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Thor: 10 Best Comic Issues of the 1980s | ScreenRant

When people talk of Marvel's Thor comics from the 1980s, they're talking about Walt Simonson's iconic run on Thor #337-382Reprinted several times over the years, these issues defined the character in the '80s. Thor had undergone a lot of so-so stories in the previous decade after Jack Kirby left, and the character saw little overall growth. Different directions started and were dropped, creatives came and went. Thor was directionless.

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Meanwhile, Water Simonson had been a comics pro for over a decade, known for his creation Star Slammers and the co-creation, Paul Kirk, Manhunter, over at DC. Simonson worked on X-Men briefly before taking over Thor in 1983, and he wrote and drew the book (handing off art chores to Sal Buscema after a couple of years) until 1987. Simoson turned Thor back into the cosmic epic it was before, and he added even more family drama and Norse mythology. His work became the defining run for the God of Thunder.

10 Thor #363, By Walter Simonson - This Kursed Earth

Kurse has come to Earth, bent on revenge, and destruction. He comes upon Thor and, believing Thor caused him to be cast into a torture pit, he fights him. Halfway through pages of epic battle, Kurse realizes it was not Thor but the Dark Elf, Malekith the Accursed. Thor and the Power Pack defeat Kurse.

This issue is a Secret Wars tie-in, and despite the integration of the Marvel Universe crossover event (which tends to stop any story), Simonson is able to move things forward and advance his own plotlines while still serving Secret Wars fans. Readers get Asgard, Loki, New York City, the Power Pack, Beta Ray Bill, the Beyonder, and Thor, an epic fight across New York, and a couple pages of Thor philosophy, all in 22 pages.

9 Thor #346-348, By Walter Simonson - The Wild Hunt

The hunt is on for an old veteran in possession of the Casket of Ancient Winters. The vet has no idea what it is, but Thor wants it out of human hands. He's paralleled in his search by Malekith, who wants the power of the casket. They both scour New York for the casket.

These three issues are packed with plot, incidents, callbacks, characters, and dynamic visuals — almost too much. This was before the current "decompressed" storytelling in which an entire issue might be spent on something that would have been just be a page, or even a panel, in times past. Here, in order to keep readers caught up, Simonson cuts back and forth between the various plotlines. It can be breathless at times, but it's some of his most deft storytelling.

8 Thor #382, By Walter Simonson, Art By Sal Buscema - Journey Into Mystery

The Ice Giants attack Asgard. Thor, inhabiting the Destroyer, tricks Hela into restoring Thor's actual body. Thor then defeats the Ice Giants and Loki offers to restore Asgard for safe passage home.

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This was Simonson's final issue and the 300th issue since Journey Into Mystery's title was changed to headline Thor. It was an epic run in every sense of that word, taking Thor to the breaking point and back, even turning him into a frog for three issues. The dynamic of the Thor family — Thor, Odin, and Loki — was defined and refined to highlight the bonds (and resentments) that kept them together.

7 Thor #378, By Walter Simonson, Art By Sal Buscema - When Loki Stood Alone

Loki has kidnapped Iceman and is now fighting off the Frost Giants who want Iceman's powers for their own. Thor, weakened by Hela who made his bones brittle, summons mystical armor to protect himself and defeat the Giants.

Here we have a broken and beaten Thor, found by Loki in a heap and used by him to distract the Giants so Loki can escape. Thor has to do something distasteful for him: rely on mystical armor to protect him rather than his own strength and intelligence. It does the job, allowing him to win the fight despite broken bones, but the victory brings him no joy. The armor itself has a bold design, and Thor will use it for several issues.

6 Thor #344, By Walter Simonson - Whatever Happened To Balder The Brave?

Balder the Brave, a classic Marvel Comics hero yet to appear in the MCU, is entrusted by Odin with a letter to Loki. Balder agrees, with the oath that he will not raise his sword or take a soul. However, Balder is attacked, captured, and sentenced to death by Loki. Balder escapes and is forced to break his oath to save his life. Loki throws away Odin's letter, and Balder cuts off his head. Loki just puts it back on again.

