Last updated Sunday, March 3, 2013
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The Deep Six Project
A Biography of Namor McKenzie,
The Deep Six Project is dedicated to the memory of Bill Everett, 1917-1973.
May the Ancient Mariner watch over you now and for all time.
It was raining pretty hard when we reached Bill Everett's apartment-studio, a dramatic background for the story we hoped to get.
"Hello, Bill," we smiled, "mind if we annoy you for a while?"
"Come on in," Bill said beaming. "I was hoping someone would drop in on me tonight."
True to style, he made us feel right at home. "We've come to ask you to tell us something about yourself, and how you started to write about the SUB-MARINER. Do you mind?"
"Well," Bill said, "I was born in Newton, Massachusetts, and I'm still young enough to be in that first draft - if and when. When I was very young my folks went out to Arizona. We stayed there until after I finished high school
"But, my folks decided to go back to Massachusetts, and I decided to go back to school. I went to the Vesper George Art School where I made up my mind that I would make art a career.
"While I was studying, I worked in a large advertising agency, but I wasn't satisfied. I wanted to do newspaper work, so I landed a job on the NEW YORK HERALD TRIBUNE, after doing a turn on the art staff of the BOSTON TRAVELLER. Later I was the art director of a national magazine, but there my flare for cartooning was somewhat stifled, so I free lanced around until I broke into this field, as the Art Editor of Funnies, Inc., the outfit that creates the features that appear in MARVEL COMICS."
"But Bill," we asked, "where did you pick up the idea for the SUB-MARINER?"
"THAT'S another story. You see, when we returned to the east coast, I found just as much adventure as I did in the west. What I mean is, I got myself a job on a seagoing tramp that went from Maine to Florida.
"On one run, when we were still a day out of Florida, one of those native Floridian hurricanes hit us broadsides. It shook that old tub like it was a toy. I happened to be at the wheel and the full force of the storm spun it like a top. One of the bigger men took over for the minute, for there was another job that had to be done. The wireless antenna had been blown down and it meant a climb up the slippery rope stays to the top of the mast. I was elected.
"I climbed into my oilskins and started up. The wind cut my face and hands, and I had all I could do to hold on. The rigging was wet and slippery. My job was to carry that loose wire up and tie it back to the mast. Well, I finally reached the top and stood upright in the crosstrees. The wind lashed my oils and they cracked like thunder. Suddenly, after I had done my job, I felt myself being swept off my perch into thin air!
"I grabbed, and luckily caught the end of a rope. I swung there, half dazed for a moment, only to realize that my hand was slowly slipping off the wet hemp. Below I could see the washed deck glaring up at me. The cold wind had numbed my spirit, and a strange feeling came over me. I felt I was not alone.
"Something seemed to take hold of me and lift me bodily, back onto the crosstrees. I lay there for a moment, and when I finally got a grip on myself, I looked up to see who, or what, had helped me.
"THERE WAS NO ONE THERE!"
We couldn't help but notice the sincere look in Bill's eyes as he spoke. "Whew, that was a corker, Bill. But where does the SUB-MARINER come in?"
He smiled that slow smile of his and said, "Who knows? To me it was HE who helped me that night.
"For the duration of that trip I was constantly reminded of Coleridge's ANCIENT MARINER, the poem that tells about the supernatural powers of the sea. I suppose that had some bearing on my title, SUB-MARINER.
"To me, I owe my life to that something - whether wind, a strong subconscious motion, or a supernatural being. But I shall always think of it as my friend... THE SUB-MARINER."
