Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 17
  1. #1
    Incredible Member Lorendiac's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Posts
    917

    Default Examining the frightening debuts of Jim Hammond and Namor

    Every time April First rolls around, I like to honor the spirit of the day by taking a no-holds-barred look at the original appearance of a Golden Age "superhero." In previous years, I've given the business to Superman, Batman, and Captain Marvel. I'm sure many of my fellow comics fans were hoping and praying I had finally gotten it out of my system, but this year I chose to turn my attention to the early efforts of Timely (the future "Marvel") in a double-header look at the original appearances of the Human Torch (Jim Hammond) and the Sub-Mariner (Namor), since both tales were published within the pages of the same comic book in 1939. (Marvel Comics #1, with the series title shifting to "Marvel Mystery Comics" with the very next issue!)

    Until about a week ago ago, I'd never read the actual Golden Age debuts of those "early superheroes." While wondering where I could find access to that material, cheaply but legally, I discovered I could buy a digital edition of that classic comic through the Marvel.com website for $1.99, and I decided to splurge.

    So bear with me as I walk through the plot of each story, and then I will offer some observations on what it reveals to us about the moral fiber, etc., of each protagonist!


    PART ONE: THE HUMAN TORCH

    The story begins with the words "The Human Torch" in big letters in a panel stretching across the top of the page, followed by "by Carl Burgos" in much smaller ones. No actual story title; that "Human Torch" bit is obviously the title of the new ongoing feature. (The comics.org listing for this issue assigns the arbitrary title of "[Origin of the Human Torch]" to this tale.)

    As the actual plot gets going, we see that a silver-haired man called "Professor Horton" is hosting a press conference in his own laboratory. He says he's created "a synthetic man -- an exact replica of a human being!"

    He calls the guy "The Human Torch," and keeps him in an airtight glass cylinder -- but with the option to feed in carefully calibrated quantities of air by fiddling with a nearby control panel -- because it turns out there was one tiny little glitch in the otherwise brilliant design. Whenever Horton's "robot" is touched by a fresh supply of oxygen, he bursts into flame from head to toe. (This process does not seem to harm The Human Torch in any way, so I'm far from clear on just what, if anything, is actually burning to fuel those flames.)

    One of the reporters says: "Horton, destroy that man, before some madman can grasp its principles and hurl it against our civilization!"

    Er, right. Flawless logic, buddy. After all, it's not as if the science of the early 20th Century had already found lots of other ways to make things burst into flame whenever you really wanted them to!

    (Seriously, though -- "thermite" was patented in 1895, and the first battlefield use of a "flamethrower" occurred in 1915. If this reporter thinks getting rid of "The Human Torch" will magically prevent any form of terrifying incendiary weapons from being used on a large scale during the next big war, then I'm afraid he's living in serious denial -- that ship has already sailed, long before Horton ever started building his "synthetic man!")

    Professor Horton seems to have a far better grasp of the practical realities than the frightened reporters do; politely but firmly, he tells them that destroying his robot wouldn't solve anything. One of the reporters replies that they will see what "the power of the press" can do to change the Professor's mind.

    Before long, the newspaper headlines are informing the general public of what's going on in Horton's lab, and Horton gets a phone call from a representative of a group called "the scientist's guild." An appointment is made. At 8 PM, a three-man delegation shows up to investigate this matter on behalf of the entire guild. Horton repeats the stunt he did for the reporters, deliberately feeding another burst of air into the glass cylinder so the visitors can gauge the results -- and the visitors are stunned when they see a meter on the control panel has suddenly snapped because the temperature of the flaming man is too high for the apparatus to measure! (Nobody tells us just how high the meter was capable of going, though.)

    After Horton confirms that he has not found any way to control that reaction (setting aside the obvious fact that cutting off the air supply qualifies as a very crude form of "control" -- an On/Off switch, basically), his visitors reluctantly concede that the newspapers might actually have a point about the dangers. But they do a little brainstorming, and one guy (unnamed) comes up with an alternative that seems less destructive. "Entomb him in a concrete block."

    Since it is implied (although never stated) that the "synthetic man's" survival does not depend in any way upon eating, drinking, or breathing anything at all, the general idea is that if Horton's later lab work finds a reliable way to control that incendiary reaction, they can dig the robot out of the concrete, none the worse for wear, and try again!

    Note: Since Horton won't have the robot constantly available as a test subject for each new idea he comes up with, I'm far from clear on how he will know in advance that any little tricks he's just pulled in his lab will, in fact, work equally well at suppressing the robot's tendency to burst into flame. But that point is not addressed in dialogue.

    At any rate: This plan is acted upon -- the Torch being shut into an airtight steel tube and then lowered into a mass of liquid concrete -- with gentlemen of the press invited to observe the process so that they can then soothe the public's fears by reporting that the Torch is sealed away, inert and harmless, for the foreseeable future.

    A caption then tells us: "Time went by -- and everybody had forgotten about the fire-man, until, one early morning, there was a terrifying blast and the earth split open!" (Sound effect: BOOM!)

    I love that vague reference to "time" passing. Does that mean weeks, months, or years? It doesn't say!

