A Marvelous Anniversary Part 3: The Sub-Mariner

Continuing the weeklong Fire and Water Podcast event celebrating the third anniversary of the FW Network and the 80th anniversary of MARVEL COMICS #1. This episode, Rob and Shag review the third story in Marvel Comics #1, “The Sub-Mariner” created by Bill Everett!

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20 responses to “A Marvelous Anniversary Part 3: The Sub-Mariner

  1. Great show, guys! I read this somewhere, a long time ago, but I can’t recall where. Mike’s Amazing World doesn’t show any reprint that looks familiar to me. Either way, I too was struck by Everett’s illustrative style, especially all the tonal work. I always thought the Lord/King guy looked like a catfish, myself. And didn’t Dorma become Namor’s wife in the late Silver Age/Early Bronze Age? Kissing cousins? And they give us Kentuckians grief over this!

    I think Byrne retconned Namor’s rather erratic behavioral patterns as an imbalance of living in two worlds. Going back and forth between the sea and the surface literally gave him a violent, comics-only version of bi-polar disorder, as I recall. It’s about the only way to make sense of his rather mercurial portrayal over the years.

    I hope those Super Mates folks don’t screw this up tomorrow!


  2. My introduction to Namor was the Seven Little Superheroes episode of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.
    As far as his early adventures, it’s always been my opinion that they were going for a monster movie vibe. With the popularity of The Universal Monsters and adventure serials, I believe they were approaching his character as a “monster”. In the next few issues they would have Namor battle the Human Torch (who was portrayed as the hero) and introduce a heroic human (whose name escapes me) who would face off against Namor.

  3. In regard to Namor in live action, back in the 1950s there was also talk of a television show. This was when Adventures of Superman was on and they even went so far as to cast the role (Richard Egan). It never ended up going into production but it was the main reason that when Marvel/Atlas had their brief superhero revival in the mid-1950s, the Sub-Mariner titles lasted longer than either Captain America or the Human Torch. Thinking there was a tv show on the way, Marvel figured they should keep the title on the stand, both to prop the hero up in the eyes of the studio and to eventually capitalize on the show after its release. I’m not sure why the show was not produced but I have to think cost and special effects had to play a role (although so many shows never go anywhere that there could have been other reasons too).

    1. Michael-

      I had never heard of the 1950s attempted pilot, that’s amazing! I wish I had known to mention that on the show. What a weird choice for a TV show, given the budget constraints–you would think Captain America would have been a more likely subject.

  4. There was also talk of Namor getting a tv movie pilot or series in the 1970s, but at some point in the 70s Stan Lee mentioned about every character they had being up for a series so who knows how far that ever went.

    1. I think Namor and the Human Torch were slated for the same CBS TV movie treatment that gave us Hulk, Spidey, Dr. Strange and Cap. This is why Johnny wasn’t in the FF cartoon at the time, and was replaced by HERBIE, not that hoary old story about “kids may imitate him and set themselves on fire”. I think the failure of the Man from Atlantis series probably helped hurt Namor’s TV development too.


  5. Definitely learned about Submariner from my odd obsession with The Invaders as a kid. I also had (from a yard sale) some old solo issue where he fights a human piranha who, in the end, is devoured by his own swarm of true piranha. (No wonder I’m so messed up!)

    I was thrilled when I saw him in Spidey and his Amazing Friends.

    This story is bonkers. Love how he kills so easily. In the recent Jonathan Hickman New Avengers, Namor embraces his evil ways, destroying whole Earths in the multiverse to save 616, often invading those other Earths with an army of villains. At least, at some point in that run, he realizes he hates himself for what he has become.

    Last year at Boston Fan Expo, I was impressed with how many people in the John Byrne line had Namor issues. I have never read that book but now I am even more intrigued.

    And yes, Namor’s mom looks a little like Marlena Dietrich to me too.