Authors Note: This biography, a form of fan fiction, will appear in chapters assuming I ever get them completed. I intend to stay as true to the history (and retcon history) of the character as possible but a little creative license will I'm sure find it's way in. Chapters 1 & 2, entitled A Cold Slap in the Face and Guns in the Distance, are currently in re-development and are taking longer than I had initially intended. It is my hope that I'll be able to get them scraped out of my head and spooned onto a page before too long but I certainly make no guarantees. It has always been my intention to write something that is true to ALL of the Sub-Mariner's history, a task that is proving to be quite challenging especially now that my original ideas, and the first two chapters mentioned above, need some rethinking to incorporate the storylines from the more recent series into the mix. I have some definite ideas on how to proceed with the updated sections and hope to have them ready soon. Be patient. I certainly have not forgotten! JC
Chapter 1 - A Cold Slap in the Face
Chapter 2 - Guns in the Distance
Chapter 3 - A Flower of Fire
Chapter 4 - Doom in the Deep
Chapter 5 - Awakening (tentative)
Chapter 6 - The Avenging Son
Chapter 7 - In Love and War
Chapter 8 - Statesman
Chapter 9 - Earthsong
|1920||Namor's mother, Princess Fen of the Royal House of Atlantis, meets his father, Leonard McKenzie, the captain of an American scientific expedition to the south pole .|
|1922||Namor is born on February 2nd. .|
|1931||Namor learns he can survive indefinitely above water unlike the rest of his undersea Sub-Mariner kin. This strengthens his pride in himself and helps him feel closer to his father and his father's people, the Americans. .|
|1934||Namor learns just how exceptional his strength is when his mother, Princess Fen, is trapped by a fallen boom on an undersea shipwreck and it is up to Namor to save her. This incident, caused by Byrrah, stepson of the Atlantean emperor as part of an ongoing one-upsmanship with Namor, foreshadows much of the rivalry between the two. .|
|1936||The wings on Namor's ankles manifest for the first time saving him from a catastrophic fall from an ice cliff. .|
|1937||Namor's mother, Princess Fen, introduces him to his cousin Namora whom he hasn't seen since they were babies. At first he dismisses her as "just a girl" but is forced to eat his words in humility when she rescuses him from where he'd become trapped in the torpedo tube of a sunken submarine. . Chronologically (in the real time of our universe) this is NOT the first appearance of Namora (which was in Marvel Mystery Comics 82) but this telling (by Bill Everett in Sub-Mariner Comics 39) occurs earlier in Namor's life. See the 1947 timeline entry for further details and the "Index Detail" below for more information.|
|1938||During an expedition to Admiral Byrd's abandoned settlement at Little America on the antarctic ice shelf Namor, Namora and Byrrah come face to face with fire for the first time when Namora knocks over a metal container of kerosene which ignites during the fall because of a metal on metal spark. Namor is forced to confront the flames in his attempt to rescue Namora, who is trapped inside a building by the fire, and learns that when his body is wet he is mostly impervious to fire damage. .|
|1939||Namor is attacked in flight by a Nazi aircraft while showing off in front of his friends. Knowing nothing of airplanes he vows that "No mere bird is going to sting me!" and after ripping the bombs (which he thinks are eggs) from the wings of the plane he tries to force it down by damaging the tail. He is a little too successful in his attempt and is trapped by the vortex downdraft and crashes into the sea. The impact and the concussion of the planes impact and explosion knocks Namor unconscious. He awakens in the arms of his mother to learn he is a hero for his actions..|
|1939||Namor, as a teenager, learns the story of his parents meeting and is told by his mother that because of his remarkable abilities it is his duty to lead the Atlanteans into battle against the surface world. .|
|1939||Namor discovers (and inadvertently kills) two deep-sea divers searching a sunken ship for salvage. He brings their corpses to the Antarctic, and this is hailed as his first act as the Avenging Son against the surface people. .|
|1939||Namor meets his young cousin Dorma and allows her to accompany him in his first foray against the surface men, an attack on a coastal lighthouse.|
|1940||Namor meets police woman Betty Dean during a failed search and strike mission to New York City. . A few months later he returns to avenge his failure but is stopped by The Human Torch in their first encounter. .|
|1941||Namor (The Sub-Mariner), The Human Torch and Steve Rogers (Captain America) team up along with Toro, (the Torch's sidekick) and Bucky Barnes (Captain America's sidekick) to form The Invaders. The adventures of The Invaders were not told until much later by Roy Thomas in the 1970's. The official reason for this is listed as... "Secrecy, plus the fact that most Invaders missions took place overseas..." i.e. "Only now can these stories be told." .|
|1947||Namor decides to visit one of the undersea Pacific kingdoms of his people but finds the castle has been attacked, the people killed and the treasure of pearls looted. As he moves among the dead he finds a lone survivor, a young woman named Aquaria Nautica Neptunia, who (once she recovers) asks to aid Namor in avenging the death of their people and her father their king. After proving to Namor that she is as swift a swimmer as he is, he agrees and Aquaria says that since they are going to be partners he might as well call her Namora. . Chronologically (in the real time of our universe) this is the first appearance of Namora (in Marvel Mystery Comics 82) and it is told as if it were the first meeting between the two characters. However, this is in direct contradiction to a later telling of their first meeting (by Bill Everett in Sub-Mariner Comics 39) in which Namora is introduced to Namor at a much earlier age by his mother, Princess Fen, as his cousin that he hasn't seen since they were babies. .|
|1||Bill Everett's Hurricane was taken from the hardback reprint volume of Marvel Comics 1. Copyright 1990 by Marvel Entertainment Group, Inc. I do not know the original source although it may have actually been Marvel Comics 1.||1990|
|2||From Marvel Comics 1, Copyright 1939 by Timely Publications, Inc.
