Art Show: Sky Wolf’s a lousy tracker

Sea Dragon

By NC Wyeth. [Golden Age Comic Book Stories]

Mermaid

By Kep (though I can’t tell if that’s the photographer, PhotoShopper, or just the person who uploaded to Allday. [Swing with Shad]

After the break: a forest girl, mammoths, Red Sonja, a belly dancer, Sky Wolf vs the Heap, the Invisible Woman, and Rocket Girl.


Forest Girl

By Cameron Stewart.

Mammoth

By Zdenek Burian. [Golden Age Comic Book Stories]

The Red Sonja

By Terry Moore. [Comic Art Fans]

Belly Dancer

By Carla Wyzgala. [Girls Drawing Girls]

Sky Wolf vs the Heap

By Mort Leav. [Golden Age Comic Book Stories]

Invisible Woman

By Frank Cho. [Pink of the Ink]

Rocket Girl

By Gene Gonzales.

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Art Show: Every Girl Wants a Pony

Namora

Cosplayer Unknown; PhotoShopping by theblackhauke.

Bentlys Trading Post

By Robert McGinnis. [Golden Age Comic Book Stories]

Faeries, aliens, and more superheroes (some of them in fishnets) after the break.

Outside the Law

By Raymond Pease [Illustrateurs]

Zatanna and Black Canary

Cosplayers Unknown; PhotoShopping by theblackhauke.

Snowbird

Cosplayer Unknown; PhotoShopping by theblackhauke.

Fantastic

By Yoshitaka Amano. [Illustrateurs]

John Carter of Mars

By Andy Kuhn. [ComicTwart]

Et Oui, J’ai Vu Avatar

By Mathieu Reynès.

Hulk vs Iron Man

By Das Chupa.

Fantastic Skyline

By Christopher Bennett. [Kirby-Vision]

Art Show: Nowhere in the Void was there a Greater Menace!

A Flare of Menace

Artist Unknown [Galactic Central]

Queen Ran

By Peter Hurd [Golden Age Comic Book Stories]

Today’s Mermaid

Artist Unknown [Never Sea Land]

Shuna and the Lost Tribe

By Reginald Heade [American Pulps and Magazines]

Julie Fishing

By Craig Harris.

T-Rexterminator

By Per Haagenson [Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs]

Black Widow (and friends)

By Craig Rousseau.

By Bruce Timm. [Brother Calvin]

Zatanna

By Craig Rousseau again. [Comic Books!]

Cernnunos Lady

By Viona Art. [Brother Calvin]

The Octopus of Space

By Edmond Swiatek [Poulpe Pulps]

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!

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

Almost everyone agrees that Marvel’s Sub-Mariner character (aka Namor) is more successful than DC’s Aquaman. I’m trying to figure out why that is.

Namor’s first appearance in the Silver Age established a few things about him. First, he’s a cranky hothead. As I said last week, I actually don’t think that necessarily makes him more interesting than Aquaman. Not by itself anyway. It doesn’t take much to have more personality than Aquaman did in his early Silver Age appearances. He had the same, cookie-cutter personality that most of DC’s heroes did. By making Namor an arrogant jerk, Marvel was just doing what Marvel did best: paying attention to characterization. Namor could have had any personality type and he would’ve been more interesting than Aquaman at the time.

Marvel’s reason for Namor’s nastiness is more interesting than the nastiness itself. He’s just regained his memory after decades of not knowing who he is and has learned that his kingdom has been destroyed by nuclear weapons testing. Not knowing where his people have relocated to, he swears to get even with humanity for causing the situation.

But what I really like about Namor from this time period are a couple of things: the undersea world he comes from and his relationship with Sue Storm, the Invisible Girl. Those are the things I want to focus on as we continue looking at his Silver Age shenanigans.

Fantastic Four #4 showed that Namor’s undersea world is populated by giant behemoths and other amazing creatures. They’re not commonplace, but they’re not unheard of either. And it’s possible for Namor to actually control them. Aquaman’s world, on the other hand, is more or less ours. When sea monsters appear, they’re aliens or extra-dimensional creatures or mutants that Aquaman has to send home or cure in order to get things back to normal. So Namor’s got the immediate advantage of living in a more exciting ocean.

That issue also had Namor falling for Sue Storm and proposing to her. He did it in a very arrogant way and she refused him, but it looked like his feelings were real.

Namor next appeared in Fantastic Four #6, an issue that has Doctor Doom wanting to team up with Namor in order to defeat the Fantastic Four and then all of mankind. Namor seems to have cooled off quite a bit since fighting the Four to a stalemate, but Doom is able to recruit him by reminding Namor of everything the surface-world has cost him.

It’s cool that when Doom finds Namor, the Sub-Mariner is enjoying himself by swimming with porpoises and teaching them tricks. You never see Aquaman doing that. DC’s hero is so one-dimensional that he’d rather ride porpoises while patrolling the ocean’s surface for bad guys.

