S is for Sub-Mariner

I now have the two more Masterworks covering Sub-Mariner stories I once owned, a couple of the Defenders, and one of the Golden Age Sub-Mariner, naturally featuring Everett’s story and art.

When I got suckered into reading comic books when I went to college, I started with a couple of comics that were #1s, but also Sub-Mariner #50. My girlfriend at the time and later my wife, the Okie, was particularly fond of Namor, the character with ears like Mr. Spock from Star Trek. As it turned out, the Sub-Mariner long predated the Vulcan, but did have a thing or two in common.

From the Marvel Universe: Namor’s father, American seaman Leonard McKenzie, embarked on an expedition to Antarctica in 1920… McKenzie set explosive charges to break up ice floes in the ship’s path, unaware that Atlantis lay beneath the waters. The city sustained heavy damage, and Atlantean Emperor Thakorr commanded his daughter Fen to investigate the cause of the explosions… In a strange twist of fate, Fen and McKenzie quickly fell in love and were married. Thakorr, fearing his daughter had been kidnapped or killed, sent an Atlantean war party to search for her. Thinking her a captive, the Atlanteans slaughtered McKenzie’s crew and apparently McKenzie himself. Afterward, Fen returned with the War party to Atlantis. Nine months later, Namor was born the first known Homo sapien – Homo mermanus hybrid.

So Namor, like Spock, was part homo sapien. On the other hand, while Spock was cool, Namor could be a bit of a hothead. The king of Atlantis has had several alliances over the years, but he has always chafed at being ordered about.

Wikipedia notes that Namor the Sub-Mariner was created by Bill Everett and “first appeared publicly in Marvel Comics #1 (Oct. 1939) — the first comic book from Timely Comics, the 1930s-1940s predecessor of the company Marvel Comics. During… the Golden Age of Comics, the Sub-Mariner was one of Timely’s top three characters, along with Captain America and the original Human Torch. Everett said the character’s name was inspired by Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem, ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.’ Everett came up with ‘Namor’ by writing down noble-sounding names backwards and thought Roman/Namor looked the best.”

So I felt extremely lucky that the very first issue of Sub-Mariner I purchased featured the return of creator Bill Everett! Unfortunately, declining health meant that he contributed to only about a dozen stories before he died in 1973.

Still, I was hooked on this outsider with a bit of a chip on his shoulder. That particular run ended with issue 72, but I followed him when he joined the anti-group, The Defenders. But I needed more. Fortunately, I discovered the back issue market, as I described here. I also noted how I had gotten rid of my comics, but now have replaced some of them in hardcover book form. In addition to the ones mentioned, I now have the two more Masterworks covering Sub-Mariner stories I once owned, a couple of the Defenders, and one of the Golden Age Sub-Mariner, naturally featuring Everett’s story and art.

I must admit that I haven’t kept up with his development over the past couple of decades – one can read more here – but I’d still number him as one of my favorite comic book characters.

ABC Wednesday – Round 11