Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Many Roads To Rutland!

One of Marvel's great villains is of course Thor's arch-nemesis and brother Loki, the God of Mischief. He has appeared in countless comics over the decades, one of the more reliable doers of evil in the whole MU. But when he took a turn as one of two arch villains in the clash between the Avengers and the Defenders he was temporarily blind. This is the story of how he got that way.

The tale begins in Thor #206 with the return of the Absorbing Man, another great Thor baddie. He falls from the heavens and immediately begins to tear up the countryside until he is encountered by Sif and Hildegarde, two Asgardians spending time on Earth. But he wants Thor and eventually the two mix it up in a great donnybrook drawn magnificently by John Buscema and Vince Colletta.

At the same time a mysterious man appears at the door of Tom Fagan, the fan and sometimes promoter of the Rutland Halloween parade. That stranger turns out to be Loki who has enthralled Fagan to his own ends.

In the next issue, Thor #207, titled "Fireswords" the Rutland Parade is the backdrop to a tale which sprawls across three comics and two companies. (More on that later.) Thor and his Asgardian allies chase the Absorbing Man to Rutland and defeat him there. Then Loki appears with Satan and Diablo, two dogs owned by Tom Fagan but transformed by Loki into killing machines. Drawing a mystical firesword Loki engages Thor in one-on-one combat and appears to be winning until Karnilla, the Queen of the Norns appears and for reasons of her own whips up a ferocious storm. This storm emits lightning, which blinds Loki who runs away screaming and is almost hit by a car and runs over a cliff not be seen again for some time.

That car as it turns out was owned by Steve Englehart and was the vehicle used by Len Wein his wife Glynis Wein, and Gerry Conway who were attending the Rutland Halloween event. Their adventures are chronicled not only in this issue of Thor but also in Amazing Adventures #16 starring The Beast where we again meet Tom Fagan and see Hank McCoy battle the Juggernaut, last seen in the pages of Doctor Strange.

And further, the misadventures of our Bullpen associates continues in the pages of DC's Justice League of America #103.

The Rutland parade was a big deal for fans of the time when superheroes were far from being as ubiquitous as they have become in our modern society. There was a kitschy coolness to the parade which for one time a year seemed to celebrate the four-color escapades.

Now in the scene above that's really the JLA on that float which means it's really the Superman and Batman in the background of the splash page of the Thor story. Neat little trick by Wein and Englehart to crossover these heroes between two competing companies.

The story in the JLA briefly is that the Phantom Stranger tells the League to go to Rutland to battle the threat of Felix Faust and when they do they find Halloween versions of heroes there who have been possessed by demons. They battle a "Commando America", a Thor lookalike, as well as versions of the Golden Age Flash, Captain Marvel and Adam Strange. Even Glynis Wein who is dressed like Supergirl ("Power Girl" in the Marvel rendition) becomes part of the threat. They defeat the threat by themselves being defeated and the Stranger uses a counter spell to win the day. Faust in frustration steals Englehart's car, a crime we see from another vantage point in the Beast story, and the same car which hit poor blind Loki in the Thor story. Sigh. 

It must've been great fun for the creators of these comics to put themselves into the mix (as well as Roy Thomas and his spouse). That little conceit was a part of all these Rutland stories which were a not uncommon gimmick in the Bronze Age.

But as promised at the very least it does explain why the next time you see him, Loki is blind. But we'll get back to that story in a few days when we look at the famous Clash between the Avengers and the Defenders. It's coming soon to a blog near you, but we have a few more stops to make tomorrow. 

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  1. Had Thor #207 back in the day, have a reprint of it in a Masterworks volume nowadays. I never knew about the DC side of the Rutland celebrations 'though, so that was interesting to learn.

    1. I would love to see someone collect all the Rutland comics. It would require quite a bit of work as both DC and Marvel and a few other publishers are involved as I recollect.

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