Monday, December 5, 2011

Discuss: Why Is Sub-Mariner So Much Cooler Than Aquaman?

Karen: You saw the question - we're not debating whether Sub-Mariner is cooler than Aquaman -that's a given. The question is, why is Marvel's Atlantean monarch so much more interesting than DC's sea-king?


Anonymous said...

I always found Spidey more interesting than Supes, Quicksilver more interesting than the Flash, any of Marvel’s heroine’s more interesting than Wonder Woman, and Subby better than Aquaman. I think Batman has more potential than Daredevil, but as they both had their zenith with Miller, it’s a moot point. I know nothing about the Green Lantern, so please feel free to educate me. Who does he even compare to? The Surfer?

I think Namor always had a more consistent back story and character. The 40’s Aquaman had a whole different origin & powers to the 60’s model. He, of course, had all the DC staples: an arch-enemy who was conveniently his brother, a sidekick called Aqualad, he married a woman who was naturally the Queen of an alternate, water-based dimension, and together they sired Aqua-Baby. Their pets were presumably Aqua-Dogfish and Aqua-Catfish.

Namor (like Doc Doom, Magneto & others) has the classic Marvel thing of being a goodie or baddie depending on your perspective. He has his own set of interests which sometimes conflict and sometimes coincide with humanity’s. He must surely be the first anti-hero in comics? The post-68 rethink of his character & objectives slotted in perfectly with the angsty-post-Spidey generation of heroes and his quest to protect the sea fitted with the environmental movement. He was great in the Defenders and, actually, to my great surprise, even worked OK in the Avengers.

My only gripes with Subby are: (1) how the Hell did fly with those wings? I mean, let’s talk about weight-to-wingspan ratios, people? And (2) .......he’s a bit boring (sorry Bill).


William said...

It's all about the attitude.

Namor takes ZERO crap from anybody... even the Hulk or Thor. He'll walk into the U.N. wearing a speedo, like he's wearing a tux, and dare someone to say anything to him.

Whereas Aquaman wears a shirt that appears to be made out of goldfish skins. "Shudder". Plus he's a bit of "namby pamby" for a guy who's supposed to be a King. They tried to make him more badass in the '90's by giving him long hair, a beard, and a hook hand. But those cosmetic changes also came packaged with a total change of his personality. So, it all seemed a bit contrived and gimmicky to me.

Edo Bosnar said...

Where to start? Richard hits it on the head when he observes that Namor is just a more consistent character - he's always the ruler of Atlantis, which sometimes makes him ally with the good guys and sometimes with the bad (like Doom), and this makes him compelling. And his powers are straightforward: he's just a really strong and invulnerable mofo who can breathe underwater (and fly thanks to those ridiculous tiny wings at his ankles...)
Aquaman, on the other hand, is sometimes just a water-based hero and sometimes the ruler of Atlantis as well. And usually the stories where he's more the latter are better. None of the DC writers ever seemed to be able to make him really interesting as just a hero. But when he's hanging around Atlantis, it always seemed silly to me that he would call himself "Aquaman" when everyone else around him is also an aqua-man or -woman. In that sense, his powers were also kind of ill-defined - o.k. he's apparently really strong (but apparently nowhere near as strong as Supes or Wonder Woman), and he can communicate with all creatures of the sea, but that's only useful when he's in the sea (and which is why he always seemed like a fifth wheel in a lot of his JLA appearances - would have been better if he could also control water like Mera...)
I actually like the version of Aquaman that was featured in those "Just Imagine" stories Stan Lee did for DC - he was basically a guy whose body could turn into water, i.e. literally an aquaman. Simple, yet elegant.

Doug said...

And I think I can sum up DC's own opinion of ol' Arthur by showing their take on the Silver Age Aquaman and Aqualad, DC Direct-style. You'd never see face sculpts like this on the Avenging Son!!


Anthony said...

Is it me or are those DC Direct just one step away from being Ken dolls ?
I agree with all the reasons cited above but I think the cool factor starts with the name - Prince Namor.
Sub-Mariner is also much cooler sounding than Aquaman. My bias also comes from the fact that I am a Hulk fan and I love their slugfests.
Imperious Rex !

Ram said...

The eyebrows give Namor an bad ass look.
And he doesn't take crap from anybody..except Cyclops now a days...some really lame X-men present writing...

Lemnoc said...

Namor spent years after WWII as a derelict homeless vet with memory loss and PTSD. That's badass!

Aquaman's real name is Arthur Curry, son of a lonely lighthouse keeper. That's not.

J.A. Morris said...

Namor wins, even though he's usually written as a d*ckhead.

He's still more interesting has a better rogues gallery than Aquaman:
Attuma,Orka, Tiger Shark, Byrahh, Captain Barracuda, Dr. Dorcas(yes, he has the worst name in the history of villainy, but Lemuel Dorcas helped create Tiger Shark and Orka, so he's important in Namor's history). I still prefer as a Defender,Invader or Avenger than as a "solo" character though.

