Episode 8: Of Frogs and Men

BEHOLD: Thor #363-366! Thor, Beta Ray Bill, and the Power Pack face Kurse’s rage! Thor becomes a frog – but is no less a hero! And in Asgard, Odin’s successor is chosen in a manner most unexpected!

23 thoughts on “Episode 8: Of Frogs and Men”

  1. The belt of strength was a gift by Odin in Journey Into Mystery #91. This was also the first appearance of the Valkyries. And featured the somewhat racist caricature one shot villain Sandu… one of, if not THE, first of the many Thor villains empowered by Loki.

    The Piper is one of the Morlocks… and I know this because he’s one of the bit characters unceremoniously killed off in the Mutant Massacre.

    1. In the original myths, the Megingjörð (literally, the power belt) is actually a necessary power-up for Thor, which he is unable to lift Mjolnir without.

      1. Sort of. In the prose edda, there’s no mention of Thor needing help to lift his hammer, while the poetic edda mentions the belt, as well as iron gloves that he has to wear to protect his hands from the hammer’s impact (due to the too-short handle putting his hands right in there).

        All to just say it probably depends on who you ask and when in history.

    2. He was also a major part of the Power Pack and Morlocks story. Wherein the kids went into a storm drain to rescue a kitten but left their schoolbooks behind so had to return to meet some of the Morlocks and Kitty Pryde and Nightcrawler. It was a really cool couple of issues.

      1. Between this show and xplainthexmen, I’m pretty sure I’m going to end up reading just about every issue of Power Pack. They cross over with so many things I love!

        …or maybe I’ve discovered my next podcast?

  2. I’m surprised you made no mention of New Mutants #38, which occurs at some point during the frog-Thor arc, and in which Thor, in frog form, makes his way to the Xavier school to give Mirage a three panel pep talk before returning to Manhattan for the rest of the story. I like to think that’s where he tried after Jarvis shooed him away, and that there’s a deleted scene of him trying to get past HERBIE at the Baxter Building, and a hitchhiking montage of him getting too and from Westchester, and…

    1. Gah, how could I forget that scene? I love the Secret Wars II era of New Mutants, and Thor is indeed part of Mirage’s recovery from being temporarily annihilated by the Beyonder. So good!

  3. There’s actually a story ark in volume two (I think) of Runaways where the Power Pack start support group for former kids super heroes so Miles wasn’t that far off about the therapy bills

  4. I get the feeling Thor yelling at homeless people is a (kind of unfair) response to Green Lantern #76, where an old black man says:
    ” I been readin’ about you… how you work for the blue skins… and how on a planet someplace you helped out the orange skins… and you done considerable for the purple skins! Only there’s skins you never bothered with — ! The black skins! I want to know… how come?! Answer me that, Mr. Green Lantern!”
    And Lantern stares at his feet a bit.

  5. You can praise the funny titles all you want, but he left “Giant-Size Althing” on the table. That’s low-hanging fruit, Mr. Simonson.

    The Frog Thor story is probably my favorite arc of the whole run. I did in my recent binge find my enthusiasm flagging a tiny bit in the Thor Goes to Hel arc. It’s good, it’s very good, but the very intensity of its commitment to doing this title as epic fantasy means that when you – or I, anyway – read it nowadays in one go, as distinct from in monthly installments as one would at the time, it’s a bit too much of the same thing.

    But that’s part of what makes Frog Thor so well judged: it’s something very different that still isn’t a return to standard superhero comics, just when epic fantasy is starting to wear out its welcome. And it retains the connection to myth and folklore, for instance in the motif of the king’s daughter falling in love with the hero. I also love the way it juxtaposes this with the classic example of a modern “urban myth”: alligators in the New York sewers.

    There’s an interesting parallel to this story, which I reluctantly have to think is probably not intentional: the Batrachomyomachia (“Battle of the Frogs and Mice). This is an ancient Greek parody of Homeric epic, in which mice heroes fight frog heroes, told in exactly the same way as when Achilles and co. clash – only with, you know, mice and frogs. The Batrachomyomachia ends in a way that’s curiously similar to this: a god (Zeus) saves the frogs from certain defeat by sending in another type of animal (in this case crabs). But unfortunately I don’t think that’s close enough for it to be likely that Simonson intended the parallel. I’d love to ask him, though.

    Anyway, the parallel at least suggests that one can look on this arc as sort of the Batrachomyomachia to the Hel arc’s Iliad: a shift from epic to mock-epic that pokes a little fun at the serious (and maybe a little too serious) story of Thor leading his expedition against Hela.

    1. I’d never heard of the Batrachomyomachia, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Simonson was at least a little inspired by it for this arc, even if he changed a bunch of the details. That dude is positively Claremontian in his knowledge of other tales.

  6. So, I’ll do the obvious and expected thing here: in case anyone listening to this doesn’t know, when Simonson ends his run on ‘Orion’ in issue 25, he opens with Orion and Scott Free having a conversation by a pond, that has frogs. There’s plausible deniability as the park is identified as Centennial Park in Metropolis, but as Scott says ‘Some curious frogs inhabit this lake. Very strong. I’ve even seen them drive off rats. There aren’t any in this part of the park.’ Some AU stuff.
    Similarly, your linking the Grand Thane and Dazzler means that’s now part of my back story for the magnificent Dazzler Thor from A-Force #5-7.
    Power Pack do a great job helping Thor and Bill defeat Kurse, but if I were Thor I’d want my former enemy Molto, the Lava Man from JIM #97 and The Avengers #5 on speed dial. Magma too, I guess. That is if either are currently alive.
    One puzzle for me is that Simonson establishes in #363 that there are consequences to his wearing the belt of strength, it sounds as though even wearing it for a short time would be debilitating. He wears it for days, but I don’t remember the set up paying off.
    There’s thanks to the ‘All Bob Squad’ in the back of # 365. Looking at the art, there’s some pages which aren’t all Simonson. I’d guess that 6 &7 are finished by Bob McLeod and Bob Wiacek seems like a reasonable supposition as another member. Bob Hall and Bob Layton come to mind purely as Marvel artists who were around at the time. Does anyone know who all was actually a member?

    1. Thor being weak from having used the Belt of Strength comes up a few times, but it’s never quite as debilitating as Thor describes – it’s more along the lines of him not quite being at full strength for a while. It’s a bit of a cheat, but one I’m inclined to forgive since it contributes to the whole impossible-odds feel of the Kurse / Frog Thor arc.

    2. I was thinking this would come up at the end of the arc–that when Thor finally became himself again, he’d be weak as a kitten! Instead, he beat Loki in a battle of wits and still had enough energy to . . . grow a beard?!?

  7. You can call it a claw game machine all you like. In my heart I know the great althing for rulership of Asgard was decided by a no disqualifications ladder match.

  8. I recall an interview with Simonson that said Frog Thor lifting the hammer was an homage to the classic Amazing Spider-Man #33. (Which has also been used in the new Spider-Man movie).

  9. I am reading these issues for the first time (well, most of them, and first time in sequence) and I love the Frog Thor issues more than I can say. So I loved, loved your podcast!

    You managed to leave out two of my favorites lines, so I’ll quote them:
    – “…I possess powers and abilities far beyond that of any mortal frog!” (364)
    – “Within my body is the strength of many frogs…” (365)
    Both marvelous variations on the standard superhero lines.

    Bradley Coxe: I actually thought of that Spider-man scene while reading it. Not surprised it was intentional!

    Long live Frog Thor!

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