Nov 30, 2015

Karnilla: An Irrational Love Story, Part 2

Karnilla: An Irrational Love Story
Part 2 – Karnilla Le Pew
Ben Smith

I’ve written many things, about many different characters. Most of them sucked, some were entertaining. I don’t think anyone can deny my passion for the comics that I love, and all I can do is try and share with you that passion, maybe even inspire a few of you to purchase these comics for yourselves. (I’m like the James Halliday of comics, only without the billions of dollars, or cool video game contest.) If not for yourself, then for the children. Won’t someone think of the children? Seriously, go find a kid and shove some comics into his or her backpack. Don’t be so selfish.

My latest display of shameless irrational love, is for Karnilla the Norn Queen. Karnilla is the powerful (and sexy) ruler of Nornheim, a realm adjacent to Asgard. Her interests include, magic, scheming with Loki, and romancing Balder. The more aggressive she gets towards Balder, the faster he runs, like a grade school boy running away from icky girls during recess. He’s the noble, incorruptible, brave warrior. In other words, he’s a major bummer, and she makes him so miserable. I love her so much.

Let’s continue exploring why.

THOR #154
Writer/Editor: Stan Lee; Penciler: Jack Kirby; Inked By: Vince Colletta; Lettering: Artie Simek

Balder is adamant about leaving Nornheim and returning to help his friends, despite Karnilla’s advances.

Karnilla is not used to being rejected, and her lust quickly turns to rage. She unveils a group of Asgardians, immobilized by her magic for daring to incur her wrath. Balder recognizes them as the long-disappeared Legion of the Lost.

Balder is given a simple choice. Accept her hand, or suffer the same fate. (“Thou art brave, noble Balder! But the power is mine!” That’s her basically saying, you’re cute and all, but I will break you if I have to. You can break me, Karnilla. Please break me. I’ve been so good and noble.)

THOR #155
Writer/Editor: Stan Lee; Penciler: Jack Kirby; Inked By: Vince Colletta; Lettering: Artie Simek

Balder continues to spurn Karnilla’s love, because he’s a moron. True to her warning, she uses her magic powers to set the Legion of the Lost upon Balder in deadly combat.

Is it too much to hope that they succeed?
THOR #156
Writer/Editor: Stan Lee; Penciler: Jack Kirby; Inked By: Vince Colletta; Lettering: Sam Rosen

Balder continues his furious battle against the Legion of the Lost, while Karnilla continues to demand he submit to her will, or die.

(Two weeks ago I suggested that letterers don’t matter, because they would eventually be replaced by computers. This week I’d like to apologize. Not to letterers, but for failing to mention that we will all eventually be replaced by computers. Don’t feel bad, people that legibly write letters forming sentences, in service of a story. We will all fall under artificial rule. My only hope is that they allow access to sex bots for anyone supportive of their domination of the human race. It’s possible I’ve been too revealing this week.)

THOR #157
Writer/Editor: Stan Lee; Penciler: Jack Kirby; Inked By: Vince Colletta; Lettering: Sam Rosen

Balder continues to fight, until his sheer bravery (groan, sigh) frees the Legion of the Lost from Karnilla’s spell. Defeated and dejected, Karnilla sends the warriors back to Asgard. Alone, she bares her true feelings for the noble idiot. She really does love that simpleton.

I suspect Stan and Jack either didn’t know what to do with Balder, or wanted to keep him out of the larger action. So far in this run of comics they’ve been milking this same confrontation, with most of the dialogue being basically the same.

THOR #165
Writer/Editor: Stan Lee; Penciler: Jack Kirby; Inked By: Vince Colletta; Lettering: Artie Simek

Karnilla is still burned up over Balder rejecting her love. She calls upon loyal Haag the Seeress.

 Together, they will use the “space pool” to pluck Balder from wherever he may be, when the time is right.

On Midgard, Thor and Balder try to rescue Sif from Adam Warlock, who has decided to take her as his mate. (Adam shows up and just decides Sif is going to be his woman. It’s one of the more memorable storylines for me from the Stan and Jack era. Along with Thor’s fight with Hercules a while back. Look, their whole run is great, you should really rush out and buy it. After you finish reading this, of course.)

During a critical moment, Haag tries to snatch Balder away, but Thor fights her off, allowing Adam Warlock to disappear with Sif.

