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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Generation Gap

When Marvel Comics launched Fantastic Four #1 (Nov. 1961), the youngest member of the new team was already recognizable. Teenage Johnny Storm matched the the powers and codename of Jim Hammond, the Human Torch who fought during World War II. So it was only fitting that the Human Torch was the first of Marvel's new generation of heroes to meet a crimefighter from that earlier era.

Fed up with the bickering among his teammates, Johnny took a breather from the Fantastic Four and checked into a rooming house (F.F. #4). Happening upon a Sub-Mariner comic book from the 1940s, the young hero recalled what he had heard about the fabled Prince of Atlantis.

Johnny Storm: (Thinking) I remember sis talking about him once! He used to be the world's most unusual character! Yeah, just like sis said, he could live underwater, and was as strong as ten men! He was supposed to be immortal!

Those thoughts spoke volumes.
  • The strength of ten men may have sounded impressive at the time. But like many of Marvel's strongmen, Sub-Mariner would prove to be far more powerful in future issues.

  • Suggesting that Prince Namor could be immortal—or at least long lived—allowed him to keep his World War II backstory and still look relatively young no matter how much time elapsed.

Back at the rooming house, Johnny Storm intervened when a fight broke out between a group of locals and a boarder who suffered amnesia and exhibited unusual strength.

Using his flame powers as the Human Torch, Johnny hoped that trimming the destitute man's unkempt hair would help him regain his memory.

Lo and behold, the clean-shaven stranger turned out to be none other than the legendary Sub-Mariner!

Though none of the characters mentioned it at the time, the return of the Sub-Mariner in Fantastic Four #4 was an almost reunion. After all, the Prince of Atlantis frequently fought alongside the original Human Torch (and sidekick Toro) during World War II.

Fantastic Four. Vol. 1. No. 4. May 1962. "The Coming of … Sub-Mariner!" Stan Lee (writer), Jack Kirby (penciler), Sol Brodsky (inker), Art Simek (letterer).
The Human Torch #5 (Summer 1941) was one of the many instances when Sub-Mariner teamed up with the original Human Torch.

1 comment:

pblfsda said...

Published right after but taking place immediately before the Defenders debuted in Marvel Feature (fall of 1971) there was a multi-issue storyline in Namor's own title where he lost his memory again. As far as I know, it hasn't been reprinted in either the Masterworks or Essentials. The jist of it is that Dr. Doom and Modok were fighting for control of the Cosmic Cube when Doom discovers that his old pal Namor has lost his memory and decides to use him as a wild card in the conflict. The kicker is that during the story Namor finally finds his long lost father, Leonard Mackenzie, and has no idea who he is because he's amnesiac at the time.

I find it kind of surprising that Dr. Doom didn't show up in those early Defenders issues. After he lost his slot in Astonishing Tales he spent a year making guest appearances in Incredible Hulk, Fantastic Four, Thor and that Sub-Mariner story. That's just what happened with Doctor Strange between the loss of his own title (in 1969) and his slot in Marvel Premiere. All those guest appearances in Sub-Mariner and Incredible Hulk (and Amazing Spider-man, if I remember correctly) led to Marvel Feature/The Defenders. Have you ever seen any interviews or letters' pages that suggested that Marvel was testing the waters for a Dr. Doom vehicle prior to SVTU? And speaking of SVTU, have you ever compared the Giffen Sub-Mariner stories in SVTU#13 and Defenders #52-56?