Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Lady Thor: The Case For Jane Foster

In Marvel Comics' "Journey Into Mystery" Issue 83, written by Stan Lee and published in August 1962, Don Blake picks up a gnarled wooden walking stick. The stick transforms into a hammer, and he transforms into the Norse god Thor. While thrilled to have overcome his handicapped status, and wield this new power, he ponders how his life will change.

He sits down on the grass, sets down the hammer, and recalls what he knows of the apparently-not-so-mythological god.

Moments later, he discovers he has returned to his normal frail self. The hammer Mjolnir has likewise changed back into a walking stick. He wonders what caused him to revert to a powerless handicapped man. Then he thinks back to the inscription on the head of the hammer.

When he touches the stick, he and the stick once more transform into Thor and Mjolnir. Obviously, he has a lot to learn, if he wishes to control and maintain his new persona. He practices using the hammer, and discovers powers most mortals could only dream of wielding. He also discovers a way to control his transformations.

Practice makes perfect, and soon Don Blake will be able to hold and use the walking stick without instantly transforming into Thor. A single tap on the ground is all that is needed to transform. However, in order to retain his appearance as Thor, he must not release Mjolnir, or sixty seconds later he will return to ordinary Donald Blake. Obviously, this wouldn't be a good thing to happen during battle. 

In THOR issue 6, written by Jason Aaron and published last month, Odinson seeks out Jane Foster to see if Mjolnir could have transformed her into Lady Thor. When he finds her in a hospital bed on Asgard, suffering from breast cancer and attended by healers, he decides it cannot be her, and marks her off his list of the women who might possibly have learned to wield Mjolnir. 

What do you think of Odinson's decision? Is the candidacy of Jane Foster as impossible as he believes? For if Donald Blake can be transformed from Thor into a cripple, couldn't Jane Foster, suffering from cancer, could temporarily take up Mjolnir with a consequent change in appearance, then revert to her former sickly status? 

Dragon Dave

P.S. To read more of Thor's early adventures, and written by Stan Lee (He's sublime!), pick up The Mighty THOR: The God of Thunder, Volume 1 in Marvel's new Epic Collection series of books on this hero. (He's divine! Or, at least semi-divine!)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Lady Thor: The Case Against Jane Foster

The beautiful Jane Foster in "Thor: The Dark World",
courtesy of

In the recent movies, Thor loves the human woman Jane Foster, much to his father Odin's displeasure. In Jason Aaron's new comic series, a mysterious woman has taken over Thor's mantle. At first, he thought she had bewitched him, and attempted to wrest Mjolnir back from her. But when she exhibits an impressive mastery over his former hammer, he decides Mjolnir has truly rejected him and consigns its ownership to his past. In fact, he's so impressed by the manner in which she wields the hammer that he gives her his name. Henceforth, she has the right to be called Thor, and he shall be known solely as Odinson. 

Still, he wishes to know her true identity.

As Lady Thor wears a mask, Odinson begins a quest to discover her identity. In doing so, he emulates another mythological character who wears red: that great figure of charity, joviality, and an acknowledged master of elves. Santa Claus! (Okay, perhaps he's not so jolly, and his belly doesn't shake like jelly, but go with me on this). And just like Santa, he makes a list, and he checks it, well, perhaps just once, at least for now. After all, it shouldn't take too much work to figure out who Mjolnir thinks isn't naughty, but is really nice. Right?

Part of the fun of reading the new THOR series is guessing the identity of the woman behind the mask. As a newbie to Thor comics, I don't know half of the women in Odinson's past. But I had a suspicion. Jason Aaron takes some of his cues from the recent movies, using movie villains like the Frost Giants and the Dark Elf Malekith in his stories. Behind her mask, might this new Thor be his lady love, Jane Foster?

THOR issue 6 seems to slap down my hopes in the most comprehensive manner possible. Odinson visits Jane Foster in a room in Asgard. She is attended by healers, as she suffers from a very human disease: breast cancer. Despite the healers' ability to banish it, Jane Foster refuses any magical treatment, vowing to beat her disease with human technology and willpower, or die in the attempt. As Odinson stands beside her sickbed, Jane asserts that he is more than his hammer. He is still a good man, a worthy man, a valiant hero. Even if Mjolnir has rejected him, he should not give up his name to anyone. 