THOR #166
Writer/Editor: Stan Lee; Penciler: Jack Kirby; Inked By: Vince Colletta; Lettering: Sam Rosen

Karnilla and Haag continue their schemes on how to kidnap Balder, and make him her manservant. Karnilla’s looking ever more attractive as we go. Comic book attractive, that is. Don’t worry, I’m not one of those weirdos that gets overly attached to fictional women. Not since I got this new medication.

Haag begins molding a clay doll of Balder, that they can use to magically control the real thing. (Even an inanimate clay doll of Balder is more interesting than the real Balder.)

THOR #167
Writer/Editor: Stan Lee; Penciler: Jack Kirby; Inked By: Vince Colletta; Lettering: Artie Simek

A visiting Loki suggests that Karnilla forget about her pursuit of Balder, and get with him instead. She’s not interested, and vows to either claim Balder as her own, or kill him.

When Haag presents the finished clay doll, Loki snatches it away. Loki figures that if he can use the doll to injure Balder, Thor will abandon Odin’s important mission (which is later revealed to be a confrontation with Galactus) and return to Midgard, where Loki will then seize Thor’s hammer, and his power.

THOR #170
Writer/Editor: Stan Lee; Penciler: Jack Kirby; Inked By: Bill Everett; Lettering: Artie Simek

Balder and the Warriors Three are wounded and at the mercy of the deadly Thermal Man. Not wanting to see her love slain, Karnilla uses her powers to bring them all to Nornheim, against the protests of Loki. Karnilla has taken a step back in appearance, with her features rendered very sharp and stereotypically witch-like. Not the kind of features traditionally coveted by the superficial male. I blame Everett.

Loki is none too happy about this, and storms off in anger.

THOR #172
Writer/Editor: Stan Lee; Penciler: Jack Kirby; Inked By: Bill Everett; Lettering: Artie Simek

Odin looks in on Balder, still recovering from his injuries under the watch of Karnilla in her dark realm.

THOR #175
Writer/Editor: Stan Lee; Penciler: Jack Kirby; Inked By: Bill Everett; Lettering: Artie Simek

Balder and the Warriors Three have recovered, and prepare to depart the Norns. Karnilla pretends not to care. She’s so over it (but not really).

Balder questions why Asgard and the Norns must be at odds, and Karnilla responds with "alas, 'tis so ordained." Maybe the first hint that Balder isn’t completely oblivious to the beautiful woman throwing herself at him. What an idiot. Balder is the worst.

Haag oversteps her bounds and offers her opinion on Karnilla’s love for a hated Asgardian. Karnilla responds by sending the haggard witch scurrying off. When your name is Haag, I have to believe that your future is pretty much already determined.

This would mark the end of Jack Kirby’s version of Karnilla (soon followed by the end of his run on the Thor comics altogether) so it’s as good a place to stop as any. So far, the Norn Queen’s evolved from a minor villain, used as an ally of Loki in his schemes against Thor. She mostly only appeared for a panel or two, popping up to use her vast magical powers against the heroes of Asgard. The character would evolve from there into a slightly more prominent role, gaining a name, as well as a burning obsession with Balder. The stretch of appearances covered this week focused solely on her continuing quest to seize his heart, by force or by magic, if need be. Her physical appearance and facial features would vary greatly under Kirby’s pencil, as well as her patented headdress and overall design. She rarely ever looked the same from issue to issue. I’m guessing Kirby didn’t keep a lot of reference for Karnilla on hand.

John Buscema would take over as penciler of the Thor comics, and I look forward to seeing his rendition of Karnilla as we continue. Buscema is not nearly as dynamic and engaging a storyteller as Kirby (nobody is) but it could be argued that his draftsmanship of the characters themselves was more pleasing to the eye. Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder, so let the debate between Kirby and Buscema begin.

Next week, Buscema wins!

Nov 25, 2015

To Reprint or Not: Captain Marvel and the Monster Society of Evil

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Captain Marvel, he who says "Shazam!", and a big part of it is conceptual. I love the Golden Age stories, those I've read anyway, written by Otto Binder, of Captain Marvel, and they're some of the best drawn and most creative stories, not just of the Golden Age, but in the history of comics in general. They're just brimming with the type of creativity that Silver Age stories would be lauded for, and the art by C.C. Beck is clean, crisp, and always a pleasure to look at. It also isn't a secret that I'm not a fan of most of DC Comics' attempts to breathe new life into Cap (there have been three exceptions), and I believe that DC should have more archival collections of Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family. The Shazam Archives, unfortunately, stop right before Otto Binder took over from Bill Parker, and thus right before the character really took off creatively.

