Friday, December 11, 2015

Remembering Eric Masterson Friday - at last

I already tried to write this post Yesterday but then was busy with the new blog background all day. Which I hope is not too distracting from the posts because it really took a lot of work to get it looking just the right way.

Admittedly ERIC MASTERSON FRIDAY doesn´t have the same ring to it as ERIC MASTERSON THORSDAY but now that I´m writing this one day later it has the added bonus that I DID write my last post about the Eric Masterson Thor ( or at least the first one that centered on him since I mentioned him in many posts since ) one year ago at this exact date.

Now since then there are a few things I have to mention about Thor that have happened in the meantime. One of them being that I did go and buy the THOR - WAR OF THE PANTHEONS Epic Collection and the THOR - THE BLACK GALAXY SAGA trades. I know, I have criticised them in the past and I still think that a company like Marvel that has been producing trades for decades should have found a way to avoid the problems with gutter loss by now. But with the ESSENTIALS now gone there is little alternative to the Epic Collections as the hardcovers and Marvel Masterworks will need many years until they reach the point where it gets interesting.

Incidentally while I always complain about the high prices of the Marvel Masterworks I have bought two new ones, one is volume 16 of Spider - Man which contains the story with Hammerheads ghost which I got for 24 bucks from the new and used books section from amazon and the other one is volume 12 of Thor which was in the bargain books section for 30 bucks. Now while the last one is not from my favorite period of THOR it does contain the prologue to the AVENGERS / DEFENDERS CLASH and the famous issue with Loki that takes place at the Rutland Halloween parade.    

And Loki will play a part in this post later on. But back to the THOR trades. While I still have my objections to the Marvel Epic Collections most of the collected material is something I am willing to pay for even when I already have some of it or in some cases most of it in single issue.

Okay, in my opinion future generations would be really better off without having to suffer through SPIDER - MAN : ROUND ROBIN or DAREDEVIL : FALL FROM GRACE but there are also some excellent selections like IRON MAN : STARK WARS ( which collects all the issues from when Jim Rhodes catches fire in the Iron Man suit to the finale of ARMOR WARS, which is what the storyline is best known as ) and IRON MAN : WAR GAMES ( which collects all the issues from John Byrne´s run of the book, which had much less issues by John Romita Jr than I remembered and much more issues by Paul Ryan ) which I just got from Thalia. I ordered it together with the POWER MAN & IRON FIST : HEROES FOR HIRE Epic Collection because they had it at a lower price than amazon and I had a 15 percent off coupon. Now usually when you order the books you get a mail that the books are not available and that they will arrive in two or three weeks. But this time both IRON MAN trades arrived less than a week later which now leaves me in a precarious financial situation since I haven´t finished all my Christmas shopping and my budget is seriously limited.

Back to THOR, the reason why I got the WAR OF THE PANTHEONS Epic Collection is that unlike some other trades I have read over the years the binding is very good so that even when you have to bend the book a little to be able to read it it doesn´t dissolve into a loose leaf collection. And those are really some of my favorite issues with great art so even if I do have most of the stuff in single issue form it´s nice to have it in trade.  

I only would have preferred it if they had continued with the issues after issue 400 but so far all the other Epic Collections are from earlier and they announced another which also reprints material from before this.

Which is one of the reasons why I bought the BLACK GALAXY SAGA : I was just tired of looking for that one issue and wanted to read it already. Which - ironically enough - I still haven´t gotten around to do. What I did read was the Epic Collection and the stories still held up. I´m still on the fence about the THUNDERSTRIKE trade but I guess sooner or later my resistance will wear down and I will go and buy the damn thing. At which point Disney is going to announce that it will continue reprinting THOR after issue 400 starting with material from the THUNDERSTRIKE trade.

So for the moment I haven´t started to re - read my THOR issues because I still hope a new collected edition will arrive. Which means that this post will be mostly based on what I remember from the issues after THOR 430.

