First among Marvels
Marvel’s oldest superhero turns 75 this year. We pay tribute to Namor, the Sub-Mariner.
BEFORE Spider-Man, the XMen, Hulk, the Avengers, and even before Captain America, there was Namor the Sub-Mariner, the first ever Marvel superhero.
Created by the late William Blake “Bill” Everett, the King of Atlantis was created in 1939, for a giveaway comic book called Motion Picture Funnies Weekly. While that comic was canned before it was released, Namor’s story survived, and was finally published in October 1939’s Marvel Comics #1 (published by Timely Comics, the precursor to the modern-day Marvel Comics).
It marked Namor’s first official appearance, together with the original Human Torch, Jim Hammond.
Calling his creation an “ultraman of the deep (who) lives on land and in the sea, flies in the air, (and) has the strength of a thousand (surface) men”, Everett drew his inspiration for creating the character from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner. In the book The Steranko History of Comics, Everett says: “I called him the Sub-Mariner after the poem, and for the name Namor, I simply spelled ‘ Roman’ backwards.”
To celebrate 75 years of smashing splashes, let us dive deep into the Sub-Mariner’s past to find out the depth of character that has allowed him to swim ahead of the tide and keep making waves all these years. Imperius Rex!
Who is Namor?
To the public, he’s known as Namor the Sub-Mariner. To his parents, he is Namor McKenzie, the offspring of the forbidden love between human sea captain Leonard McKenzie and Atlantean princess Fen.
As a result of his hybrid Atlantean/human mutant genes, Namor (whose name supposedly means “Avenging Son”) is gifted with a good number of powers, including longevity, super-strength, aquatic abilities and flight (thanks to a pair of, er … cute wings on each of his ankles).
However, his hybrid nature also left him with a imbalanced metabolism – which explains his propensity for rage. As such, Namor needs to spend equal amounts of time on the surface and underwater to address the oxygen imbalance in his blood.
The King of Atlantis by his birthright, Namor is also the CEO of Oracle, Inc – a socially responsible corporation devoted to addressing environmental issues (courtesy of the epic 1990 John Byrne Namor, The Sub-Mariner series, in which Namor utilised sunken treasure to champion his protection of Atlantis from a surface dweller’s platform).
Man of many firsts
Namor is not only Marvel’s first superhero, he is also the first antihero in comics, thanks to his constant skirmishes with the “surface dwellers”.
Namor was also involved in the first ever fight between superheroes in any medium, taking on the Human Torch in June 1940’s Marvel Mystery Comics #8.
Surprisingly, Namor, not Superman, was also the first comic book hero with the power of flight! For the record, Superman was only able to “leap tall buildings in a single bound” initially, and only started “flying” in 1943.
However, what singles him out most is his status as Marvel’s first mutant, in terms of publishing chronology at least. While there are other mutants who predate him in the Marvel timeline (i.e. Selene, Apocalypse, Exodus and of course, Wolverine), Namor is the first one acknowledged by both Professor X and Magneto as a mutant ( X-Men #6, 1964).
Further confirmation came almost three decades later via Namor’s 1990 regular series, which carried the subtitle “Marvel’s first and mightiest mutant”; and 2006’s Illuminati miniseries then erased all doubt via the Skrulls’ experiment on Namor’s anatomy, which confirmed that he is a mutant.
From Gold to Silver
During the Golden Age, Namor formed part of a heroic trinity together with Captain America and the original Human Torch. Post WWII, however, superheroes went out of fashion, and it was only during the “Age of Marvels” (in the 60s, a.k.a. the Silver Age) that Namor was reintroduced via the pages of Fantastic Four #4 (May 1962).
In a nice twist, Johnny Storm, the Fantastic Four’s Human Torch, discovered an amnesiac and homeless Namor and helped him recover his memory. disastrous, offensive assuming
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Hail to the king, baby: Namor and his atlantean the Civil War event.
Namor’s first appearance, in MarvelComics#1 (1939).
Namor was also the first superhero to be depicted actually flying, two years before Superman stopped leaping over tall buildings and started flying too.