Reign of the Supermen #218: Marvel's Clark Kent (and the Thor Question)

Source: below - Thor #341 (1984)*
Type: HomageThe Thor movie made me go back to Walt Simonson's run - still my favorite run of Thor after all these years - and look what I found! After Thor returns from the space mission that introduced us to Beta Ray Bill and did away with Don Blake, the God of Thunder goes to Nick Fury to get himself a new secret identity (SHIELD - your one-stop shop for fake IDs). There, he bumps into... Clark Kent and Lois Lane?! A fun - and surprisingly overt - homage to the first superhero of them all, just as Thor takes on an alias that forces him to wear glasses, the very best disguise of all.

Now a little time ago, someone asked if I was going to treat Thor as a Superman analog. I really wasn't, but the question deserves exploration. Thor, like Superman, was sent to Earth by his father when the son becomes a savior of the human race (so yes, that makes Thor a Christ figure). Both have (or have had) a civilian identity who was a weakling (Don Blake has a lame leg, while Clark Kent is a weakling act). They both have a red cape, and at times during the film, yes, I was reminded of Christopher Reeve flying. But is that enough to make Thor a true analog of the Man of Steel?

For one thing, Thor the mythological figure predates Superman by centuries. Were Stan Lee and Jack Kirby thinking of Superman AT ALL when they simply adapted myth to their superhero universe? The exact changes they made do smack of Supermanism. Thor is sent to Earth to learn humility and is trapped in a human identity that's not unlike Clark Kent's. But is Asgard merely Krypton in disguise? I think there are enough elements from Superman's story not found in Thor's to dispel the notion of the latter being an analog of the former. Thor's mythological roots are closer to Wonder Woman's, while the thunder and lightning symbolism finds a better parallel in Captain Marvel. Thor's descent to Midgard bears only a superficial resemblance to Kal-El rocketing to Earth as a baby, and the two stories may only share a common mytho-source. Thor is a God sent to Earth, so closer to the Christ story, while Superman's story seeks to create a new myth based on Science, one that finds its ultimate expression on Jack Kirby's Fourth World (so it's interesting "the King" created or co-created both the New Gods and Thor). One was raised by human parents, the other came into his humanity as a fully-formed adult. One was sent here to save his life, the other as punishment. The more one looks - at his rogues' gallery, attitude, powers, motivations, supporting cast - the more the characters grow apart.

Fact is, all super-heroes will have a things in common with Superman (if only that they are "super-heroes") and the tropes made popular (though not necessarily started) by Superman, such as secret identities, capes, and alliterative names, will find their way into many character premises. Superman and Thor, their respective universes' power houses seem easily matched, and it was a damn shame they weren't paired in the old DC vs. Marvel series, nor amalgamated until Thor was finally combined with the Electric Superman in Unlimited Access. Perhaps the writers recognized that these two weren't really analogous to each other. Then again, you might disagree. See you in the Comments section.

*UPDATE! Lois and Clark also made various other Marvel appearances, most if not all of which are chronicled on Scans Daily. Check it out! WORLDS COLLIDE!

5 comments:

De said...

I could have sworn that Lois & Clark made appearances earlier than Thor #341. However, I guess that's not really important since this was to be posted on Thursday.

Siskoid said...

You're right! After a little internet research, I found a Scans Daily page that chronicles their many appearances! See update.

Craig said...

That someone was me, I believe... and yeah, not an analogue, but having some non-mythic analogu-y elements, which later writers tended to build away from.

Maricruz Villalobos Zamora said...

I don't know much, but I understand Thor was created as a sorta counterpart of Superman, I read somewhere that Stan Lee wanted Thor to be more, so instead of making him a man he made him a God

Siskoid said...

Even if I did trust Stan Lee's stories about the origins of his characters (which I don't, they all sound like he's creating his own apocrypha), Thor has his roots first and foremost in Norse myth. I am loathe to actually call him an analog. (But it's the best of both words here at the SBG... I still wrote an article about him, right?)

 

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