Comic series resetting to #1 about once every six months year eighteen months or so has become a normal part of the industry in the years since I gave up comic collecting. When I left, the issues of most major titles were still numbering in the hundreds from their original run. Now it seems surprising if we get two consecutive years of consistent numbering on any give title. But today is a magical day! It’s a Throwback Thursday! And that means we’re going to travel back to the mystical time of 1996. Oprah’s Book Club was born. Everyone was quoting Jerry Maguire. The Macarena was a thing. And, in July, Marvel had their first 500th issue with Thor #500!
(Astute readers will note this is not, in fact, Thursday. BUT I didn’t quite have this piece finished on Thursday and then I had Andrew’s amazing guest post to get us all excited about DC Rebirth. Buuuuut I did finally finish this up and wanted to post it now anyway. It can always be Throwback Thursday in our hearts right??)
When I returned to the world of comic collecting last fall the numbering on the covers was a bit of a surprise. It wasn’t the fact that so many titles seemed to reset to #1 so often. That I was well aware of from regularly following my nerd news online. What surprised me was the common numbering format on most Marvel titles looked something like this – Vote Loki #001. Uh, why do we have three digits on the cover when most comic titles don’t stay with consistent numbering long enough to hit #25 let alone #100?? It seems a little needless to me.
I get the whole point behind resetting the numbering though. A nice, new #1 does make it easier for new readers to jump into a title. I know it’s completely a mental thing too. Even if I’m buying The Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 4) #1 there’s still fifty years of history with the character. But, as a reader, there’s just something that’s reassuring about starting with issue #1. When I returned to comic collecting, I started all of the titles I read from their (closest, convenient) first issue. I began Deadpool with Deadpool (Volume 1) from the Marvel NOW! relaunch under Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan. I excitedly started Ms. Marvel with her very first issue, back before the Secret Wars came. I picked-up Black Panther when Ta-Nehisi Coates began his run earlier this year. And before jumping into The Mighty Thor #1, I went back to when Jane Foster first picked up the hammer with Thor #1 after the Original Sin crossover. So I get it. I do. Even if the numbering is kind of irrelevant/just a mental thing, it still feels good to know you’re absolutely coming in at the beginning of a new story.
But there’s still something magical about the old ways. And there’s certainly something magical about reaching #500!
The extensive research I did before writing this piece (which may’ve looked more like twenty minutes reading articles I found through a quick Google search) taught me that only FIVE Marvel comics have carried #500 on their cover. In July of 2008, The Uncanny X-Men hit that milestone. The Avengers did it in 2004 while The Amazing Spider-Man and Fantastic Four crossed that threshold in 2003. But Thor #500 would hit comic shelves nearly a decade earlier when Bone Thugs-n-Harmony were taking us all to “Tha Crossroads” in July of 1996.
Interestingly enough, of all those titles, only Thor and The Uncanny X-Men hit 500 without having been reset. Spidey got there in Volume 2 of the title and the Fantastic Four and the Avengers were in the third volumes of their books before resetting the numbering and placing 500 on the cover (*cough, cough* that’s kind of cheating *cough, cough*). Anyway, I remember the lead up to Thor’s big milestone issue. I remember the hype and the excitement. In the preceding issues, Thor was powerless and dating the Enchantress! What?!? Interesting life choices were obviously being made all around. What could this 500th issue hold?! I was turning fourteen that summer and I couldn’t wait to see what was in store for the Thunder God!
Last night Wednesday evening, before enjoying some Double Stuffed Oreos (is there any other kind??) and watching a little Seinfeld with Kalie, I sat down and took that journey again. I read Thor #497-502. I wandered with Thor from regaining/losing/regaining his powers to the eve of his “final” battle against Onslaught alongside Marvel’s other heroes. It was a lot of fun…and it was eye-opening too. I’d kind of forgotten exactly what comics were like back in the mid-nineties!
