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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Portrait of an Atlantean as a Young Man

Created in 1939, Sub-Mariner was one of the first superheroes to appear in print (beating Aquaman of DC Comics by two years).

Following World War II, Sub-Mariner and a handful of other Golden Age heroes continued their adventures in the pages of Atlas Comics (a precursor to Marvel). Two Sub-Mariner stories from that period (reprinted in giant-size issues of the Defenders) shed light on the complicated personality of Prince Namor.

During the mid-1950s, the Prince of Atlantis spent his down time in New York, visiting long-time friend Betty Dean. A former reporter and police officer, Betty fed important news leads to the water-breathing hero. One tip helped Namor foil a band of flesh-eating extraterrestrials responsible for an upsurge in shark attacks (Young Men #25).

Namor's aqua-centricism took center stage in "The World Destroyers!" (Sub-Mariner #38). The Emperor of Atlantis had reinstated the sea kingdom's war against the surface world, leaving Prince Namor feeling despondent. Betty suggested that if Namor was under orders to conquer humanity, he should start by taking on the Fatalists, an evil organization with a death-ray device.

To Betty's chagrin, Namor took gleeful solace in the news, callously reasoning that if the Fatalists used their death-ray destroyed every nation, he wouldn't have to go to the trouble.

Betty: If they use it on the surface folk, they'll use it on your people, too! None of us are safe from it!

Namor: Oh, Betty--don't be stupid! They're not amphibious, are they? So how can they reach us? We live at the bottom of the ocean, under the South Polar ice plateau---they'd drown before they could even find us! No, Betty---you're the ones who have to worry about the death-ray!

Betty: Oh--you! I hate you! Get out of here!
After the argument, Namor saw Betty's point. Concerned that the Fatalists might use submarines and diving gear to bring their deadly device to Atlantis, he battled the villainous group.
Captain America and the android Human Torch were other WWII heroes who starred in Atlas Comics. The Prince Namor stories from Young Men #25 (originally published in 1954) and Sub-Mariner #38 (from 1955) were reprinted in Giant-Size Defenders #2-3, respectively. Bill Everett wrote and illustrated those adventures.

1 comment:

Adama said...

Ahhh Namor. As always, a total jerk.

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