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Sub-Mariner #57
posted September 9, 2005


Creators: Bill Everett, Artie Simek, Roy Thomas
Publishing Information: Marvel Comics, 32 pages, 20 cents, 1972
Ordering Numbers:

I'm no Silver Age or superhero historian, but at some point Sub-Mariner creator Bill Everett was brought back for a run on his character's adventures as they existed in the early 1970s. Everett's work on the Sub-Mariner's adventures and other comics pre-1961 were definite influences on the Lee/Kirby/Ditko/Heck Marvel Age of comics. His Sub-Mariner stories suggested a slightly cynical view of human nature, he boldly mixed fantasy and mundane elements without blinking, and he had an arch way of scripting his stories that had that Marvel lilt and was often very funny. In fact, this very comic has a line that made me laugh out loud, when the God of War shouts at Prince Namor, "OFF WITH THY PISCATROID PATE!" while trying to kill him with a sword. That one line is better than any ten pages I read in a superhero comic in the last month.

The plot involves Namor meeting up with Venus, a forgotten Marvel character also from before 1961, and her conflict with Ares as Namor basically fights what he knows to be a losing battle against the angry God of War. The nice thing about this comic is that it's like 98 percent asskicking and movement, as opposed to 98 percent chatting, plot explication and working though feelings. At the same time, the fact that everyone talks while they're running around punching each other and there's multiple panels on every page makes this a much denser read than comics today. Mostly I like the asskicking. These are supposed to be action-adventure comics, and there's no need to hold back on the action. Everett has a really odd line and doesn't seem to choreograph his fight scenes, but what's at stake is pretty clear and there's something charming about the dramatics of the presentation. He also has a thin line, and way of presenting panels where the attention is shared by every figure -- his later work may have yielded some of the weirdest-looking panels ever. There's a hippie demonstration in issue #57 that has to be seen to be believed -- it looks like Will Elder designed it, and I kept staring at it looking for tiny jokes. This is the comic book equivalent of one of those vibrating football games from roughly the same period. Everything shakes, it's awfully cheesey, but it's sort fun in its bizarre, limited way. This does a far better job of entertaining a 10-year-old that's sipping a 7-up while resting home from school with a head cold than today's superhero comics provide in the way of standard movie-level thrills for discerning adults, that's for sure.

Bonus: Sub-Mariner is one of those comics that has mostly avoided the idiocy of collectible price gouging, you can routinely find this comic and others like it for less than a dollar.