This is "Turns Back the Page," which is a look at interesting back-up stories from comic books. If you have suggestions for back-ups that you'd like to see me write about, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org!
This is a special edition of "Turns Back the Page," to the point where I almost shouldn't really count this for this column, but, well, it's a big ol' column about a back-up feature, so it seems hard to NOT feature it in the feature I have about back-up stories, ya know?
Okay, here's the thing that you have to remember right away about Thor. While Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were both involved in launching the series, they both pulled back from the book fairly quickly enough. Journey Into Mystery was one of those titles where Stan Lee would let other guys write the book and they also tried out a variety of artists on the book, as well. So it clearly wasn't a title that either Kirby or Lee were spending a lot of thought on.
However, the book was also one that was near and dear to Jack Kirby's heart, as Kirby LOVED the Norse Myths. He had actually introduced a Thor character while he was working at DC Comics years earlier. The issue with Journey Into Mystery was that most of the time it really wasn't a "Norse mythology" book. No, it was mostly a typical superhero book with a bit more of a science fiction angle than the other books. Don Blake transformed into "Thor," but not REALLY Thor, but a superhero version of Thor. But then they slowly introduced other Norse gods, especially Loki, Thor's evil half-brother.
So now Kirby and Lee both returned to the series and they even decided to add a back-up feature to Journey Into Mystery ALSO about Thor. In Journey Into Mystery #97, we got the first installment of "Tales of Asgard." This was sort of a passion project for Kirby and so the first story was a basic telling of Norse mythology...
Almost right away, the back-up began paying dividends, as Surtur, introduced in the first "Tales of Asgard," became the main villain in Journey Into Mystery #104.
That was sort of how it went in the early days of the feature. They would introduce a concept in the past in the back-up and then bring it into the present day. All of these cool ideas were then driving the main stories frequently.
However, for the most part, the stories were still just sort of "How did this happen?" and then "How did that happen?" type stories. Good stuff giving insight into Thor and Loki and others, but mostly just filling in background on the characters.
Like seeing the moment where Loki first decided to totally be evil...
(Oh, by the way, while George Roussos was the first inker, soon Vince Colletta took over and stayed with the feature for the rest of its run).
Soon, though, the stories would change in a way that would have an even greater impact on Thor overall...