Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Asgardian love, exciting and new

The love affair between Thor and Jane Foster was a staple of Thor’s strip from the beginning. In Thor #136, it came to an end.

It wasn’t a well-written relationship in the early stories. First we have Don Blake reluctant to speak the L-word because he’s a disability cliche convinced Jane “might pity a weakling like me … but she could never love me!” Then we had the story where Jane walks out on Dr. Blake to work for a doctor apparently notorious for harassing his nurses, which is offered as proof the guy is a Real Man, not a wimp like Blake.

Eventually they got past all that and the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby flair for melodrama kicked in. Thor/Don loves Jane, wants to tell her about his dual identity and then marry her but Odin refuses (too bad Thor wasn’t Olympian — they were all about banging attractive mortals). This leads to bad things, like Odin stripping Thor of his powers just as he’s going mano-a-mano with Hercules. Over time, though, Jane’s unfailing love and support for Thor made Odin realize he was being a dick. In #136 it looked like Jane/Thor (Jor? Jar?) would finally get their HEA.

Odin’s still not down on mortal/Asgardian mixed marriages but there’s a solution: bringing Jane to Asgard “To Become an Immortal!” Like a lot of mixed-race relationships, however, Jane suffers some culture-shockJane’s prospective father-in-law makes it clear she’s only acceptable if she conforms to Asgardian standards.So far so good, but Odin wants Jane to prove she deserves to be part of his family. He sets her against the monstrous Unknown; understandably she freaks out and begs Thor to save her. He does, but facing down the monster convinces Jane she has no place in Asgard.

Odin agrees: fear feeds the Unknown but until Jane showed up, there was no fear in Asgard to nourish it. Jane Foster is the weakest link and gets sent home like the loser on a quiz show. But just like a quiz show, Odin the MC gives her fabulous parting gifts!Thor is so despondent at losing his dream girl, he heads out for a showdown with the Unknown, convinced dying in battle would be better than living without Jane. It looks at first like the Unknown will grant his wish but in the nick of time Heimdall’s kid sister Sif shows up to save the day. And look, she’s all grown up!I have mixed feelings about the story. Lee and Kirby do a good job showing Jane cracking under her pressure and it’s perfectly plausible she would. Then again, it’s plausible she’d have risen to the occasion. As my Silver Age reread has reminded me, Jane’s been through some crazy stuff already: kidnapped by Loki, threatened by the Grey Gargoyle, hunted by the Executioner, used as bait by Cobra and Hyde, kidnapped by Harris Hobbs and most recently recruited as a teacher for the High Evolutionary’s Neo-Men. It wouldn’t be surprising if she’d leveled up, and it would have been fun to see her as a new Asgardian, looking at Thor’s world and the superhero life through her formerly mortal eyes.

Clearly Lee and Kirby weren’t interested in going that way; fair enough. It’s not like Sif didn’t work as a love interest and Jane’s disappearance didn’t weaken the series. I know from previous readings there are some great stories ahead. However the ending of Thor/Jane (Thane?) is not one of them.

Odin’s obviously mindwiped Jane about her trip to Asgard and manipulated events so she’s working for Don Blake’s lookalike. She’s falling for Dr. Kincaid so fast, it makes me wonder if Odin had a hand in that as well, which would be creepy but not out of character for the All-Father. That in turn makes me wonder if he didn’t set her up to fail — as a friend of mine says, flight isn’t much of a power against the Unknown, particularly when locked in a room with it. Or perhaps Odin thought he approved but was unconsciously setting his thumb on the scale.

I’m sure Lee and Kirby didn’t see it that way. On the contrary, it was Odin showing how magnanimous he was, giving Jane a HEA despite her mortal failings. But that’s not how it reads. Then again, Thor is neither mindwiped or enchanted but he gets over his feelings for Jane just as implausibly fast. It would have worked better if Thor kept hurling himself into a couple more suicide missions while Sif and maybe the Warriors Three keep saving his butt. Eventually it would start to sink in that yes, maybe he could love again.

Lee and Kirby were apparently the ones who were ready to move on, and they cast the deciding vote.

#SFWApro. All art by Kirby, natch.


  1. Peter

    I actually like this story quite a bit; I found Jane Foster to be easily the worst-written of the early Marvel love interests (which is saying a lot when you have Stan Lee writing Karen Page or Pepper Potts) and it was time for that romantic subplot to end. The story really felt stark in how it showed that the delights and wonders from Kirby’s imagination could actually be quite freaky and unsettling if you observed them in real life. Binge-reading these stories, this particular issue’s tone stood out as a good change of pace.

  2. A fair point, though I’m not sure Jane was really worse than the others. At least Pepper’s sitcom sniping with Happy was amusing — I never bought her as a romantic figure for Tony though, even after she glammed up.

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