    We are assured that somehow there was a very slow leak which allowed oxygen to seep in through the concrete and into the steel tube until the Torch had (inadvertently, I gather) blasted himself loose. Now he starts running through the streets of the city, and everyone is panicking as he leaves a trail of burning objects in his wake. Which wouldn't bother me so much if one of those objects wasn't a grown man! (Or at least his suit and hat, in one panel -- I hope he managed to strip the burning clothing off before he was badly hurt, but we never hear any follow-up on his fate.)

    Until this moment, the most exciting thing we had ever seen the Torch deliberately do was raising and lowering one arm while catching on fire inside that glass tube. Now we are seeing our first proof that he is capable of locomotion -- and rational thought -- and even has some language skills! In other words, that he actually has a personality, a point which had not previously been so much as hinted at! (For instance, I don't recall Horton ever claiming to have made any attempt whatsoever to carry on meaningful communication with his own creation.)

    Our feature character's first recorded words are quite reasonable under the circumstances: "I'm burning alive! -- Why must everything I touch turn to flame? --"

    (Don't take the "burning alive" part too seriously; I don't think he's suffering. I think he just means: "I'm alive, and I'm surrounded by fire radiating out from my skin.")
    Last edited by Lorendiac; 04-01-2015 at 07:42 PM.

  2. #2
    Incredible Member Lorendiac's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Posts
    917

    Default

    We are informed that someone called in a fire alarm. A fire engine pulls up (a caption says there are "fire engines," plural, but we only see the one) and the firemen do what they're trained to do: Hook up a hose to a convenient hydrant and then start hitting the source of the blaze with a steady stream of water.

    It was a decent plan, but the results are not quite what they hoped: First, a cloud of steam starts filling the air around the still-fiery body of the Torch, and second, he says: "Ha! Ha! Ha! Stop -- it tickles!"

    Then (possibly by accident) he steps onto the hose near the hydrant and his foot melts a hole in it, which badly hampers the firemen's ability to keep the water aimed at him. The Torch again makes a run for it, and the results indicate that he finally shakes off any pursuerse so that they have no idea where this burning man got to. (Don't ask me how he did that!) To do him justice, we must note that his dialogue continues to make it clear that he does not enjoy the fact that every time he brushes past anything inflammable, it promptly catches fire. It appears that he is actively seeking a way to stop doing that. He finally sees a swimming pool outside a mansion, melts his way through the metal bars separating the estate from the street (but no police officers ever seem to notice this subtle evidence of his passing through the neighborhood), and deliberately dives into the pool to see if that will bring him into contact with sufficient water to douse the flame. (Worth a try, I guess -- there's a lot more water in that pool than what a single fire hose could direct at him at any given moment.)

    As luck would have it, this house is occupied by some tough-talking characters who quickly turn out to be criminals. The boss (called "Sardo") arranges to have "the winter glass-cover" placed over the pool, and then to have the water drained out of the pool. Apparently things are now so air-tight under that cover that once he's done, we can see the non-fiery body of the Torch standing on the concrete bottom of the pool. (I find this a trifle hard to swallow when even being inside a sealed steel cylinder inside a solid block of concrete wasn't enough to keep the Torch safely away from fresh air, but let's run with it.)

    Sardo's plan is to go into the protection racket by threatening to have warehouses and things burn down unless he is paid a tidy sum for what he prefers to call "fire insurance."

    After his first sales pitch is made to the president of "Acmen Warehouses, Inc.", and fails to persuade that executive to cough up any money, Sardo heads back to the mansion, refills the pool with water, has the Torch inserted into another airtight glass cylinder which he just happens to already have on hand (doesn't everyone keep a man-sized glass cylinder in the house for just such emergencies?), places the Torch where he wants him (inside an Acmen warehouse, near a wall) and -- from a safe distance -- throws a weight which smashes the glass. We are informed that until now, the Human Torch had assumed Sardo was trying to help him. (Not that we ever saw them have any actual two-way conversations, you understand!) But the Torch is far from pleased by this new situation and quickly figures out that he's being used as a tool for arson. Furthermore, his conscience is bothered by that fact. (Just how did Professor Horton, using the technology of the 1930s, and without ever having a meaningful conversation with the Torch after assembling him in the lab, manage to program in such things as an excellent grasp of the English language and a pretty good moral compass? I don't know. Truly he was a man ahead of his time!)

    In making his way out of the warehouse before it can collapse on him, the Torch discovers -- to his own surprise -- that he can fly! A caption helpfully explains this to us: "The reason was that the blue and combined red flames made the Human Torch lighter than air!" (The Torch is almost always surrounded by red flames, but I'm completely at sea regarding this enigmatic reference to "the blue," so please don't ask me to clarify the physics of the situation.)

    The Torch returns to Sardo's mansion and goes on a spree as an unstoppable force. Deliberately killing at least one of the goons, and briefly stated in a caption to have "scalded" a bunch of others. (As well as setting the mansion on fire, of course.) I'm sure we can all relate to this: Every time someone offends your moral sensibilities, don't you set them on fire as a way to balance the scales?

    There's quite a fight with Sardo himself, of course. Sardo ends up dying too -- but arguably it was his own fault, since he threw a tank full of sulphuric acid at the torch and it exploded in mid-air (implicitly from the heat), with results which killed Sardo and didn't harm a hair on the Torch's head. Whether or not the Torch would have been willing to settle for watching Sardo be arrested by the police is thus left up in the air. (This sequence at the mansion is also when we learn that bullets melt before they can make contact with the Torch's body.)

