When Marvel Comics #1 was published by Timely Comics in 1939, one of the characters who populated the new universe was The Sub-Mariner, a half-human/half-Atlantean who acted upon his anger at surface dwellers.
To mark the 70th anniversary of characters like Namor the Sub-Mariner and the birth of their universe, Marvel is releasing a definitive history of Marvel's origins in The Marvels Project. The eight-issue mini-series by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting takes the established history of the early Marvel Universe and fleshes it out to make an epic tale of scientific and political espionage and wonder, covering the era from the Depression to the attack on Pearl Harbor.
In the first two parts of our ongoing series looking at The Marvels Project, we spoke with Epting and then with Brubaker about their roles in the project. And for the last week, we've been taking a closer look at the early Marvel characters who will star in the comic, including The Angel, the Human Torch, and Captain America.
As we get closer to next week's release of The Marvels Project #1, Newsarama sits down with the comic's creators to profile one of comics' first anti-heroes, The Sub-Mariner.
Secret Identity/Origin: Namor is the son of an American ship captain and Fen, an Atlantean woman. Although his parents married, Namor was raised by his mother after she abandoned her husband in anger over Americans destroying many of her people. Because his mother raised Namor to hate surface-dwellers, he decides to go on a rampage through the surface world.
"Sub-Mariner, for a long time, in those early comics, he's pretty much a terrorist. He's definitely not a hero when he first appears," Brubaker said. "But he's also, in the modern Marvel universe, he's a prince. He comes from a whole different way of dealing with society. He's definitely got that sort of regal attitude. So he's angry in the way that royalty gets angry."
Powers: Namor was considered an outsider among his people because he possessed the ability to stay out of the water and has the skin color of a surface-dweller. Yet he also has the superhuman strength and amphibious physiology of the Atlanteans that allows him to breathe underwater and withstand undersea pressures. One of Namor's powers doesn't come from either side of his heritage: He has wings on his feet that allow him to fly. Because of this, he's often called Marvel's first mutant. Stories have stated that the wings only appeared when he was a teen, further identifying them as a mutant ability. He's also been shown to have a high level of education and the ability to communicate with marine life. He is portrayed as the king and ruler of the Atlantean people.
Epting's Approach: "I think personality is something you have to consider for every character, especially those like Namor who have fairly well-defined attitudes. Even in the world populated with larger-than-life characters, this guy is going to have a commanding presence when he enters a scene and will demand your attention and respect," Epting said. "All of this has to be taken into consideration when drawing him, particularly his body language."
First Appearance: Sub-Mariner has the distinction of appearing in a comic before Marvels #1, since his creator, Bill Everett, had included him in a sample comic titled Motion Picture Funnies Weekly. But the idea to give away comics at theaters never caught on, so Namor was officially revealed to the public in Timely's Marvel Comics #1.
"The first time we see him, he's kind of a terrorist in a way. He hates surface people, and he wants to create havok and chaos and terror. He's a very angry guy," Brubaker said.
How He Fits in The Marvels Project: "If the story has a character who is the anti-hero or the bad guy up until almost the end, he's it," Brubaker said. "He pretty much hates the surface people. We'll actually find out more about why. His initial reasons in the old comics is that his mother just warned him away from surface-worlders even though he's half-surface worlder. I felt like we had to tie that in more with what was going on in the world and with Marvel at the time. So I found what I think is a really creepy and cool way to tie in with all of that. And when we first see him, it's this really powerful moment during his first attack with surface people. He's angry, and he's got a lot of good reasons for it."