The entire kidnapping and death sentence was an elaborate joke on Loki's part, done without thought or care. The story is an exploration of one man's honor, honesty, reputation and how those attributes can be pushed to their breaking point. Balder, having been killed by Loki and suffered damnation in Hel, doesn't want anyone else to have to suffer. Forced to kill to save his own life, Balder is furious to the point of madness, while Loki doesn't care. Because he's Loki, that's his tragedy.

5 Thor #364-366, By Walter Simonson - Frog Thor

In another attempt at the throne, Loki transforms Thor into a frog. Stranded in Central Park, Thor must fight the sewer rats who want to kill his fellow frogs and poison the New York reservoirs. Thor defeats the rats, finds Mjolnir, gets to Asgard, and gives Loki an epic beating (filmed for the Disney+ series, but cut).

Simonson may be known for his epic art and storytelling, but he had a sense of humor as well, and Thor never showed his compassion and humanity more than when he was a frog defending other frogs against the injustice of the rats. In this story, Thor demonstrates that all life is important to him.

4 Thor #380, By Walter Simonson - Mjolnir's Song

Thor takes on the Midgard Serpent, which has been prophesized to kill him. Thor struggles to defeat the monster but eventually does in an epic battle of all splash pages. Simonson uses splash pages to depict the enormity of the Serpent and full-page panels to depict the battle.

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Simonson is a master designer, and his art looks and feels like no one else's. This issue,  in particular, is a joy to behold with its full-page splashes and panels. Every page could be a poster. Stories and art such as those on display in this issue are why comics fans still talk about Simonson's legendary run on Thor.

3 Thor #337-340, By Walter Simonson - The Ballad of Beta Ray Bill

Bill's ship tags Thor as a threat. He attacks Thor, who reverts to Don Blake. Bill picks up Mjolnir to become Thor. During the battle for Mjolnir, Bill wins but refuses to kill Thor as he sees the honor of the man. For this, Odin gifts him a hammer of his own named Stormbreaker.

These are Simonson's first issues of Thor, and they start his run off with a splash. having an unknown character show up and defeat the hero, take his main weapon, then defeat him again. Bill became a popular character in his own right. He developed into a regular in the Simonson run on Thor, reappearing several times to help Asgard defend itself against the demon Surtur.

2 Thor #362, By Walter Simonson - Skurge's Last Stand

Thor and a team of Asgardians, including Skurge, invade Hel to free trapped souls. As they retreat to Asgard, they're pursued by Hela's forces. Skurge makes a heroic stand on the Rainbow Bridge to allow them to escape.

"Skurge's Last Stand," is a story that shows why Simonson's Thor run was so good. It's the redemption of a D-list character formerly treated as a joke. No one knew Skurge had it in him. Skurge himself didn't know he had it in him. The redemption of a major character is the everyday stuff of comics, but the convincing redemption of a minor joke character is partly why Simonson's run is beloved to this day.

1 Thor #340-353 By Walter Simonson - The Surtur Saga

Simonson had been building up to this storyline for two years, and he delivered in 13 climatic issues. Over the run, reader saw images of Surtur, evil and dark, slowly building up power, ending each issue with a forboding "DOOM!" By Thor #339, the demon was at full power and coming for Asgard. All of Asgard has to take part in the fight for survival.

In a telling bit of character dialogue, the characters shout out reasons for fighting Odin: "Asgard!" Thor: "Midgard!" Loki: "Myself!" It's a battle as epic as Helm's Deep. The battle ends with Odin's sacrifice of his own life. There are many callbacks and outright steals from the Simonson run in the Thor movies, particularly Thor: Ragnarok. But that's understandable given how defining his run on the character still is today.

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