Monday, December 21, 2020

Pittsburgh in Journey into Mystery #120: With My Hammer In Hand...!"

A few months ago, I wrote about the two-part Avengers "Peril in Pittsburgh!" storyline from the early 1980s. That story specifically references 1965's Journey into Mystery #120, Thor's debut title, so I picked that one up for the purpose of seeing how Pittsburgh was portrayed in the issue.

The Avengers storyline includes a character who ostensibly picked up a piece of Thor's broken hammer, which, in a convoluted way, let to the creation of a kind-of villain with a sliver of Mjolnir's power. Thor broke his hammer in an early '60s battle, which led him to reforge the weapon in the place he thought most suitable on earth - a mill in Pittsburgh.

Here's the cover. "Thor" was overshadowing the "Journey into Mystery" part of the title by quite a bit at this point. Oh, and there are a lot of jokes - or at least one obvious one - to be made about the caption. We were all thinking it.

This page-one title is a little better, but still...sheesh. Anyway, we're greeted by the all-star creative cast of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Vince Colletta and Artie Simek. This was from the time when Stan and Jack were handling pretty much every book at Marvel. Thor, wearing eye protection and sticking his hands directly into a blast furnace, re-forges his hammer as awestruck onlookers gawk and provide some exposition.

And on page two...he's done! You'll notice Kirby's photocopy in the background of the first panel, which he sometimes did. And the everyday joes cheer! But now it's time to test the hammer out by destroying some property.

Thor, no!! That's a support beam! You've doomed us all!!

During this display, one of the workers exclaims "The Mets would trade their whole first team for a guy who can do THAT!", and are you kidding me, Stan?! You make it a point to note that Thor has travelled to Pittsburgh, PA, and the guy talks about the Mets? This is one of the only times where it's prudent to namecheck the Pirates, and you go with the Mets. The battlin' Bucs, at this point, were only a few years removed from their 1960 World Series championship, and in 1965 they had a lineup that included Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Bill Mazeroski, Vern Law, Elroy Face and Bob Friend! They won 90 games that year! They were a pretty good team! Why is this guy talking about the Mets?!?

Well, anyway, I'm sure there's more to this story, so let's move on. On page three, Thor says goodbye to the workers at the mill...

...and then he flies away, and that's it. He's in Pittsburgh for two pages plus a few panels on the third. All of the connections made in Avengers #192-93 were made up after the fact, including the all important "I found a piece of Mjolnir and made it into a keychain" plot point. This was very disappointing to learn!

But, well, we're here, so let's check out what else happens in this issue! Thor arrives back in New York (sigh) where he finds that Jane Foster is missing. He tries to enlist some help from the Avengers in finding her, but the original members have mostly disbanded, being replaced by the likes of Hawkeye, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver.

Oh, here's an ad for some of the other books that were on sale at the same time, including Fantastic Four #43: "Lo, There Shall Be an Ending!", which is a great book.

Later, Thor runs that Zsa Zsa Gabor??

And soon, Thor comes face-to-face with Crusher Creel, the Absorbing Man!

There are some real gems here as far as ads are concerned. This one page has the classic X-Ray specs ad, plus one for the Strat-O-Matic!

This issue had a backup tale as well, which also, well, featured Thor and his fellow Asgardians.

The letters page, "The Hammer Strikes!", is a good one in this issue. It starts off with a writer kind of(?) complaining about Jack Kirby's art, but then claims that Thor is the most exciting title around. Thanks, Mike Gable of Ridgefield Park, NJ.

And at the very end of the issue, we have two more great old ads. The one on the right is fun, offering up an old army Jeep for $278, apparently? I'm sure there was some fine print there somewhere.

The second ad, which is maybe the Columbia Record Club for the 1960s, offers up 10 records with a total of 60 songs. This was 1965, so we're talking about the confluence of the British Invasion, Motown, Surf Rock and the last gasp of 1950s Pop. Look at that list! I see the Beatles, Monkees, Kinks, Temptations, Supremes, Dixie Cups...I hope that teens took up this offer and danced awkwardly, just like the illustration suggests.

Well. This was kind of an underwhelming issue to pick up, because I thought that it'd tie in more to the Avengers storyline or at least show Pittsburgh a bit more. And what it did show was pretty generic. But what can you do? At least I got to laugh at the title for a bit.

1 comment:

Larry said...

For $20 you could buy a heck of a lot of army stuff. An airplane for less than $175???? That's a bargain!