  6. I first encountered Namor on TV in reruns of The Marvel Superheroes animated series, and in comics in his 90s ongoing series, which, now that I think about it, was probably my first real introduction to John Byrne, as well. So, it was great to learn about how Namor got his start. I’d always heard that he began life as something of an anti-hero. I just never realized the he was as such an over-the-top anti-hero. Now, I’m curious to learn how his character progressed, prior to his WWII makeover.

    1. Oh man. I’d love to see Namor go up against Iron Man. The idea of Zachary Quinto in green speedos wrecking Tony’s Iron Man suit and taking on CGI Hulk sure would be great to see on the big screen.

  7. Wow. I’ve read synopses and retellings of the first Human Torch story, but I didn’t know I knew nothing about the first Namor story!

    Congratulations on three years. The third anniversary is, what? paper? I guess for a comics podcast, every anniversary should be paper.

  8. All this talk about Namor got me Googling because Bill Everett and Namor had a bunch of Hollywood connections.

    Here, Roy Thomas drops some knowledge about a famous actor who was a young fan of Bill Everett: https://books.google.com/books?id=0D9UBAAAQBAJ&pg=PR32&lpg=PR32&dq=bill+everett+jack+lemmon&source=bl&ots=HS7FXY_Nip&sig=ACfU3U1wHm7XRGwDgdcAKMCbRplAkNXZUQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiPu7TEj7zgAhUtiOAKHc-EDIYQ6AEwB3oECAkQAQ

    Then, Mark Evanier drops some behind the scenes chat about how that famous actor tried to give Everett a movie job in the 60s: https://www.newsfromme.com/2017/09/05/bash-brannigan-lives-2/

    And, finally, here’s some chat about how Sub-Mariner was another famous actor’s favorite character: https://comicvine.gamespot.com/namor/4005-1476/forums/namor-the-sub-mariner-was-clint-eastwoods-favorite-572025/

  9. Say, these stories have been fun to listen to. Any chance we can get The Fire and Water Network covering the 2 issues of Marvel Mystery Comics where Namor and the Torch tussle?

  10. A fun show – love this special look at early Marvel Comics, and including the CBS Special intro from the 1970s and 1980s. When I hear that “Special” fanfare, I expect to hear Dolly Madison commercials somewhere down the line.

    I also made a custom Mego as a kid using a spare Spock head and Robin’s green trunks. I think I also stuck the head on a body with a blue trunk section, so I could do the Golden Age trunks. I definitely remember assembling the makeshift Namor, Captain America and Johnny Storm Megos into the Invaders group. (And at the time, I had only read a couple Invaders issues, but I always loved the Golden Age heroes from the JSA.)

    I can’t remember what the first Namor story I read would have been. He must have appeared in Fantastic Four #190 which I bought off the stands and recapped the FF’s career. And FF#4 was reprinted in the Pocket Books collection that I picked up at a school book sale. And some point by the early 1980s I got a trade paperback (back before the term was co-opted for comic book reprints) edition of The Great Comic Book Heroes which reprinted the Sub-Mariner story from Marvel Mystery Comics #7 along with a lot of other Golden Age stories from DC, Marvel and more.

  11. By now I had expected someone to have clarified the coloring. What did this story in the the 1939 comic actually look like, regarding Namor’s hair and skin under water? Bill Everett was quite obviously a level above the other contributors to this issue. Judging by this entry, he has already figured out who Namor is, where is comes from, and what he’s going to do. He’s also considered what “underwater” should look like on a comics page.

  12. Whew, the golden age stories were bonkers! Namor’s first appearance sure confirms that.

    I first encountered Namor in reprints of FF #6 and #4 (yes, that’s the order I read them) from Treasury Editions when I was a kid. But my modern reading of him started with his Alpha Flight appearances, his 4-issue mini-series, and then Roger Stern’s Avengers, which I think was the best take on him I’d seen to that point. Stern was good at giving little touches that reminded us of Namor’s friendship with Captain America in the Invaders, without belaboring it.

    A Marvelous Anniversary indeed! Enjoying it, guys!

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