I've said here before that the only incarnation of Aquaman I like is the one on the recent Brave And The Bold cartoon. What a great reinvention of a 70-year old character!

Unrelated, Karen should appreciate that Ron Santo was elected to the Hall Of Fame, a year too late:

Doug said...

Actually J.A., I'm the Cubs fan. Karen is an A's fan from back in the "Bash Brothers" days.

There's a nice tribute to Ronnie on today, and the guy offers a great link to a short YouTube audiofile where you can hear Ronnie in all his glory.


PS: Some of the comments in this thread are really cracking me up today -- keep 'em coming!

Lemnoc said...

The only thing that could make Namor more nasty cool would be anchors tattooed on his forearms.

nude0007 said...

Of course he could have changed lately, and seems to have, but the Namor I remember was Noble, honest and fair but something of a hothead. Aquaman seemed like a nice guy with powers but was always portrayed as rather ineffectual by DC, like even they didn't know how to use him or make him interesting.

They never seemed to get that he should be about as strong as Namor, and a skilled fighter and tactician. He should also have a lot of other skills that a ruler of a kingdom should have. Basically, Aquaman never embodied his full potential.

david_b said...

One element of character strength is how influenced (or 'swept away', sorry..) they are by current trends. In the mid-60s, it seemed as thougth Arthur was most susceptable to the campy Bat-craze influence (Aqualad, Mera, Tula as Aquagirl, Aquababy, the Rogues Gallery, please stop me here..).

Then the 70s ushered in the Aparo art, much like Batman's mags, and showcased some relevancy stories like GL/GA (pollution, political power ranglings, etc), but they're really just ploys to add depth where none existed.

With Supes having his own strong cast of supporting characters with their own mags like Lois Lane, Jimmy Olson, Superboy (and even WW and GL/GA squeeking by, the latter with continued solo stories..)Aquaman comes out as a prime loser of the DC 'post-Batman TV series' genre.

Even with the edgier writing during the Aparo days, as well as building in some Deadman cross-stories, Aquaman's supporting role in Superfriends nullified any potential progress.

Namor suffered similar plateauing of reader interest in the 70s as well, but he had much more 'character capital' to build off of than Arthur ever did.

Inkstained Wretch said...

I cannot say it any better (or more concisely) than William did. Anybody who would not hesitate to get into a fistfight with the Hulk (and hold his own!) is automatically the winner in the coolness sweepstakes.

This is despite the fact that Aquaman has the better -- or at least less embarassing -- costume. It's off-putting that Namor is almost always drawn half-naked.

Then again, it goes with that whole I-don't-care-what-you-damned-surface-dwellers-think attitude that William describes.

Doug said...

I am one who has always liked the suit Reed designed for Namor. It's just a bit more regal. I know he gets no power from the underarm wings, but it does give off a "more believable" look when in flight.

I believe Alex Ross truly drew Namor as naked throughout Marvels.


Dougie said...

I certainly read more comics with Namor than Aquaman as a kid. The Avenging Son is a more complex character and has better villains, as other posters have pointed out. I was only really interested in Aquaman in the cartoon series or, much, much later when he briefly led the Detroit League.

Does anyone have any thoughts about Namor's period of relative obscurity between the end of the Invaders and his stint in the Avengers (which never quite clicked with me)? That lasted about seven years and, apart from cameos in The Defenders and Alpha Flight, he couldn't get arrested.

starfoxxx said...

Yes, I also think the Marvel characters are more interesting personality-wise than DC. at least back when Marvel editorial staff made sure the writing was TRUE to the characters, a current peeve of mine about modern Marvel comics.

Aquaman needs a battle cry to make him more bad-ass....

Fred W. Hill said...

I don't think I have comics with Aquaman in them but my impression of him is that from his beginnings as a knock-off of Subby, he had the typical nice-guy, cardboard cut-out typical pre-Marvel superhero personality. Namor, on the other hand, was a bad ass from the time he was introduced in 1939, accidentally killing two deep-sea divers because, well, he didn't realize anyone was in those big, bulky diving suits. Then declaring war on the human race and getting into a battle with the (Golden Age) Human Torch, which may have been not only the first superhero cross-over, but also the first continued story in comicbooks (as opposed to the strips). And, of course, when he re-surfaced in the Silver Age, for the first few years he was a villain, battling the FF, the Avengers and Daredevil, among others. Sure, he had nobility as well, but he also had a very bad attitude. Eventually, his heroic side became more prominent, but even in the '70s he was the only character who co-starred in both Marvel Superheroes and Super-Villain Team-Up.

The Lassiter said...

I always liked Namor better because he wasn't trying to be a surface dweller. He played by his own fish eat fish rules. And he was a cool character design.

1) In WWII he joined the Invaders just to stop the Nazis. All the while threatening his allies.

2) Falls in love with Sue Storm. To prove his love, he kidnaps her.

3) Attacks the surface continents how many times?

4) Fights other(?) heroes constantly...and villains.

Aquaman: Fights water villains that don't like...Him. That's most of the reason they show up.
Founding member of the Justice League. Hangs around the pool too much. He is also bossy to the fish in the fish tank.
Has a wife, kid and ward at home. Seems to be dodging his domestic duties.

The B&B cartoon Aquaman is a powerful, charismatic and fun character.

Rip Jagger said...

Namor is angry. That makes him work as a cool anti-hero or even as a villain, depending on your perspective. That's a depth Aquaman can never achieve. Namor is an outsider, both in Atlantis and above the waves. That automatically gives him a complexity Aquaman can never have, for all the variations on a theme they twist.

Rip Off

J.A. Morris said...

Sorry to Doug & Karen for getting confused about their baseball allegiances in re Santo.

I also liked Namor's black costume better than his traditional green "trunks". Not only is it more regal,it was also the costume Namor wore when I first discovered him.

Karen said...

Doug's comments about Ross drawing Namor naked in Marvels had me going back and looking at that book, and by Golly, he's right! WWII Namor is definitely in the buff, with coyly placed tank turrets and other things hiding his, er, you know. Wonder why Ross felt the need to do that?

I've always had a fondness for the green speedos as William calls them. They seemed to add to his vanity and 'screw you' attitude. Plus, other than Conan or Ka-Zar, nobody dressed like that, so it made him unique.

I do think Namor works best as the guy who stirs things up, which usually means appearing as a guest star or team member.

What I don't understand is how Marvel has now labeled Namor as a mutant? Isn't he a hybrid?

Anonymous said...

Wow! Better hope Rob from the Aquaman Shrine doesn't see this. It could mean war.

I love Aquaman, and I like the Sub-Mariner too, but I do agree with (or at least understand) most of the observations here.

Namor was first (1939, as opposed to Aquaman-1941), and he was quite an original character. He was a hero, but for his people, which made him a villian in the eyes of the surface world. Very sophisticated for a 1939 comic book character. Aquaman's enjoyably goofy golden age tales can't compare to something like that. However, by the late 40's, Aquaman was in his golden age prime, while the Namor stories I've seen were hopelessly incompetent.

But I'll say this in Aquaman's defense. Writer's in the 60's and 70's saw the unrealized potential in Aquaman, and worked hard to realize it. He did become a character with more depth to him, constantly trying to juggle life as a hero with royal and family duties. He was still intrinsically a hero. The character just doesn't work when he strays too far into the anti-hero realm. Unlike Namor, who embodies the essence of the anti-hero.

Also, Aquaman had stellar talents like Nick Cardy and Jim Aparo as his main artists. Take that, Namor! Boy, I would've loved to have seen Aparo's take on Namor.

Another thing Aquaman's got going for him. He has a shrine!

James Chatterton

Anonymous said...

Why is Namor more interesting than Aquaman? One word - ATTITUDE!

Namor always had problems with the 'surface dwellers', hence his early run-ins with the FF. Aquaman to me was just another cardboard cutout superhero. DC needed a superhero with water-based powers, so they came up with Aquaman. End of story.

Namor one the other hand was a character who always seemed to be in the thick of things, whether feuding with the FF, Hulk, Avengers, Doc Doom or other major beings in the Marvel universe.

As for one commentator who asked about Namor being a mutant or hybrid - yes he is a human/Atlantean hybrid, but he can also be a mutant too. Hybridism and mutancy are not mutually exclusive - one can be both at the same time. After all, how many other Atlanteans have Namor's tiny ankle wings or his vast strength? I can't think of any. :)

Fred W. Hill said...

It was Stan & Jack themselves who first came up with the idea of Namor being a mutant, in X-Men #7(I think). Prof. X & Magneto were both trying to get him on their side. Of course, Subby took off on his own, but just a few years later he'd be back with Magneto on Kirby's last regular issue of the FF, leaving in the middle of the story.

Vintage Bob said...

I've always liked both characters. I think Aquaman has more often (ie almost always) been given pathetically poor treatment. He's sort of the token water-bound character for groups like the JLA. He was always one of my favorite JLA members, although he definitely did not fit that group, and was more a liability than an asset. But I love that costume! He had some good stories during the Aparo art years.

Namor I've always liked better. Just a far more interesting personality (Aquaman essentially had the personality of 3-day old boiled halibut). I far prefer Namor in that awesome costume with the underarm wings - one of my all time favorite costumes!

I'd argue that Namor could easily take Aquaman in a fight. At worst, as a last resort, Namor could lecture Aquaman until he forces him to swim to shore and drown himself in the open air in order to avoid the oration. LOL!cibe

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