In Princess Fen's own words...
|3||From Marvel Comics Index, Volume 1 Number 7B, Copyright 1978 by Marvel Comics Group.||July 1978|
|4||From Marvel Mystery Comics 3, Copyright 1939 by Timely Publications, Inc.||January 1940|
|5||From Marvel Mystery Comics 8-10, Copyright 1940 by Timely Publications, Inc.||June 1940 - August 1940|
|6||From Sub-Mariner Comics 35, Copyright 1954 by Comic Combine Corp.||August 1954|
|7||From Sub-Mariner Comics 37, Copyright 1954 by Comic Combine Corp.||December 1954|
|8||From Sub-Mariner Comics 38, Copyright 1954 by Comic Combine Corp.||February 1955|
|9||From Marvel Mystery Comics 82, Copyright 1947 by Marvel Comics, Inc.||May 1947|
|10||From Sub-Mariner Comics 39, Copyright 1955 by Comic Combine Corp.||April 1955|
|11||From Sub-Mariner Comics 40, Copyright 1955 by Comic Combine Corp.||June 1955|
|12||From Sub-Mariner Comics 41, Copyright 1955 by Comic Combine Corp.||August 1955|
PRINCE NAMOR I OF ATLANTIS, Emperor of the Deep, Lord of the Seven Seas and Supreme Commander of the Undersea Legions, is far and away Marvel's most durable character. He is the only Marvel character to have an unbroken publishing history extending back to (and actually before) Marvel's first comic book, and only one of two (Captain America is the other) Golden Age Marvel characters to have survived into the present era. Thus it is very appropriate to discuss at some length the origins of Sub-Mariner as a published character as well as his origins in the fictional reality of the Marvel Universe.
SUB-MARINER'S FIRST STORY, eight pages long, was written, penciled, inked and lettered by the late William Blake "Bill" Everett, for publication in the pilot issue of a small giveaway comic book titled Motion Picture Funnies Weekly. This comic was the first item produced by the Lloyd V. Jacquet art shop, Funnies, Inc. (then called First Funnies, Inc.); the Sub-Mariner story was dated April 1939. It was the idea of those who operated Funnies, Inc. to distribute Motion Picture Funnies Weekly through movie theaters to attract customers. Apparently the theater owners thought little of the venture and the project was unsuccessful. Only one issue of Motion Picture Funnies Weekly was ever published, and only six complete copies, all Funnies, Inc. file copies, are known to have survived (a seventh, actually obtained at a movie theater and saved until now, is said to exist). Proofs of the covers of issues #2-4 also exist. We reproduce all four Motion Picture Funnies Weekly covers on the facing page; the cover artist for #1, 2 and 4 was Martin Filchock, and the cover artist for #3 was Max Neill (#2 and 3 are signed).
The second venture by- Funnies, Inc. proved to be considerably more successful than the first. It was also considerably more lavish. Where Motion Picture Funnies Weekly was a small black and white (only the covers were in color) booklet, their next package was a full color, 64-page comic book, to sell for 10c a copy on the newsstands, in competition with the host of other comics which were then beginning to spring up like weeds. Frank Torpey, who owned a share of Funnies, Inc. at the time, found a pulp publisher willing to stake the first issue. The requisite stories were written and drawn, and the book, dated October 1939, was printed. The publisher, of course, was Martin Goodman, the company was Timely Publications, and the comic was Marvel Comics #1.
Evidently only a portion of the print run was bound at first, perhaps to be distributed to a small number of key outlets to test sales. Once the sales figures were in (and they must have been good, or at least, promising), the remainder of the print run was re-dated November 1939 (by overprinting both outside and inside front covers), bound and sent to the newsstands. By far the larger number of surviving copies are November issues.
The contents of Marvel Comics #1 included the origin of the Human Torch, by Carl Burgos; the first Angel story by Paul Gustavson; the original Sub-Mariner strip from Motion Picture Funnies Weekly, printed with color right over the black and white toning and with four extra pages; the first Masked Raider story, by Al Anders; "Jungle Terror," an adventure strip by Tohm Dixon; a two page text filler story titled "Burning Rubber," by Ray Gill; and the first Ka-Zar comic strip, adapted by Ben Thompson from the 1936 pulp Ka-Zar the Great, with stories by Bob Byrd, which was also published by Goodman and ran three issues. The cover, depicting the Human Torch fighting a criminal named Sardo, was drawn by science fiction artist Frank R. Paul, who drew covers for many of Goodman's pulps. (A picture of Marvel Comics #1 decorates the Human Torch synopsis in Part Four of this Index.) It is quite clear that Goodman played a fairly large part in the production of that comic, even to the choice of story topics.
The cover highlight of the first issue of Marvel Comics was the Human Torch. It was only natural that the cover highlight of the next issue should be the Torch's antithesis, the Sub-Mariner. Indeed, part of the package presented to Goodman was a full color cover rough dated December, drawn by Bill Everett, displaying the Sub-Mariner against an explosive splash of water, obviously intended to be used for the second issue. But this did not happen. Marvel Comics was re-titled Marvel Mystery Comics with its second issue, and its cover featured the Angel, drawn by Claire S. Moe, one of the staff artists at Funnies, Inc. (The police/detective/mystery motif was evidently felt to be more saleable.) Angel was featured on four of the first ten issues of Marvel Mystery Comics, #2, 3, 6 and 8, and these will be illustrated in Part 9B of this Index, when we cover the Angel's modern day namesake, one of the X-Men. Sub-Mariner did not appear on the cover of Marvel Mystery Comics until issue #4 (which is displayed in the Golden Age Sub-Mariner Cover Gallery in this volume of the Index), drawn by pulp artist Alex Schomburg. He battled the Human Torch on the cover of issue #9 (see Part Four of this Index), and appeared solo once again on the cover of #10, also drawn by Schomburg. (Sub-Mariner vignettes decorate the covers of issues #7 and 8, but these are not the cover features.)
