashing down, there will be plenty for the ruthless to take for themselves. Later, after picking up a sword even though he swore never to do so again, Balder attempts to strike Malekith down, but the villain disappears. “Foolish Balder,” Loki says. “Do you not remember the power of the Dark Elf, to enter the shadows and vanish…to travel where he will and emerge even on the other side of the universe.” With that, Loki tosses aside the letter from Odin explaining that he already agreed to align himself with the son of Svartalfheim.

Over the rest of the arc, Malekith transports himself to Midgard, specifically New York City, where he seeks the Casket of Ancient Winters, which has been guarded for eons by a man named Eric Willis. Though he kills Eric, the duty of protecting the artifact passes down to his son who proves more than adept at the task. To get the cask, the Dark Elf calls the Wild Hunt which sends a legion of monsters after the box and Roger. Not taking kindly to this attack, Thor enters the fray.127274-162115-malekith

Malekith enrages Thor further when he kidnaps his girlfriend Melodi—actually Enchantress’ little sister Lorelei. Aided by Roger, the God of Thunder travels to the villain’s English castle to save his lady but both heroes fall, allowing Malekith to acquire his prize.

Even after Thor seemingly gains the upper hand, Malekith destroys the Casket, loosing magical winter on Earth and allowing the Twilight-wielding Surtur and his demonic minions to break through the dimensional gate that kept them at bay. With his foe unconscious, Thor took Malekith to Asgard and raced off to face this new threat.

Since then the Dark Elf has popped up to continually make life difficult for Thor as well as other heroes like Iron Man, Hercules, and even X-Force. Jason Aaron brought him back to the forefront in THOR: GOD OF THUNDER and has continued developing his machinations since in the pages of THOR and MIGHTY THOR leading directly into the Asgard/Shi’Ar War.

Flash Forward

Malekith gained further fame in 2013 after leaping to the big screen in “Thor: The Dark World.” Played by Christopher Eccleston, this version of Malekith woke after years of slumber when Jane Foster accidentally released the Aether. The villain eventually takes the Infinity Stone into himself and battles Thor throughout a variety of dimensions, but falls to the Odinson.
For more Flashback Friday goodness, check back in next week!

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The God of Thunder faces off against a present-stealing menace!

Celebrate 12 Days of Marvel with a showcase of holiday-themed comic books ready to read on Marvel Unlimited!

With a title like “How the Groonk Stole Christmas!” readers might have thought they had a pretty good idea what to expect when opening up THOR #444 by Tom DeFalco, Ron Frenz, and Al Milgrom back in 1992.

Modern day fans might need a little more catch-up, though. First off, this comic stars Eric Masterson as Thor, an architect whose wife has moved on to a rich football star and who recently got evicted from his apartment. As you might expect, it’s also Christmastime and he’s not feeling great about his situation.

Making matters worse, someone continues to steal presents from shoppers out making last minute purchases on Christmas Eve. Wanting a villain to punish, Thor goes hunting for what he thinks a common thief, but winds up face to face with a giant, furry green monster known as Groonk!

Thor (1966) #444

Thor (1966) #444

  • Published: February 10, 1992
  • Added to Marvel Unlimited: April 29, 2013
What is Marvel Unlimited?

Filled with nods to a certain holiday classic that started off as a book and continues to air on television every year, the story soon moves underneath New York where Thor learns that this creature actually lives with a group of sewer dwellers and he stole in order to give them a happy Christmas.

Feeling less satisfied than he intended, Eric goes on to visit his girlfriend Susan who finally wakes up from her coma much to everyone’s surprise. He takes a bit of a dip after Captain America gives him a speech about living up to his potential, but then swings back the other way when he gets home to a surprise party planned and thrown by his ex-wife and son.

On the tenth day of X-Mas my true believer gave to me ten hammers a hammering, nine Spideys swinging, eight Hulks a smashing, seven skull ornaments, six claws a-popping, five skiing Rhodeys, four fallen Daredevils, three killer trees, two Doom Bots and a demon in the X-Mansion.

Come back soon for another Holiday Grab Bag featuring MARVEL TEAM-UP #1.

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Hammers fly in this 90's classic!