    But at least one bit of good comes out of all this: At one point, Professor Horton arrives on the scene just in time to see the Torch melt open a tank full of nitrogen -- which temporarily dampens his flames! Maybe we're supposed to believe it was chilled and compressed liquid nitrogen, instead of the room-temperate nitrogen which makes up the lion's share of the air we breathe every minute of the day? Since that latter version of nitrogen clearly had not been doing the Torch a lick of good? No one clarifies that point, however -- although it's possible that Professor Horton might have some ideas.

    (Frankly, I'd nearly forgotten about Professor Horton by this point in the story! He was last seen on Page 4, reacting to the sound of an explosion, and now it's Page 12 when suddenly he pops up again! Presumably because he heard a report that a mansion was burning, and suspected his own Human Torch might have something do with it? But I'm forced to speculate, since no one bothers to explain his presence!)

    In the last two pages of the story, after doing some further experimentation with canned nitrogen, the Torch douses his own flames and voluntarily surrenders himself to the custody of the police, and ultimately goes before a judge in a court of law, staying "normal-looking" the whole time! The implication seems to be that once he had experienced the previously-unknown sensation of walking around in a normal atmosphere while not burning at the same time (because of recent exposure to all that nitrogen), he was somehow able to figure out how to focus his thoughts to recreate that sensation and the related metabolic condition at will (lowering his own body temperature drastically, according to something he says), now that he finally knew what this desirable condition was supposed to feel like in the first place! Analogous to a man in real life being able to lower his own blood pressure by just thinking certain types of thoughts, I suppose.

    The judge apparently buys Torch's story that he was just a "victim of circumstances." (Yes, his exact words.) It probably helps that Professor Horton, standing in the courtroom, volunteers to be responsible for the Torch's behavior from now on. The judge releases the Torch in Horton's custody, adding: "Ha! -- He'd probably burn the jail down if I didn't do so!"

    After they get home, the Torch demonstrates that he has now developed "complete control" over his flames. For instance, he can light a cigar from across the room without damaging anything else (such as the guy holding the cigar). Horton is thrilled by this, and says: "It's amazing! We could make a fortune!"

    The Torch is horrified by these mercenary motives, and promptly burns a hole in the roof and flies out to seek his own way in the world. I can't help feeling he's being a trifle unfair. Horton talking about finding ways (presumably legal and nonviolent) to cash in on the Torch's rare abilities is, in my eyes, far removed from the moral depravity of Sardo, who wanted to use the Torch for purposes of arson and extortion. Money is a very useful thing to have in the modern world, even if you aren't obsessed with acquiring as much of the stuff as possible. (Paying rent on an apartment, for instance; buying books; buying new suits of clothes; etc.) I don't think it was way out of line for Horton to be wondering about possible ways to get a return on all the time and resources he had invested in building the Torch in the first place!

    There's also the little detail of that new hole in the roof! I have sometimes found it necessary to walk away from an unpleasant conversation after someone deeply offended me, but I didn't commit any property damage at the time; I just opened a door and stepped outside. If the Torch is so thin-skinned that he's going to end every disagreeable conversation this way in the future, then he's going to find it hard to make friends. Not to mention the fact that Horton is supposed to be sharing responsibility for his future actions in the eyes of the law!

  3. #3
    Incredible Member Lorendiac's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Posts
    917

    Default

    On the other hand, the Torch is effectively just "days old" in terms of his practical experience in interacting with other people and other confusing phenomena of the outside world. If we look at him as a well-meaning toddler (albeit living in what appears to be "a man's body") who can walk and talk, but who is still incredibly naive and needs to learn more about etiquette and other social skills, then his petulant reaction seems much more pardonable. He does seem to sincerely want to do "the right thing," even if he hasn't fully figured out just what that is and how to accomplish it! (Lots of idealists find it advisable to hold down fulltime jobs in a mundane line of work, after all. But the Torch has never yet had the boundless joy of receiving a stack of bills each month!)

    So to sum up this first story: The Human Torch basically comes across as a nice guy, with incredible powers, who still needs to learn some practical rules for how to get along with other people and generally thrive and prosper in the world. I hope his feature will go far as he gradually "gets a clue" about this, that, and the other thing! (While smiting villainy right and left, I presume.)

    Let's move on to the other big-name debut in this comic book!



    PART TWO: THE SUB-MARINER (by Bill Everett)

    The story starts out simply enough. A salvage ship is floating above the spot where some other ship sank some time ago (we are not told when).

    A professional diver -- wearing the kind of diving suit that was state-of-the-art in the 1930s, with big bubble-shaped helmets, and air hoses and phone lines connecting him to the salvage ship floating above -- has just been checking out the wreck. Coming back up to the surface, he spends time in the decompression chamber, and then reports some anomalies -- for instance, the sunken ship's safe has already been opened and cleaned out by someone else, and a knife (conspicuously free of rust) was left out in plain sight, making him think it wasn't there when the ship went down. The captain says that's strange because there's no report of any other salvage ship in these waters for the past three years. (This may mean the ship in question sank within the last 36 months.)

