Skurge’s Last Stand by Walt Simonson

I am a voracious reader, devouring almost any book I can get my hands on. When I was younger my reading diet included a lot of comic books. I have very fond memories of my mom walking me down to the corner drug store where I would spend my weekly allowance on a copy of Spiderman, Captain America or the Fantastic Four. I also found out there were comics about this Norse guy – Thor. I just ate that up. I loved reading the mythology books at the library. (The librarian once tried to get me to go over to the kids section with the other kids and I strongly informed her “No, I like these books.”) Now here were more adventures of the Norse God of thunder in comic book form. Even at a young age I knew that it wasn’t exactly Thor: he didn’t have the red hair and the beard; the mythical Thor didn’t turn into a mere mortal; and the Thor of the sagas never palled around with superheroes in the modern day. But I loved those comics because they were faithful to the spirit of Thor.

My hands down favorite issues of the Thor comics are all from the run of Walt Simonson. For two and a half years in the early 80’s Simonson wrote and drew some simply incredible stories. He updated the characters while keeping them true to the essence of who they were. There is so much to like in that run. Simonson wove a saga around the fire-demon Surtur which led to Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods. He had an unknown warrior from a race of aliens not only beating Thor in combat, but proving himself worthy to pick up Thor’s hammer. Yet I have no hesitation in naming my favorite issue from those 2 1/2 years – it has to be #362 “First Blood, Last Man.” The comic concerns a journey by Thor into the very bowels of Hel to rescue the souls of some mortals. Skurge, the Executioner is a long-time foe of Thor but he accompanies the god of thunder on his mission. Skurge had been, well, let’s be blunt and say he wasn’t the deepest of people. His character revolved around the idea of big strong guy with a magic ax to serve as a foil to Thor, the big strong guy with a magic hammer. But Simonson took this basic character and built him into a story that just resonates and thrills at the same time. Skurge’s actions are unexpected, yet they are a logical extension of who he is. I still get a little chill every time I read his final stand, even after all these years and all the times I have read it.

The Norse myths have inspired my writing, but Simonson has too. In my work I try to capture that sense of epic magnitude, where you can tell grand sweeping tales even if they focus on the actions of a small group, or even if they are just about one god or man or Dwarf girl making a stand for something they believes in.

Check out Walt Simonson’s Facebook page here.

Posted by Mark Neumayer

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