In my estimation, Bill Everett is the most underrated talent of the Golden Age. His style continued to improve right up until his untimely death. Back in the ‘90s, I bought five sets of five issues each of GA Marvel Comics on microfiche just so I could read Everett’s Sub-Mariner serial in its entirety, not just in dribs and drabs here and there. With the release of Marvel Masterworks Marvel Comics Vol. 6, I can now continue where I left off, and read Sub-Mariner stories I have never seen before. The ones in #21-24 aren’t as serial in nature as previous stories have been, but there’s still a certain amount of story-to-story continuity, more than in most of the other features.
#21: Namor and Betty infiltrate an American group of Nazi airline saboteurs (in a comic book cover dated July 1941, well before Pearl Harbor).
#22: Namor invents a miniature jeep for the U.S. army using Atlantian steam-driven technology, then he must keep the Nazis from stealing it.
#23: Laying off the Nazis for an issue, Namor must thwart the plans of a mad scientist who is experimenting on escaped asylum inmates to create a race of sub-mariners.
#24: Namor returns to Atlantis only to discover that the throne has been usurped by Daka, one of his uncles, and has allied Atlatian forces with the Seal People and (who else?) the Nazis. My favorite story of this volume.
There are other noteworthy stories in this volume as well (including a prose origin story written by Stan Lee for Simon & Kirby’s Vision), but I always read the Sub-Mariner ones first.
I am so happy now I can hardly contain myself! Marvel Masterworks Sub-Mariner Vol. 7 (collecting issues #50-60) has been solicited (finally!) for January release. I have heard Bill Everett's last run on the character he created described as "dated" or "old fashioned" or worse, but if you are a fan of Everett, or the Sub-Mariner, or of good fun comics... especially if you've never read these issues before (they've never been reprinted before)... maybe if you are unfamiliar with the work of Bill Everett... if you can come to this collection with a set of fresh eyes... this book is for you!
Surprised they're going on with the hardcovers, even the rare Golden Age stuff, but abandoned Essential Sub-Mariner after one volume. As for Dorma, I'd like to know what Everett, who I believe was already trying to take over Namor's title long before her death, thought about her. Since he came up with Namorita, I'm sure he was looking towards a more level-headed Namor, having effectively made him a father figure. (Of course, this was eventually ruined when Nita was killed off--but somehow the long dead Namora turned up alive.) In recent years we've been seeing a Namor that makes even the always angry version look like a pretty nice guy.
As for the pre-Robin Batman, I'd ask did Finger and Kane want to change him, or were they pressured into making Robin and lightening the series?
Marvel Masterworks Sub-Mariner Vol. 7 (described above) shipped yesterday, right on time. Everett's '70s work looks even better than I rembered, but he wasn't always able to do everything do to his failing health. Roy Thomas' introduction tells the behind-the-scenes story refected in the level of Everett's participation from issue-to-issue. I don't think anyone really realized at the time how sick he was. The fact that he was able to produce some of the best work of his career under these circumstances makes his work on this volume that much more impressive.
I have several issues from Steve Gerber's run, which followed. Everett also drew the opening pages of #61, and the plot of #63 was credited to him. The GCD also credits him with the cover of #61. If that's right, he possibly created Dr Hydro, who the issue introduced. The story concluded in #62, but #63 had a follow-up Dr Hydro story with the plot credited to Everett. Perhaps - this is just a guess - #63 was based on the plot Everett intended for #61.
The situation on the cover of #61 was that issue's lead story cliffhanger. But it could be the cover was drawn first and Gerber derived the cliffhanger from it. Hydro doesn't have green scales on the cover, and he and his agents don't appear in Everett's opening pages. #63 gives him a power he doesn't have in #61-#62 to turn to mist.
Back in 2011 (on page one of this discussion), I said, “I've long been pulling for a comprehensive tpb reprint collection of Everett's GA Subby.” It just goes to show: wait long enough and whatever you you’ve been waiting for will eventually be reprinted. And this is a hardcover! I haven’t been this excited about an upcoming release in… well, in a long time.
This volume reprints Sub-Mariner stories from Marvel Comics #1, Marvel Mystery Comics #2-31, Human Torch #2-6, Sub-Mariner Comics #1-4 and All-Winners Comics #1-4 as well as The Fin stories from Daring Mystery Comics #7-8 and Comedy Comics #9. In other words, every adventure of Prince Namor from his debut through Bill Everett’s February 1942 induction into the armed services is included in this comprehensive volume. Look for it in September of this year.
My latest "project" is to attempt to reconcile original Golden Age Sub-Mariner continuity with modern Invaders stories (as I did once before with "Captain America's Golden Age Career), so I'm bumping this discussion back up to the top not only so that I can find it more easily when I'm ready to post, but also to move Cap's comments about volume one of Bill Everett's The Complete Golden Age Sub-Mariner over from the "What Comics Have You Read Today?" discussion. NOTE: Volume two of The Complete Golden Age Sub-Mariner is out now, too.