Now when we last left Eric Masterson ( in my post about the new female Thor ) he was just duking it out with Dargo when Beta Ray Bill intervened and cleared up the usual trademarked Marvel misunderstanding where the heroes end up fighting each other so they could deal with the real villains : Zarrko, the Tomorrow Man and Loki. Which might confuse some readers because Loki was pretty much as dead as a doornail at that time. And that is where Schroedinger´s cat comes in. He was dead at that time.

But before we go any further I have to put up a spoiler warning because we will go into the story in detail which will ruin a lot of surprise twists and endings of which this story and most of the ones that followed were just chock full of. So if you want to go to the back issue bins for those issues or want to read it in trade form ( whichever happens first ) you should skip the rest of the post and go right to the link and video section.

If you keep on reading further BE WARNED because this story is a doozy.


Still with me ? Good. Now I know it might be unnecessary to put up a spoiler warning for a story that came out twenty - four years ago ( god, I´m feeling so old right now ) but with a lot of new readers coming in from the movies each day ( yeah, right ) that have little or no previous knowledge about the actual comics it seems like the right thing to do.

There might still be some who don´t know much about Thor besides the movies and want to know more about the comics who will read this to get them interested in the book. I know that is how I got started on a lot of things and while that is highly unlikely it might still happen. So I said that Loki was still dead at that time and that my friend is also the crux of the whole story with Eric Masterson, Dargo and Beta Ray Bill. Well, this story and all that followed and came before in Tom DeFalco´s THOR run. But let´s take one step at a time since I probably don´t have time to talk about the entire saga with the soul shroud ( from issue 430 ) in this post. Most of you are probably familiar with the principle of Schroedinger´s cat so the way that it applies to this story is that Loki is dead AND alive.

Which of course has to do with time travel. Those who are familiar with Zarrko - or those who have heard the words " timey wimey wibbly wobbly " before - have already guessed it but in the story Zarrko brings various villains of the three incarnations of substitute Thors ( this story was kind of a Legion of Substitute Thors story now that I think of it ) from their past, present and future to fight them. And among them is also Loki.

Who starts mopping the floor with them because nobody really has the power to stand against him, not even Eric Masterson who has taken up the mantle of Thor in our time period. Not even with two hammers. 

Eric even reverts back to his human form and Loki is about to literally crush the life out of him when Eric manages to take Loki out of the equation by revealing that no matter what Loki does to him in the end it will be Loki who looses. Naturally Loki is not very amused about all this.

Loki vanishes back into the timestream because now he has much more important matters to attend to like finding a way to prevent his upcoming demise. And Loki will not be seen ( or rather he has been seen before but we didn´t know it at that time ) in the next few issues. Well, he will be seen but we won´t know. Ow, it´s too complicated. Just keep on reading.

Meanwhile writer Tom DeFalco adds another nice twist to the overall story by introducing a foreshadowing of doom when Dargo takes a stroll through Zarrko´s ship during the melee ( have you noticed how many people from the future have names that include " argo " or " arko " or the likes ? ).

Which leads to a strange and awkward scene when Dargo must say his goodbyes before returning to his proper timeline who has basically behaved like a total d - word towards Eric Masterson the whole time.

Now what is the impact of that story and what does it all have to do with the soul shroud we first got to see in THE MIGHTY THOR issue 430 ?

Well, you can say what you want about Tom DeFalco but he has worked in comics a few decades and he knows how comics are read. For instance, a lot of things are implied and readers tend to make up their own minds about what happens. Because what is said in a comic and what you see on the pages is not necessarily what really happens. The reader thinks that when Loki makes a deal with Mephisto in that issue it is about the soul shroud that will contain Thor´s soul. And while that is kind of true - at least to some extend - the reader does not know that this is Loki AFTER the events of issues 438 to 441. This Loki already KNOWS that he is going to die at Thor´s hands within the next two issues. So a lot of what we think happens does not or does happen but not in the way we think.

Mephisto said that this particular soul shroud is going to contain the soul of an asgardian who is going to die soon. That is true. He also says that Loki will recognize the face on the soul shroud - which we later learn is the face of Thor. But - Mephisto never says that it will be Thor who ends up in the soul shroud. We just assume it is because after Thor is banished from earth in issue 442 the soul shroud is suddenly filled. Now we know that the Loki who goes up against Thor in that issue already knows that Thor is going to kill him. According to Doctor Who there are certain things in time you cannot change. So while Loki can´t change the fact that Thor is going to kill him he has planned for the aftermath. Which leaves the point that now Loki has to make sure that Thor kills him which explains why he is fighting like his life depends on it. Because it does.

