Saturday, February 27, 2016

Random Access Memory: Recollections stirred by the purchase and reread of The Mighty Thor #258

The Mighty Thor #258
"If the Stars be Made of Stone"
April, 1977

  "For a race to have come so close to paradise only to allow their unreasoning fear to destroy it– 'tis so tragic my love."

 Thor #258 is one of the few comic books that I remember having in my small collection as a child. I even recall purchasing my copy from the back-then-much-taller-than-me comic book dispenser at the local Rexall drug store on 103rd and King Drive in Chicago.

It was sometime in March when this issue, dated April 1977, hit newsstands. I'd just recently turned eight-years old in the weeks before. Sitting at the dining room table with my younger sister the night of my proud purchase, I had just started reading when, quite unexpectedly, my father and mother began fighting in the kitchen, just a few feet away.

Absolutely terrified by what was happening, an extremely physical altercation between my dad and mom, I ran out of the dining room and darted down the stairs to unlock the dead bolt on the door.

With only black dress socks on my feet, I ran out onto the dark, slush-covered sidewalk, and rushed to ring the doorbells of my closest neighbors, until someone finally answered my frantic ringing four houses down the block.

As tears streamed down my cheeks, I told Karen, the teenage daughter in the Wills residence, what was happening at home. Her grandmother heard me from her perch in the dining room near the top of the stairs and said that she would call down to the house.

In cold, wet socks, I stumbled back down the frozen sidewalk and entered the house to hear the voice of my mother on the telephone telling whoever it was on the other end that everything was okay.

But everything was not okay.

In many ways, that jarring turn of events marked the slow beginning of the end of my parent's marriage.

Now so many years later, decades in fact, I don't remember if I actually finished reading my comic book that night. I do remember removing my socks, though, drying my face and climbing back into the dining room chair to stare blankly at its pages.

In addition, I have a recollection of me playing outside by myself in the snow the next day after school. And my father's beige Volvo pulling up a little while after his shift at the police department ended.

He walked over to where I was stood. My confused young mind was still trying to make sense of the night before. He looked down at me and said softly, "Daddy is sorry."

I gave him a hug through my puffy winter coat and somehow managed not to cry.

Admittedly, this is a deeply personal memory to be sharing in relation to an attempted comic book review. But it's something that rereading this issue of Thor stirred; something that I'd mostly forgotten, really.

Along with the memory came the reminder of one of the reasons that so many comic book readers are drawn to comics. It's because we deeply admire these costumed crusaders who have the power to save and to protect people.

Even sometimes from themselves.

This unworthy attempt at a review doesn't tell you a single thing about the actual story. But maybe what I have written conveys that Thor #168 is a comic book that holds a lot of significance.

Forever tied to it is a semi-sad remembrance of a night many years ago when I, as a young child, felt like someone who could have used the help of a superhero.

Or maybe, in some small way, the hero of that tale was me.

Thor #168 contains beautiful art by the legendary John Buscema and Tony DeZuniga, which in some panels calls to mind the classic artistry of 1950s comic book legends like Al Williamson and Frank Frazetta. The story is artfully handled by writer Len Wein.

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