Friday, March 7, 2014

Doug's Favorites: Sub-Mariner 8


Sub-Mariner #8 (December 1968) (Reprinted in Marvel Treasury Edition #9, 1976)
"In the Rage of Battle!"
Roy Thomas-John Buscema/Dan Adkins

Doug: Raise your hand if you recall that wide-eyed feeling you got when you saw a new Marvel Treasury Edition on the newsstand or at the grocery store. I can remember buying (or actually some adult doing the buying on my behalf) each of the big books I have. They are all very special in their own way, and each served as a window to Marvel's (and DC's, if we consider the Limited Collector's Editions) Silver Age past. Today's review comes from Marvel Treasury Edition #9, named in typical Marvel tongue-in-cheek fashion "Giant Super-Hero Team-Up". At the bottom of today's post I'll include a couple of partial scans of my copy, as I know we have readers who like to see a "real" copy of the books we review rather than the pristine images we borrow from the Comic Book Database; on that note, you'll forgive me today for not posting any full-page glory. The mismatch in size between the book and my scanner bed is going to require some craftiness on my part just to get any good images up!  And... onward!

Doug: We open with a splash of a copy of the Daily Bugle in the trash, its front page headlines trumpeting a battle royal between Namor and the Thing. In the background we can see a woman seated at a desk, writing in a journal. As we turn the page, we find that she will apparently be this tale's narrator. There's a sense of urgency surrounding her writing, as she seems intent on getting details into her book. So we begin with a flashback...

Doug: I have never read Sub-Mariner #7, so this is one case where I'm glad for a little retroactive storytelling! Apparently in the last issue Namor was at odds with a certain Paul Destine, who ended up dead. As we join our cast here we find that the Lady Dorma has passed out from a lack of oxygen. She had been taking some sort of pill to aid her in breathing the surface air, and the time for the pill's effectiveness had lapsed. So Namor feels an urgent need to tend to his lady. Problem is, the Boys in Blue have arrived and want to ask the Avenging Son some questions about Destine's demise. Well, we've all known Subby long enough to know he's not in a talking frame of mind. So, one bull rush through the cops later, and Namor's in the air. He and Dorma were with a woman named Diane, and she hails a cab. Once inside she directs the hack to head down the alley, slowly. The driver doesn't go very far when the cab suddenly stops moving! Looking behind, he sees that Namor has landed and has grabbed hold of the back bumper. He and Dorma enter, and the cabbie takes the now-three passengers to a false address. A short walk later, and they are in Diane's apartment.

Doug: Once inside, Dorma is given the drug she needs, and her skin begins to change from blue. Diane says that Dorma must sleep, so Namor retires to the living room. Diane states that the prince really loves Dorma; Namor agrees without hesitation. Diane asks if he ever loved any other person so much. Namor says that he did, once long ago. We then get a flashback-within-our-flashback as Namor recalls the War years when he was often at odds with the surface dwellers of New York City. Our narrator tells of Namor's destructive tendencies as he battled the humans. We meet policewoman Betty Dean, who was brave enough to confront Namor face-to-face. She asked him to stop, and to leave. Namor, respectful of her bravery, complied. But as he left he was confronted by one who could actually match him -- the hero we call the Original Human Torch! We're treated to only three panels of Buscema-battle glory, but it's a fun little ride as we see Subby punch the cap off a fire hydrant to extinguish the Torch. Back to the first flashback, Namor tells Diane that Betty Dean was the one who encouraged him to fight the Nazis. We see a few more panels from the War, including one at the end when Namor bids a final farewell to Betty Dean. As he left, she remarked that although she loved him, he thought of her as only a friend. Diane asks Namor if he loved Betty Dean, which he says he had, why didn't he act on it? He says that a prince of the blood must wed an Atlantean, not a human. But as they talk, Namor's suddenly alerted to a bulletin on the radio. The police have in their custody the helmet that Paul Destine had worn while he had battled the Sub-Mariner. They plan to study it. Namor blasts forth from the sofa and out the window -- the police have no idea of the power that the helmet wields!

Doug: Sceneshift to police HQ, where the commissioner is on the phone with the Avengers. Goliath took the call, but told New York's Finest that neither he nor any of his mates would be able to assist in moving the helmet to Washington, DC. This issue takes place at the same time as Avengers #58, so obviously the Avengers had other things on their minds! Goliath asks if the FF have been contacted; no answer. But suddenly we see the Thing pull up to the commissioner's window -- the FF had gotten the message, and Reed Richards sent the Thing to act as the courier! You know where this is headed... Ben gets the lowdown on the helmet from the commish and a Dr. Miller. They know it's emitting some sort of rays, and could be dangerous. Ben bristles, but a big fat cigar calms him down. Classic Ben. He eventually leaves with the mysterious chapeau. A short distance away, the Sub-Mariner had been laying in wait, just beneath the surface of the river. But the pollution got to him, and disgustedly he burst from the waters to get free from the contamination. Burst straight up, and into -- here we go!


Doug: So if I told you I'd trade you 31 panels of roughhousing between two of Marvel's heavyweights for the low, low price of one dime plus two pennies, would you do it? If you don't mind my saying, you'd be a fool not to! Wow - just wow. Reading this again for the first time in years, there is no doubt why John Buscema has been called the Michelangelo of Comics. Every panel just explodes with energy, the camera angles constantly change, and even the brief respites from fighting are filled with tension. Of course Buscema leaves enough room on the perimeter of the panels for Roy Thomas's dialogue balloons. This story would predate Roy's tenure as scribe of the Fantastic Four, but I don't think there's any reservation if I say "he gets it". He writes Ben Grimm just as Stan Lee would have written him. Ben makes a better antagonist than would the Hulk, simply because of the banter that can take place between the Thing and his combatants -- with the Hulk, funny dialogue stems more from the Hulk's broken English or from situational elements. This battle is all wonderful -- it's funny when Ben speaks, it's pompous when Namor gets a turn. Can you imagine coming to this as a 10-year old, as I did? As the title of today's post suggests, this is one of my favorite comics of my youth.


Doug: So after 7 1/2 pages of "serious scrimmagin'", as Ben put it, Namor is urged to stop just as he intends to land the final blow on his orange-plated nemesis. Namor turns with a typical "Who dares?!?" to be greeted by a Mrs. Prentiss. Namor recognizes her and instantly puts to rest the huge chunk of building he had only moments before held aloft over the Thing. The woman, sensing she has completed her mission, turns to fade back into the shadows. Namor asks her to wait, that they could talk. She declines and says a final good-bye. Namor's face is now calm, as he says that he, too, will leave. Ben comes to his feet for the next round, but Namor almost-politely suggests that they will fight no more -- the helmet came from the depths and to the depths it will be returned. Ben doesn't protest, and asks himself if he somehow won today. Sceneshift to the apartment where we began, to find the same woman completing her journal entry. It was Namor and Dorma's friend Diane Arliss (help me out -- is she Tiger Shark's sister?) who had come to her for aid this day -- come to a woman, now a widow, once known to Namor as Betty Dean. 


Doug: Thanks for indulging me again. I come to this story with a true sense of "what's not to love?" Everything's just about perfect, from the typical quandary that will bring two heroes together as combatants, to Thomas's able scripting, to the the always-beautiful art of Big John Buscema. I've also wondered if I can warm to Dan Adkins's inks over John. I have the Essential Silver Surfer and have read all of the issues that Adkins inked. I suppose he's not bad, but he'd never be my first choice. And it's occurred to me over the years that I'd really like to get my hands on Namor's solo book. I have a bootleg dvd-rom of his Tales to Astonish adventures, and must get 'round to reading those. He's always been an intriguing character, but like many of our readers I've always seen him as a guest-star or as temporary in a team book such as the Defenders or the Avengers. Ah, just more on the to-read list...


23 comments:

Colin Jones said...

Paul Destine was Destiny who wanted to get elected president and then rule the world or whatever Marvel meglomaniacs do. One thing I liked about Namor is he sounded noble and dignified blah blah without all that Shakespearean tosh that Thor indulged in.

Edo Bosnar said...

I read a bunch of these early Subby issues thanks to Marvel's flurry of reprinting activity around 1980.
Love the art by Big John, and generally I agree with you about the story Doug; I remember eating it all up, from the embedded flashbacks to the big slugfest.

Doug said...

Call out to Redartz (hoping he'll be along sometime today) --

I am 95% certain that I will attend the Indiana Con on Saturday the 15th. Are you still thinking of going? I want to meet Englehart, and Perez, Layton, and Buckler will all be there. I feel obligated to stop by their tables and say "thanks!"

Let me know!

Doug

J.A. Morris said...

Here are some good summaries of the Destiny/Paul Destine story:
http://www.supermegamonkey.net/chronocomic/entries/submarinter_1.shtml

http://www.supermegamonkey.net/chronocomic/entries/submariner_78.shtml

http://marveluniversity.blogspot.com/2011/05/november-1968-how-much-is-too-much.html

Edo Bosnar said...

Englehart, Layton, Perez and Buckler all at the same place? Man, here's something I never thought I would say: I really want to go to Indiana...

Doug said...

Oh, it's just as beautiful as Illinois this time of year, Edo!

Our Athletic Director sent an email about an hour ago -- office pool. A dollar gets you in and the question is "When will the last speck of snow vanish from our campus?" If you saw our weather, it's supposed to be above freezing for the next several days, but then followed by some nasty mixed precip. next Tuesday-Wednesday. This has been a winter for the ages in Chicagoland!

Back to the Indiana Con -- my goal, in addition to giving my regards, is to perhaps strike up a conversation and gauge whether or not any of these guys might be open to doing an email interview or Q&A for the Bronze Age Babies. For example, if I get the chance next Saturday you can bet I'm going to ask Stainless Steve if he has a comment about writing Leila!

I'll let you all know.

Doug

Anonymous said...

Doug,

I raised my hand! Loved me some Treasury Editions. And that one had to be one of the best buck-fifty purchases ever.

Thanks again for the memories.

Tom

Edo Bosnar said...

Oh, yeah, *raising hand*, I liked Treasury Editions, too.

Doug, love the idea about establishing e-mail correspondence with those guys, and having Englehart talk about something you're currently reviewing would be most excellent. Otherwise, I'm thinking Buckler would probably be amenable to the idea - I know he's done guest posts on Groove's site and some other blogs as well.

mr. oyola said...

I wish today's comics had such long and well choreographed slugfests.

Doug said...

Osvaldo --

After reading Subby #8, it was difficult even as a 47-year old adult to not get out the Megos or Marvel Legends for a knockdown-dragout. Stories like this one really bring out the kid in us, don't they?

Those were the days indeed.

Doug

Matt Celis said...

Could never get that interested in Namor as a protagonist...I always liked him in Defenders or as a noble antagonist elsewhere. I would like to read more of his solo series but I ain't shelling out $50-$75 for a Masterworks volume. Anybody know of any good reprints that are cheaper?

Redartz said...

(With hand raised) yes, I too loved those big treasuries! It was great having the chance to admire the artwork at a larger size, a pleasure magnified several years later upon discovering the appeal of original artwork...

Doug- yes, I hope to be at the show Saturday as well. Perhaps the remainder of our Hoosier snow will melt off by then! Perhaps we'll bump into each other on Artist's Alley...

Doug said...

I neglected to say that Keith Pollard is also scheduled to be at the Indy Con and is another creator to whom I'd give my kind regards.

Redartz, we can definitely try to meet if at all possible.

Doug

Edo Bosnar said...

Pollard, too? Plus Doug and Redartz? Geez...

Anonymous said...

Tom, I mean Dan, waitaminnit, DOUG. I have been trying to scan my comics and ran into the same problem with my Defenders Treasury Edition. I could not get it to fit on my desktop scanner. And then trying to repaste the images. FORGETTABOUTIT. I was so frustrated. And started to seriously think about FedEx Kinko's.

And then, by absolute accident in trying to reassemble an Image splash page, I hit upon turning the images sideways instead of up and down and the images were so much easier to manipulate. I tried it with my Treasury scans and it worked as well.

I felt like such a dork.

Have way to much fun in Indiana! Vaya Con Dios, amigo....

The Prowler (loving the babelfish).

PS Shout out to the old RB Dept Store for my Treasury Editions and Savage Sword of Conan.

Pat Henry said...

Strikes me the Thing was always the go-to guy in the Marvel Universe whenever you wanted to stage a fight with awesome levels of destruction without going all cosmic scale.

Thing had that knack with witty banter that Spider-man had going, never taking himself too seriously, never holding a grudge for very long, and there was always the real chance Thing could get knocked on his keister even by a middle weight—unlike Thor and Hulk where, if that happened, you'd cry foul. You could team him with just about anyone, from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Definitely the Everyman of the MU.

Redartz said...

Doug- it would be a pleasure to meet you; I'll be the grey-haired fellow with the Dr. Strange goatee and the web-slinger on my chest. Yes, a con still brings out the fanboy in me; have to thank Mr. Buckler for those great Fantastic Four issues...

Anonymous said...

Doug & Redartz, hope you two fly the BAB flag high at Indiana! Wow they don't make comics like these anymore ....

- Mike 'Imperius Rex' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Doug said...

Earlier this evening I saw Superman: The Movie for $5 at Target so I scooped it up for my sons. They've never seen it. However, then I was humming the theme for the rest of the evening.

So.... had to come home and fire up the John Williams title sequence via mp3. Yeah, that stuff last summer? Not Christopher Reeve, the one true Superman.

Doug

Matt Celis said...

What's Kirk Alyn? Chopped liver?

david_b said...

I picked up the treasury edition last year for a steal.. Something like $5 or something, pretty decent copy.

You can't go wrong with Big John, but it's pretty evident (REAL quickly..), that we're really missing Joe Sinnott on inks. Ben's face and overall inking is very disappointing, soorry to say. Namor's done really well, but it's the only true letdown here, taking some good points away.

Other than that, I whole-heartedly agree with the slamfest. It's what all fights should be modeled after, both this and Ben/Hulk's bout in MF 11, and nearly every fight in the Avengers-Defenders clash, pure masterpieces.

Goldenrulecomics said...

I was never a big fan of the Sub-Mariner series and really only found it enjoyable when another hero guest-starred -- as in this issue. Namor stories just seem to be at their best when he is in conflict with other heroes.
One thing I'd like to mention is the cover, which is truly wonderful. This issue appeared in a period where Marvel avoided word balloons on its covers, making so many comics of that era great pieces of art. So many could be posters!
Thanks for bringing back the memories.

MikeS said...

And as always, no innocent bystanders were harmed in the battle that wrecked half of NYC. Gotta love comics!

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