Captain Comics said:
I finally finished the Timely's Greatest: Bill Everett book. Earlier I commented on the Timely's Greatest: Human Torch book that I found it kinda boring and repetitive, despite the lead characters being literally on fire. Not so with Sub-Mariner!
Man, I can't believe this character existed in the 1940s! These strips have a very modern sensibility, in that Subby has a complex personality, and other Timely characters show up occasionally, not just the Human Torch, indicating a shared universe. And even when the Torch isn't in the story, Subby might mention him!
While Namor eventually gets aligned with the war effort and becomes a welcome ally to the Navy, a lot of earlier stories have him going on, essentially, a temper tantrum and tearing up New York or other cities. He and the Torch do not get along, even when fighting together. Namor is petulant, inquisitive, good-hearted but easily aroused to anger. Sometimes he fights for America, sometimes against it.
And Namor's a killer. A casual killer. Now, everyone he kills with his hands has it coming, but he also kills a lot of sailors more or less in passing, without a murmur of concern, and it's doubtful they all deserved it. Oh, well. War is hell.
Throughout the book, the green, fish-faced Atlanteans have winged feet also. But they are never seen flying, so maybe with them they're vestigial. It does make sense, though, or otherwise those wings just appear on Namor without any explanation. Even mutant features evolve from existing biological structures.
(How they actually allow him to fly despite physics arguing otherwise, is a whole other discussion.)
Namor's bulletproof skin is only indicated once in the book that I noticed, where being shot is described as feeling like hot bees or something. The rest of the time Everett goes out of his way to depict the bullets missing. I have no idea what to make of that.
In one of the house ads, Namor is described as Neptune's half-nephew or something similar. First I've heard of that.
In most of the house ads, Timely touts Human Torch and Sub-Mariner, of course, but Captain America is conspicuously missing in most of them. Instead, Timely is pushing The Patriot, along with some other also-rans like Ka-Zar, The Angel and Terry Vance.
Man, what was the deal with The Angel? Aside from being drawn to look like Errol Flynn, I can't see anything interesting about the guy.
There are two American characters, Luther and Lynne, who keep showing up, but I don't know why. They are not very interesting, and are, as you'd expect, left out entirely in the action sequences, which involve things they couldn't survive, and are often underwater. They were just so much baggage, but Subby would go out of his way to collect them. Were they supposed to be POV characters? Was Everett aping characters in some other action strip or movie? Was Subby supposed to be hot for Lynne? Because sometimes they'd appear with Betty Dean, who I thought was supposed to be Namor's love interest.
Dorma shows up, and is described as Subby's cousin. I didn't detect any romance, especially since she looked like all the other green, fish-faced Atlanteans. Namor seemed more interested in white American women.
Speaking of which, a woman named Prentiss (I've forgotten her first name) shows up, and is very stacked (which Everett doesn't draw very well) and lays a liplock on a perfectly willing Sub-Mariner at the end. I wonder if she continued in the strip later, especially since that surname shows up as Betty Dean's married name in the 1968 Sub-Mariner series. (I'm assuming Prentiss has a brother, not gay marriage.)
All of the Atlantean names have the same strict construction: Five letters, two syllables, beginning with a consonant, ending in "A." First syllable has three letters, second one has two, accent on the first syllable. DOR-ma. FAL-da. BAR-ta.
While the Sub-Mariner strip isn't nearly as repetitive as the Human Torch strip, this is the '40s, so the dialogue, while slang-y, does repeat quite a bit. It took me a while to get through the book, because A) it is large and B) sometimes I had to take a breather and read something else.
But I'll give Everett credit for having a goodly variety of plots and locales, and more imagination than any of the Torch stories, which were ploddingly dull and repetitive. I actually enjoyed this book, instead of just reading it as an education!
That bit about Namor as Neptune's nephew could be an ad for SUBBIE the Sea-Going Lad, a Sub-Mariner clone from Timely itself. He appeared in Kid Komics #1-2 in 1943 and looked like a young Namor in a sailor suit. He was raised by "Father Neptune" whom he refers to as his uncle. Beyond the name and appearance, there is no known connection between the two.
Based on the Captain's description, seems Everett's Golden Age Sub-Mariner stories had a lot of elements that Lee/Kirby/Ditko expanded on in Marvel's Silver Age, although Subby was much more savage in the Golden Age than any Silver Age hero (thanks CCA!). Only ever read a few G.A. Sub-Mariner stories myself, but usually found them more entertaining than the few G.A. Human Torch stories I've read, some of which struck me as just incredibly stupid when I read them when I was about 13 from reprints published in The Human Torch series of the mid-80s which featured both G.A. Jim Hammond & Toro tales and Silver Age Johnny Storm solo tales, which weren't much better, but, hey, they included the introduction of the Wizard and Paste Pot Pete, who both appeared much more freaky and frightful looking as initially drawn by Kirby then than they did not too long after when they became half of the Frightful Four taking on the Fantastic Four.
..." reprinted during the late 60s ", I meant above.