The story was all sorts of realm-hopping fun. Thor (a topless Thor with a ponytail down to his knees I might add…ahh, the 90s!) had been kicked out of Asgard (so what else is new?) and exiled to earth. He was living in New York City while Red Norvell was the resident Thor in Asgard. Thor’s powers had been a bit glitchy but he was still doing his best to protect the people of New York. He was also apparently working for hire, although it’s anyone’s guess if he let Luke Cage and Danny Rand know he lifted their shtick. A labor union president, Victor Prazniki, hires Thor and Amora to protect his daughter Annie and new wife Silvia from those who want to steal Raven’s Eye – an ancient Asgardian sword that’s come into his possession. A Thunder God needs to eat/pay the bills (and also doesn’t want to see innocent people killed in the quest to own Odin’s old sword) so he takes the job.
During transit to a safe house, Annie and Silvia are abducted leaving Thor and NYPD Office Kim Gaunt trying to track them down. The whole group ends up being transported to a warped/alternate version of Asgard as imagined by Wagner in his opera the Ring Cycle and worshipped by Ludwig II of Bavaria. Wearing the wildest of 90’s costumes, Thor battles Wagner’s Thor and ultimately kills Wagner’s Odin by throwing Raven’s Eye through his chest. Thor is then transported back to the normal Asgard to find the city in ruins.
The 500th issue begins here, with Yggdrasil apparently poisoned and slowly dying. The World Ash has been tricked into thinking Ragnarok has already occurred. Since Ragnarok means the end of all and the death of the gods, the gods have lost their powers and been banished to earth. In the Aesir’s absence, the Trolls have taken over the ruins and fight to keep the Frost Giants out of their new territory. During the ensuing battle, Thor pulls Raven’s Eye from Yggdrasil only to have it disintegrate in his hand. HOWEVER his powers return! A full-on thunder god once more, he destroys the Frost Giants and – after Dr. Strange assures him he feels something evil coming – he heads to earth to figure out exactly what’s going on.
Did Marvel’s first 500th issue live up to all the hype?? How was I supposed to know? It was the first one ever. Still, I remember being very excited when I first read it and I couldn’t wait for the next month’s issue to see what happened on Thor’s quest to find the other gods. Upon my recent rereading of the story arc, I enjoyed it again. Many of the classic things that made me love Thor – god and human interaction, realm hoping, mixing of advanced technology and ancient mystical arts, a cast pulled straight from Norse mythology – were all there. And I enjoyed revisiting them.
However, I was quite thrown off as I read – jarringly so at some points – by reencountering exactly what comic characters looked like in the 90’s. At the time, I knew nothing different. In fact, Mike Deodato Jr. (who illustrated the majority of the issues I read) was one of my absolute favorite artists in my youth. I still have great respect for his work then and now (I really loved what he did with Darth Vader in Vader Down for example)…but what passed for superheroes then doesn’t sit well with me anymore. This art is the height of both the 1990’s male power fantasy and the objectification of women. A casual glance below shows a monstrously muscled Thor with Amora cowering behind him…in the barest of scraps left of her clothes. To be fair, I guess Thor does have one tear in his pants while Amora’s clothes are hanging off her in shreds. So I guess it’s the same?? Gah. Honestly, given what I’m used to seeing in comics now, it made me a little uncomfortable.
Compare that image with what we see now. Captain Marvel and Spider-Woman are two of Marvel’s leading female characters. Below (as with the Squirrel Girl picture above) both are seen wearing actual uniforms (not bikinis) that completely cover their bodies. Neither are drawn in poses that fetishize them, leaving them as little more than objects of juvenile sexual fantasies.
Looking at this contemporary picture of Spidey and Deadpool, we also see, while toned and muscular, there’s at least a bit more realistic size to their bodies than the rippling monstrosity that is 90’s Thor gave us. Look at those muscles again!! God or not, how do you hold that torso upright let alone keep your veins from exploding out of your arms at that size?? Both the men and women of the comics in the 1990’s were designed to prey on, cultivate, and nourish these darker male desires. Men were all big, hulking beings of immense power. This is not an image designed to attract a female reader. By and large, women tend not to find such bulging brutish body types attractive. But they speak to the young, adolescent male mind as an image of POWER. They same is done with the women. Most female characters are drawn to prey on, cultivate, and nourish these dark, unhealthy, underdeveloped male sexual fantasies. There is nothing healthy or normal about that sort of body type!! Nor is it realistic to presume that every battle will leave a woman with her clothing completely ripped save the tatters that cover her unmentionables.
As I said, it was jarring to see this sort of art on such bold display over the course of six issues again. While I enjoyed the walk down memory lane and still loved the content of the stories and the art as a product of its time period, it made me very happy to be reading comic books now, in 2016. I love that I can have my heroes and enjoy their adventures without the not-so-subtle-nor-subliminal messages of male power and female objectification being driven into my brain. I think we’re all significantly better off for it too!
In fact, after enjoying this little trip back to Thor #500 and the 1990’s comic scene, I was compelled to celebrate all that makes Thor great RIGHT NOW. In reading the latest issue of The Mighty Thor, I saw once again that Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman’s run on The Mighty Thor completes me…and they had me at “hello.”
12 thoughts on “Marvel’s First 500th Issue!”
Great post! Had a lot of fun reading it. Although I’m glad we don’t have the sexes drawn over the top I am really sick of the political correctness created by the feminazis. They freak out about everything, heck, thanks to them we didn’t get a Killing Joke-tribute Batgirl variant cover because it was promoting rape.
First, the term “feminazi” is completely inappropriate. To be fair, I don’t think you’re using it maliciously. I think you’re using it ignorantly. But feminism is a movement about equality. The idea that everyone doesn’t deserve to be equal has no place in 2016. And to equate, even in a joking manner, those seeking equality with those who perpetrated the Holocaust and the murder of over six million Jewish people and over eleven million people in total is 100% unacceptable.
Second, ANYTHING that remotely glorifies or condones rape is also unacceptable. We live in a rape culture, so often blaming the victim first and that cultural mindset must be dismantled forever and shown to be the dark, twisted reality it is. Depicting the thoughtless objectification of another’s body isn’t ART in any way, shape, or form. It’s malicious, hellacious, and – to be blunt – evil. Anything that justifies or glorifies rape is evil in the fullest sense of the word. ‘The Killing Joke’ is a HORRIBLE story that works artistically as a depiction of PURE EVIL. To miss that is to miss the ENTIRE POINT of the story. So, a cover that seems to even slightly suggest rape can be seen as acceptable can’t be tolerated AND misses the redeeming point of the story.
I would hope and pray that you are fortunate enough to not know anyone who’s been injured by rape, that you don’t really understand the total devastation it brings to mind, body, and soul. But the violent robbing of someone’s sense of self and personhood that occurs in rape is the deepest and darkest sort of sin. If hell exists, it’s worst places are for people who do that to others.
Again, I don’t think you were trying to equate a movement about equality with the pointless murder of over eleven million people nor do I think you’re in favor of rape. But our words have power and we need to thoughtful about what words we use and the connotations they carry.
1. Feminists is not what it used to be and many actual feminists who fought for their rights back in the days would agree. Most of the movement became much more unequal than anything, today. They spewed out nonfactual or out of context datas and choose to silence any source of facts or logic. I could get into more details on those points if you feel like my claim isn’t true and is the term ‘feminazi’ a hyperbole? Definitely, but that’s just the parody of how radical the modern feminism has become. It has become what it used to fight against.
2. I agree that condoning rape is unacceptable, but I think you’re missing the point. The variant cover was not by Bolland nor Moore, which means it was done by a different artist. The variant cover does not condone rape and that’s my point. Feminists latch on to anything that makes women “look weak” when the complainers are usually the ones who haven’t read a comic book in their life and don’t know the badass that Batgirl is. Sadly for you, Killing Joke is considered one of the greatest stories of all time so many would not really call it a ‘HORRIBLE story’ and just because it is showing acts of evil doesn’t mean it’s condoning it. I might even question you know what variant cover I might be referring to.
3. Hear me out here, we do NOT live in a rape culture. We put rapists in prison when proven guilty. Our Western culture shames people for rape, people loose jobs when joking about rape, no one is blaming the victim unless the ‘victim’ made the whole thing up (which mind you happens which is why we can’t always believe alleged rape victims unless proven guilty) so don’t tell me we live in a rape culture. You wanna see a real rape culture go to Middle East.
1) Regardless of your views regarding what you construe as facets pf contemporary feminism, to equate it with the Nazis, who murdered over eleven million people is wrong. It isn’t parody.nor satire – in academic definition or spirit.. It’s offensive. As a theologian, historian, and – most importantly – a person of deep faith, that’s not alright to me. I welcome debate here and enjoy the energy that comes from the back-and-forth of an honest exchange of ideas. But to invoke genocide so frivolously will not be tolerated on this blog. Those sorts of comments will be removed.
2) We are in complete agreement that what makes ‘The Killing Joke’ such a powerful literary work is it’s depiction and condemnation of such pure evil action. If it didn’t condone those so clearly it would be a dangerous, hurtful, and misogynistic tale and nothing more. However, you seem to speak of criticizing anything “that makes women ‘look weak'” as though it’s a bad thing. The idea of depicting women in any way other than what they are – fully equal to men, different yes but in no way deficient – IS a problem. To be able to casually overlook that or laugh it off as people being reactionary is a patriarchal privilege.
3) This brings us to your third rebuttal. Yes, obviously we don’t have legal rape in the United States and yes rapists are often punished. But to assert the victims are always protected over and against their rapists is another example of patriarchal privilege. Looking at the world through this sort of filter allows you to turn a blind eye to the experience of the Other because it isn’t anything you’ve seen as true in your lived experience. It’s a blessing for anyone who’s lived experience hasn’t been touched by the violence of rape. But to trivialize those who have or, worse yet, presume to dismiss a problem as false because you don’t see it is also unacceptable.
3a) “You wanna see a real rape culture go to the Middle East” is another example of being completely unaware of the actual lived experience of the Other. Worse, it takes it a step further by demonizing the Other. You are painting thousands of personal, cultural, and religious experiences in one big, broad inaccurate light. Of course, there are problems in the Middle East as there are problems everywhere. But there is also a lot of beauty there too.
Everyone is welcome to their own opinions. But opinions cannot be willed into fact. The opinions you express in your reply have both unsubstantiated claims as well as logical fallacies. Opinions can be misinformed and thus wrong.
Again, I will always welcome debate here and I certainly have no desire that everyone’s thoughts and beliefs need mirror my own. To believe that would deny the experience of the Other. However, as this is my blog it will always be moderated according to my conscience.
2. I am not overlooking anything. Men get killed, slaughtered, even Commissioner Gordon gets his clothes taken off to make him feel weak, pathetic and make him have a bad day. My point is modern feminists look at something and latch onto it when they should be looking at the full picture. “Barbara Gordon is getting shot” Alright, but what about those other men in comic books that are getting shot, more often? You see what I mean? Also, what’s the point of having a good, strong and maybe inspirational character when nothing bad can happen to her. If a character has no struggles they have nothing to rise above from. Why can’t they get hurt when they are fighting crime? I feel like that shows who is more entitled to privilege. I got no problem with anything until they find a problem with everything.
3. Who said I am ignoring rape? I never said that and rape is one of the worst if not the worst things you can commit to the another human being. All I am saying is if we lived in a rape culture we would be ignoring or condoning rape when no one in the right mind does that. Heck people sometimes believe the victims so much that the falsely accused go to prison. People loose jobs if they are even accused of being a rapist. In no way shape or form we should call that a RAPE CULTURE when things like these happen. Does that mean I think the problem is not present? No! But it is not as massive as you make it out to be. I might understand what you’re saying about “to assert the victims are always protected over and against their rapists is another example of patriarchal privilege” but could you rephrase that? I don’t wanna say anything false back.
3a) I find it funny and ironic at the same time you are generalizing our Western culture as a rape culture, but when it comes to country where actual rape happens and no one does a thing, a country that treats women as second class, a country that might even condone rape is not okay to call a rape culture? Sure there are some beauties there (good luck finding that grain of sand in a huge pile of straw), but there are way more problems there and more regarding rape than here. I don’t need to live there to be able to make such claims. When a judge makes a final verdict they didn’t need to see the crime happening to make a fair ruling.
2) I think you and I are actually agreeing more than we are disagreeing here but we’re losing a bit in the communication. I have no problem with ‘The Killing Joke’ as a piece of literature. I find it deeply, deeply disturbing but I also think it’s perhaps the best depiction of pure evil that I’ve ever seen in an artistic/fictional medium. I don’t think it, in any way, shape, or form, endorses the atrocities committed by the Joker, either against Commissioner Gordon or Barbara. And I do agree that the struggles of a character are important. Art often takes us into the darkness to show us how we can transcend it and be reborn in the light. So, while it’s not a book I could ever read often, it’s one that I believe to be very important and very unique in both comics as a genre and literature as a field. I would have problems with anything that would trivialize the events of ‘The Killing Joke’ as less than they are. And, I believe, you would be with me there. It seems wrong to say I “like” a book that so dark and full of evil but I respect what it does as literature and how it affects its readers.
3) Again, we might be closer than we think here. I believe we’re getting hung up on terminology. When I use the phrase “rape culture” I’m speaking of a culture that blames victims of sexual assault and normalizes male sexual violence. Do I think this happens all the time, every moment of every day? No, of course not. And thank God for that. But it is a large problem in the United States. We can look at what happened in the Brock Turner case. He was given a ridiculous sentence for a horrific crime. Or, in a less direct way, look at what often dominates our popular culture. ‘Twilight,’ is a story that, amongst other things, romanticizes emotional abuse. “Blurred Lines” became a #1 hit in the US and the lyrics glorify rape and misogyny. Then, if you recall the instance at the VMAs a few years ago, Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke performed that song together. Miley was criticized by the public and endured a lot of “slut shaming” when no one talked about Thicke grinding on her or the song’s content itself. It’s even worse in ’50 Shades of Grey’ as a cultural phenomenon. That series not only excuses but romanticizes emotional, sexual, and physical abuse. In fact, the first time Christian sleeps with Anastasia it is a depiction of rape. But the whole book paints Anastasia as “uptight” and “scared” while Christian Grey becomes a towering romantic hero. Also, and this is insanely dangerous, the series depicts the idea that an abuser can change if you love them enough. That puts victims of abuse who may watch or read the series in a dangerous, dangerous place. An abuser, psychologically speaking, can free himself of his abusive behaviors if he commits to a lifetime of therapy. But he can never be with a partner he abused again as it is almost always a catalyst for the abusive behavior to return. So when I say “rape culture” those are the sorts of things I’m referring too. I apologize if I didn’t frame that debate correctly. So I don’t, thankfully, believe the US is a country where rapists are always turned loose to rape again. But I do think there are far too many examples of rape culture that exist as a regular and accepted part of our culture.
3a) This may ultimately end up being an agree-to-disagree sort of issue. However, I do grant that I was speaking in generalities in regard to, if not Western culture as a whole, certainly the United States. I hope my comments on rape culture in the point above helped clarify what I meant in regard to US culture. While there are certainly many, thankfully, who oppose these cultural trends, I still think it (as I outlined it above) is widespread enough to be considered a problem and I think my read on US culture, in that light, holds. As to the Middle East, first that term denotes a region not a country. But yes, in many counties, it’s a fight for equality for women but it’s not all terrible. For example, the idea of polygyny is rejected in most all Middle Eastern counties save the tribal societies of Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. And there are movements at work, all through the Middle East, to try and bring women the rights they deserve. In fact, I have some friends who passionately travel abroad and work in some groups doing just that. But while I grant there are still many strides that need be taken in the Middle East, I also stand by my critique of the US in regard to its tolerance as a rape culture, given how I defined it above.