Doom also discovers the reason that Namor’s relaxed his vendetta against humanity. In the ruins of Namor’s former kingdom, Doom sees that Namor’s got a picture of Sue Storm. Doom wisely observes that if Namor continues fighting humans, he’s going to have to fight Sue as well and that perhaps that’s why Namor’s given up his fight. Namor doesn’t deny this, but merely tells Doom to mind his own beeswax. He’s obviously got a chip on his shoulder about her.

It’s also interesting to think about where that framed picture of Sue came from. She’s kind of a celebrity, so the simplest explanation is that he cut it out of a magazine or something. But what if she gave it to him?

There’s some evidence to support that idea, because – as her brother Johnny discovers back at the Baxter Building – Sue’s also holding onto a picture of Namor. And it’s no newspaper clipping either. Johnny specifically calls it a glossy photo. Maybe there’s some company in the Marvel Universe that sells glossy photos of recently returned WWII supervillains, but it’s also possible that Sue and Namor have been in contact with each other since issue #4. (Of course, that would mean that Namor’s carrying around glossy pictures of himself to hand out, which is probably the most far-fetched theory of all.) At any rate, they’re clearly thinking about each other.

However she got the picture, it’s obvious that Sue’s a little hung up on Namor too. She insists that there’s “something gentle” about him. I’m not sure how she came to that conclusion from Namor’s actions in Fantastic Four #4. Maybe she noticed something in Namor’s eyes that Jack Kirby didn’t capture in the illustrations. Or maybe she and Namor have talked to each other, even though not much time has passed.

To finish summarizing the story, Namor shows up at the Baxter Building to plant one of Doom’s weapons. Sue doesn’t believe that he’s there to harm them, but the other members of the Four think otherwise. Turns out they’re right, but when Doom tries to double-cross Namor and harm Sue (in violation of Namor’s conditions for helping Doom), Namor helps the Fantastic Four defeat the mad Latverian.

We also get to see more examples of just how awesome Namor really is. In addition to being about as strong as the Thing, he’s also apparently able to mimic the abilities of some sea creatures. Part of Doom’s plan is to send the Baxter Building hurtling into space as Doom watches from his nearby spaceship. Namor immerses himself in water to regain maximum strength, then shoots himself and the water out an airlock towards Doom’s ship. Namor doesn’t quite make it, but is able to bounce off an asteroid and complete the jump.

Then, when Doom tries to shock Namor by electrifying the ship, Namor’s able to absorb the energy and then discharge it like an electric eel back at Doom. Doom has to abandon ship or be destroyed. Using Doom’s device, the Fantastic Four are able to return their home to Earth, but Namor then confiscates both the device and Doom’s ship and scuttles them in the ocean where they can do no further harm.

He returns to the sea as well, mellowed out even more by the adventure and just wanting to be left alone. It’s a sad, gentle scene and illustrates clearly that Sue was right about him all along.

Next week: We’ll see what brings him back to the surface again.

What’s So Cool About the Sub-Mariner?

As long as I’m digging into Aquaman’s past, it might (I hope!) be interesting to check out how Marvel worked with Sub-Mariner about the same time. And by “about the same time” I mean that it was only a couple of years after Aquaman reappeared in the ‘60s that Namor also made his Silver Age reappearance in the pages of The Fantastic Four.

I know even less about Namor’s Golden Age stories than I do about Aquaman’s (which is limited to a couple sentences I read on Wikipedia), but from Marvels and similar stories that talk about his WWII career I get the sense that he’s always been an anti-hero at best. The exceptions being the times he was an outright villain.

His encounters with the Fantastic Four paint him mostly as a villain, if a sympathetic one. That automatically makes him more interesting than Aquaman, who – in those days – was really nothing more than a cookie-cutter superhero with a water theme. None of this is surprising of course. It was absolutely typical for DC to create iconic, high-concept heroes and simply come up with wacky, high-concept adventures for them. Marvel, on the other hand, made its name by creating fascinating characters and then developing them over the course of their series.

Not that Aquaman had no character development (his meeting Aqualad and forming a relationship with Atlantis are two early examples) or that the Fantastic Four never had wacky, high-concept adventures (in fact, most of them were exactly that). But for the most part, Aquaman’s early stories can be read completely independently of each other and in practically any order without making you so much as blink in confusion.

The Fantastic Four’s adventures, on the other hand, built on each other. If a particular high-concept was successful (like Namor or Doctor Doom or the Skrulls were), then you could bet that not only would they return, but that their next story would so heavily reference the previous one that it would really just be a continuation of it. In short, Marvel had discovered serial fiction while – generally speaking – DC was just telling continuous stories with the same characters.

All of which is a very high-level view at the difference between the two characters. Having already dug into Aquaman a little, I want to do the same with Namor, if even more so. In looking at his early appearances in the Silver Age, I’m not going to focus much on his personality. One reason is that I’ve just covered that above, but a better reason is that that’s where everyone goes when discussing the difference between him and Aquaman. I think it’ll be far more interesting to look at Namor as a water-themed character. In other words, regardless of how grumpy he is, are his powers and his story more or less interesting than Aquaman’s?

Namor’s first Silver Age appearance is in Fantastic Four #4. In the previous issue, Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, left the group due mostly to the Thing’s constant pissing and moaning. I’m going to try to stay focused on Namor in these posts, but it’s worth mentioning that the Thing was extremely whiney in the early days. Not pleasantly grumpy like he can be around Johnny these days, but constantly complaining about everything. Everything was always about the Thing and how rough he had it.

