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Sub-Mariner #53
posted January 25, 2009

imageCreators: Bill Everett, Roy Thomas, Artie Simek
Publishing Information: Marvel Comics, comic book, 32 pages, 1972, $.20
Ordering Numbers:

This is a nondescript comic from Bill Everett's late-period run on the Sub-Mariner character, the proto-mutant he co-created a few decades earlier. It was published about a year before the cartoonist's death, in a period the casual historian in me notes falls in the peculiar and thus mostly awesome run of comics that came out between Jack Kirby leaving the company and Wolverine showing up in X-Men. Everett was one of the secret architects of modern superhero comic books. His "people are no damn good" take on the costumed crusading crowd is the strain-to-hear-it harmony playing off of Marvel's melody of great power and great responsibility. I can't imagine a ton of fans liked this run. I didn't when I was a kid. It's corny at times, almost, with almost no hinted-at psychological depth. Characters do absurd things, like keeping water from flowing by standing in front of it, or draining poisonous water away by punching a hole in the ocean floor.

The fact that it's so idiosyncratic makes you suspect that a ton of people may have at least taken notice since. Alas, it's not true. As far as I know, almost none of this series' material has been used by other writers, and Marvel's comics re-use everything. I've also never seen any of these issues priced over $2. It's too bad. Everett's bombast seems quite modern, in a way: it's hard to imagine this energy being replicated anywhere other than manga. I find it fevered, strange and very, very enjoyable. On the last page of the issue's new story the super-villain ends his rant because his chambers have been violated by Sub-Mariner and special guest star Sunfire. They explode into the room with perfect timing and way more oomph than the situation requires. The way this comic moves is more than awesome enough to make up for the occasional "Sufferin' Shad," although I'm at the point in my life I like those, too.