He even goes as far as almost killing Susan Austin. I wrote in an earlier post that Loki had killed her but after reading a few issues again I have to correct myself on that she almost dies but Dr Donald Blake manages to save her - or at least it seems that way ... whaaaat ? Which starts another story where more is revealed about where Thor´s soul ended up.   

And while we are focused so much on the whereabouts of Thor we have completely forgotten about Loki. We think he´s out of the picture and while Odin still sleeps the Odin Sleep Heimdall is the ruler of Asgard.

But as the old saying goes power corrupts and it soon appears that old Heimdall himself banished the real Thor without the knowledge of Odin who was already sleeping to set himself up as the new head honcho of Asgard. So when Odin wakes up for a brief moment and can´t find his son only Eric Masterson the later goes to Asgard to find out what is cooking in the supersized 450th issue. Together with the members of CODE BLUE he travels to Asgard and while Lt. Marc Stone and his team goes to arrest Ulik Thor confronts Heimdall. Who turns out to be genuinely pleased when Odin awakes while Odin is not quite the benevolent god Eric was led to believe and who behaves more like ...... Loki ? So how did that happen ?

Well, I would like to leave that as a mystery we will come back to in our next post but I have already said too much and put up the spoiler warning so what the hey. And my readers would probably stone me if I didn´t spill the beans at this point. So we believe it is Thor who ended up in the soul shroud which was further enforced during the aforementioned story with Dr Donald Blake. Eric Masterson is convinced that the soul of Thor is inside Dr Donald Blake and gives him his cane so he can transform and free the real Thor. He transforms alright - but into Mephisto who now has Thor´s hammer which Eric has to get back with the aid of another Doctor.

While Eric is in Mephisto´s realm to get Thor´s hammer back ( or his cane ) he is saved by a glowing figure who then zaps back into the soul shroud but when Eric is just about to open it he gets called back to Earth.

He begs Doctor Strange to return him immediately but he doesn´t have the strength. Even the Silver Surfer, who had followed Eric to Mephisto´s realm, advises against it as Mephisto is the Prince of Lies ! His realm lies as skillfully as his words ! You saw that which the Demon Lord wished you to see ! It´s all part of Mephisto´s and Loki´s big plan. The board is set ! The players positioned ! And a soul which I had long believed beyond my reach .... shall now be mine ! The whole bit with Loki almost killing Susan Austin was not only to ensure Thor would kill him but also to bring this fake Dr Donald Blake into play who turns out to be Mephisto who steals the magic cane to lure Eric into his realm so he can see the soul shroud with Thor´s face on it. So Eric will believe Thor is trapped within.

Now if you know a bit about magicians and other people who apply sleight of hand tricks you know that most of them are based on concentrating the audience´s attention with something while the important thing happens elsewhere. In this case the face of Thor is just a decoy, meant to focus everybody´s attention on Thor while Loki has put everything in place to take up residence in Odin´s body. Odin is caught unaware because he is sleeping the Odin Sleep and as Loki enters his body Odin´s soul is the one that ends up in the soul shroud. Which is all revealed in THOR issue 454.

Which is where I really have to wrap things up for Today. Yes, I know : but what happened to the real Thor ? That is something we will come to in a future installment. For now I just want to say that this kind of intelligent writing where you think something is happening while something totally different actually is going down is what held me on the title during Tom DeFalco´s run and why I stopped reading with issue 459 and continued with THUNDERSTRIKE. From issue 383 to issue 459 you can read it as one long continuing story and you see that Tom DeFalco was already planting seeds in issue 430 for what was going to happen fifteen issues later. So thank god for all those obnoxious guest appearances of Ghost Rider in the 90s because if it wasn´t for the oversaturation of him I might have never returned to THOR and missed out on one of the best runs on the book.