One of the landmark stories in Captain Marvel history is called "The Monster Society of Evil," which ran in Captain Marvel Adventures #22-46, from March 1943 to May 1945. That makes it the longest-running serialized story in Golden Age Comics and thus a first of its kind for the superhero genre. This 25-part (!) story features Cap's search for Mister Mind, the leader of the eponymous Monster Society, and they even make Mister Mind's appearance a mystery for a few parts there, even having him make an appearance without actually being outed.

Mister Mind has henchmen all over the world and all over the universe, so Cap has to go travelling all known existence and averting crisis after crisis, like exploding volcanoes:

Or unthawed woolly mammoths:

Really, it's good fun. Unfortunately, Captain Marvel fighting people around the world in the middle of World War II means it's full of racial caricatures. It was the time for such, and it's common in Golden Age comics. The Japanese, especially, are demonized — a known strategy during wartime to heighten the importance of your side winning.

It's not just the villains either. Prominent in the early chapters is Steamboat, Billy's assistant, who is drawn in black minstrel fashion.

Again, this is common in Golden Age comics. The works of Will Eisner (particularly The Spirit) and even Carl Barks are full of such depictions. However, that doesn't make it any less unfortunate.

A few years ago, there was talk of reprinting The Monster Society of Evil, and the plug was pulled at the last minute. After having read this story in its entirety on Comicbookplus, I think it was a good call. It's a hard call though, because it's a historic piece of comic book history, and to not publish it due to racial caricatures reminds me of this introduction by Whoopi Goldberg for the Tom and Jerry collection:

"The Tom and Jerry episodes included in this collection and the outrageous brand of humor shown here comes to us from a time when racial and ethnic differences were caricatures in the name of entertainment. Now while humor may have been the intent of such caricatures, they also had the effect of revealing society's unfair and hurtful representations of people of color, women, and ethnic groups. Now some of the cartoons here reflect prejudices that were common in American society, especially when it came to racial and ethnic groups. These prejudices were wrong then, and they're certainly wrong today. With Puss Gets the Boot, we're introduced to one of those caricatures, Mammy Two-Shoes. Mammy Two-Shoes had a key reoccurring role in a number of Tom and Jerry shorts and was an important component that made the interplay in those cartoons work so well... The fact that she is so definite a character even though we really never see her face is due to the acting and posing that Joe Barbera excelled at, the skills of the animators, and the excellent voice talent of Lillian Randolph. Removing Mammy Two-Shoes from this collection would be the same as pretending that she never existed. The same is true for the other images and jokes that we wouldn't normally include in a mainstream cartoon today. So Ms. Two-Shoes along with other elements that reveal the other prejudices at the time are presented here to accurately reflect a part of our history that cannot and should not be ignored."

And I get that — Steamboat was a step in the portrayal of blacks in comics, just like the "evil Jap" was a step in the portrayal of Asians in comics. I've also been reading some Silver Age Marvel recently, and those are full of sexist dialogue, and obviously those are still being printed.

Still, I think it was the right call to not reprint The Monster Society of Evil, and a huge part of it is that Shazam is slated for release as a movie soon. Ideally, that would bring viewers, and by that I mean kids, into shops to look for Shazam-related stuff. As opposed to Will Eisner's Spirit (the target audience isn't kids), Carl Barks' Donald Duck (the Fantagraphics collections I doubt are for kids; they're more historic, and Fantagraphics releases one-off reprints for kids as well), and even Tom and Jerry (where you can stick an intro by Whoopi Goldberg in there, and was also an important step in the history of acting for minorities, since Lillian Randolph was black), there really isn't much Captain Marvel–related stuff out there, and it'd just be risky to put out there, at least this early on.

