May 25, 2017

Sub-Mariner: Marvel Beefcake Comic

When I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, I liked Harvey, Disney, and sometimes Archie comics, but I usually skipped Marvel.  Who had the time or money to keep track of story lines that extended over a hundred issues and crossed over into a dozen titles?

But I made an exception for Sub-Mariner.  Who could pass up a physique like this?

Namor the Sub-Mariner actually premiered in 1939 in Timely Comics, the predecessor of Marvel, as a villain, a prince of Atlantis seeking revenge on the upper world by trying to sink th island of Manhattan.

Soon he was rehabilitated, and teamed up with another villain turned hero, the Human Torch, to fight in World War II.  They often rescued each other, or flew to the rescue of Torch's teen sidekick Toro.

For some reason, Namor never got a teen sidekick.  Instead, he gets a girlfriend, intrepid police officer Betty Dean.  But his interactions with the Torch provided enough gay subtexts.

After the War, he disappeared.  He returned in Fantastic Four #4 (May 1962), when the new Human Torch finds him living in the Bowery, a homeless derelict.

Namor discovers that his homeland of Atlantis has been destroyed, and returns to being a villain for a few guest spots.  When he got his own title, from 1968 to 1973, he was back to being a hero again.

The 1960s-1970s Namor was not a popular character -- he was cold, even cruel, so he didn't team up well with other superheroes.  Besides, he kept falling in love with women.  What boy wanted to read about hetero-romance?

But I never really paid much attention to the stories-- they were incomprehensible anyway, full of references to plotlines and characters from a dozen years ago and other titles.  You needed a chart to keep track of it all.  I was mostly in it for the beefcake.

And there was a lot of it.

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