Friday, August 14, 2009

What’s So Cool About the Sub-Mariner? Part Three

Almost everyone agrees that Marvel’s Sub-Mariner (aka Namor) is more successful than DC’s Aquaman. Using their early Silver Age stories as reference, I’m trying to figure out why that is. Part One. Part Two.



First of all, I'm sorry about not posting all week. Yuck. Trying to get caught up from last weekend got the best of me, so I'm gonna do some double-posting over this weekend make up for it.

But back to Namor: so far his coolness in comparison to Aquaman comes down to three things: the undersea world Namor comes from (which is filled with stranger creatures and stronger drama than Aquaman’s), his relationship with Susan Storm (giving his character an arc to develop over a series of adventures), and his ability to be powerful outside of water (so that he’s not limited solely to underwater exploits).

We last saw Namor in Fantastic Four #6. At the end of that issue he returned to the sea, still hurting over not being able to find his people thanks to humans, but unwilling to continue his war of vengeance against the surface world and risk hurting Sue. This is still his emotional state when we next see him in Fantastic Four #9. He catches a news report – he’s apparently restored power to his ruined city and had the cable hooked back up – saying that the Fantastic Four has gone broke. Reed’s been playing the stock market and not doing a very good job at it, so the team’s going to have to sell everything to cover their debts and split up. Seeing this as an opportunity to win Sue over, Namor develops a plan.



It’s not a very good plan though. In fact, it’s a little embarrassing. Rather than let the group split up and then try to approach Sue when Reed’s not around, Namor comes up with a cockamamie scheme that involves his buying a Hollywood movie studio. He knows where a lot of sunken treasure is hidden, so he starts SM Studios and offers the FF roles in his first film. The three men are naturally distrustful, but Sue’s impressed with Namor’s powerful confidence. Having no other options to save their team though, the fellas come around and agree to make the picture.

Namor’s master plan is to put the three men into deadly situations under the pretext that they’re filming stunts. His overconfidence gets him into trouble though and he leaves Mr. Fantastic and the Human Torch alone with their perils, sure that they’ll be defeated. He decides to fight the Thing himself though and for a while it looks like they’re evenly matched, which is pretty much what we’ve seen the last couple of times these two have fought.

In these early issues of Fantastic Four though, the Thing would occasionally transform back into Ben Grimm as a result of some of the testing that Mr. Fantastic was doing to try to cure him. Unfortunately, that happens during the fight with Namor and Ben goes down.



Thinking that he’s defeated all three men, Namor returns to Sue and lets her in on his plan. Now that they’re out of the way, he wants her to marry him. Sue, on the other hand, lets Namor in on how stupid he’s been. If he had come to her truthfully and peacefully she would have considered his offer. She tells him that by attacking her teammates he’s fighting her as well.

They tussle briefly after that, but it’s not clear what the stakes are. Sue’s fighting for the honor of her team, but it’s hard to tell what Namor wants if he wins. I choose to believe – because it’s getting clearer that his feelings for Sue are genuine – that he doesn’t intend to force her to marry him. Rather, I think that his arrogance is once again getting in the way and that he can’t let a challenge go. When she declares that they’re enemies, he retaliates by acting like one.

During their fight, Namor once again shows that he’s got the same abilities as certain sea creatures. He tries his electric eel power on her like he did against Doctor Doom in issue #6, but when that doesn’t work he uses the radar-like senses of deep-sea, cave-dwelling fish to spot and capture the invisible Sue.



Fortunately for Sue, the rest of the FF show up just in time and triple-team Namor. They almost have him when Sue throws herself between him and them. She hates seeing them gang up on one person, but she also tells Namor that she expects him to uphold his end of their contract. He says that he will and that their movie will be produced and that they will get paid. He then returns to the sea once more as Sue rubs it in to Reed that Namor went to all this trouble because he loves her. Man, they’ve got a weird relationship.

Next week: Namor in the hands of... the Puppet Master!
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