The original cover rough by Everett survived in the files of Funnies, Inc., along with the aforementioned copies of Motion Picture Funnies Weekly, various cover proofs and other souvenirs of those early days. We were able to obtain a copy of that rough, from which Dean Motter constructed a finished cover for this volume of the Index. A reproduction of the original piece appears in full color on the back cover. The result of Motter's efforts is a cover strikingly different from the others in the series which we have featured to date, one which accurately captures the feel of those vintage Timely comics. Motter often had occasion to comment on the strangeness of the experience of working from art nearly forty years old by an artist no longer living.
GOODMAN'S FAITH IN THE ANGEL as a cover attraction over the Sub-Mariner turned out to have been slightly misplaced. When the last Timely comic folded, in 1955, it was Sub-Mariner who held the record for largest number of published stories, in a dozen different titles, beating both Captain America and the Human Torch by a hair. And that last Timely comic was the 42nd and last issue of Sub-Mariner Comics. Angel, on the other hand, never even managed to support his own title, though he did have a respectable run in the pages of Marvel Mystery Comics.
The first issue of Sub-Mariner's own comic appeared dated Spring 1941, about half a year after the Human Torch was given his own title, and about the same time that Timely brought out Captain America. Coincidentally, 40 pages of Sub-Mariner stories were backed by 20 pages of the Angel in each of the early issues of Sub-Mariner Comics; later, as the books diminished in size, Angel was replaced by the Human Torch, the Young Allies, the Blonde Phantom and Captain America. Issue #32, dated June 1949, was the last to carry Sub-Mariner, or any superheroes. Issue #33, August 1949, was re-titled Best Love-which must have shocked some subscribers. Best Love lasted only until issue #36, April 1950.
When Marvel revived some of its Golden Age heroes in the middle 1950s, Sub-Mariner's own title was reinstated, and many of the stories were drawn by his originator Bill Everett. Ten more issues-far more than any of the other revived titles-of Sub-Mariner Comics were published, beginning where it left off at #33, April 1954, and running through #42, October 1955. Thereafter, Sub-Mariner did not appear in any comics until The Fantastic Four #4, May 1962; that event marked his debut in the modern Marvel Universe. All 42 issues of Sub-Mariner Comics are featured in our Golden Age Sub-Mariner Cover Gallery, the first time all the issues have been gathered together for publication in one display.
Besides his own 42 issues, Sub-Mariner stories were told in the first 91 issues of Marvel Mystery Comics, backed up the Human Torch in Human Torch Comics #1-33, 36-38, appeared in all the issues of All Winners Comics (#1-19, 21 and second series #1), in All Select Comics #1-5, 10 and its successor Blonde Phantom Comics #13-15, 17-22, in Daring Comics #9-12, Captain America Comics #20, 68 and 70, Young Men #24-28, Men's Adventures #27, 28, Namora Comics #1-3 and Kid Komics #4, for a total of 292 Golden Age stories (as counted by Mike Nolan in his handy Timely Comic Index, now long out of print).
A very strange juvenile incarnation of Sub-Mariner, named Subbie, origin unknown, was featured in two stories in Kid Komics #1 and 2. Subbie was a kid with all the powers of the adult Sub-Mariner (sans the ability to fly), whose stories hint of a connection with Namor, which is never explained. He piloted a Junior PT Boat and generally raised hell with the Nazis in both episodes, one of Timely's forgotten short run heroes.
SUB-MARINER'S ORIGIN has been told several times: twice in the Golden Age (in Marvel Comics #1 and Sub-Mariner Comics #32), once in the 1950s (in Sub-Mariner Comics #33) and several times in modern Marvel comics. In addition, we have a wealth of information available about his childhood, due mainly to a series of young Sub-Mariner stories in his 1950s issues. Some of the stories contradict one another, but many add details, which enrich the overall picture. The fact remains that no definitive version of Namor's origin, told as a single, coherent narrative, exists. The account we give below represents a synthesis of the various bits and pieces we have been given to date. Namor's origin, including the beginnings of the undersea race of Sub-Mariners and extending through modern times, is a stunning example of the sweep and grandeur of the Marvel Universe at its most intricate.
A million or more years ago, Marvel Earth was the scene of a vast struggle between humanity on the rise and a race of Serpent Men. Little of this titanic conflict is known with certainty, and only a few Marvel stories (most notably the Thongor of Lemuria series in Creatures On the Loose) are set in that remote time. We can infer that humanity won its war, for Serpent Men are rare (if not entirely nonexistent) today. We cannot imagine the technologies and the sorceries unleashed during those times; surviving relics are very scarce. One such relic is the magic spell activated by the phrase "Ka Nama Ka Lajerama," which is intolerable to any member of the Serpent Race within earshot and may be uttered to test suspected Serpent Men in disguise. This phrase is spoken at times in stories of Conan, Kull and Red Sonja, which take place millennia ago when the Serpent Men retained some of their power. Another relic is the Serpent Crown of Lemuria, a sinister device which enslaves its wearer with the promise of eternal life. The Serpent Crown is a dimension-spanning artifact; a version was at the heart of the corruption of the government of the United States in the Squadron Supreme Universe (see Avengers # 147, 148).