    Then the first diver and another guy go back down to look again. They see someone swimming around in the wreck. He doesn't have diving equipment, but doesn't seem the least bit bothered by the pressure at this depth. Then he cuts their lines and crushes their helmets! (We learn that he thinks these animated suits must be "robots"; which is very presumptuous of him.)

    The way Everett handles it, these early pages have something of the "opening sequence of a horror movie" feel to them. Some ordinary people, presumably honest and hard-working and all that, just happen to be exploring a strange place which has peculiar things happening in it. Before they quite grasp what they are up against, something superhuman starts killing them! (But I'm not sure if this type of opening was such a cliche for scary movies in 1939 as it is today.)

    Of course, that perspective on this opening sequence requires casting Namor in the role of "the scary, evil monster; very much the villain of the piece!", which may be a little harsh. Let's keep going and gather more data!

    After Namor has finished off these two, another diver comes down to check, sees the bodies of his friends, makes it back up to the surface alive, and reports. As the ship is starting to move away, Namor grabs hold of the the rudder and uses his superhuman muscles to steer the vessel straight into a reef. We are not told if any of the crew die in that crash -- nor are we told that any of them survive to be rescued later on -- but Namor leaves the scene at that point, content with a good day's work, so the ones he hadn't killed down at the seafloor at least seem to have a chance of survival.

    Namor returns home, carrying the bodies of the two divers we saw him kill. He presents them to an unnamed blue-skinned authority figure (whose features are far less "human" than Namor's own), and when he removes the helmets, it becomes clear that these are "Earth-Men."

    Having had all this build-up, we now see his mom explain why, in her opinion, the Earth-people are so bad! (And, by extension, why killing them qualifies as a public service!) His mother is Fen, and Namor's questions make it clear that he has grown up consciously aware that his biological father was a surface-dwelling man, but that he has never yet been told why his mother believes that surface-dwellers tend to be useless scum who deserve to die.

    So she explains. Let's take everything at face value and assume that she is telling the simple truth as she understands it. (I'm a diehard optimist.) According to Fen, it happened this way:

    In 1920, an American vessel called "the Oracle" came south, to the Sub-Mariners' home waters near the South Pole. The ship was captained by Commander Leonard McKenzie. The purpose of the voyage was to experiment with high explosives in a remote locale. (I think they were testing "depth charges," perhaps for future use in anti-submarine warfare, although Fen doesn't go into much detail about the rationale for whatever they were doing.) Unbeknownst to the men of the Oracle, the resultant explosions were wrecking undersea buildings and killing many of the Sub-Mariner race -- men, women, and children! Then more ships came to join Oracle, and "our elders" (implicitly a sort of "cabinet" or "ruling committee" of the underwater civilization) hand-picked Fen to go up to the surface and "work your feminine wiles to our racial advantage."

    That part worked out fairly well -- up to a point! At first, the surface-dwellers thought she was a woman of their own kind (no mention of how they reacted to her obvious blue skin, although I can't help thinking their first theory might have been: "The poor girl has turned blue from the cold!"). She learned their language (English, I take it), fell in love with Commander McKenzie, eventually married him (we don't know how long it took for them to reach that point), continued to go for nice long swims in the cold water (since she can only survive out in the air for about five hours at a time), and at regular intervals Fen secretly reported back to her government on the fascinating information she was learning about this expedition (and, by extension, about the military capabilities of the USA in general -- or at least I assume this was a U.S. vessel).

    In a flashback panel, we see Fen explicitly saying to a superior: "We cannot win, Master -- they are too mighty!"

    You might think that "the elders," at this point, would at least consider the option of trying to get what they wanted ("stop dropping bombs on us!") by non-violent, diplomatic means. It might work or it might not, but at least it would be an option worth investigating. Yet as far as we can tell from Fen's tale, the leaders of the Sub-Mariner civilization never even considered it!

    Instead, the narrative caption (from Fen) in the next panel says: "And they were too mighty, for even as our army assembled for the first counter-attack, there came a terrible bombardment from above -- which destroyed all but a mere handful of us!"

    In effect, the Sub-Mariners of that era (around 1920) seem to have concluded that nearly committing racial suicide by mustering to fight a hopeless battle was far, far preferable to anything so wimpy as talking to the surface-dwellers and saying: "Excuse us, but you're accidentally damaging our city; could you please go drop your bombs anywhere but here?" (One is tempted to say: "Those water-breathing morons got exactly what they deserved!")

    Fen then wraps up her narrative by saying that now the time has come for Namor, who can fly in the air and has "the strength of a thousand Earth-men," to lead his race into battle for vengeance against "the white people!" (I suspect that she never found out that many of the surface-dwellers come in other colors.) A narrative caption makes it clear that this mission is why Namor is also called "the Avenging Son."

    There are some odd things about Fen's story. First and foremost, the implication that she has never before shared this story with her own son, even though she's been raising him for this purpose (vengeance on surface-dwellers) for at least eighteen years! What's that all about?