In fact, if he doesn't reclaim his name soon, she threatens to him another: Lord Thunderbritches.

With a heavy heart, Odinson consigns her to the healers' care. Then he crosses her name off the list. In her present condition, for Jane Foster to wield Mjolnir seems impossible. Thus, Jason Aaron shows up my guess of Lady Thor's identity as ridiculous and ignorant. It's just as well that guessing about Lady Thor's identity is only part of the fun of reading this new series. Actually, it's hard to feel even a little disappointed. You see, I'm enjoying the journey, and in no hurry to reach the destination. 

Dragon Dave

Related Internet Links
Art Assylum's picture of Jane Foster & Thor

Monday, March 30, 2015

Thor Vs Identity Theft

In Marvel Comics' "Journey Into Mystery" Issue 83, published in August 1962, we meet Donald Blake, an infirm medical doctor.  

In a small village, he overhears a fisherman tell his neighbors of the strange rock people he has seen. While the locals take no notice of the man's ravings, Donald Blake decides to check out his story.

Before he can return to the village to confirm the fisherman's story, the rock men see him hobbling away. When the rock men fire their guns at him, Don Blake trips, and his cane falls into the ocean. He crawls into a cave, where he finds...

In need of the walking aid, he picks it up. Suddenly...

And not only does the old gnarled walking stick transform, but Don Blake's appearance also alters.

A few months ago, during a fight in Earth orbit, Thor's hammer Mjolnir slipped from his hand and fell to the Moon. In the days that follow, a group of people gather on the air-filled section of the Moon formerly inhabited by the supremely powerful Watcher. These people come not only from Asgard, but also from Earth, thanks to SHIELD's spaceships. They watch Thor struggle and strain, but despite all his strength of muscle and will, and his familiarity with Molnir, he cannot pick up the hammer. Finally Thor's family convince him to return to Asgard and rest. Shortly thereafter, a woman picks up Mjolnir, Thor's hammer of power, and her appearance is likewise transformed. 

After all this time in his possession, the loss of his hammer traumatizes Thor. Imagine something so central to your self-image being suddenly ripped away like that. Consider how losing all that power and ability, in a second, would make you feel.

Talk about Identity Theft! 

Reeling from this loss, Thor Odinson vows to discover the identity of the woman now wielding Mjolnir. There's only one problem. Once he was ordinary physician Donald Blake, a handicapped man who needed a cane to walk. Whoever picked up Mjolnir, If this woman was equally transformed by contact with his hammer, then her new physical appearance might bear no correlation to the way she has looked in the past. But then, if quests to reclaim one's honor, sense of purpose, and fabulous weapons of power were easy, we wouldn't cherish those stories like we do.

What are your favorite quest stories? What aspects of the stories make them important to you?

Dragon Dave

P.S. To discover how Thor lost Mjolnir, read the graphic novel Original Sin by Jason Aaron. To follow Thor Odinson's quest, read the new THOR comic book series, also written by Mr. Aaron.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Kevin J Anderson's Jihad

The author exploring Red Rock Canyon State Park

Author Kevin J Anderson is mad about hiking. In fact, he hikes everyday. Why? Because he writes everyday. And yes, he writes while he's hiking.

Everyday he leaves home with his notes, heads out on a trail into the wilderness, dictates his chapters into recorder, and later transcribes his notes into the computer for editing. This is one sign of his brilliance: he's found a way to fuse two activities he loves to maximize his time.

Many years ago Kevin J. Anderson was hiking through Death Valley, and the desolate surroundings reminded him of Dune by Frank Herbert. Like me, Kevin loved the novel and its sequels, and as Frank Herbert had died, he wondered if Herbert's son Brian might be writing any more in the series. As Kevin had published several novels by this point, he called up Brian, introduced himself, and offered his services as a cowriter. Brian eventually took him up on his offer. So because he was hiking through a desolate place like Death Valley, because he had laid down a foundation of respectability as a writer, and because he had the audacity to call up Brian and make the offer, Kevin J. Anderson became a cowriter of this bestselling series.

My own love affair with Dune began in the early 1980s. One of the first characters Frank Herbert introduced me to was Piter De Vries, a man who takes drugs to aid his fantastic mental abilities. He's been trained as a Mentat, which means his mind has all the associative and computational capabilities of a computer. This makes him a highly skilled man whose services are in great demand. You see, thousands of years in the past, computers gained artificial intelligence that enabled them to think and act for themselves. These computers and their mobile robot counterparts decided that they were better and smarter than humans. So, after many years of subjugation, humanity fought a great war to free themselves from all computers and intelligent robots. This war was called the Butlerian Jihad, and after humanity triumphed, computers and robots were declared illegal. Thus, the necessity of trained people like Piter De Vries to use his computational and associative capabilities to help society keep advancing. 

As the Butlerian Jihad lay in the past, Frank Herbert didn't offer too many details about it. Nevertheless, it was a foundational event in Dune's history, and readers like me who loved Frank Herbert's Dune novels wondered about the Butlerian Jihad, and hungered for more details about it.

In addition to writing novels set after Frank Herbert's six Dune novels, Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson delved into the series'  past  One of their prequels was The Butlerian Jihad. After decades of wondering about this key event, I finally got to read all about it. 

Had Kevin not followed his instincts, called up Brian, and offered his services, The Butlerian Jihad might never have been written. Alternatively, Brian might have written The Butlerian Jihad on his own, or with another author. But because Kevin J. Anderson followed his curiosity, and risked rejection, he got to cowrite a book that I very much wanted to read: The Butlerian Jihad! How cool is that?

I've read books by Kevin J. Anderson before he started writing Dune novels, and I've read many of his other novels set in other universes since. But the ones that thrust him into the forefront of my awareness were his Dune novels. Happy Birthday Kevin J. Anderson. Thanks for cowriting The Butlerian Jihad, and so many other entertaining books. Without your impact on my life, my bookshelves wouldn't be nearly so full. Imagine how terrible that would that be. Talk about a dystopian future!

Dragon Dave

Related Internet Links
A short video in which Kevin discusses his Dune novels
Watch Part 1 of the "Frank Herbert's Dune" TV miniseries

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Link Between H. G. Wells & K. W. Jeter

Today is the birthday of K. W. Jeter. I know him best as the author of a trilogy of Star Wars novels, centered around the bounty hunter Boba Fett. Most of the literary community know him as the man who coined the term Steampunk in a letter to Locus magazine. His early novel, Infernal Devices, which I read last year, took me on a journey through dark and seedy Victorian London communities. It featured elaborate robots designed to replicate the actions of priests and lay leaders in Church of England worship services. (Unfortunately, these automatons leave mass injury and destruction in their wake). As a bonus, it also featured elaborate clocks that portend the end of the world.

Or at least, that's my best summary of it. There's lots of other fun aspects to it, involving boats, planes, and selkies, and if you're interested I'll let you discover those on your own. Interestingly, today's readers, inured to modern conventions, often remark there's not enough "Steampunk" in it. As I don't make a habit of reading this niche genre, I cannot comment on that. What I can tell you is that this early K. W. Jeter's novel entertained me, and left me sufficiently intrigued about certain plot points (especially selkies) that I turned to Wikipedia and gained a better knowledge of the world. 

So, I guess you could call that a recommendation for Infernal Devices.

Now I'm heading down a path to read another of his novels. While researching this year's trip to England, I realized that I might have time to stop by one H. G. Wells landmark. This dovetails with earlier plans for our 2013 trip (sadly abandoned) to visit another key Wells location. This, along with several Classics Illustrated adaptations of H. G. Wells' stories that I recently picked up, sent me to my bookshelf. 

For my first H. G. Wells reading experience in decades, I selected The Time Machine. So far, I've noticed that this short novel differs from George Pal's movie version in significant ways. What's struck me most strongly so far is that the Morlocks, hairy creatures in the film, are depicted as white ape-like creatures with large bulbous eyes in the novel. 

Although I didn't plan it at the time, as I began reading The Time Machine, I realized which novel I should read next. It's been sitting in my bookshelves since Christmas, when I received it as a gift. It's entitled Morlock Nights, a sequel to H. G. Well's classic novel. And it's author? None other than celebrated Star Wars and Steampunk author K. W. Jeter. So it would seem that another novel has joined the ranks of books pressing for my immediate attention. 

Happy Birthday K. W. Jeter. I can't wait to read your book!

Dragon Dave