The center of Serpent Power was located on the former continent of Lemuria, while the center of human civilization was in Attilan, a name which was later corrupted to Atlantis. There were thousands of wars between the two ancient super-powers, both scientific and mystic, which resulted in vast upheavals of the earth's crust and great destruction. The last, and greatest, battle was chronicled in Sub-Mariner #62, 63 (Note: We call the Golden Age series of Sub-Mariner comics Sub-Mariner Comics; the modern series we call simply Sub-Mariner). Its outcome was the inundation of both continents, Lemuria sinking into the Pacific Ocean, and Attilan sinking into the Atlantic. This occurred 1100 years before the time of Conan (the Hyborian Age) and hundreds of years after Kull was king in Valusia on Attilan (Atlantis).
The Atlantean Cataclysm destroyed all but a vestige of the Serpent Race who were never very numerous in the first place. The inhabitants of Attilan survived in somewhat greater numbers. Much of their technology was preserved by the progenitors of the race of inhumans, who fled to the European mainland to establish the first Great Refuge (of many; see The Mighty Thor #147). An enclave of Atlanteans sank into the bowels of the earth to become the Netherworld (currently ruled by Kala and struggling with the minions of Tyrannus and the Mole Man; see The Fantastic Four #127, 128). But the major part of the civilization: the dwellings, the libraries, the gardens and the fertile fields, all disappeared beneath the waves forever.
Three thousand years after the sinking, the cities of Atlantis were found, and inhabited, by the race of Sub-Mariners (see Sub-Mariner #64-66). The Sub-Mariners are an undersea race of people, able to breathe water just as we are able to breathe air. Whence they came, we do not know; they were at the time divided into innumerable tribes and clans, highly nomadic with no written history. Whatever records of the past they have are by tradition made into tales and legends and passed by word of mouth from generation to generation (necessitated no doubt by the difficulty of constructing writing implements underwater). That the Sub-Mariners are a subspecies of Homo sapiens is obvious, since they are fully capable of interbreeding with surface dwellers (Namor himself is the product of such a union). But they differ so radically in structure from human beings (as for example in the possession of gills) that it is impossible to believe that they are a product of natural evolution. Perhaps they were the result of a Terrigen Mist experiment gone awry (Triton, the Inhuman, could easily pass for a genuine Sub-Mariner), the result of some godly intervention on the part of the Greco-Roman or Norse deities, or the result of Kree genetic manipulation. Whatever their ultimate origins, the Sub-Mariners quickly built a stable undersea empire that flourished for many thousands of years, completely hidden from the surface peoples of the Eurasian land mass.
The upheaval which ended the Hyborean Age some thousands of years after Conan was king of Aquilonia brought with it massive glaciation and a shift in the earth's axis, and the threat of destruction for the empire beneath the sea. As a result, a portion of the underwater Atlanteans migrated into the Pacific Ocean (see Sub-Mariner #9, 10), where they found the ruins of lost Lemuria, and quickly became entrapped in the Serpent Power that had slept there for so many ages. The new Lemurians developed alchemy, and then rebuilt the Serpent Crown. The Pacific branch of the Sub-Mariners was then thrown into a tyranny which lasted ten thousand years.
The Atlantic branch of the Sub-Mariner race once again was fragmented into tribes of nomads, who established a multitude of principalities and feudal states under the ocean. There was a time when these were united into a single kingdom under the Olympian God Poseidon (worshipped as Father Neptune); but he eventually took leave of Earth and his undersea subjects. He left them a legacy in the form of a series of tests which, if ever an aspiring monarch felt his legitimacy in question, he could undergo to prove himself worthy of the Crown. Namor himself underwent this ritual thousands of years later, in Tales to Astonish #70-76. But the nomadic tribes once again fell apart after the departure of Neptune, and they were not reunited until the time of Namor's great-grandsire (see Sub-Mariner #25), about 100 years before the present. This new empire was called, according to ancient custom, Atlantis.
AND THIS IS WHERE the plots begin to thicken. Only a few decades after the Sub-Mariners were united at Atlantis, Namor's grandsire Tha-Korr (his name was unrevealed throughout the Golden Age) led his people out of the Atlantic and into the cold Antarctic Ocean, settling beneath the shelf ice off the Antarctic coast. It is not clear why this step was taken-perhaps the Emperor feared that the increasing commerce by the surface people across the Atlantic increased the chances of his undersea kingdom being revealed (the Sub-Mariners were still totally unknown to the surface people). Or the reason could have been much more sinister.
