Comic dated August 10, 1964
(The Grey Gargoyle / Balder Must Die) This book is at the same time proof that early Marvel is too stupid to justify reading all of it and too awesome to skip. The Grey Gargoyle has an amazingly dumb origin and power set, and Thor / Don Blake resorts to equally stupid contrivances to overcome him.
Paul Duval is an ordinary – one might even say mild-mannered – French research chemist. When his boss distracts him one day, he spills an abnormal mixture on his hand that turns it into stone. He soon discovers that touching anything (people included) turns that thing to stone for an hour. He’s the only one who can move around when petrified; others are immobile. Being an intelligent, rational man, Paul decides there’s only one way to use this gift: crime!
Anyway, in New York, Dr. Don Blake is maundering over the idea that his nurse Jane Foster thinks he’s a coward who recently betrayed Thor to some supervillains. When he confronts her in the visage of Thor, he discovers she loves Don despite his supposed cowardice. This leads to…
Immortal God of Thunder slash perpetual lovestruck tween
Anyway anyway, the Gargoyle is touching down at JFK. He leaves behind a planeload of statues – very subtle. He’s come to New York because he tired of ordinary crime in just a few panels and he’s ready to try his hand at super crime. He sets his sights on Thor for very bad reasons. His logic runs this way:
- Thor is immortal. (Reasonable.)
- Immortality must be awesome! (Also reasonable.)
- Thor’s immortality must come from his hammer. (Huh?)
- All I have to do is get Thor’s hammer, and I will be immortal! (Double huh? Also much, much easier said than done.)
The Grey Gargoyle hits the streets. He dons his supervillain costume, which is the absurd getup pictured here. Blue socks and gloves and an aqua cape. Fearsome! (He does have a cutout in the palm of his glove to give him easy access to his petrifying powers.
He menaces Dr. Don by – gasp! – turning a paper airplane into a stone paper airplane. When he inevitably faces Thor, things almost go his way. It turns out thunder gods are totally vulnerable to ill-defined chemical petrification powers. It also turns out, as us Thor fans already know, that just wanting the hammer really bad is not enough to enable one to lift Mjolnir.
Fortunately, the new statue of Thor is knocked over when the Gargoyle is chased away by the police. He lands hammer-down, converting him back into Dr. Don. Realizing that he’s stuck in the form of Don Blake for another hour, our hero resolves to end the Grey Gargoyle anyway. His sensible solution? Get Tony Stark (unseen on-panel) to rig up a super high-tech 3D film projector to show moving images of Thor, bolt it to the front of a motorcycle, and use it to chase the Gargoyle all over New York. Yes.
Because this is Silver Age Marvel, this plan totally works. The Grey Gargoyle even gets a little credit for using his noggin – for once – in deducing that the projected Thor he’s fighting is a phony. (Projected Thor floats in the air even without his hammer, which Duval knows the real Thor can’t do.) He then finds Dr. Don on his bike and chases him right off a pier. The Gargoyle’s tremendous weight drags him to the bottom, and Dr. Don considers the fight won. The newspapers are quick to give him credit for the win, which doesn’t hurt his rep with Jane.
In the Tales of Asgard B story, “Balder Must Die,” we’re invited to consider Balder the Brave once again. Balder is a hopeless lovey-dovey friend-to-all-living-things character, so it’s no wonder he raises Loki’s hackles. In the last issue, Balder received the gift of immortality, and this really frosts Loki’s cinnamon buns. (Later on, Balder will be gifted with that rarest of all superhero powers – Common Sense – making him one of the most useful guys in Asgard.)
Loki conspires with the fearsome Norn Queen to find a way to kill Balder. She tells him that although every living thing in the Nine Realms was supposed to promise to protect Balder’s life (that’s apparently how Odin’s gift of immortality works), one plant – the humble mistletoe, didn’t make the pledge. Loki has a mistletoe dart crafted and comes within an inch of blowgunning Balder to death when his weapon explodes in his face! The Norn Queen appears in a puff of schadenfreude to explain that while the mistletoe didn’t pledge to protect Balder’s life – she did! Queue sad trombone noise.
Cover image taken from the Comic Book Database. Other images screengrabbed from Marvel Unlimited by myself and used here in a review-type fashion under what I hope is considered fair use.