Additionally, like I said before, the Shazam Archives stop right before Otto Binder took over as writer, so there's a lot of actually really good Captain Marvel stuff that DC Comics could reprint and should reprint, most without the unfortunate addition of those racial stereotypes. I don't even think "Monster Society" is as good as some of the other Golden Age Captain Marvel stuff I've read from reprint-books-that-are-now-also-out-of-print. One of my favorites, "Captain Marvel Battles the Plot Against the Universe," is incredibly entertaining and to my knowledge has never been reprinted.

Luckily, I can read it all on Comicbookplus, which is another reason I think it's okay for DC not to publish "Monster Society." The Golden Age Captain Marvel comics are, as I understand it, in the public domain, and those curious enough to read it can do so if they're so inclined.

So should "Monster Society of Evil" be reprinted? I say no. There are other things they could reprint first, and maybe with a wide enough inventory, then they can think about it again. But it's a close call. What do you guys say?

Nov 23, 2015

Luke Cage vs Killgrave the Purple Man

Jessica Jones: From Marvel Max to Netflix Star, Part 2
Luke Cage vs Killgrave the Purple Man
Ben Smith


If you’re like me, then you’ve spent the weekend devouring Marvel’s Jessica Jones on Netflix.  I’ve already covered Jessica’s debut in the comics, in the series Alias, where she overcomes a traumatic past to start a new life with Luke Cage.  The show decides to focus on the source of that trauma, the mind-controlling Kilgrave (Killgrave in the comics, Kilgrave in the show), and his obsession with Jessica.  Jessica has to balance a complicated new relationship with Luke Cage, with finding and stopping Kilgrave, all while keeping her friends safe.  (One of the great things about a show like this, I had no idea if my favorites, Trish and Malcolm, were going to make it out alive.  So many times it looked like they were about to meet their end, and every time I was prepared to lose it.)  It’s a compelling look at becoming a hero, even when she doesn’t necessarily want to be one.

In the show, Luke Cage never did get a chance to get his revenge on Kilgrave, but in the comic, he very much did.

In the pages of New Avengers (also written by Brian Michael Bendis, the co-creator of Jessica Jones) a collection of heroes on scene during a supervillain prison breakout try valiantly to contain the situation.  Luke Cage is fighting alongside Iron Man, Captain America, and Spider-Man when he comes face to face with Jessica’s former tormentor, the Purple Man.

Unlike in the Netflix show, Luke and Killgrave did not cross paths in Alias.  Jessica and Luke didn’t decide to further their relationship until after she had already overcome and beaten Killgrave.  This is the first time that Luke Cage has crossed paths with the man that mentally raped his current girlfriend and future wife.  It’s the psycho ex-boyfriend taken to the extreme, comics style.

Killgrave nonchalantly commands Luke to kill his friends, and then kill himself, in a stunning cliffhanger to the second issue.  (I can’t imagine anything more terrible than being controlled by the one person you hate most in all the world.  The person that destroyed the life of the woman you now love.)

As the next issue opens, Killgrave is gloating in his typical asshole manner, as he thinks he has Luke Cage under his command.

However, Luke lets Killgrave in on a little secret.  His powers aren’t working right now.

And then he unleashes one of the most satisfying beatings in the history of comic books.

Thankfully, Captain America is there to keep him from going too far.  (The Purple Man definitely falls into that Joker realm of villains in comics.  You don’t want to kill him because then you have to stop using him, or resurrect him, but there’s really no reason he shouldn’t be terminated.)

One of the great things about the adaptation of comics to movies and television, is that an extremely minor character like the Purple Man can become one of the most dangerous villains in all of the Marvel cinematic universe.  He’s often been easily overcome in the comics, but when you translate his powers to a live-action setting, he is nearly unbeatable.  Not to mention the overwhelming creepiness of his abilities and how he uses them.  It’s really not easy to make the skull-faced Nazi look better in comparison, but that’s just how awful Kilgrave is.

With Daredevil and now Jessica Jones, Marvel and Netflix have proven that they are an unbeatable partnership.  As great as Daredevil was, and at the time I believe I called it one of the best true superhero adaptations ever (He called it unquestionably the best superhero TV show ever. - Cranky Editor Man), I found myself thinking several times that Jessica Jones was even better (I agree. - Cranky Editor Man).  Some of that may be due to recency, or the thrill of truly not knowing what was going to happen next.  (Like I said earlier, I never knew what characters were going to survive in Jessica Jones.  Watching Daredevil, you kinda know that Foggy and Karen are going to make it.  Urich too, but, they proved me wrong with that one.)