For while all these events were going on in the Atlantic, a different series-of events was happening in the Pacific. Led by a bold thief named Pyscatos, a faction of Lemurians made off with the Serpent Crown itself, stolen from Naga, the last Lemurian Serpent-King. Using self-hypnosis to resist the tremendous mental power projected by the Crown, the thieves made their way into the Antarctic as well. Their brief attempt to start a new civilization there was terminated by a catastrophic avalanche, but the Crown itself was not destroyed (it would take far more than an avalanche to destroy it!) only buried. It is possible that the Serpent Crown began to put forth telepathic energies, calling the human races to itself in order to exert its power over the entire planet. It might thus be no coincidence that the Sub-Mariners moved to the Antarctic when they did, nor that the Antarctic suddenly became a magnet for scientific exploration by the surface peoples.
In 1920, one of these expeditions arrived in the Antarctic carrying two persons whose roles in Namor's origin were decisive. The first of these was Leonard McKenzie, the commander of the ship Oracle; the second was a mentalist of some ability whose real name is unknown (he called himself Mentallo and Paul Destine on various occasions) but who is known in the chronicle as Destiny. Destiny sensed the power emanating from the Antarctic and wanted it for his own. He booked passage aboard McKenzie's vessel, which was Antarctic bound on a mission of science. (In Sub-Mariner Comics #33 it I s revealed that the McKenzie expedition was exploring for uranium, though why he would be looking for uranium when that element in 1920 had little strategic importance is not clear; it is probably a cover story.)
On arrival in the Antarctic, Destiny managed to persuade McKenzie and his crew to mount an expedition into the interior, to search for the Serpent Crown. After some hardship, the site of the ancient city built by the Lemurian dissidents a century earlier was located and the Serpent Crown was found. But it had become obvious to McKenzie that Destiny was a megalomaniac; McKenzie contrived another avalanche which, he assumed, would bury Destiny, the Lemurian city and the Serpent Crown forever. He and his crew returned to the Oracle and carried on with their mission.
In Marvel Comics #1, the Oracle is pictured as a three-masted schooner-a sailing vessel. In all subsequent stories, the' Oracle is seen as a steamer of unspecified type. Modern Marvel comics make the Oracle an icebreaker. It is easy to speculate that the Oracle was looking for a water passage into the interior of the icy continent, and that if they were not responding to the mental call of the Serpent Crown, they were attempting to reach the Savage Land, with the objective not uranium but vibranium. But without any confirmation in the form of a story, all this must remain unproved. Regardless of its ultimate purpose, the expedition set about blasting apart the shelf ice with explosives. This was violently devastating to the community of Sub-Mariners who, unknown to the Oracle, resided directly below.
Hundreds of Sub-Mariners were killed before they were able to flee to a safe retreat and plan their defense; they believed the surface people were waging an undeclared war on them. Tha-Korr called for a scouting party to reconnoiter the enemy, but his young and only daughter Fen convinced him that she should go alone. She was found as planned aboard the Oracle by the crew, who thought her a stowaway, and was brought to McKenzie.
MCKENZIE WAS INTRIGUED with Fen. She spoke a language he had never heard before; she was obviously human but blue-skinned; she could survive the intense Antarctic cold with virtually no protective clothing; and he soon learned she could swim, even thrive, in the frigid Antarctic Ocean. And she, in turn, was intrigued with him. He was a man of honesty, openness and integrity-a refreshing change, perhaps, from the affairs of submarine court life. They fell in love and were married, unbeknownst to the Emperor Tha-Korr, by the ship's chaplain.
Now Fen had a vested interest in both sides of the Antarctic conflict. She did not want to see her people further hurt by what had clearly been unintentionally destructive operations, and she did not want to see her husband and his crew obliterated in the retaliatory raid in preparation by the submarine military. The different versions of Namor's origin highlight different sides of Fen's dilemma, but one feature they share in common is the depiction of Fen's hatred towards the surface people (particularly the whites) and how McKenzie's case was a complete exception to her attitude. On her occasional secret forays underwater, she began to let it be known that the Sub-Mariners stood little chance versus the crew of the Oracle, whose weapons would overcome any attack they could muster. This was nonsense, of course, but she imagined she could forestall military action with such false information, thereby protecting her husband from reprisal.
All accounts of the origin differ on how long the Oracle remained in the Antarctic, and how long Fen and McKenzie stayed together before events separated them. Sub-Mariner Comics #32 makes the period months, during which time McKenzie becomes an object of submarine politics and even becomes Fen's husband in an Atlantean ritual as well as the shipboard ceremony. In other versions, it is only long enough for the Sub-Mariners to mount their offensive (to rescue Fen, for example). In all versions, the Sub-Mariners are nearly obliterated by a final series of blasting operations, and McKenzie and Fen are separated forever. The Sub-Mariners are forced to wait almost twenty years for their numbers to build up to fighting strength. They vow revenge on the surface people for the depredations they had suffered at their unwitting hands.
