Episode 139: Superheroes … without powers? (Journey Into Mystery #107) -- August 1964
In this episode:
Mike and Ed discuss the heroism of Dr. Donald Blake, who single-handedly defeated the French supervillain, the Grey Gargoyle. What defines a superhero? Do you need superpowers, or is it enough to take on supervillains? And why was Blake on his own to begin with? Was he left out to dry by Thor because of his recent betrayal? Is the god of thunder a petulant god? Also: Why was one news agency in particular given access to the battle footage? What did they have to agree to in order to have exclusivity? Is it fair for a government-funded organization to negotiate that way? And what does it feel like to be turned to stone?
Behind the issue:
This issue introduces the Grey Gargoyle - the first super from France. Lee also uses the trope of “Avengers” and “StarkCorp” resources to allow his heroes to get access to any sort of extraordinary equipment the plot needs - in this case a portable holographic projector. But the most impactful element of this issue was requiring Donald Blake to be the hero. The idea that “being a hero is not about your powers, it is about stepping up and doing the right thing” is a common plot line in many modern re-tellings - perhaps most memorably in the film Iron Man 3, where Tony Stark needs to save the day with just his own brains and courage without being able to rely on his armored suit. This was one of the first issues to explored that idea.
In this issue:
Thor learns that Jane loves his alter ego, Dr. Donald Blake, which leads him to fly through the city like a lovesick teenager. Meanwhile, the Grey Gargoyle has landed in New York City. He has the ability to turn people to stone for an hour at a time, and it doesn’t take much for him to show of this terrifying ability. He had developed this power through a lab accident, which is fairly common for superpowers these days. He decides to use his powers for crime, and to also challenge the Mighty Thor. He gets his wish and battles the god of thunder, but is ultimately defeated by Thor’s alter ego Dr. Donald Blake, who uses a holographic projector to trick the Gargoyle into following a projection of Thor to the river, where the Gargoyle sinks to his apparent demise.
Assumed before the next issue:
People have forgiven Dr. Donald Blake for his past betrayal of Thor.
This episode takes place:
After Blake has defeated the Grey Gargoyle.