    The second anomaly is that, by her own account, she learned to speak McKenzie's language. But she doesn't say a single word about having explained to him (or any other "Earth-Men") that it would be a great humanitarian gesture if they would relocate those explosive tests to other waters -- a few hundred miles to the west, for instance. If she never told him (nor his colleagues) that she desperately wanted them to relocate their explosive experiments right away, how can she blame them for never doing so? If she wants to know whose fault it was that those big depth charges kept falling onto her homeland after she had mastered the English language, she should take a good look in the mirror!
    Last edited by Lorendiac; 04-01-2015 at 09:03 PM.

  4. #4
    Incredible Member Lorendiac's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Posts
    917

    Default

    In the last few pages of this story, Namor is heading out to start his war. A new character is abruptly shoehorned in. Dorma, Namor's cute young cousin, who wants to tag along with him on his mission. He says she should only accompany him part of the way, because "it" (the actual fighting, I think he means) will be "too dangerous."

    Two days and two panels later, they are gazing at "Cape Anna Lighthouse." Namor's plan is to demolish the big light, and hope that this will cause lots of surface ships to crash and be destroyed. I suppose that's as good a place to start as any, if we grant the premise that this "war" is necessary. Namor goes up onto dry land and takes Dorma with him -- I guess he's completely forgotten his own previous pronouncement on the subject of it being too dangerous for her! (Self-consistency? Who needs it?)

    In the next couple of pages, Namor beats up at least three guys who work at the lighthouse. It is not stated that any of them die as a result of his super-strong blows . . . nor is it stated that any of them survive! (Was Everett trying to maintain some plausible deniability regarding whether or not his "hero" was, in fact, murdering harmless civilians right and left?)

    Namor damages some of the equipment in the base of the tower, then the beacon light up at the top, then -- while he and Dorma are visible up there at the top of the lighthouse -- some uniformed men with guns start approaching, and Dorma complains about "We're being surrounded!"

    Namor sees a small plane passing overhead and has an idea for how to "escape." He has Dorma cling to him, flies up to the plane, grabs hold of it, gets into the cockpit and tosses out the pilot (I doubt he survived the fall from that height, but once again, we are not told!), then puts Dorma in the pilot's seat and tells her to fly off, ditch the plane somewhere, and swim the rest of the way home. I might add that Dorma has contributed absolutely nothing to this destructive mission, making it extremely hard to see why Namor ever let her come up onto dry land with him in the first place!

    In fact, I'm completely failing to grasp the point of attacking the plane at all. Namor said it was an exit strategy, but why do either he or Dorma need to worry about escaping by air instead of simply using the same method they employed to get here in the first place -- swimming deep underwater at high speed? I very much doubt that this plane was carrying depth charges, so once they get far enough below the surface of the ocean, they should effectively be invisible and safe. (Not to mention being immune to any riflemen standing on the shore!)

    The best theory I can come up with is that Namor is grandstanding to impress a cute girl (who obviously admires him tremendously) with how strong and destructive he can be. I suppose that would also explain why he brought her up onto dry land in the first place, where all she did was watch admiringly while he wreaked havoc!

    Caption of the final panel: "And so Namor dives into the ocean again -- on his way to further adventures in his crusade against white men!"

    I think I can honestly say that if you had told me, back when I was just a kid getting started on collecting superhero comic books, that a famous Golden Age "hero" had his debut appearance end with a firm statement that all white men were his mortal enemies, I would have laughed at the outrageous notion! Shows you how much I knew, doesn't it?

    The funny thing is that the conversation between Namor and Fen made it clear that, until that moment, Namor had grown up without having any real bigotry towards surface-dwelling humans. But once his mother told him a bit of history (from her own skewed perspective) and said he ought to regard such people as the despicable enemy, he instantly took that to heart and meekly obeyed.

    In other words, the inescapable conclusion is that when you get past the flight and the super-strength and all, Namor is basically just a weak-willed momma's boy!

    If his mother tells him to hate someone, he does. If she tells him to kill them, he does. If her stated reasons for this hatred and bloodshed make absolutely no sense, he doesn't notice! He's all about blind obedience to her whims!

    This also carries over to his relationship with his female cousin, Dorma. When she thinks his upcoming war against Earth-men sounds very exciting, he initially says (sensibly enough) that the rough stuff will be too dangerous for her. But by the time they reach his selected target, he's abandoned that stance. Did she simply have to flutter her eyelashes at him to get him to reconsider? Is it really that easy for any Sub-Mariner woman to wrap Namor around her little finger and cause his intellect (such as it is) to stop functioning? Evidently!

    The scary thing is that I somehow think I was supposed to see the guy as some sort of "heroic figure," but after slogging through this story, I can't for the life of me understand why Everett would expect that to be my first reaction!

    CONCLUSION

    Despite some rough spots in his debut, I expect this Human Torch character to go far.

    On the other hand, the submissive sap known as "Namor," who is utterly incapable of applying logical reasoning to his mother's moronic and genocidal pronouncements, shows no sign of having any real staying power as a comic book character! (Except, perhaps, as a supervillain who never feels guilty about a string of murders?) Can you imagine how terrible it would be, hypothetically, if such a weak-willed momma's boy ultimately rose to a position of great power and influence, such as being a "ruling prince" or "king" of his own civilization? The very thought makes my blood run cold.

