Thursday, December 10, 2015

Guest Post: If I Had a Buck... It's Entirely Subjective

Doug: As promised last week, here is the second of two recent submissions for your enjoyment from our pal Martinex1. You're gonna get your feet wet on this one...

Mike S.: Ahoy mates! I have another $1.00 challenge for you and it concerns one of my favorite characters in all of comicdom. We recently discussed if we Bronze Age Babies are completest in our collecting; and it made me recall that at a young age I set out on what I thought was an easy task… gathering every appearance of this solo hero. That turned out to be impossible for a kid with meager means, because this guy seemed to touch every corner of the universe.

He was a protagonist and an antagonist. He was Timely and a Marvel. He was an Invader, a Defender, and an Avenger. He was the first mutant. He was a prince and a royal pain in the butt. He loved and he lost. He started wars and tasted defeat. He is part environmentalist and part belligerent neighbor. He had a flat top and wings on his feet. He hassled the Fantastic Four and teamed with dozens more. He was, of course, Namor the Savage Sub-Mariner.

Created in 1939, very much at the onset of powered heroes, it is amazing to me how ever present Namor was in the Gold, Silver, and Bronze Ages. Surely he was one of Marvel’s core properties at the time and seemed to show up in almost every title, in house ads and on merchandise, and even as one of the rotating Marvel Super-Heroes on TV. I am sure we can all sing,

Stronger than a whale.
He can swim anywhere. 
He can breathe underwater and go flying through the air.
The noble Sub-Mariner, prince of the deep. 
So beware you deadly demons for Namor of Atlantis is the prince of the deep.

I liked his persistent frustration and impatience. He was different than other heroes and in my eyes strangely sympathetic. I was struck by his sense of responsibility for Atlantis, and how those duties really weighed on him. Sure he could be a jerk and was quick tempered and reactionary, but he was also lonely and tortured by grief due to the tragic deaths of his wives Lady Dorma and Marrina. 

I was fascinated that he did not always team with the heroes but made decisions based on his own beliefs and acted consistently in protection of his kingdom. He sided with the Allies in WWII, but that did not automatically make him a friend of early Marvel teams like the FF and Avengers. 
There were classic stories and key moments involving Namor, including but not limited to the original Serpent Crown Saga, the creation of the Defenders (or should I say the Titans Three), and the tossing  of Captain America’s icy encasement into the sea. 

I submit that the only thing holding Namor back in terms of sales was his costume (or lack thereof). The Speedo look did not play well amongst my peers, but he got more interest in the redesigned black winged outfit. Also, his attitude was obviously bleak and pessimistic; while I found that interesting, others didn’t like him. I think that he was ahead of his time in terms of the broader and conflicting elements of his disposition and that he really has a nuanced personality. What say you? I hope I am not all wet, and you have favorite Namor stories as well.  

Here are the FOURTEEN selections from different eras and demonstrating the Sub-Mariner’s ubiquitous impact on Marvel (with varying price points of course). As always, have fun and dive right in. 

Sub-Mariner #15; Cover Price $0.12. Written by Roy Thomas with art by John Buscema. In his solo title, Namor was given top notch creative talent, including but not limited to: Roy Thomas, John Buscema, Marie Severin, Gene Colan, and Sal Buscema. Here Sub-Mariner was a powerhouse who fought the likes of the Thing, Captain Marvel, Hercules, Thor, and the Dragon Man. He was no slouch and could pack a punch on land or in sea. There was a great series of covers in this run; including this knock-out blow. He might have fine feathers on his heels, but he is no pigeon!

Alpha Flight #15; Cover Price $0.60.  Cover, story, and art by John Byrne. Subby battles another marital crisis as Marrina succumbs to her dual nature. Cry me a river!

Amazing Spider-Man #211; Cover Price $0.50. Written by Dennis O’Neil. Cover and art by John Romita Jr.  Generators on the East Coast cause all kinds of turmoil for the marine monarch. Q: How do you solve a comic book engineering problem? A: Punch Spider-Man.  Sea beds, Web Heads, and hot heads!

Avengers #282; Cover Price $0.75. Written by Roger Stern. Pencils and cover by John Buscema.  Inks by Tom Palmer. Following the classic Stern/Buscema siege on the Avengers, the creative group went on to have the team face the pantheon of Greek gods. Great storytelling and all out action. Namor was on the team for a relatively long time during this period. No more defendin’, it’s time for avengin’!

Daredevil #7; Cover Price $0.12. Written by Stan Lee. Art and cover by Wally Wood. In a classic tale, Namor needs a lawyer, DD gets a new red suit, and Krang riles up our fishy friends. Don’t bring a billy club to a surface world invasion!

Defenders #54; Cover Price $0.35. Written by David Anthony Kraft. Cover by George Perez.  Interior art by Michael Golden and Bob McLeod (on the Defenders story). In the midst of a confrontation with the Presence and his capture of the Red Guardian, a crisis occurs in Atlantis and the Defenders reunite with Namor in classic undersea action. Grab your oxygen; you’ll need it!

Fantastic Four #195; Cover Price $0.35. Written by Marv Wolfman. Cover by George Perez.   Interior art by Keith Pollard.  Namor has had a long history with the Fantastic Four, going back all the way to their fourth issue when he reemerged into the Silver Age. His on again off again relationship with Sue continues here when she visits Namor’s Hollywood movie studio for a role.   Huh? Yes, not only is he an undersea ruler, but he is a media mogul extraordinaire Water World or Titanic? You be the judge!

Invaders #4; Cover Price $0.25. Written by Roy Thomas. Cover by Jack Kirby. Interior art by Frank Robbins. “U-Man Must Be Stopped” World War II battles from the depths of Atlantis; U better believe it action fans!

Iron Man #25; Cover Price $0.15. Written by Archie Goodwin. Cover by Marie Severin. Interior art by Johnny Craig. Iron Man and Namor have a long history together. The 1968 one-shot Iron Man & Sub-Mariner predated their self-titled books by one month. Subby sticks it to Stark intermittently during his series; this time he’s sick of the toxic waste being dumped in his beloved sea. We need Namor to visit the Chicago River on St. Patrick’s Day!

Marvel Two-In- One #2; Cover Price $0.20. Written by Steve Gerber. Cover by John Romita.   Interior art by Gil Kane. Hydrobase. Namorita. Dakkamites. Tuumar. Zeneg. Wundarr. Amphibians.  And Gerber. Until Atlanteans are allowed to compete in the Summer Olympics, make mine Marvel!

Namor, the Sub-Mariner #3; Cover Price $1.00. Cover, story, and art by John Byrne. “Meeting of the Board” Okay, I know nobody is going to buy this one when you only have a dollar to spend and there are so many cheap classics to choose from. So take Abbie Hoffman’s advice, and protest Namor being a corporate bigwig (who happens to ride on a mutated Griffin through plate glass windows).   Take that, big business!

Sub-Mariner Comics (Golden Age) #11; Cover Price $0.10. Cover by Alex Schomburg. Interior art by Carl Pfeufer. In the wartime Pacific, the Sub-Mariner makes a point (and not with his triangular head). Isosceles Rex!

Super Villain Team-Up #3; Cover Price $0.25. Written by Jim Shooter. Cover by Ed Hannigan.   Interior pencils by George Evans with inks by Jack Abel. Betty Dean is dead! And Namor is madder than a moray eel! If your name is Dr. Dorcas, Attuma, or Tiger Shark, I would run (er… swim) fast! If your name is Dr. Dorcas, I would consider changing your name (especially with Dr. Doom hanging around)! 

Tales to Astonish #100; Cover Price $0.12. Written by Stan Lee. Cover and art by Marie Severin.  The book becomes “Tales to Demolish “when two of Marvel’s angriest battle in the briny deep.  Is Namor strong enough to take on the Hulk?  You betcha!  Yo Gamma Gamma!

So there you have it… decades of drenched drama! Let us know what you are buying and why.  Is Namor neglected or has he outlived his welcome? And if you want to bring up other underwater ultras like Aquaman, Tempest, Stingray, Fathom, or even the Little Mermaid, it’s all fair game.   



Edo Bosnar said...

Nice write-up on Subby, Martinex. You make some very good points.

As to the topic at hand, it's becoming pretty obvious with these posts is that I always go for the cheapest books to get the most out of my buck, so I'm getting Daredevil #7, Iron Man #25, Sub-mariner Comics #11, Sub-mariner #15, Tales to Astonish #100 and, with only 39 cents left, Defenders #54.
Otherwise, I also tried to avoid stuff that I'd already read, and I had that issue of Spider-man (which I remember liking), read a borrowed copy of Marvel 2-in-1 (ditto), and have the Super-villain Team-up (in Essential format) and Avengers issues (the Assault on Olympus is indeed a fantastic story). I also had the Daredevil story in my long-lost Greatest Super-hero Battles book, but that is truly one of the most memorable issues of Daredevil ever so that and the low price made it my first pick. Otherwise, you can't go wrong with a Golden Age book because I think it had over 50 pages, and as for the others, it's always great to see John Buscema drawing Subby, as well as throw-downs with Iron Man and the Hulk, and I'm also curious about that issue of Defenders, given the art team (just a correction: according to the GCD, both Golden and Keith Giffen did the pencils on the Defenders story).

Anonymous said...

Amazing Spider-Man #211, Defenders #54 and Sub-Mariner #15 'cause they've got the best covers (that comes to 97 cents). He'll always be the Sub-Mareener to me but is Namor pronounced Nay-more or Nam (as in Vietnam) - ore ? I've always said Nay-more. And if he's the monarch of Atlantis why is he only "Prince" Namor rather than King Namor ?

Redartz said...

Excellent post, Martinex! A nice, in-depth (pun intended) look at a cornerstone of the Marvel universe. You make reference to a number of Subby's appearances through the years, and his involvement in many pivotal events. This led me to ponder the influences of the other two initial Marvel luminaries: Captain America and the (original) Human Torch. Obviously, Cap has been almost ubiquitous, and the Torch has had numerous appearances (although certainly fewer than Subby and Cap). Now there's a potential question; which Marvel character has had the greatest influence over time on the historical Marvel pantheon?

Ok, time to shop: like Edo, Daredevil 7 tops the list. Add Submariner 11 (how could I not?), Tales to Astonish 100, Defenders 54 and Invaders 4. Quite a bit for the buck. I only passed up Marvel 2-in=1 because I still have that one; an old favorite. Sure did like that blue winged costume...

William said...

Amazing Spider-Man #211 $0.50

Daredevil #7 $0.12

Sub-Mariner Comics #11 $0.10

Iron Man #25 $0.15

Sub-Mariner #15 $0.12

I can't wait to sell that ten-cent Golden Age Sub-Mariner for a couple grand. heh heh heh

Anonymous said...

Actually, Martinex, I probably will blow the whole dollar on that third issue of Namor. Its from a time when I wasn't really reading superhero comics so I don't know it, and Byrne's FF showed that he could have quite the way with old Marvel stuff.

You've got me curious about that issue of Iron Man - Johnny Craig? that might be worth a look - but otherwise.... I like the work of Wally Wood and Marie Severin, but the stories never really did a lot for me.

And frankly, the less said about the Invaders or Supervillain Team Up the better (sorry, Mike)


J.A. Morris said...

I'm going with Avengers 282. It's a bit late in the game, but it's a Stern Avengers story I haven't read yet. I love the Defenders, but that issue is a bit of a mess. David Anthony Kraft had deadline problems, so #53 & 54 needed back-up tales to fill out the issue.

The ASM issue was during O'Neil's lackluster (or is it "lacklustre"?) run on the title. I own it and it's not very good.

Colin Jones wrote:
"And if he's the monarch of Atlantis why is he only "Prince" Namor rather than King Namor?"

I wondered the same thing for years about Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Why was he a Colonel for decades, he was in charge, why didn't he promote himself to general? Back to Namor, I'd guess it has something to do with Namor's mixed/illegitimate heritage (human father,Atlantean mother). Plus, he's often running off to hang out with the Defenders and later the Avengers. But that's just a theory, good question from Colin. Maybe "Prince Namor" sounds "better" for a superhero?

Anonymous said...

I'd have to go with Amazing Spider-Man, Daredevil and Defenders. I think I've read all of them at one time or another, and they're all pretty good. I actually have Alpha Flight's OK, though I never got into the whole "Marrina/Plodex" storyline.

Mike Wilson

Anonymous said...

Great post Martinex! As to the buying, I'm with Edo - looking for bang for the buck. So my list is the same as his but swapping out Defenders #54 for FF #195. I'm a sucker for a Subby/Sue story.

Also, can anyone tell me if I'm remembering something correctly? Did "Namor" come from "Roman" spelled backwards?


William said...

That is correct. The Sub-Mariner was called Namor because it is Roman spelled backward.

Martinex1 said...

Thanks for the comments everybody.

Colin I most commonly hear his name pronounced as Nay-more; that is how it was on the cartoon. Mike W. I really liked parts of the Plodex story and other parts dragged. I liked Marrina's origin and dilemma butt didn't really like the resolution.

I like how Namor was such a powerhouse in the past. Over the years his power level has not stayed on par with Thor and the Hulk and others that he used to spar with. If you haven't read the Serpent Crown story from his first series, it is an interesting story from that era. It was referenced a lot back in the early 70s as an epic, but has lost some luster over the years.

JJ said...

Imperius Rex!

"Decades of drenched drama!" You could have been a bullpen stalwart, Martinex. I thoroughly enjoyed this post. I'm a big Namor fan. If I ever saw him on a cover I was happy to delve into that particular tale.

As you said, he's a nuanced character. Noble, arrogant, high-tempered- he could be quite annoying. But there's something about him, his innate goodness, his immense power, his confidence, that makes him very cool as well. He's one of Marvel's all-time greats.

I still remember when I first saw him: it was a little "Pocketbook" my Mom gave me that reprinted the first five FF issues. When the Torch shaved Namor's vagabond beard with his flame finger to reveal his true identity, I was blown away. Those comics worked well decades later, even when they were reprinted in a smaller size.

I'll take Sub-Mariner #15, Daredevil #7 and Iron Man #25. (LOVE IT when those two clash. They have excellent history, as you pointed out, Martinex) Maybe I'll have enough money left over for some candy.

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