It’s time to face facts, true believers – the 90’s were awesome. The pouches were plentiful, the costumes were impractical, and Marvel Universe dentists made a fortune correcting damages caused by perpetually gritted teeth. Thanks to the power of nostalgia, though, what would once be considered extremely embarrassing can now be called extremely awesome!

With that in mind, we’ve pulled a Marvel comic from the not-so-modern era and broken it down, one fresh fact at a time! This week we’re singling out THOR #440 by Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz. Here’s “All the Rivers Run” by the numbers!

Thor (1966) #440

Thor (1966) #440

What is Marvel Unlimited?

15 spikes on Dargo’s shoulder pads

Art from Thor #440

Art from Thor #440

8 henchmen: Grey Gargoyle, Mercurio the 4-D Man, Cobra, Tyrus the Terrible, Shatterfist, Demonstaff, Uroc the Uru Warrior and Skurge the Executioner

Art from Thor #440

Art from Thor #440

6 energy streams in Zarrko’s machine

Art from Thor #440

Art from Thor #440

6 straps on Thor/Dargo’s boots

Art from Thor #440

Art from Thor #440

3 Thors on one cover

Art from Thor #440

Art from Thor #440

2 alternate reality lizard scientists

Art from Thor #440

Art from Thor #440

2 powerful punches

Art from Thor #440

Art from Thor #440

1 god of lies

Art from Thor #440

Art from Thor #440

Check out a totally different Thor Corps during Secret Wars in THORS!

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The heroes of the 90's debuted at the tail end of 1989!

No team embodies the spirit of early 90’s Marvel quite like the New Warriors. This team – which initially consisted of the skateboarding Night Thrasher, the bouncing Speedball, the telekinetic Marvel Boy, the powerful Namorita, the high-flying Nova and the fiery Firestar – put their attitude, charisma and street smarts to work while keeping the streets of Manhattan free of crime. The group tackled just as many social issues as alien invaders, a fact that made the Warriors stand out from all the other teams with ‘tudes that followed their debut.

Thor (1966) #411

Thor (1966) #411

What is Marvel Unlimited?

The New Warriors first appeared 25 years ago in THOR #411 by Tom DeFalco, Ron Frenz and Joe Sinnott. The team banded together as part of the “Acts of Vengeance!” event, which saw the Juggernaut trading blows with Thor in New York City. With the amount of property damage increasing, Nova put out a call to the rest of his teammates.

Art from Thor #411

Art from Thor #411

Just as Thor got knocked down for the count, the New Warriors stepped up.

Art from Thor #411

Art from Thor #411

The New Warriors sure know how to make an entrance. They all introduce themselves by name and then call the Juggernaut scum. Bold move, Night Thrasher!

Thor (1966) #412

Thor (1966) #412

What is Marvel Unlimited?

The team immediately tried to knock the unstoppable Juggernaut off balance. Speedball tried disorienting him, Nova and Namorita tried binding him with iron rails, and Night Thrasher – well, he busted out his skateboard.

Art from Thor #412

Art from Thor #412

Firestar whisked Thrash out of Juggernaut’s reach before the mighty villain could pound on him, thus leaving the one man wrecking crew open to an attack from the Warriors’ two heavy hitters.

Art from Thor #412

Art from Thor #412

Not surprisingly, Juggy shook off the train cars and kept on attacking the young heroes. As Thor regained consciousness, Marvel Boy and Firestar tried their best to slow the Juggernaut down.

Art from Thor #412

Art from Thor #412

Finally, Thor jumped back into action. He blasted Juggernaut’s surrounding area with lightning and the Godforce, rendering the hard concrete incredibly brittle.

Art from Thor #412

Art from Thor #412

With the Juggernaut trapped in a cone of steel, Thor banished him to another dimension. The God of Thunder looked upon his new allies and did not take the youthful heroes to task for jumping into the fray. No, he gave them his blessing, saying, “Thou art young, and have much to learn of honor and nobility! But, methinks the world shall soon marvel at the stirring exploits of the New Warriors!”

You can check out the latest NEW WARRIORS lineup on Marvel Unlimited!

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Run down an essential reading list for this legendary creator's acclaimed 1980's run with the God of Thunder!

By Kiel Phegley

Quotes from this story come from a previous Marvel.com interview with Walt Simonson

Today, the hammer of Thor may have landed in the hands of a woman ready to make the world shake with the power of the Thunder God, but that doesn’t make the first time the Avenger has seen his mantle passed along.

In fact, throughout Marvel history there one particular wielder of Thor’s power used their skill with the lightning to change the hero’s world forever: writer/artist Walter Simonson.

In a pioneering run during the 1980’s, Simonson reinvented THOR as a comic many times over, welcoming new and exciting—and sometimes strange!—faces to the world of the Odinson, and amping up his villains like never before. Combine that storytelling sensibility with one of the most dynamic and stylized visual imaginations in comics, and Simonson’s 44-issue tenure with the character stands out as one of the greatest achievements in Marvel’s 75 years!

To celebrate, we’re highlighting some of the biggest epic arcs and most stunning single issues from the Simonson era including the birth of Beta Ray Bill, the villainy of Surtur and Kurse, and one Froggy detour, along with the memories of Simonson himself.

Thor (1966) #269

Thor (1966) #269

What is Marvel Unlimited?

THOR #269 – 271

A longtime fan of the character, Simonson seemed a preordained match for Thor. The creator told Marvel.com in 2011 that “I had been a reader of THOR in college. I had read the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby stuff. I had loved it. I had been a Norse mythology fan since I was a kid and was thrilled to discover a comic that was kind of based on Norse mythology—there’s not a one-to-one correspondence, but there’s no reason there should be. I was delighted to find it, and I didn’t care that it wasn’t exactly the myth. For one thing, Thor didn’t have red hair in the comics. I was fine with that.”

Simonson completists and Thor fans alike would do well to take a look at some of his late ‘70’s contributions to the art of the series. He drew a number of issues for writer/editor Len Wein in that era including this blistering, battle-filled three-parter where the Thunder God took on the villainy of A.I. system F.A.U.S.T.

While a god with a hammer versus a computer may seem like an easy fight, the sentient hardware enlisted a number of Marvel heavy-hitters for the battle including dynamically redefined Daredevil villain Stiltman—complete with adamantium armor—and the Negative Zone bruiser Blastaar. Top those battles off with an all-Avengers team-up including appearances by Nick Fury and Captain Marvel, and you’ve got a classic Marvel Universe slugfest made all the better by Simonson’s early experiments in his signature style.

Thor (1966) #337

Thor (1966) #337

What is Marvel Unlimited?

THOR #337 – 340

By the time Simonson took the full time gig as writer and artist of THOR in 1983, the book had lost some of its creative verve. Luckily, legendary editor Mark Gruenwald had just the solution:

“He was very clear that I did not have to follow any of the stories that came before,” Simonson recalls. “Essentially, he gave me carte blanche to do whatever I wanted to do. So I took over the book as a writer and artist, and, as I said, it was a time when THOR was not selling very well, which wasn’t a bad place to be, because if the book didn’t do well, nobody would have blamed me.”

What came next would be the stuff of Marvel legend. Looking for a way to shake up the series, Simonson lit upon an overlooked piece of the cosmology of the Marvel U and spun it into a whole new kind of Thor story that’s still being used today.

“I tried, in the opening story, to do something that had not been done before in the series,” Simonson says. “In the course of that thinking, I decided, looking over the Thor stories they had done up to that point, I thought about the idea that up to that time, Thor had his magic hammer Mjolnir, and the enchantment essentially said, ‘Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.’ Up to that point in the comic, nobody else had actually held the hammer; I thought it would make an interesting story to create a new character, because the existing characters probably couldn’t do it—nobody had really tried, but they were all around—but I would create a new character who would be designed to be able to pick up the hammer. And that would mean he would be able to possess the power of Thor. And that was the character I ended up naming Beta Ray Bill.”

The horse-looking alien warrior proved just the shot in the arm the book needed. And over the first four issues, the hero brought some much needed muscle to THOR as he first assumed the power of the god before teaming up with him to battle demons from the underworld, truly proving his mettle.

“When I created Beta Ray Bill he was created with a history that I felt would give him the qualities needed to pick up the hammer,” explains Simonson. “He would be worthy, but he would also be a warrior; he would have need of that kind of power.”

Thor (1966) #350

Thor (1966) #350

What is Marvel Unlimited?

THOR #350 – 353

Simonson made more early moves besides bringing new faces to the table. The creator reached far and wide into Thor’s Norse roots in order to build up both the heroes and villains of the book in new and exciting ways.

“Thor had a rather large supporting cast of both good guys and bad guys,” he says. “He had the whole town of Asgard, he had his pal Balder, he had the Warriors Three, he had his father, he had Sif, he had a bunch of mortals floating around. He had bad guys like the trolls, Surtur and so on.”

That last villain would make one of the biggest impressions on fans early in Simonson’s second year on the book. In “The Surtur Saga,” the wicked King of the Fire Giants forged the massive Twilight Sword in order to threaten all the nine realms. The villain’s coming had been teased from the very first pages of Simonson’s first issue as the sound of “DOOM!” clanged off Surtur’s fiery anvil—lettered with remarkable style by John Workman—but the final battle proved a four-part story that brought all the forces of Asgard to the fore as Thor, Odin, Balder the Brave and more combined their forces to fight off Surtur. Even the mischievous Loki joined with his brother to stop the threat, though as Simonson’’ stories reminded us again and again, the villain’s turn towards good would prove much more a selfish act than a selfless one.

Thor (1966) #355

Thor (1966) #355

What is Marvel Unlimited?

THOR #355

Simonson excelled at more character-focused stories too. Even though the one-shot issue “The Icy Hearts” had its fill of godly battles, the tale delved deep into the roots of Thor’s family and added as much personal drama to the action as possible. The issue also stands out as the welcoming party for artist Sal Buscema who would collaborate with Simonson on the rest of his run.

“Sal was an old pro, and he did a wonderful job,” Simonson notes. “Sal was a wonderful storyteller. He still is a wonderful storyteller. But he really understood pacing and which shots to choose, so actually writing a script over his artwork; it was like butter.

“Writing over his pencils, it almost wrote itself. It was incredibly easy. I had a great time working with Sal. I loved working with him.”

Thor (1966) #363

Thor (1966) #363

What is Marvel Unlimited?

THOR #363

Fans of Thor on film can’t miss this brutally satisfying issue that introduced the villain Kurse into the series. Twisted by Malekith the Accursed from a typical Dark Elf and into a monster of a foe, Kurse represents everything that works about Simonson’s run on the book. He’s an evolution of a piece of the Thor mythology, a bone-crushing character whose appearance automatically ups the action quotient of the issue and a design that stands out as both ornate and yet strikingly memorable.

Thor (1966) #364

Thor (1966) #364

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THOR #364 – 366

Perhaps the most memorable of all Simonson’s THOR stories would also be the most bizarre one in his entire run: the introduction of The Thunder Frog!

A plot by Loki to undermine the power of Thor turned the hammer wielder into a common amphibian. But the story that followed would be anything but common, turning from silly to serious with each new issue.

“I parodied my own work with two issues where Thor was a frog,” Simonson explains. “It was two things. One, it was an homage to Carl Barks, whose work I’m a huge fan of, with his Donald Duck comics and Uncle Scrooge. And also it was a parody of my own stuff. It’s a heroic quest with frogs doing the heroic questing. It was also a tip of the hat to Steve Ditko, because there’s one scene where the Thor frog has to lift the hammer, but of course he’s only about as big as the underside of the hammer, so if you go back and look at his dialogue or thought balloons whenever he’s lifting the hammer, I shamelessly swiped from that wonderful scene that Stan wrote where Spider-Man is lifting this giant piece of machinery where the Master Planner has him pinned in this underwater base that’s about to collapse. It was my tip of the hat to that.”

Thor (1966) #380

Thor (1966) #380

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THOR #380

Simonson refused to slow down as he neared the end of his time on THOR. Returning to the book as penciler, he detailed the widescreen story known as “Mjolnir’s Song” to much acclaim. Taking its cues from the Norse legend of Ragnarok, the issue details a battle between Thor and Jormungand, the World Serpent; this behemoth of a Midgard lizard supposedly holds the destiny to kill Thor with its dying breath, but for 22 pages, Simonson showed why the Thunder God will live forever in a tale told entirely in full splash pages. From the fiery inferno created as Jormungand towers over our hero to the teeth-shattering victory blow Thor strikes with Mjolnir, the story displays all-out action as only Simonson can draw it.

Read more THOR on Marvel Unlimited and visit marvel.com/75 to continue Marvel’s 75th anniversary celebration!

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