FIRST APPEARANCE THOR & BALDER
Jack Kirby was a major piece of comics history, especially when it comes to Marvel. However, his actual work hasn’t quite so much been touched by the world of action figures. There’s something about his dynamic style that doesn’t always lend itself to toys. Fortunately, Minimates are in a position to offer a more artist-specific figure, as is the case with today’s entry, First Appearance Thor and Balder the Brave!
THE FIGURES THEMSELVES
Thor and Balder were released in the twelfth TRU-exclusive series of Marvel Minimates, which was meant to compliment the Thor/Cap-themed Series 42 of the main line. This set was the Thor component and Cap/Crossbones made up the Cap component.
FIRST APPEARANCE THOR
Series 42 offered up a couple of Thor variants, but the closest we would get to a classic Thor update would be this guy, inspired by his Jack Kirby-penciled first appearance in Journey into Mystery #83. There were some minor details that changed between Thor’s initial appearance and those that followed, allowing for this figure to have a few more unique things going about it. Built on the standard body, the figure is 2 1/2 inches tall and has 14 points of articulation. Thor has seven add-on pieces, used for his hair/helmet, cape/shoulder pads, wrist bands, belt, and boots. Like all of the “classic” Thors before him, he uses the Stargirl wrist bands, which are a solid fit for the character. He also re-uses a standard nondescript belt piece, since the details on his early belt were just different enough that he couldn’t use the already existing belt. His last bit of re-use is the cape, which is shared with the Eric Masterson Thor from Series 42. It’s a good Thor cape. His helmet and boots are new additions. The boots are the best Thor boots to date, which is why they’ve remained the go-to Classic Thor boots since this figure’s release. The helmet, or rather the hair beneath it, is a far more unique piece, capturing the distinctive whisp of hair that brushes out from under the helmet at the left side of his forehead. That’s a very Kirby trait, and it really sells what this figure is meant to replicate. More so than the sculpted parts, the paint is really key to selling the Kirby vibe on this figure. They really got it down, from the distinctive Kirby yell on the face, to that signature shading style on the torso. There are some minor complaints to be had, of course, like the torso detailing being slightly too high, and I know not everyone was in favor of the flat grey helmet, but by-and-large, this is a very snappy looking paint scheme. Thor is packed with his hammer Mjolnir, which is a distinctly different shape than previous versions, following after its look in JiM #83. The head is narrower, and the handle is longer. As with the hair, it may not be standard issue, but it’s a nice attention to detail. It’s even got the “whosoever holds this…” on the side. Also included is Mjolnir’s alternate cane form. Yeah, it’s just a glorified stick, and not super useful without a corresponding Donald Blake, but it’s a cool little extra nevertheless.
BALDER THE BRAVE
Prior to his film in 2011, Thor’s coverage in the world of Minimates included himself and Loki, twice over. The movie and the increased exposure it granted got us a handful of other supporting players, including his *other* brother, Balder the Brave, a character whom has had exactly one action figure ever. Like his brother Thor, this version of Balder is clearly based on Jack Kirby’s version, though he has been toned down ever so slightly so as to better fit in with the other Thor supporting players. Balder has seven add-on pieces, for his helmet, cape, glove cuffs, boots, and skirt. The helmet is a new piece, and its slightly smaller side denotes its Kirby influence. While I’m kind of partial to the ridiculously large helmet from the Simonson-era, there’s no denying that this is a well-sculpted piece in its own right. The rest of the pieces are all re-used. He gets Superman’s cape, Invaders Captain America’s boots, Cap TTA’s gloves, and a classic BSG skirt. It’s a well-chosen selection of pieces, and makes for quite an accurate looking Balder. Balder’s paintwork is pretty solid work as well. As noted above, he tones down the Kirby-styling a little bit, but it’s still definitely there, especially on the face. Overall, he’s got an attractive color scheme, though perhaps one that’s not quite as exciting as Thor’s. Included with Balder is his magical sword. Don’t tell him, but it’s actually the same standard sword we’ve been seeing since Valkyrie.
THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION
At the time of this set’s release, there were a few options for a classic Thor, but prior versions had always seemed to be lacking something. The First Appearance look may be little more appearance-specific than others, but swap out the hammer for a more standard issue one and you’ve got a really solid take on the main God of Thunder. And, while he may lack some of Thor’s flair, but Balder is undoubtedly a well-put together figure, and an essential piece of any proper Thor collection. If he was only going to get one ‘mate, this one’s a pretty decent one to get.