One thing’s for sure. They’ve guaranteed that every new series that debuts is instant appointment television for me.  I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Nov 19, 2015

Hidden Gems: Blaze of Glory and Apache Skies

For whatever reason, I'm a big fan of the Western genre (one of my favorite movies is Tombstone, and I maintain that Val Kilmer is the best actor to ever play Batman). There's a lot of shooting, lots of tough talk, and lots of drinking. What's not to love?

And it's with that that I want to talk about two miniseries that Marvel put out at the turn of the century. Blaze of Glory: The Last Ride of the Western Heroes and Apache Skies were written by John Ostrander and drawn by Leonardo Manco, and they are gorgeous. The first, Blaze of Glory, is basically an ensemble piece using Marvel's Western characters, such as the Rawhide Kid, Two-Gun Kid, Kid Colt, the Outlaw Kid, Red Wolf, and the original Ghost Rider. It tells the tale of their last adventure, in which they try to stop a bunch of killers from demolishing the town of Wonderment.

That's about as complicated as the plot gets. The beauty is in the telling, and I love how Ostrander and Manco just throw characters in when it's the right time. They tell you just enough so you know who they are, and the life-and-death situations show just how tough they all are. It's the Old West, after all.

It's in the climax of the second issue that we get full introductions to four of the core cast, including longtime favorites (inasmuch as the Western characters are favorites) the Rawhide Kid and Two-Gun Kid:

 Isn't that gorgeous? I love it. I'm such a mark for this kind of aesthetic, and Mariana Manco's colors set the mood just right. This kind of style, heavier on the inks, makes it the prettier series for me compared to Apache Skies. But Apache Skies is actually the better comic. Not an ensemble piece, this focuses on Rawhide Kid and Rosa, the widow of the Apache Kid. Within just half an issue, I was hooked. Here's the sequence that introduces Rosa.

That is intense, perfectly paced, and makes me immediately want to know more about Rosa. After this she meets up with Johnny Bart, the Rawhide Kid (whom she calls Johnnybart, one word), and they hunt for the killer of Apache Kid, Rosa's husband and Rawhide's friend.

Apache Skies was one of the early MAX series, which may be why it's got a bit more adult content (not by much, just one mention of the word "dick") than Blaze of Glory. Still, despite the difference in how the two comics are colored and the change in focus from an ensemble to two characters, they both read as two parts of a bigger whole as well as perfectly fine individually.

And they're beautiful. They're also out of print. You can find them in places like Amazon, but really, Leonardo Manco's art should be showcased. So hey, Marvel! Can we get these in an oversized hardcover?

The entire time Duy was reading Blaze of Glory: The Last Ride of the Western Heroes and Apache Skies, he wondered if he'd like it better if it was a DC book, featuring Jonah Hex, Scalphunter, Pow-Wow Smith, Bat Lash, Cinnamon, and company. That's a hypothetical that's never going to be answered. In the meantime, you can get your copies of the two books here.

Nov 16, 2015

Karnilla: An Irrational Love Story, Part 1

Karnilla: An Irrational Love Story
Part 1 – All Hail the Queen
Ben Smith

I have much love for the popular and more traditionally appealing characters, like Spider-Man and Captain America, but sometimes there’s just something about a lower tier character that makes them so interesting. (My opinion in short, creators are naturally given more latitude with the characters that don’t also have to sell bedsheets and pajamas.) I’ve gone on and on about my love of characters like Arcade and Iron Fist before, as well as my appreciation for the weirdly underrated original Stan Lee and Jack Kirby Thor comics. There was just so much energy bursting off of every page, and so many amazing new characters in nearly every issue. My favorite Thor character would make her debut right around the time when Stan and Jack were really rolling on the title, Karnilla the Norn Queen.

Karnilla is the powerful queen of Nornheim, one of the provinces of Asgard. She is often an adversary of Asgard, but has sometimes been an ally if the situation warrants. Because of her vast magical powers, Loki frequently comes calling for her assistance, with the two of them scheming against the heroes of Asgard. Karnilla eventually developed a fixation on the heroic warrior Balder, made all the more fun by his dedicated rebuttal of her advances. (Think of her as a sort of reverse pepe Le Pew.) I don’t know how I came to love Karnilla so much, maybe it’s because she gives Balder such a hard time. The simpler answer is that she’s an evil, powerful, confident witch (and I married one of those). Plus, she has a great name. Break it down and you get carnal and vanilla. So, I guess, she subconsciously represents bland sex? Which, if Balder is involved, is probably very accurate. Regardless, I plan to rediscover why I love her so much, and maybe along the way a few of you will join me in the merry Karnilla fan club.

For the purposes of this multi-part exploration of my love for Karnilla, I will be focusing mostly on her role in each of the stories, instead of covering each and every issue in full.

Writer/Editor: Stan Lee; Penciler: Jack Kirby; Inked By: Vince Colletta; Lettering: Artie Simek

Loki, jealous that Odin granted Balder invulnerability (in the previous issue) plots to take out his father’s new favorite subject. He visits the Norn Queen, to give him any information he might be able to use to destroy Odin’s new prize pet. She is referred to simply as the Norn Queen, with no mention of the name Karnilla yet.

She tells Loki that Balder is vulnerable to mistletoe. Loki tracks down some mistletoe, and has one of his loyal trolls fashion a blow gun to go with it. (A lot of Karnilla’s appearances involve Loki, with the obvious magic connections.)

Loki sneaks up on Balder while he is sparring with another Asgardian. When Balder, get this, falls down to avoid STEPPING ON A CATERPILLAR, Loki prepares to strike.

But surprisingly, the Norn Queen herself intervenes, using her magic to cause Loki’s weapon to burst into flames. Loki didn’t consider that Odin had pledged for all living creatures to protect Balder at all times, and that includes the Norn Queen.

Loki vows revenge, and Balder stands confident and clueless, which was his style at the time. Balder is just the worst. I don’t think there could be a bigger gap between a character I love in Karnilla, and a character that I dislike in Balder, and yet, I inexplicably love the romance between them. My irrational love for Karnilla is almost as irrational as her love for Balder.

Writer/Editor: Stan Lee; Penciler: Jack Kirby; Inked By: Vince Colletta; Lettering: Artie Simek

Loki used the magical Norn Stones to defeat Thor in a trial by combat (see previous issue). Before Thor can recover the stones to use as evidence of Loki’s betrayal, Loki magically teleports them away.

Later, while Thor looks for the stones on Midgard, the Norn Queen visits Loki to reclaim her stones. Having hidden them on Midgard, he does not have them. Before she leaves, she gives him a stern warning about inciting Odin’s wrath with his endless schemes against his half-brother.

The powerful Norn Stones would be a favorite weapon of Loki throughout the years.

Writer/Editor: Stan Lee; Penciler: Jack Kirby; Inked By: Vince Colletta; Lettering: Artie Simek

Loki, having unleashed the unstoppable Destroyer upon Thor, begins to second guess his actions when it looks like the Destroyer might succeed in killing Thor. Odin will likely blame him, and then his life will be forfeit as well.

Loki contacts the Norn Queen, and begs her to use her magic to awake Odin from his slumber, so that he may intervene and save Thor, thereby saving both of them. She agrees to help, and we get a cute caption about her spell-casting from Stan. (The Norn Queen still hasn’t gotten her name, Karnilla, but a version of her trademark headdress makes its first appearance in this short cameo.)

THOR #148
Writer/Editor: Stan Lee; Penciler: Jack Kirby; Inked By: Vince Colletta; Lettering: Sam Rosen

Twenty-nine issues since the last Karnilla appearance, and the creative team is almost exactly the same. Except the letterer, but they don’t matter. They’ve been replaced by computers. I know Marvel only paid about 10 people back in those days, but that’s still an impressive level of creative continuity.

Odin has stripped Thor, Balder, Sif, and Loki of their Asgardian powers, for breaking his orders not to visit Midgard.

Loki contacts the Norn Queen, hoping she can restore some of his power back to him. Before she arrives, a colorfully costumed criminal named The Wrecker is on the run from the cops, and happens to spot Loki. Wrecker figures Loki to be a fellow garishly clad criminal, and that he might be in possession of some loot.

The Wrecker easily knocks out the mortal Loki, and begins going through his things, even putting on the infamous horned helmet. At that same moment, the Norn Queen arrives, sees the figure wearing that familiar helmet, and grants the wearer awesome power. Thus, longtime Marvel supervillain the Wrecker is born. (I never was that big a fan of the Wrecking Crew, but I definitely developed an appreciation of the Wrecker from these early Thor comics. He’s fun.)

