Greetings from the Odinson,
This week the Odinson continues his series exploring the greatest rivalries in comics history. In columns past, I’ve taken a look at such prestigious competitions like strength – Hulk vs. Thing, speed – Superman vs. Flash, and just who is the World’s Finest – Batman vs. Superman. This week, the Odinson has a delicious contest of champions featuring two contestants that could not be more polar opposite. One hails from a world beyond belief, a place where flights of fantasy are the norm and might makes right. The other resides in a world of super science, surrounded by technologies undreamed of and intellect is the order of the day.
Great Rivalries in Comics History: Iron Man vs. Sub-Mariner
The Avengers vs. Sub-Mariner and Hulk (1964) – The first meeting between these two Marvel Legends happened very early on in the history of the Avengers after the Hulk left the team in a huff. Not wanting the big galoot to get into or cause trouble, the Avengers track him down. Unfortunately, the Green Goliath has allied with the mighty Sub-Mariner creating a force whose power rivals even Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. This is a titanic battle that ultimately led to the rediscovery of Captain America, the World War II super hero that had been missing since the war.
Tales of Suspense #79-80 and Tales to Astonish #82 (1966) – At a time when Prince Namor was still raging against the surface world, he attacked Iron Man. Unfortunately for Stark, his suit’s power level was at an all-time low and he desperately needed a recharge. Namor easily took the first round, but in the second round, after a much needed recharge, Iron Man proved he was able to stand toe-to-toe with an adversary even as mighty and savage as the Sub-Mariner himself.
Iron Man #25 (1970) – When a new power generator begins to poison the ocean, Namor emerges from the depths to put an end to it. Iron Man steps in to halt the irresponsible destruction once again setting these two mighty heroes against each other. In this showdown, Iron Man actually gets the better of Namor. However, in the end it takes their combined strength, one born out of super science and the other’s born out of myth and legend, to stop this machine from destroying the planet’s oceans.
Iron Man #54 (1973) – Under the mental control of Moondragon, Iron Man is forced to attack Prince Namor leading to an epic throw down. This was during a time when Namor was willing to give the surface world a chance, but after Iron Man’s seemingly unwarranted attack, the Avenging Son’s views toward land dwellers continued to waver, and his ire toward the Golden Avenger grew.
The Avengers/Defenders War (1973) – In a diabolical twist, Loki the God of Evil and the Dread Dormammu team up and pit Iron Man and Sub-Mariner’s mighty teams, the Avengers and Defenders, against each other in an earth-shaking contest of champions.
Iron Man #120-121 (1979) – During Tony’s harrowing struggle with his Demon in a Bottle, Iron Man is once again manipulated into a conflict with the Savage Sub-Mariner. After a back and forth battle that nearly cost Tony his life, the two rivals learn that their showdown has been engineered by Roxxon, a shady corporation that causes big problems for Marvel heroes, especially the Sub-Mariner, and decide to stop pounding on each other long enough to take down the real bad guys.
Iron Man Annual #10 (1989) – During the Atlantis Attacks campaign, proving that they don’t always descend into fisticuffs, Iron Man and Sub-Mariner manage to get along and work together long enough to stop a diabolical plan by Hydra and an invading war party sent to the surface by the warlord Attuma.
Marvel Team-Up #11 (1998) – When an old friend calls pleading for help and blaming the Sub-Mariner, Iron Man ventures to the undersea Kingdom of Atlantis to confront his erstwhile sparring partner. Ready for a fight, Tony is startled to learn that the blue collar villains the Wrecking Crew have tricked both heroes into yet another showdown.
Revolution (2007) – In the wake of the super hero Civil War, a vicious terrorist attack is perpetrated on the United States and all signs point to Atlantis as being responsible. Now the head of SHIELD and homeland security, not to mention having a tumultuous personal history with the Sub-Mariner, Tony Stark is not happy and all-out war is on the verge of being declared. Prince Namor races against the clock to discover those truly responsible before millions of innocent lives are lost in the looming conflict. This is certainly a different kind of battle. It plays out more like a political thriller rather than old fashion fisticuffs.
Invincible Iron Man #12 (2009) – During Norman Osborn’s Dark Reign, Tony Stark has become the world’s most wanted man. When Tony flees into the ocean, Osborn sends the Sub-Mariner on the hunt. At this time, Namor had infiltrated Norman Osborn’s Dark Illuminati and was all too happy to once again trade blows with his old frenemy.
Marvel Adventures: Avengers #31 (2009) – As these things tend to do, a misunderstanding leads to a brawl between Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and the Avenging Son. In his element by the sea, the Savage Sub-Mariner proves more than a match for Spider-Man, Tigra, Luke Cage, and even Iron Man. Luckily, the Avengers have a Hulk.
Bonus Round (Interesting Twists on a Classic Rivalry):
Namor/Doom team-Up – A rather interesting aspect of Marvel History has led to Prince Namor and Victor Von Doom becoming erstwhile allies. Not only do Namor and Doom share a long lasting rivalry with Marvel’s First Family, the Fantastic Four, but they both also share a contentious history with the Golden Avenger.
The Illuminati – Iron Man and the Sub-Mariner were both apart of the Illuminati, a secret cabal of prominent Marvel Heroes pulling the strings of the Marvel U from behind the scenes. Given their heated history, to say that Namor and Stark did not see eye-to-eye on a lot of matters is an understatement, not the least of which was what do about Earth’s “Hulk problem.” The argument got so heated in fact that Namor nearly killed Stark in the scuffle that ensued, and probably would have too if Doctor Strange had not interceded. NOTE: The results of that argument led to Planet Hulk and ultimately World War Hulk.
Civil War – One could make an argument that Namor and Tony find themselves on opposing sides of this major super hero conflict not because of Namor’s desire to stay out of the affairs of surface dwellers, not because of his longtime friendship with Captain America, nor even because of his affections for the lovely Invisible Woman, but simply to spite his longtime rival.
This is a rivalry that goes beyond just who is stronger, smarter, or more powerful. It is in fact a battle of the Ages, a conflict of two different eras. Prince Namor represents the Golden Age, a time of might and magic, a less complicated time when conflicts were settled by strength and fortitude. Tony Stark represents the new age, a Marvel Age if you will, a time of wonder and science, a more complicated time when heroes make hard decisions that straddle the line between right and wrong, a more complex era where danger lurks upon every new horizon.
In fact, probably the only things these two men have in common are their enormous egos, and that is why they make such great adversaries.
Above are the tales that make Iron Man vs. Sub-Mariner one of the All-Time great rivalries in the History of Comic Books. Be sure to check out past rivalries explored – Hulk vs. Thing, Superman vs. Flash, Batman vs. Superman – and be on the lookout for future installments – Hulk vs. Thor, Punisher vs. Daredevil, Superman vs. Captain Marvel, and more!
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell