Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Even Lois Lane would find this cringeworthy

As I said on Monday, Marvel upped its game amazingly between Fantastic Four #1 and the end of 1965. Stan Lee and his collaborators had become masters of continual narrative stretching over multiple issues. That makes the Harris Hobbs arc in Journey Into Mystery all the more surprising because it makes no sense whatsover.

Things kick off in #120, after Thor has defeated the Destroyer for the first time. As I mentioned previously, when Thor returns to Dr. Blake’s office he discovers that Jane Foster never found another doctor to fill in while he was gone. Instead, the office is empty. Apparently it’s been abandoned for months.Spoiler: it’s not because Jane got a better job offer.

What’s going on? Jane’s in love with Don Blake so why would she hide from him? Who is the mystery figure giving her orders? It turns out even she doesn’t know.Finally, the masked man lets Jane call to Thor for help. The Thunder God immediately enters the apartment and becomes Dr. Blake to take the woman he loves into his arms. But guess what? It’s a trap!So let me see if I’ve got this straight. Hobbs kidnaps Jane and holds her prisoner for more than a month … so that he can get an exposé on Thor’s secret identity? Lord knows, Lois Lane came up with some pretty contrived schemes to prove Superman was Clark Kent but even she’d roll her eyes at this.

I could forgive this if there was a cool payoff to the arc but there isn’t. In return for burying the secret-identity scoop, Hobbs persuades Thor to take him to Asgard. There he watches Thor and Absorbing Man throw down. Hobbs doesn’t affect the outcome. He doesn’t get a front-page story because Thor wipes his memory. If Hobbs wasn’t in the story, nothing would change.

Possibly, like so many later writers, Lee and Kirby launched this subplot with no idea how it would pay off, then couldn’t think of anything good. Or Lee vetoed whatever ending Kirby had in mind and they went with Hobbs as a Hail Mary play. Or for some reason they liked this plot and didn’t see the flaws.It doesn’t hurt the caliber of this run of Thor, a multi-issue arc which moves from the Trial of the Gods through the battle with the Destroyer to Crusher Creel attacking Asgard to Hercules arriving in New York, all without missing a beat. But even so, it’s pretty idiotic.

#SFWApro. All art by Jack Kirby.

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