30 Things I Like About Comics—#10 Louise and Walt Simonson

Walt & Louise Simonson @ Boston Comic Con

Walt and Louise Simonson at Boston Comic Con(photo courtesy Brad Searles's flickr account)

 
Talk about a power couple! Louise and Walt Simonson are two of my favorite comics creators. Whether working independently or as a team, any book that they get a credit on is a must buy for me.

I could go on for days talking about their work, but lets just visit some of their more well known projects.

As a writer, Louise had lengthy runs on Power Pack (which she created with June Brigman who went on to the Brenda Starr comic strip) and New Mutants, two of my favorite series from Marvel. Over at DC, she was a big part of the 1990s Superman line, writing Superman: Man of Steel and later created Steel with Jon Bogdanove during the “Death of Superman” era. Louise has also crossed over from the comics spinner to the bookstore shelf, having written several novels and young adult books featuring DC super heroes as well as DC Comics Covergirls, a coffee table book featuring the history of the publisher’s lady characters.

Walt made a huge splash on the comics scene with his Manhunter backup feature in DC’s Detective Comics. He went on to his now legendary run on Marvel’s Thor, where he was the writer and artist. This really is some of the best Thor stories ever; this period brought us Beta Ray Bill. He also had a similarly successful run as writer and artist on Fantastic Four. Walt has also worked on a bunch of projects for DC, including Orion, New Gods and Hawkgirl.

Power Duo

Walt and Louise Simonson. Photo courtesy Andy Ihnatko (www.flickr.com/andyi)

Together, Louise and Walt had an extended run on X-Factor, where they turned poor Angel into the super awesome Archangel. They also wrote the critically acclaimed Meltdown limited series; a surreal adventure featuring Havok and Wolverine, with art by painters Kent Williams and Jon Jay Muth. Recently they’ve collaborated on a series about the video game World of Warcraft for DC/Wildstorm.

Their legendary careers aside, the Simonsons are super nice and friendly when meeting fans at comic shows. They’ll happily sign anything and love talking about comics.

So What Did I Think About Thor?

So I just received some fan mail about what I thought of the Thor movie. I guess that’s appropriate, since I shared what I thought about Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, and have previously reviewed X-Men: First Class and Green Lantern.

Out of the three comic book/super hero films, Thor stands out to me as the best of this summer’s crop. For those of you who don’t know me, I have admittedly bad taste in movies. If it isn’t really funny or have a lot of explosions, chances are I haven’t seen it.

Even though I’ve been a lifelong Thor fan and wanted the movie to be as awesome as the Simonson and Kirby and Ellis comics, the thought of a super critically acclaimed serious Shakespearean director like Kenneth Branagh directing the film scared me. What if he was going to make the movie serious in tone? What if he tried turning this into an epic like Lord of the Rings…and by that I meant long and painful to watch? What if he decided to turn this into a critically acclaimed piece of cinema?

Well Branagh didn’t do that; he made a perfect Chris film, balancing action and humor. Other people seem to like it as well; Thor has pulled in receipts of almost $460,000,000 worldwide and the movie had many positive reviews. Branagh made Thor in the image of the first Iron Man, where the audience is introduced to the super hero, and elaborate action scenes are passed over in lieu of ample character development.

Stop! Hammer time!

At heart, Thor is a film about family relationships. Odin, king of the Asgardians, has two sons. Thor is the more well liked and respected one, but is ultimately to brash and immature to take his throne. Loki is a bit conniving and genuinely means well, but Thor’s status as Odin’s favored son hurts him.

This family feud ultimately comes to a boil, as Thor is exiled to Earth and stripped of his power by Odin for arrogantly trying to defeat Asgard’s long-standing enemies the frost giants of Jotunheim. Things only get worse in the house of Odin. Loki learns of his true frost giant heritage and becomes enraged at Odin for hiding this from him. As a result, Odin (who is masterfully played by Anthony Hopkins) collapses into a catatonic state.

Loki, realizing this is his only chance to be the ruler of Asgard, takes his adopted father’s throne and plans to destroy Jotunheim once and for all, as a way of showing Odin that he is just as powerful (if not more) than his brother Thor, that he is just as strong a leader as his father, and that Loki would be willing to kill off every single frost giant–even though he himself is one–if it would gain the love and favor of his adopted father. To make sure that Thor doesn’t interfere, Loki convinces him that he should never return.

Ultimately, Thor accepts his humility (as he spends time learning about the human condition and spirit with human scientist Jane Foster) and returns to Asgard. He takes it upon himself to stop Loki, as slaughtering the frost giants of Jotunheim is ultimately wrong. The two brother fight through the realms of Asgard and Jotunheim, destroying the bridge that connects the two realms. Odin comes to stop them from fighting and prevent his sons from being lost in the cosmic abyss. Humiliated by being defeated in front of Odin and now having to reach out to be saved by his brother Thor, Loki would rather fall into the cosmic abyss then be rescued by Thor.

Even though Loki would never believe it, the film ends with Odin and Thor mourn his loss, as they always unconditionally loved him.

There was some comedy, mainly as Thor tried to fit in with the humans. The action scenes of Asgardian viking battle were well executed. But this story is what made this movie.

At the heart of Thor isn’t as medieval battles, instead there is a strong examination of family dynamics reminding us of why we have to be compassionate to others and to strive to be supportive. Loki’s demise is tragic as it was spurned by him never understanding how much his family cared for him.

This was always the theme of the Thor comics and Branagh found a way to tell this epic, grandiose story, making it just as heartfelt and complex as anything Shakespeare could come up with.

And that is why I loved this film.

And if that’s not good enough, Thor comics legend Walt Simonson, his wife and writer Louise Simonson, and longtime editor Ralph Macchio (not the Karate Kid) all make an appearance during Asgaridian banquet scene.