Ok, I see now. I assumed you had a different definition of rape culture because usually people who argue it doesn’t exist are on the side of it being condoned, or not brought to justice, etc. Now that you cleared up some things I agree on many cases with you, but still resort to disagree with some.
3. I don’t think Miley Cyrus was a victim in that case because she did it with consent and although Robin Thicke deserved to get equally or close to the amount of criticism Miley got I think Miley already painted herself in a much different picture. She used to be a Disney darling and changed her entire image by even putting out music videos with sexual images. So I think it was more about attention than gender. But then again there are moments when women get called out more for their appearances, but I don’t think anything with this has to do with rape. It’s a much different case than rape. As to when it comes to fiction I don’t really see that as a form of condoning rape either. The best argument you could make is with 50 Shades of Grey but that story was written by a woman and more women read those books (a lot more, I forgot the figure number). Way more. It’s a erotica so it’s purpose are to make people excited in a way kind of like pornography and I do not recommend watching that, but it’s a safe bet most people who watch it are not rapists. There aren’t any studies I read to justify that at least. Killing Joke shows evil, but it doesn’t condone evil and I would say the same about these type of media that show rape.
I believe media can’t make you rape, hurt or kill someone. I think a person like that doesn’t need a film/book/etc. to actually make them commit a crime. If they say they did something because of a book chances are huge they aren’t right in the head to begin with. So yeah, if it’s fiction I don’t consider it normalizing rape UNLESS it paints rape in a bright light (which I don’t see happen at all). I just don’t find myself seeing any of the things you’ve mentioned worthy of calling an attack on the victim nor a normalization of rape. To my knowledge there is consent on both parts of male and female in all the examples you’ve made.
3a) I’ll look into more of what you’re saying and yes, thanks for the correction. I meant to say regions instead of just one country.
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3) I think you’re right – those who participate in this culture and perpetuate the negative examples (be they movies, songs, novels, comics, whatever) that lead to normalizing male sexual violence can be women just as well men – or as is the case with ’50 Shades,’ more women supporting it than men. I think this is a big problem for both genders, we often don’t understand the subtle or subliminal messages we give our assent to when we consume our popular culture. It certainly isn’t an easy problem to get to the root of nor to fix. Nor is it as simple as “all men are bad all women are good.” Too often I think we fall into the trap, as you point out above, of presuming it’s a simple point-and-blame problem. When really, we need to work our way to the root cause of systemic injustice. That’s the only way we can ever affect real change and make our world truly better. Otherwise we’re treating a symptom and not the real problem.
I would also absolutely echo your opening sentiments too, while we have a few points of disagreement I think we’ve managed to come to a place where we get what the other is saying and have found more points of harmony than discord. That doesn’t happen often in internet comment section threads :). I’ve enjoyed this debate though. Thank you for staying with it and continuing to see the discussion through with me.
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Also I am basing my opinions out of proof facts. I would love to know which claims I made are unfactual.
I love the Squirrel Girl cover. It is so true. Is it possible that #1’s made it harder for new readers? If there is just so many #1’s how does a casual know which #1 to jump on? My sister she complained to me why there are new #1’s being published and to be honest the explanation I gave her didn’t even convince me.
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I think it’s really a reader by reader basis. As I said in the post, the only advantage the constant renumbering offers is purely mental. It’s not like what happened in the last volume no longer counts you know? When I got back into comics I just grabbed the most recent number one and rolled from there! But there were more than a few moments where I was confused and had to Google things that were tricky to follow. It was totally worth the work though!
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