You have to cut the guy a little slack, because physically he got the worst of the cosmic rays that gave the team their superpowers. But I quickly got tired of the Thing’s personality and I had the advantage of being able to close the book whenever I wanted. I don’t blame Johnny for taking off on his own.

Johnny knows that the others are going to look for him, so he heads to the roughest part of town he can find to lie low there for a while. Spending the night in a men’s hostel, he finds an old Sub-Mariner comic to read and coincidentally meets an amnesiac with incredible strength who bears a striking resemblance to Namor. Johnny figures out that it is Namor and takes the disoriented Atlantean to the ocean to jog his memory.

He drops Namor into the water and sure enough, Namor recollects who he is. He returns to his underwater city and finds it destroyed, the glow of nuclear radiation still pulsing from atomic tests. Namor doesn’t believe his people were destroyed, but he doesn’t know where to begin looking for them either. Ticked off, he returns to the surface and vows to take revenge on humanity.

As strong as he is, he’s not so cocky as to think he can go to war against the surface world all by himself. Fortunately, he knows the location of a sleeping, underwater behemoth named Giganto. And the Atlantean trumpet that will wake the monster up and control it.

Here’s an important difference between Namor and Aquaman. Aquaman fought his share of alien or mutated sea monsters, but they were always presented as the menace he was trying to overcome. And more importantly, they were always presented as being strange and irregular. Aquaman would use his mundane sea creatures to fight these things, ultimately sending them back to whatever world or dimension they came from. For Namor, Giganto is something that exists in his world all the time. It’s certainly not commonplace or mundane, but you get the feeling that Namor lives in a much more exciting place than Aquaman.

In fact, Namor says as much when he reveals that Giganto is just one of many sea monsters at his disposal. When the Fantastic Four defeat Giganto, Namor claims that it’s no big deal. He says that he can use the trumpet to “unleash a horde of undersea monsters such as mankind never dreamt of.” It’s only by disorienting Namor and making him lose the trumpet that the Fantastic Four are able to temporarily defeat him. The issue ends with the Thing’s worrying over Namor’s escape and Mister Fantastic’s bravely stating that the Four will be ready when Namor returns.

It’s not going to be so simple though. Namor proves a couple of times in this issue that he’s more than a match for the group in a straight-up fight. He appears to be stronger even than the Thing and at one point knocks all three of the Four’s men out at the same time. There’s really a lot of attention given to how powerful Namor is; another difference between him and Aquaman, who needs to call in some whales if he wants any heavy lifting done.

The final difference between Namor and Aquaman from this issue is that Namor falls in love. Aquaman’s too much of a bachelor-hero to have time for icky girls, but Namor’s smitten by Sue Storm, the Invisible Girl, as soon as he sees her. He calls her the loveliest human he’s ever seen and immediately offers to consider forgiving humanity if she’ll marry him. He may be in love, but he’s still a butthole.

Sue actually consents, but Namor senses that she’s only doing it because he’s forcing her and that ticks him off even more. Which is how we know that he really likes her. He’s in no position to romance her, but he’s not going to take her by force as an alternative. In his own, jerky, prideful way, refusing her reluctant agreement shows that his jerky, prideful proposal was at least genuine.

Namor does of course return, and only two issues later when Doctor Doom asks for his help in defeating the Fantastic Four. We’ll take a look at that next week and also see what kind of effect – if any – Namor’s had on Sue Storm.

Barren Rock-Planet of the Week

So, who should be the new Invisible Woman?

20th Century Fox is apparently considering a reboot of the Fantastic Four franchise that’s more in keeping with the tone of the other Marvel movies. That’s excellent news, especially if it means a CGI Thing and not another rubber suit. And maybe a Doctor Doom that could actually threaten a three-year-old? And as long as we’re hoping, how about a Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman we can take seriously? In fact, the only thing I liked about the first movies was Chris Evans as the Human Torch. It’s a shame to have to give him up.

As long as we’re dreaming, who should play the new FF? Who should be the first villain? Doom again or someone new?

Speaking of ill-considered choices for super-hero movies

Anyone remember back in the ’80s when there was talk of a She-Hulk movie starring then-popular Brigitte Nielsen? Universal Dork found a publicity photo.

She doesn’t look half-bad, but considering how badly Hollywood loved to screw around with the source material back then, I’m thinking we probably still dodged a bullet with that one.

Live-action Star Wars TV show moving forward

Sounds like casting has begun. In spite of my general tiredness of Star Wars, I’m looking forward to seeing this. The reason I can’t even get into Clone Wars – though the few episodes I watched had some fun plots – is because I’m so bored with those particular characters and settings. I haven’t felt like I was exploring anything new in the Star Wars Universe for a long time. It’s just revisiting Coruscant and Tatooine and the Barren Rock-Planet of the Week for the umpteenth time. Hopefully this live-action show will manage to show us some new places and characters.

“Empire of Evil”

By Robert Gibson Jones.

Dinosaurs in Space

By Dick Giordano.