    I'd say the best we could hope for, on the basis of these debut stories, would be for the Torch to kill Namor in a fair fight a few months down the road, obviously in defense of a bunch of innocent civilians, before any more of these "I must kill all the white people because my mother says so!" stories get foisted upon us.

    P.S. This is the part where I usually say "April Fool's!", but my heart just isn't in it this year. The Namor story really came as a nasty shock, and I think what I offered above would, in fact, have been my honest-to-goodness first reaction if I'd been a kid reading that comic book in 1939.

  5. #5
    Astonishing Member dzub's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Location
    Singapore
    Posts
    3,516

    Default

    lol forget about being a kid in 1939..being an adult in 2015, being desensitized by watching action movies and playing GTA , i picked up the issue and i was like.. how did this even get past editors

    i do enjoy your write up though, it's good work and i'll read captain marvel next.

    Namor?? Submissive?? XD XD
    IMO it has more to do with the whole atlantean distrust of the surface world rather than his mother's influence alone.
    the next couple of issues where he's on the surface world and learning the customs of it show that Namor is indeed capable of thinking for himself.

    i'd say the torch/namor fight was handled pretty well.
    it should be the blueprint to how an event should be written.
    What we used to call life has very little worth these days. Welcome to the very edge.
    --Prince Namor (Earth-616)

  6. #6
    Marvel's 1st Superhero Reviresco's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Location
    The Sunless Realm
    Posts
    12,655

    Default

    It's always interesting to see how completely different people see things.

    The first Namor stories are a shock to most modern readers, who expect their superheroes to be flawless good guys. That's why Namor is unique and a strongly defined character that has survived with little major change and is the first anti-hero in comics.

    FYI, kids loved Namor back then. He was extremely popular, so I guess they didn't quite see him as you do, either. Nor did Bill Everett intend that Namor be viewed as a 'heroic figure' good guy, given in the third issue, Bill labels him as an "amphibious demon."

    I'm not sure that Dorma was shoe horned in, but those last four pages were added several months after Motion Picture Funnies #1, ostensibly to make the page count for Marvel Comics #1.

    Also, I'm betting that version of Marvel Comics suffers from the same coloring issues most versions do. Originally, Bill Everett's Namor story was in black and white with gorgeous craft tint shading, as can be seen in Motion Pictures Funnies #1. When it was reprinted in Marvel Comics #1 and colored, it muddied up things quite a bit, including the colors of the Atlanteans -- but even then Fen and Dorma weren't blue, they were 'white.'

    Sean Howe has a good article on it here: http://atomsmashers.blogspot.com/201...tis-blues.html
    Last edited by Reviresco; 04-01-2015 at 09:03 PM.
    NAMOR THE SUB-MARINER: CONQUERED SHORES #3
    Writing by Chris Cantwell. Pencils by Pasqual Ferry. Colors by Matthew Hollingworth
    On Sale: December 21, 2022 / FOC: NtS: CS #4 - December 5, 2022 & FOC: NtS: CS #5 - December 19, 2022

  7. #7
    Marvel's 1st Superhero Reviresco's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Location
    The Sunless Realm
    Posts
    12,655

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by dzub View Post
    lol forget about being a kid in 1939..being an adult in 2015, being desensitized by watching action movies and playing GTA , i picked up the issue and i was like.. how did this even get past editors

    i do enjoy your write up though, it's good work and i'll read captain marvel next.

    Namor?? Submissive?? XD XD
    IMO it has more to do with the whole atlantean distrust of the surface world rather than his mother's influence alone.
    the next couple of issues where he's on the surface world and learning the customs of it show that Namor is indeed capable of thinking for himself.

    i'd say the torch/namor fight was handled pretty well.
    it should be the blueprint to how an event should be written.
    Yeah, that Namor story would never get past the editors today. Back then, however, editors didn't do exactly what they do now. And this was the first issue. They were inventing comics as we know them today.

    It also has alot to do with the times, as well as Namor's circumstances. Back then, kids did what their parents told them. And Namor was a mixed race kid in a time and place when that was an issue, who was raised and loved by a single parent, his mother.
    NAMOR THE SUB-MARINER: CONQUERED SHORES #3
    Writing by Chris Cantwell. Pencils by Pasqual Ferry. Colors by Matthew Hollingworth
    On Sale: December 21, 2022 / FOC: NtS: CS #4 - December 5, 2022 & FOC: NtS: CS #5 - December 19, 2022

  8. #8
    Ultimate Member jackolover's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Posts
    10,093

    Default

    Yeah, I didn't think Namors actions were weak and being led. Many races demonised the opposition, and they had good reason. The depth charges nearly wiped out their whole race. Wouldn't that make you want to get retribution. I wouldn't condemn Namor under the circumstances, considering bigotry was in favor everywhere, in those days. Kids reading it would recognize it from their own experience in house and in the streets.

    What I found astounding was the later confrontation between Namor and Torch. I agree, it is a good formula to follow for all Events, because it had me on the edge of my seat on turning every page. The two forces, of fire and water, stormed across the city like massive juggernauts, unable to defeat each other, while causing untold damage, and using threatening posture that took you out of the mundane city drama, into the realm of Epic Demi-gods, ignoring what they did to the lowly denizens below. It was magnificent writing for the time, and must have affected Stan Lees style in the Silver Age.

