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April 06, 2009

Comments

Chris Tolworthy

"the counter-culture of 1968 was very busy NOT being busy." Hey, I was born in the middle of 1968! (And French students were pretty busy, but I don't know if they count.) Excellent post though. I don't know how you do it, but keep it up!

Menshevik

@Chris -
Yes, in Europe 1968 is generally seen as an important watershed year in post-WW2 history with the student protests and teach-ins in France, Germany and elsewhere upsetting established politics, also the "Prague Spring" and its suppression by the forces of the Warsaw Pact...

David Morefield

Awesome. The hair is too long and the lingo is third-rate pseudo-Shakespeare, but the sentiment is pure Jack Webb. Read 'em the riot act, Thunder-god!

Skip the rain, though. Hippies like to do it in the mud.

Mark Engblom

I should mention that this sequence seemed to be almost randomly inserted into the narrative, with nothing really leading into it or out of it. Considering the way Marvel comics were constructed at the time (the artist, working only from a plot, had quite a bit of leeway), it would appear to be something Jack Kirby felt strongly about at the time and simply inserted it between acts. Stan Lee later added the "get off your butts" speech, obviously agreeing that it should be included.

Of course, I have no way of knowing if my musings are accurate, but from my knowledge of the Stan-Jack working relationship, it seems to ring true.

Chris Tolworthy

However it was conceived, that was seriously good stuff. I miss the old larger-than-life-and-twice-as-noble Thor.

zubzwank

Menshevik, I'm not sure if you were there or not, but the hair is accurate for the period.
In fact, Thor beat the English invasion bands to the long-hair-for-men look.

Also, you may think the dialogue is "third rate Shakespeare", but verily, I say thee nay! It is, truth be told, first rate Lee.

I think there may have been a couple of other encounters between Marvel heroes and the counter-culture that were friendlier.

Most hippie types that I knew loved 60's Marvel, as the comics were kind of up against the establishment (as embodied by DC)
themselves. Marvel posters were a staple of head shops everywhere.

zubzwank

My apologies. My response in the previous message should be to David Morefield instead of Menshevik.

Another reason counter-culture types loved Marvel comics is because they were the original psychedelia, like Ditko's Dr. Strange and Kirby's Negative Zone.

Pat Curley

The comics companies were flummoxed a little bit by the hippies. On the one hand, you're talking about hard-working, productive, middle-aged men, who were completely opposed to the hippie lifestyle.

On the other hand, comics were facing a demographic crunch due (in large part) to the birth control pill, and found themselves forced to go after an older, teenaged readership that looked at the hippies as role models (because they were their older brothers). Hence the pretty quick reversal from the treatment of long-hairs in 1967-68 and 1971-72. Of course, the fact that most of the younger writers were going shaggy at the same time probably had something to do with it as well.

I think the main reason "counter-culture types" liked Marvel over DC is that the stories were targeted at an older audience (especially, as it happened, the Mighty Thor).

Don't know if you've read any of Ditko's Blue Beetle run at Charlton, Mark, but issue #5 (1968) includes a terrific Ayn Rand-inspired put-down of the hippie ethos. Highly recommended.

Wes C

It seems kind of odd for this to come from Kirby. Wasn't this the period when he was conceiving his "Fourth World" which included the very hippie Forever People?

To be fair though, Thor does call them pure of heart, so he's not totally coming down on them.

A good moment to be sure.

BTW: I think it would have been very funny if one of those lazy hippies stunned Thor by being able to pick up the hammer and turn into some kinda Beta Ray Hippie... but that's probably just me.

ShadowWing Tronix

Funny when you consider in the Ultimate Avengers movie, he joins a hippie movement of sorts.

Personally, I was waiting to see him smack them with the hammer, but that may be because of some of the blogs I read. :)

Grumpy

Good pick. Could even be part of your Highlight Reel.

ShadowWing... not so funny. The Thor of 1968 is consistent with the environmental activist of Ultimate Avengers. "There be causes to espouse," indeed.

I'm going to start using "That hammer's from nowhere, man!" in casual conversation.

David Morefield

Zubzwank, I meant the long hair would never pass muster with super-square Jack Webb, though the sermon certainly would.

As for the dialog, it's the main reason I never got into Thor. I could never figure out why an ancient Norse god would talk like someone from the King James version of the Bible.

It's not surprising the counter-culture movement would latch on to Marvel, with those trippy photo-montages and special effects Kirby dreamed up, not to mention the far-out, other-dimensional vistas Dr Strange hung out in. But I imagine Marve's efforts to differentiate itself from DC were more rooted in commercial concerns than any effort to "stick it to the man." If ever there was a true believer in good old-fashioned (and decidedly un-hippie) capitalism, it's Stan the Man.

Christian

I'm glad you posted this. Actually, this moment is not at all random, it occurs in the melancholic section of "Ragnarok" when Thor is contemplating man's fate.

I actually interviewed Jack Kirby a few years back for "Written By" magazine and told him this scene was my favorite comic book sequence ever and he excitedly said it was one of his and nobody had ever mentioned it. He sounded truly pleased.

We had a nice discussion about the cultural subtext, and Lee/Kirby were clearly empathetic to the counter-culture since they were the ones buying the comics. The scene isn't a total putdown, but a gentle reminder.

Tara Clapper

I think Kirby/Marvel were conflicted about the counterculture. I'm surprised no one interprets this particular scene as indicative of that. I think Thor respects the hippies' quest, just questions their method. Detailed response: http://sweetongeek.blogspot.com/2012/07/analyzing-thor-and-hippies.html

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