PRINCE NAMOR WAS BORN to Fen on February 2, probably in 1922 (the date 2/2/22 is too good to pass up, and fits perfectly). He grew to adolescence in a climate of hatred for the surface races, though he rarely if ever saw any as a child. Some of his growing-up adventures appeared during the 1950s in the short revival of his title, and most have been reprinted here and there in modern Marvel comics. Finally, in 1939, Namor discovers (and inadvertently kills) two deep-sea divers searching a sunken ship for salvage. He brings their corpses to the Antarctic, and this is hailed as his first act as the Avenging Son against the surface people.
Fen explains to Namor that he is her son by a surface dweller, which accounts for his white skin (normal Sub-Mariners are blue) and more human appearance (normal Sub-Mariners look very fish-like). Namor also can survive indefinitely out of water (normal Sub-Mariners cannot live out of water for more than a few hours without special equipment). As an added bonus, Namor possesses a super-strength characteristic of neither his surface nor underwater ancestry (his strength fades out of water, however), and wings on his ankles which allow him to fly. Thus Namor is more than an amphibian; he is a triphibian, at home on land, under water, or in the air, and uniquely qualified for his role as an instrument of vengeance against the surface people.
He is sent on an exploratory search and strike mission to New York City, accompanied by his young female cousin Dorma. In New York, he encounters Betty Dean, a policewoman (in a flashback story in Sub-Mariner Comics #32, he also briefly encounters Leonard McKenzie, but they do not know one another as father and son). Betty Dean was to become a major supporting character in Sub-Mariner stories throughout the Golden Age, but in their initial meeting she does her duty after Namor tries to raise some hell. Weakened by being out of water, Namor is easily captured by the police, but after a lucky break he comes into contact with water and, strength renewed, escapes. He vows to return to avenge his personal humiliation; but the next time he appears in New York, he is stymied by the Human Torch, in the first of their series of Golden Age battles, in Marvel Mystery Comics #8-10.
EVENTUALLY THE HUMAN TORCH and Betty Dean persuaded Namor that the real menace in the world was the rising tide of Nazism in Europe, and that whatever vendetta he might have against the surface people would be most effective if applied to the Nazis first. The actions of the Nazis, naturally enough, proved in the end more persuasive than anything else. For they themselves attacked Atlantis in special U-Boats in an attempt to add it to their conquered empire, seriously injuring the Emperor Tha-Korr himself (he was "killed" in Sub-Mariner Comics #1). Namor was made regent, and under his leadership all the resources of Atlantis were thrown into the fight on the side of the Allies.
At the end of 1941, Namor, the Human Torch and the somewhat more recently created Captain America, together with Bucky and Toro, teamed up to form the Invaders. Stories of the Invaders as a team were never told in 1940s comics; they are Roy Thomas' creation as a "continuity implant": written today but taking place in the days of World War II. Secrecy, plus the fact that most Invaders missions took place overseas, are the official reasons given to explain the absence of Golden Age Invaders stories. ("Only now can these stories be told...").
Once the scourge of Nazism was eliminated, Namor settled down to a stint battling crime and corruption in the postwar United States. There is no doubt that he was attracted to Betty Dean, but his duties as Crown Prince of Atlantis and a residual dislike for the surface people kept him from carrying their relationship further. His character matured, and he became of immense assistance to the NYPD in bringing criminals to justice. He joined the All Winners Squad for three adventures (told in All Winners Comics #19, 21 and What If? #4), and he was accompanied on some of his late 1940s adventures by his long-lost cousin Namora (who first appeared in Marvel Mystery Comics #82, May 1947).
NAMORA WAS NAMOR'S virtual sidekick from the time of her first appearance through the remainder of the Golden Age and into the 1950s. She was popular enough in those days of short-lived super heroines (comics became a lot sexier once the War was over) to command a three issue run of her own title, covers of which we display in the Golden Age Sub-Mariner Cover Gallery.
Namora's first meeting with Namor, although told in 1947, must have happened much earlier, for she is seen in several of the 1950s stories of Namor's childhood. She is Namor's female counterpart in every way, from the triangular face with high arched eyebrows to super strength, the ability to breathe both in air and under water, and the ability to fly. Her father was a full-blooded Sub-Mariner' which means that her mother was a surface woman (though we can't be sure since she has never been seen). In their first adventure, Namor and Namora track down and bring to justice the jewel thieves who killed her father, and she changes her name from 'Aquaria Nautica Neptunia" to Namora in recognition of her new-found ally (and if Namor means "Avenging Son," then surely Namora must mean "Avenging Daughter," which is exactly what she became!). Whoever scripted Namora's origin story must have synthesized two separate incidents a decade or more apart.
Namor returned to the Antarctic at the end of the 1940s, and except for brief forays to the surface world to participate in the Cold War in 1953-55, that is where he stayed. Presumably he was learning the details of Atlantean protocol and battling the intrigues of his rival cousin Byrrah, Tha-Korr's stepson and next in succession to the Throne after Namor. Had events been uninterrupted by fate (in the form of the mentalist Destiny), Namor could well have passed out of Marvel history entirely.