This time I have a whole plethora to thank because I heavily depended on outside sources as well as my old copies of THOR ( no matter how many internet pages I consult, in the end I have to whip out them back issues ) and first are as always the guys from SUPER MEGA MONKEY´S MARVEL CHRONOLOGY who helped out with their posts on issues 427 to 430 , 431 to 433 and issue 438 to 441 and which has only the back up story to issue 437 which´s main story can be found in this post. Now I may have posted some of these links in previous posts but I don´t want to forget anything.

That said I also have to include newfound THE MIGHTY THOR LIBRARY which provided the splash page for issue 441 and has the first four pages of all the issues I´ve seen so far. So you know that I will be going through their archive for future post references once I have finished this post.

Another new website in the ranks of excellence is THE PEERLESS POWER OF COMICS ! upon which I came while looking for a certain panel of Thor issue 209 where he goes up against a druid. Not Doctor Druid but A druid. I wonder if I should add a new " druid " tag. And while I did not find the THOR panels I was looking for I found the inspiration for the new blog background image and a really interesting post about the relationship between Ben Grimm and Alicia Masters . Thanks for the new look.

I also came across this thread on the MASTERWORKS MESSAGE BOARD where you can see lots of pages from John Buscema´s run on THOR. And speaking about John Buscema, while I´m keeping some boomarked links for when we continue with the countdown of his best Avengers covers I want to include a review about the book BIG JOHN BUSCEMA - COMICS & DRAWINGS by Barry Pearl on the COMIC BOOK COLLECTORS CLUB website which includes some original black and white art pages from the book. 

Speaking about original John Buscema art Glen Brunswick at ORIGINAL COMIC ART LOCATOR has an interesting post called JOHN BUSCEMA - Highly Respected - Undervalued ! which has more original art pages.

And to use another segueway if you want to see more pages from the THOR comics - this time from the 90s which I will probably feature in an upcoming post - LOWBROW COMICS has three entries about the titanic battles between Thor and the Juggernaut in issues 411 , 412 and 429 .

Now I really don´t know what to think about this guy as he obviously knows his Thor stories but on the other hand he really seems to be into the new female Thor although he doesn´t get as offensive towards readers who disagree with his opinion like this guy . I think for now I´m giving him the benefit of the doubt because with such great posts about Crazy WHAT IF ? Questions from the 80s and Cap´s epic speech to Spider - Man during CIVIL WAR he shows character. Cap really used to be cool.  

You can´t have a time travel post without Doctor Who so here is a trailer I found on Terry Hooper´s COMIC BITS ONLINE blog. Since I still haven´t caught up with watching the adventures of the Doctor I don´t know if this is an actual trailer or another fanmade trailer which for some strange reason always are more exciting than the trailers from the BBC. 

Going through my bookmarks I came across a whole slew of videos from Screen Team. Somehow I never posted any of them and since it´s been a while since I posted a cosplay video here´s one with Angie Griffin as April O´Neal. The real one, not the kid from the new cartoon show. One of the reasons why I chose this is that while the turtle costumes are not that elaborate I like the idea of applying the turtles aesthatics to parkour. 

My last casting show was with a kid so now it´s the girls turn again. Here is Lillie McCloud from the X - Factor who really doesn´t look her age.

If you are like me you have not finished your Christmas shopping so you might check out some comics from BLACK TOWER like The Purple Hood.

To close things out here is the first episode of the THOR cartoon show from 1966 which shows how the feud between Loki and Thor began.

New to the blog ? Everything you need to know about TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN : top ten posts / more posts of interest / best of the best


Terry Hooper-Scharf said...

Dr Who trailer is fan made. The "Final confrontation between the Doctor and Time Lords on Gallifrey".......if you've read my Face Book comment you'll know it was...***** awful crap yet the episode before the series finale was good.
Fan made trailers and movies seem better than the real things these days!

SUBZERO said...

Yeah, I just watched the final episodes and the end was so ...... anti - climatic. A lot of tv shows nowadays do much better build up than the actual pay off. I guess because they have a good idea but then they don´t know how to follow up on it. Storytelling is a lost art.