Greetings from the Odinson,
A few years ago, the Odinson explored the rise and fall of a Marvel Icon (see AVX Repercussions and the Rise and Fall of Cyclops). As his story has unfolded over the years, Scott Summers has gone from Xavier’s poster boy for mutant equality to stalwart leader and champion of his people to desperate power-mad god to pariah. Since his very first appearance back in 1963 in the pages of Uncanny X-Men #1, this mutant hero has had quite a complicated and turbulent journey to the present day. However, Cyclops is not the only Marvel Icon to tread a rocky road from debut to his present day lot.
The beauty of the Marvel Universe is that there are so many diverse and complicated stories to tell, but this week, the Odinson is going to focus on a very specific hero, or anti-hero, depending on his mood.
The Odinson Explores the Rise and Fall of Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner
Created by Bill Everett in 1939, the Savage Sub-Mariner made his debut in the pages of Motion Picture Funnies Weekly #1 (less than a year after Superman in Action Comics #1 and over a year before Aquaman’s first appearance in More Fun Comics #73). Originally, before retcons introduced characters like Selene and En Sabah Nur, Prince Namor was Marvel Comics’ first and mightiest mutant. When the Savage Sub-Mariner very first burst onto the scene in the Golden Age, he was a sworn enemy of the surface world. Enraged by the sins and crimes mankind has committed against the sea and the creatures who dwell there, Prince Namor swore vengeance. This led to conflict with mankind’s defenders. Marvel Mystery Comics #9 is a very important issue in the history of comics. Not only does it feature a titanic clash between the mighty Sub-Mariner and the Original Human Torch, but it is the very first crossover event between two super heroes in Comics History.
It was not long though before a greater enemy would draw the ire of the mighty Sub-Mariner. Like most of the heroes of the Golden Age, Prince Namor set out to topple the sinister Axis Powers. Namor found himself fighting side-by-side with his erstwhile sparring partner the Original Human Torch and the super soldier Captain America in the ranks of the Invaders, a super human strike force that took on the battles normal soldiers could not. It was during these harrowing days of World War II that Prince Namor built a strong bond with Steve Rogers, a friendship, respect, and loyalty that would last forever.
In the 1950s, when Fredric Wertham’s attack on pop culture, which led to the Comics Code Authority, brought an end to the Golden Age of Super Heroes, the Sub-Mariner was among the casualties, but like his friend and ally Captain America, he too would one day return.
Prince Namor hails from the legendary undersea Kingdom of Atlantis. He possesses all the traits of his underwater kindred, the ability to breathe underwater, swim and navigate with ease through the ocean depths, and a natural resistance to extreme pressures and temperatures. However, he is also half human, which resulted in him being a mutant. So, not only are his natural Atlantean abilities amplified to the Nth degree, his mutant gene has caused him to grow strange wings on his ankles which allow him to fly through the air, and though he is not immortal, he is extremely long-lived. Thanks to his human heritage, Namor is able to breathe air and survive on land indefinitely. However, the longer he is out of water the weaker physically he becomes and his mental state can also deteriorate into an unstable state and even cause amnesia.
When it comes to super human strength, the Sub-Mariner is unequaled within the ocean’s depths where he is all but invincible. Even on land though, Namor is one the mightiest beings in the world. He has fought and scored victories against the Thing, Spider-Man, Iron Man, and even the Incredible Hulk. His mutated Atlantean strength has even allowed him to stand toe-to-toe with immortals like Hercules and Thor.
In 1961, with Fantastic Four #1, the Marvel Age of Comics was launched. Not only were a host of new heroes introduced, but in the pages of Avengers #4, Captain America made his triumphant return to the four color medium, and in the pages of Fantastic Four #4, the Sub-Mariner also made his return. Johnny Storm, the new Human Torch, met a bearded man with amnesia and discovered this stranger was in fact the legendary Sub-Mariner. It seems in the years following World War II, Namor had stayed away from the water too long and this had affected him physically and mentally. Once returned to the ocean, the Sub-Mariner’s memories came flooding back. However, he also remembered his vendetta against the surface world for their crimes against the sea and immediately renewed his invasion of the surface world.