IN 1957, NAMORA WAS MARRIED to an Atlantean of unspecified name, and before year's end gave birth to Namorita. Namor was betrothed to Dorma. And Destiny awoke from a 35-year sleep buried under tons of ice, and began to use the power of the Serpent Crown to seek vengeance on Leonard McKenzie.
It turned out that Leonard McKenzie had vanished. After returning to New York (perhaps after seeing Namor in Sub-Mariner Comics #32), McKenzie was smitten with the desire to see Fen once again and tried to mount another expedition to the Antarctic. This he did, but the expedition failed and left him a shattered man (Sub-Mariner #44); he became a derelict and was lost to all knowledge.
Destiny believed that McKenzie had died, so he set about to avenge himself on McKenzie's only known descendant, Namor. In 1958 he applied the full power of the Serpent Crown-just as a test-against the Sub-Mariners, and killed most of them (including Tha-Korr and Fen). The rest were scattered to the Seven Seas. Namor was stricken with amnesia (incidentally, Namor is comparatively vulnerable to a blow to the head, a method used frequently during the Golden Age by criminals to subdue him) and took to wandering aimlessly about the surface world. Namora fled with her infant daughter to the Pacific, where she sought and found asylum in Lemuria. And Destiny, sensing that his powers would reach their absolute peak in ten (not five) years, and satisfied of his vengeance on Namor, went into suspended animation. A decade later he would revive to take over the world.
In Lemuria, Namora met Llyra, the daughter of a Lemurian named Llyron and a surface woman named Rhonda Morris. Llyra was a particularly ruthless woman, having done service in the court of Naga, and it wasn't long before she and Namora became rivals. Namora searched for Namor several times, but was not successful because she had a daughter to raise and Llyra's machinations were a constant source of grief. (Namora helped form the 1950s Avengers in What If? #9 on one such occasion.) Her searches in the oceans would of course have been unsuccessful, since Namor was on dry land; but she had no way to know this. Eventually, Llyra and Namora's rivalry came to a head; sometime in the mid1960s, Namora was poisoned. She was interred in a glassine sepulcher in Lemuria, far from the sea of her birth. Namorita was placed in Llyra's care.
NAMOR WAS FOUND IN 1962 by Johnny Storm, the new Human Torch, who had left the Fantastic Four on a brief foray into the Bowery section of lower New York City. The story of their meeting, how Namor's memory was restored, how he blamed the destruction of the Antarctic Kingdom on the surface people (he knew nothing of Destiny, nor did we readers, until 1968), and how he teamed with Dr. Doom, Marvel's other monarch (the first super-villain team-up in the history of Marvel comics) to further his old vendetta is told in The Fantastic Four #4 and 6. How the Sub-Mariner found the ruins of ancient Atlantis and the scattered remnants of his submarine people on the verge of reversion to barbarism and became their king forms one of the deep undercurrents of the Marvel Universe of the 1960s. In chronological order, his appearances in modern Marvel comics prior to the initiation of his own strip in Tales to Astonish #70 are:
Parts 7A and 7B of this Index track all of Namor's major appearances, either formally as indexed entries or in crossover comments, from Tales to Astonish #70 to date. High points in his run include the return of his old rival Byrrah, his battles with Krang and Attuma, his role in the destruction of the Secret Empire, his final confrontation with Destiny (the only three-part Marvel Universe story which takes place in three different titles), the destruction of Naga of Lemuria and the Serpent Crown, his meetings with Llyra, his marriage to Dorma and her subsequent death, his meeting with the teen-age Namorita, his membership in the Defenders, his reunion with his father and his subsequent death, and the revelation of his role in the Invaders during World War II
Sub-Mariner had his own strip in Tales to Astonish #70-101, Iron Man and Sub-Mariner #1 and Sub-Mariner #1-72. The Astonish strips are indexed in Part 7A, and the lone Iron Man and Sub-Mariner story will be indexed in Part 8B with Iron Man. Namor also had a solo adventure in Marvel Spotlight #27, but the basic continuity of his story was carried on in the super-villain team-up comics Giant-Size Super-Villain Team-Up #1 and 2 and Super-Villain Team-Up #1-13. (The latter title ran 14 issues altogether.) His own series is expected to be revived sometime in the near future, perhaps as part of the promotion for a projected television series. Hopefully it will restart with #73, continuing the numbering from where his Marvel series left off.
THIS SYNOPSIS, summarizing the career of Marvel's longest-running character, represents the cumulative effort of untold scores of writers and artists over a period of nearly forty years. It would have been a lot harder to write without the work of Dennis Mallonee, who supplied this writer with detailed chronologies and a voluminous correspondence of which the above is a mere distillation. And the run of nearly 500 Sub-Mariner stories must stand as a monument to the creative genius of Bill Everett, who with a few strokes of his pen in 1939 generated what became the solidest cornerstone of the Marvel Universe.