  9. #9
    Incredible Member Lorendiac's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Posts
    917

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Reviresco View Post
    FYI, kids loved Namor back then. He was extremely popular, so I guess they didn't quite see him as you do, either. Nor did Bill Everett intend that Namor be viewed as a 'heroic figure' good guy, given in the third issue, Bill labels him as an "amphibious demon."
    I've long known that Namor was one of Timely's big hits in the Golden Age, but my previous knowledge of his "continuity" from that era came from such things as Roy Thomas's "Invaders" scripts (around the late 1970s), flashbacks and retellings of his backstory in such things as the first issue of Byrne's "Sub-Mariner" series in the early 1990s, OHOTMU entries that summarize his history, and so and so forth. All of which made him and his mother look somewhat smarter than this story did (and there's faint praise!). After reading this story for the first time, about a week ago, I found myself leaning in the direction of: "As with Superman, Namor must have been softened and civilized somewhat in an ongoing process over his first year or so."

    In other words: While I knew that a lot of kids enjoyed reading his Golden Age stories, I suspected that most of them only only discovered him a bit later on, and never actually read this story! But I don't claim to have any hard data on that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Reviresco View Post
    I'm not sure that Dorma was shoe horned in, but those last four pages were added several months after Motion Picture Funnies #1, ostensibly to make the page count for Marvel Comics #1.
    I actually learned that factoid while doing some online research last week, but I didn't bother to mention it in my lengthy piece. I figured: "This is the material that was first printed up and mass-distributed across the USA; therefore it makes sense to review the entire thing at once, as if I had just bought that comic book off the newsstand myself."

    Quote Originally Posted by Reviresco View Post
    Also, I'm betting that version of Marvel Comics suffers from the same coloring issues most versions do. Originally, Bill Everett's Namor story was in black and white with gorgeous craft tint shading, as can be seen in Motion Pictures Funnies #1. When it was reprinted in Marvel Comics #1 and colored, it muddied up things quite a bit, including the colors of the Atlanteans -- but even then Fen and Dorma weren't blue, they were 'white.'
    I took it for granted, last week, that the digital version that I bought via Marvel's own website had really been cleaned up instead of just being a "raw scan" of a collector's-item copy of the original "Marvel Comics #1." I admit, though, that I'm startled by the assertion that the full-blooded "Sub-Mariners" weren't blue in the old days. (I was also startled by the realization that in Everett's original conception, all members of that water-breathing species were called "the Sub-Mariners," instead of it being a special nickname/alias/whatever for Namor himself in his interactions with the outside world! I think I'd been expecting them to be called "Atlanteans," but apparently the Namor/Atlantis connection was only explicitly made in the comics at some later date? (I don't know when.)

  10. #10
    Incredible Member Lorendiac's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Posts
    917

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by jackolover View Post
    Yeah, I didn't think Namors actions were weak and being led. Many races demonised the opposition, and they had good reason. The depth charges nearly wiped out their whole race. Wouldn't that make you want to get retribution.
    What would I want? Whom would I identify as proper targets for retribution? That would depend on where I felt the moral guilt lay!

    I mean, if I were born and raised as a black slave on a Southern plantation in the Pre-Civil War era, I'd probably be angry and frustrated about the way the white people were treating me. If I were a Jew in a Nazi concentration camp, I'd probably end up with a certain bias against Nazi Germany. But in those cases, the "enemy race" would be people who had deliberately enslaved and/or killed "me and my people." Whatever their rationalizations might be, they knew exactly what they were doing.

    On the other hand, suppose it were crystal-clear to me that the "enemy race" had only killed some of my people by sheer accident, without having a clue that they were doing any such thing, and that members of my culture had utterly failed to lift a finger to communicate the problem to the "enemy" as a first step to stopping it. In that case, I think I'd feel that terrible crimes had been committed by my side's political leaders, all of whom ought to be executed for treason and negligent homicide!
    Last edited by Lorendiac; 04-02-2015 at 07:03 AM.

  11. #11
    Incredible Member Lorendiac's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Posts
    917

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Reviresco View Post
    Yeah, that Namor story would never get past the editors today. Back then, however, editors didn't do exactly what they do now. And this was the first issue. They were inventing comics as we know them today.

    It also has alot to do with the times, as well as Namor's circumstances. Back then, kids did what their parents told them. And Namor was a mixed race kid in a time and place when that was an issue, who was raised and loved by a single parent, his mother.
    Funny thing about that, though. In the original story, I don't see a single hint that anyone in his undersea culture looked down on him because of his mixed heritage. Heck, his mother said he was supposed to lead his people into a war against those nasty white surface-dwellers! (And she was saying this in the presence of a man who appeared to be one of their top leaders, and that man didn't claim she was getting carried away.)

    In other words: Being "of mixed race" may have been a real-life issue for a kid growing up in a big American city in the 30s and 40s, but it doesn't seem to have been any kind of issue for Namor. (Not in this first appearance, anyway -- I haven't read any of his other Golden Age stories that I can recall.)

  12. #12
    Ultimate Member jackolover's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Posts
    10,093

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Lorendiac View Post
    What would I want? Whom would I identify as proper targets for retribution? That would depend on where I felt the moral guilt lay!

    I mean, if I were born and raised as a black slave on a Southern plantation in the Pre-Civil War era, I'd probably be angry and frustrated about the way the white people were treating me. If I were a Jew in a Nazi concentration camp, I'd probably end up with a certain bias against Nazi Germany. But in those cases, the "enemy race" would be people who had deliberately enslaved and/or killed "me and my people." Whatever their rationalizations might be, they knew exactly what they were doing.

    On the other hand, suppose it were crystal-clear to me that the "enemy race" had only killed some of my people by sheer accident, without having a clue that they were doing any such thing, and that members of my culture had utterly failed to lift a finger to communicate the problem to the "enemy" as a first step to stopping it. In that case, I think I'd feel that terrible crimes had been committed by my side's political leaders, all of whom ought to be executed for treason and negligent homicide!
    Well, maybe the Nazis were harvesting their people and this had galvanised a judgement call on all humans being callous, so I would see it another way. Besides how many races of humans are involved in deep sea fishing and explosive warfare around the globe during that time in WW11? Everybody during the war. Nazis were even harvesting Atlanteans. Atlantean royalty had a strong aggressive patriarchal protection of its race, much like Wakanda, so unfortunately, any clearheadedness as to negotiation was out of the question. It was them or us by Atlantean standards.

  13. #13
    BANNED Mikekerr3's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Location
    Delaware
    Posts
    3,315

    Default

    As far as NAmor people not wanting to negociate, After the mass murder of atlanteans started talking was pretty much off the table. How many nation negotiate aft stuff fluke that did the US negotiate after pearl harbor, was anyone interested in TALKING to Al Queada after the murdered so many?

  14. #14
    Incredible Member Lorendiac's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Posts
    917

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Mikekerr3 View Post
    As far as NAmor people not wanting to negociate, After the mass murder of atlanteans started talking was pretty much off the table. How many nation negotiate aft stuff fluke that did the US negotiate after pearl harbor, was anyone interested in TALKING to Al Queada after the murdered so many?
    Huh? After what "mass murder"?

    "Murder" does not just mean "doing something which happens to cause somebody else to die." It means something more along these lines: "deliberately doing something which you knew would cause somebody to die, and that was what you wanted." Lawyers use such phrases as "premeditation" and "malice aforethought" to reflect the idea that "murder" means you planned it that way and got exactly the results you were aiming for. If you never intended to hurt anyone, and had no reason to think that what you were doing was likely to harm another person, but they died anyway, then it's a tragic accident!

    In the case of the bombs which killed a bunch of Atlanteans in 1920, Fen's story makes it crystal-clear that Commander Leonard McKenzie and the rest of the expedition of "white men" had no idea that there were any sentient beings living down there on the ocean floor. In fact, it seems likely that the whole point of sailing down toward Antarctica before testing their depth charges was probably that they wanted to get as far away as possible from any other human activity, so that no sentient being (to the best of their knowledge) would be threatened or inconvenienced in any way.

    Now, if Fen had told them (as soon as she could speak basic English), "My people live down there. You killed some of them with your bombs. Please go away," and if Commander McKenzie had believed her, and if the human expedition then continued dropping depth charges in that same area regardless of her warning, and if lots of Atlanteans kept getting killed by those bombs, then that would mean that McKenzie and the rest of the expedition were now guilty of mass murder.

    But since that first "if" never happened, they had no reason to think they were killing anything more important than a few fish with each experimental blast. So they have no moral guilt. The people who knew better -- Fen and her superiors -- were the ones who knew what would happen if the bombs kept coming, and they were the idiots who chose to keep silent about it, and just let it happen! It also occurs to me that if they didn't want to reveal their culture's existence to the outside world, they could have just staged an exodus, having everybody pack up a few things and head far away after the first few explosions. That way, they wouldn't have been nearly wiped out as a race, which is what Fen says finally happened.

    That's why I suggested it was the Atlantean leaders (or Sub-Mariner leaders, since "Sub-Mariners" is what they are called in the original story) who bear the full guilt for most of those deaths, since they made no particular effort to avoid all that bloodshed after they first realized what was happening as the bombs started falling. (The way Fen tells it, these explosions were happening intermittently over a period of at least several weeks, if not months. Plenty of time for an intelligent leader to come up with a coherent strategy.)
    Last edited by Lorendiac; 04-04-2015 at 06:07 AM.

  15. #15
    Marvel's 1st Superhero Reviresco's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Location
    The Sunless Realm
    Posts
    12,655

    Default

    I think you are making a lot of assumptions, and ignoring some implications, about the Antarctic expedition, the Sub-Mariner's knowledge and reactions, and what exactly happened. Given it's told in nine panels, Fen is giving the cliff notes version.

    I also find it difficult to discuss this issue without being influenced / drawing on all the stories that follow, as you are attempting to do.

    I really appreciate you doing this, as I've been stuck getting my review thread off the ground, by the sheer history of this tale.
    NAMOR THE SUB-MARINER: CONQUERED SHORES #3
    Writing by Chris Cantwell. Pencils by Pasqual Ferry. Colors by Matthew Hollingworth
    On Sale: December 21, 2022 / FOC: NtS: CS #4 - December 5, 2022 & FOC: NtS: CS #5 - December 19, 2022

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •