- Thor’s ability to travel through time was removed by a writer, Mark Gruenwald, who had specific views on time travel in the Marvel Universe.
- In Thor #281-282, Thor gives up his ability to time travel to save the Space Phantom’s planet, but later discovers that it was part of a devious plot by Immortus.
- Mark Gruenwald and Ralph Macchio cleverly admit the story’s purpose was simply to remove Thor’s time-traveling abilities with a sentient eye at the end of the issue.
In Meta-Messages, we look at instances where comic books use meta-commentary, the latest being the time Thor lost the ability to travel through time due to a particular comic book writer who had very specific views on time travel in the Marvel Universe.
One of the interesting things about comics in the early Marvel Age of Comics is that clearly, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Stan Lee and other writers didn’t really think that what they were doing at the time would necessarily be remembered. in five years, let alone sixty-plus years later, and as a result, those early stories received some major changes, and occasionally, there were some glaring errors. One thing they definitely WERE NOT consistent though, as they would just pull things out of thin air and then go in a completely different direction the next issue. Of course, it was also very exciting, of course, and those early issues were still a lot of fun, they just weren’t consistent at all. Soon, however, they reached a certain level of consistency, and this is what we now think of as the “Marvel Universe”.
Thor’s comic book adventures were perfect examples of this, especially since the Thor stories Journey into mystery there were many writers working on them, like Larry Lieber and Robert Bernstein. Robert Bernstein was a particularly unusual writer, in that while Bernstein was a gifted writer, he was a guy who had a very different approach to storytelling than, say, Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, or Steve Ditko, and so some of the stories his were REALLY unusual. (like when Thor nuked China, or when he had Doctor Don Blake create a highly advanced android).
Since things took such huge and wild changes in those early years, it was obvious that Thor’s fourth story, Journey into mystery #86 (by Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Dick Ayers), saw Thor actually specifically QUESTION Odin about the ability to travel through time with Mjolnir. This was unusual because, most of the time, writers just pulled new powers for Mjolnir out of thin air (here are some of the more unusual Mjolinir abilities that Silver Age writers pulled out of thin air)…
So Thor just had the ability to travel through time whenever he felt like it. However, this ability bothered one Marvel writer, leading to a story specifically designed to remove that ability (while cleverly admitting that was the intent behind the story)!
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How did Thor lose the hammer’s ability to travel through time?
IN Thor #281-282 (a two-part spin-off story by writers Mark Gruenwald and Ralph Macchio and artists Keith Pollard and Pablo Marcos, before Roy Thomas returned to his big story merging Jack Kirby’s Eternals into the Marvel Universe), Thor is contacted by the Avengers’ old enemy, the Space Ghost, who desperately needs Thor’s help to help save his planet…
In the process, Thor’s hammer is stolen, causing Thor to have to fight his way to Immortus’ castle in the middle of Limbo, fighting the giant known as Tempus, to get to Immortus, who has Thor’s hammer. As it turns out, Immortus offers Thor a chance to save the Space Phantom’s planet, but it will simply require a significant amount of energy from Mjolnir, specifically all of the hammer’s time travel abilities. Thor, compelled to do whatever it takes to help the Space Phantom and his people, agreed to the deal and gave up the ability to travel through time to restore the planet…
This, of course, was later revealed to be all part of Immortus’ cunning plot, as revealed in Avengers Foreverto keep the Avengers from expanding beyond Earth, as Immortus feared that the Avengers, if allowed access to time and space, would eventually become an invading force in the universe (this involved one of the most daring reconstructions yet, revealing that the Space Phantom was so committed to helping Immortus trick Thor that even his thoughts were lies, as the issue featured the Space Phantom’s thought bubbles at certain points, so Avengers Forever writer Kurt Busiek had to explain why even his own thoughts were lies).
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How did Thor pay homage to Mark Gruenwald’s take on Thor’s time travel abilities?
Before he ever worked as a professional comic book editor and writer, Mark Gruenwald was already one of the most thoughtful and observant writers in the comic book fanzine world. Gruenwald edited, designed and did much of the writing for his zine, Omniversewhich was devoted to the exploration of continuity in comic books.
Gruenwald also wrote a series of articles for DC’s in-house magazine, The amazing world of DC Comics. As you can see from Comprehensive Preface Gruenwald wasn’t just a thoughtful, interesting guy, he was a thoughtful, interesting guy who had pretty hard and fast thoughts about things and how things should be done.
And one of the things he felt strongly about was that Thor shouldn’t have the ability to travel through time, hence the story mentioned above that removed Thor’s ability to travel through time.
And at the end of the issue, Gruenwald and Macchio specifically referred Thor to the fact that the story was definitely meant for that purpose, as Thor ends the issue by saying, “I’m fed up with the idea that this was all a fabrication to crack mine. hammer of his power in time!”
Very cool, because obviously that’s exactly the point, and so it was a knowing wink from Gruenwald and Macchio.
Thanks to my friend, Chris, for suggesting this! Today is Chris’ birthday! Happy birthday, Chris! If anyone has a suggestion for a future Meta-Message, drop me a line at [email protected]