Although Marvel is currently hyping the return of Thor to their modern continuity, I’m not going to talk about that. Instead, I’m going to look at a peculiarity from Thor’s earliest adventures in the anthology comic Journey Into Mystery, which I noticed while reading the first volume of Essential Thor.
After getting Thor off to a good start, artist Jack Kirby left the book towards the end of 1962, due to his heavy workload on other Marvel titles. In his penultimate issue, Kirby drew this unremarkable image of the thunder god carrying Loki back to Asgard in a net. The drawing was then inked by Dick Ayers.
Following an abysmal fill-in issue by veteran comic artist Al Hartley, the reins were handed over to Joe Sinnott to pencil and ink Thor’s adventures. Sinnott is perhaps best known as Jack Kirby’s primary inker on Fantastic Four, and he continued to do inking chores for Marvel through the following two decades. Early in his career, however, Joe Sinnott did a fair amount of penciling jobs as well.
On the first page of his first issue, Journey Into Mystery # 91, Joe Sinnott drew this image of Thor, which looks surprisingly familiar. Note the odd placement of Thor’s right arm.
In Sinnott’s third issue, JIM # 94 (Kirby and Ayers had returned for one issue to introduce a major villain), the same pose appears again, with the cape even closer to Kirby’s original version.
This is what’s known in comic book parlance as a “swipe,” when an artist appropriates a drawing done by someone else and incorporates it into his own work without meaning to reference the original. Often done as a time-saving measure by artists facing a deadline crunch, the “swipe” is a venerable tradition that goes back to the Golden Age. Identifying swipes has long been a favorite pastime of comic book geeks, but here Sinnott makes it way too obvious.
For, in fact, he used the same swipe again in each of his next two issues!
From Journey Into Mystery # 95:
And from Journey Into Mystery # 96:
At this point, Joe Sinnott was taken off the book and the art chores were handed over to Don Heck, until Kirby’s return a few months later. As it is, Sinnott used this one obvious swipe in four of his five issues. That’s a bit of overkill. We may never know if his abuse of the swipe technique was a factor in Sinnott losing the Thor assignment, but even swipe-master Dan Adkins, nicknamed “The Human Xerox Machine,” knew better than to use the same swipe in three consecutive issues!