THOR #150
Writer/Editor: Stan Lee; Penciler: Jack Kirby; Inked By: Vince Colletta; Lettering: Sam Rosen

The Wrecker has nearly slain the mortal Thor, and Hela hovers over his body, waiting to finally claim his soul.

Meanwhile, Loki and Karnilla (finally she gets her name) celebrate their fortune at having accidentally orchestrated the death of their most hated foe. However, Sif and Balder have entered Nornheim, seeking to claim the crystal globe in her possession, so they can convince Odin how much peril Thor is currently in.

Balder fights valiantly but is eventually captured by trolls. Sif is also captured and brought before Karnilla.

Karnilla plays upon Sif’s emotions, pretending to relate to her on a woman-to-woman level. 

Karnilla’s headdress has continued to evolve and become more elaborate. She’s still not drawn as hot as she should be though. Not really Kirby’s strong suit.

Unfortunately, it’s all a plot by Karnilla and Loki to coerce Sif into merging with the Destroyer armor. She agrees, and Karnilla sends her straight to Midgard, hoping that she will finish off a now-recovered Thor once and for all.

This was definitely Karnilla’s most significant appearance so far. From my recollection, she’s not usually as bloodthirsty for the death of Thor as she is here, but that’s what makes comics so unique. The characters continue to evolve and become more complex.

THOR #151
Writer/Editor: Stan Lee; Penciler: Jack Kirby; Inked By: Vince Colletta; Lettering: Sam Rosen

Karnilla taunts the unconscious body of Sif, as her and Loki view the titanic battle between Thor and the Destroyer down on Midgard.

They bring in their other prisoner, Balder. Karnilla offers to free Sif, if Balder will agree to serve her. This will be the first hint that Karnilla has a thing for Balder. Poor, clueless Balder. What does she see in him?

They are interrupted by Ulik and a battalion of trolls, looking to end Karnilla’s reign in Nornheim permanently.

With no other options, Karnilla promises to free Balder and Sif, if he will promise to protect her from Ulik. Balder engages Ulik in furious battle (in the King Kirby manner).

THOR #152
Writer/Editor: Stan Lee; Penciler: Jack Kirby; Inked By: Vince Colletta; Lettering: Sam Rosen

Karnilla makes good on the other half of her deal, and Sif is pulled from the Destroyer and restored to her own body. They stand and watch as Balder battles the mighty Ulik.

Help him out, Sif, jeez.
With the threat of the Destroyer ended by Sif returning to her body, Thor stands triumphant, himself having already been restored to full power by Odin in the previous issue. Karnilla magically snatches Thor away, so that he may assist Balder against Ulik.

When Thor is sent hurtling away from Midgard, he even remarks that “a power which rivals mine own hath summoned me to Asgard.” It’s clear she’s supposed to be supremely powerful, and yet for some reason she was scared of Ulik.

THOR #153
Writer/Editor: Stan Lee; Penciler: Jack Kirby; Inked By: Vince Colletta; Lettering: Sam Rosen

Thor has defeated Ulik by tossing him into the endless abyss of shadows, but Loki was able to somehow steal Mjolnir and escape without notice during the melee. Thor pleads with Karnilla to send him wherever his evil step-brother might be. Karnilla agrees, as it will repay the debt she now owes him, as well as send him to his almost certain doom.

The drama continues on Midgard between Loki, Thor, and Sif. Back in the Norns, Balder prepares to leave, much to the dismay of Karnilla. Balder heroically fighting Ulik to save her life has done little to quell the burning she has in her loins for him. This is definitely the most overt reference to her crush on him.

That’s enough Karnilla for this week, I don’t want you to overdose on the greatness, like a former child actor trying to chase the rush of fame through the end of a needle. So far, Karnilla has been portrayed as a frequent ally of the evil Loki, and an incredibly powerful foe in her own right. Her fixation on Balder was established very early on. It’s clear that Stan and Jack liked the character, with her evolving from a minor unnamed supporting character, to getting her own name and a more elaborate design. I still don’t feel like they’ve nailed down her look or characterization, so I look forward to exploring her development further.

Next week, vanilla sex!