Friday, April 3, 2009

Famous First Fridays: Walt Simonson's Thor Debut

Greetings, Groove-ophiles! Have you checked out the first post on Blinded Me with Comics yet? If not, I'll forgive ya. Just march yourself on over there after ya finish reading this post!

I was trying to think of something for this post that I could tie into BMwC, and my mind wandered into the land of wondrous Walt Simonson. Everybody knows that Walt took the world by storm with his turn as writer/artist of the Mighty Thor beginning with issue #337 (August 1983). Most folks think of that as Mr. Simonson's Thor debut. But they're wrong. Walt Simonson actually did layouts on the Mighty Thor starting with issue #260 back in March, 1977! 'Tis true! Ol' Groove won't jive ya!

Y'see, Walt (according to an interview in Comic Book Artist #10, October 2000) was trying to "learn to storytell faster", so he began picking up jobs for which he'd do only layouts. This led to stints on DC's Hercules Unbound, where he did layouts for Wally Wood, Marvel's b&w Rampaging Hulk magazine where Alfredo Alcala supplied finishes and tones, and Mighty Thor where he worked with Tony DeZuniga.

Since DeZuniga was supplying finished pencils along with the inks, there are times when its really hard to tell that the story was laid out by Simonson at all. Simonson's experiments with speeding up his storytelling skills meant fewer of the types of cinematic experiments like those he'd used on Manhunter, so you really have to look at the figure work and architecture to find Simonson's style during his first Thor run. Simonson also seemed to to be breaking out with bigger panels and more powerful figure work, channeling his "inner Kirby", making for some very cool and outtasite scenes. Dig this battle between Balder and the Executioner...

The places where I can really "see Simonson" shine under DeZuniga's finishes are on scenes like these, where he's incorporating authentic Norse flourishes in the designs and architecture of his ships and buildings...

The "Simonson Experiment" on Mighty Thor ran for almost a year, ending with issue #271 (February 1978). While forgotten by many, it's a pretty cool run, written by the incredible Len Wein, and well worth tracking down. Be on the lookout for future Blinded Me with Comics posts for details on Walt's legendary 80s stint on Mighty Thor!

8 comments:

  1. I would have checked out your new blog, but apparently I've not been invited to read it.

    Jim

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  2. Had some technical glitches. Try 'er again, Jim!

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  3. Yes, DeZuniga could be heavy at times. Much in the way Rudy Nebres was drowning Gil Kane with his inks on John Carter, DeZuniga was obscuring John Buscema for awhile there. I was buying Thor at this time and remember being frustrated by DeZuniga because it was Big John B. that I wanted to see!

    On the other hand, in these layouts, I see a lot of Buscema influence, even though his name is nowhere in the credits. Interesting!

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  4. Simonson did the 1978 Thor Annual too, one of the first to utilize Kirby's Eternals--just after the King had finished with 'em.

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  5. the only way it would look less like Walt Simonson is if Alfredo Alcala inked it!
    btw, i posted a link to this on the Walt Simonson Appreciation group on facebook...

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  6. Thank you for this post. I love Thor!!

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  7. nobody did Thor as good as Vinnie though

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  8. Chris and lilbaggie, remember DeZuniga was finishing, meaning he was penciling over Simonson's layouts as well as inking, but then again, if Simonson had done full pencils, you're right, it probably would've still looked like DeZuniga. Never mind. ;D (And I think the Jonh Buscema influence was showing up more from the DeZuniga side of things. When Tony did Marvel, he did a really good JB impression. Just check out his Doc Savage!) Oh, and thanks for posting this in the Simonson Appreciation facebook group, lilbaggie!

    Allan, I'll be covering that Simonson Thor annual in the near future. Thanks for the reminder! That one was a really good preview of what Simonson would do when he took over in the 80s...

    And you're welcome, Valentin!

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