At the Dawn of the Marvel Age, Namor’s invasion of the surface world put him at odds with the Fantastic Four. His infatuation with the Invisible Girl made him a lifelong rival with Mister Fantastic. This also led to his on again/off again partnership with Doctor Doom. He even teamed up with the monstrous Hulk to try and destroy the Mighty Avengers. And, it was also during this time that Namor learned about his mutant heritage from the Master of Magnetism, Magneto, and came to blows with the Uncanny X-Men. Even poor Daredevil felt the wrath of the Avenging Son. However, it was not long before matters of the sea drew his attention away from the surface world and called the Sub-Mariner back to his home.
Back in the Undersea Kingdom of Atlantis, Namor would face some of his greatest challenges. He would have to fend off the warlord Attuma and his bid for power. He would be introduced to one of his deadliest and most tenacious foes – Tiger Shark. He would have his undersea superiority challenged by the mighty Orka. He would face betrayal and exile by his own people of Atlantis. And, he would endure his greatest defeat and heartbreak when he could not prevent the murder of his true love, Lady Dorma. After this tragedy, Namor’s adventures led him once again to the surface world where alongside Doctor Strange, Hulk, and the Silver Surfer, he co-founded one of the mightiest forces for justice in Marvel History – The Defenders.
In recent years, it has been revealed that Prince Namor is part of a secret cabal of prominent heroes known as the Illuminati. This Illuminati has pulled strings and made clandestine decisions for the rest of the Marvel Universe for years. They took it upon themselves to deal with the Infinity Gauntlet and Beyonder problems. They were the ones that judged and exiled the Hulk to the furthest reaches of space leading to Planet Hulk and ultimately World War Hulk. They discovered the Secret Invasion, a coup perpetrated by the alien Skrulls and made possible by the Illuminati’s own eerant actions. It was also during this time that Namor, empowered by the Phoenix Force, destroyed the Kingdom of Wakanda. It seems this clandestine group of heroes has taken it upon themselves to play God with the lives of every man, woman, and child on Earth, and this was never more apparent than during the Incursion Saga.
When it was discovered that the multiverse was destroying itself by smashing realities into each other, the Illuminati, rather than gathering all the heroes of the Marvel Universe, took it upon themselves to find a solution. After all their avenues of research came up empty and all their attempts for a peaceful solution failed, they were left with only one option – destroy or be destroyed. This is where Namor’s destiny really takes a traumatic turn.
At the moment of truth, in the pages of A Perfect World, even when faced with ultimate annihilation, the members of the Illuminati could not bring themselves to pull the trigger and destroy another world to save their own. All of them except for Namor. In his own words, he says, “If I must become this thing, then let it be at a time of my own choosing.” The Sub-Mariner was willing to make the decision the other heroes could never possibly make, and a world died.
Namor has been many things over the years. He has been a king, an exile, an enemy to mankind, a villain, and a hero. He has even served in the ranks of the Avengers, a team he once tried to destroy. Why, or better yet, how can one man so deftly straddle the line between right and wrong, good and evil?
Modern Master John Byrne addressed this question in the pages of his seminal series Namor: The Sub-Mariner. It seems that Prince Namor’s volatile and oft times erratic behavior is due to the very thing that makes him unique, his genetic make-up. Because he is of both worlds, land and sea, yet not quite fully belonging to either, this conflict causes a chemical imbalance within Namor’s very being. This shows itself in the form of Namor’s violent mood swings and sometimes unexplainable rationality.
The Sub-Mariner is easily one of the most complicated characters in Comics History. He has tried to destroy the surface world almost as many times as he has saved it. In Squadron Supreme: By Any Means Necessary, Prince Namor paid the ultimate price for his past sins. But, this is comic books, and we all know that sooner or later, everybody comes back. The question is, what role will the Sub-Mariner play when he does come back?
Savior? Or, destroyer of worlds.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell