Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Minus Jane Foster, Plus Sif

I once read a book by PG Wodehouse on writing, where he mentioned that as he plotted a new story, he would always track his characters with little notations; +Psmith means that Psmith would enter the scene, while -Jeeves indicates that worthy has exited stage left.

One of the things that always confused me about Thor when I started reading him around 1969 was the difference between the old Thor of the reprints and the new Thor issues on the stands, particularly with regard to the love interest. In the old stories, Thor was enamored of nurse Jane Foster, while in the modern books it was the senses-shattering Sif who held his affections. What had happened to Jane? It was especially puzzling since Stan loved to talk about what happened in issue soandso, and yet here was a change that had occurred quite suddenly that never seemed to get mentioned again. I didn't realize quite how suddenly back then.

As I have discussed in the past, Jane mostly functioned in the series as a convenient hostage. Starting around #130, she became something of a catalyst for stories. She gets a roommate named Tana Nile, who turns out to be the vanguard of an alien colonizing force. That story lasted from Thor #130 to #134.

Then, when Nile hypnotizes her and sends her away, she takes a job with a man she meets on the bus, who turns out to work for the High Evolutionary, creating human-animal hybrids, which becomes the plotline for Thor #134-135.

And then in Thor #136, Jane gets a rare appearance on the cover (she had previously appeared on the covers of Journey into Mystery #99, #100 and #112). This is, of course, the story that I looked for many years ago. Jane is to be turned into an immortal, by order of Odin so that she may be wed to Thor. She gets her transformation:

But she finds it all a little frightening, and Odin, who isn't exactly the kindly father-in-law type decides to really test her mettle, against a horrifying beast called the Unknown:

Well, by this point they've pretty well telegraphed that Jane's not exactly the superheroine type, so she does the "Help me, Thor!" bit. Odin, ticked off, sends her back to Earth, stripped of her powers. This happens on page 11 of the story. By page 14 she's got a new doctor boyfriend. And Thor, who has previously pledged undying love to Jane? He makes it to the bottom of page 16 before he's madly in love again:

That's pretty cold. Although considering what Marvel did to some other inconvenient girlfriends (like Karen Page and Gwen Stacy), perhaps Jane got off rather well.