Twenty-one years have passed since Tom DeFalco was placed in the unenviable position of following Walt Simonson’s popular and critically acclaimed run on the Marvel Comics series, The Mighty Thor. In 1987, finding an audience could have potentially proven difficult for DeFalco in the wake of such quirky Simonson ideas as Thunder Frog and Beta Ray Bill, but the incoming writer had an unlikely ace-in-the-hole in the form of new series artist Ron Frenz, Together these two men forged an alliance that lasted for well over five years on the venerable title - - - one that ultimately took the readers on a wild ride that was highly reminiscent of the Marvel of Days Gone By.
Under DeFalco & Frenz, Thor was less edgy in appearance than it was under Simonson, but the book was certainly more traditional. The two men were initially joined by finishing artist/inker Brett Breeding and for more than a dozen issues starting with #383 (September 1987) they collectively crafted a thing of beauty. Their art truly glistened on the page and easily held up to anything that had come before. Steeped in an obvious appreciation of the works of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and John Buscema, these pros treated fans to a round of epic storytelling on a par with the Marvel Universe from two decades earlier. The Son of Asgard found himself grappling with the gods of Celtic and Egyptian pantheons, challenging the cosmic deities known as the Celestials for the fate of an alien world, and Thor repeatedly battled against a couple of all-new, pesky villains called the Mongoose & Quicksand. Established world beaters like Dr. Doom and the High Evolutionary appeared, we were shown how a young man from a dystopian future proved to be worthy of the mantle of Thor, and with the Thunder Gods original secret identity of Dr. Donald Blake long since retired, Thor even gave up his newer Sigurd Jarlson alias to become Eric Masterson (an identity which was soon spun off in its own title as another hammer-wielding-hero, Thunderstrike). Marvel Comics also chose to premiere their new teenage super-team, The New Warriors, during this memorable run. Now that’s a vote of confidence!
After the all-too brief stint of Brett Breeding ended, "Joltin" Joe Sinnott stepped in for quite a while, but eventually Al Milgrom provided the on-going inkwork over Frenz looser pencils. Other veterans who helped out included Don Heck, Herb Trimpe and Romeo Tanghal. Rather than stumble in the wake of an acclaimed effort, the team of Tom DeFalco & Ron Frenz surged for 77 issues and reminded fans of what real comic book magic (ala the House of Ideas) was all about.
That was some good stuff, indeed. I think the last time Marvel was really good was under DeFalco. He "got" (still does!) what Marvel really should be.
Frenz deserves more acclaim than he gets, too!
I enjoyed many of the Thors from this era. DeFalco really seemed to groove in the concept of Thor as a superhero. Pure comicbook fun. I really liked Kevin Masterson, getting back to the original idea of Thor as a man who happened to have the powers of Thor and followed them to Thunderstrike.
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