Tag Archives: Namor

Marvel’s Top Ten Stories: 1961-1965

Presenting, just for fun, Marvel Comics’ ten best stories from 1961-1965!

Why only a five-year period? For proper apples-to-apples comparisons, firstly. The comics medium has changed quite a bit over the years, so it’s hardly fair to compare, say, ten-year-old comics to fifty-year-old comics. Plus, the shorter period is more manageable and allows me to highlight more great books over time—sometimes complete storylines, sometimes standout single issues, whatever is merited. (I’ll get to later periods…eventually. And note that these are grouped by release date, not cover date.)

So we begin at the dawn of the Marvel Universe. True, many books from this era don’t hold up particularly well, not to the adult reader. They are dated indeed. But in the foundation of each series are strong, enduring concepts and flawed but heroic characters that people of varied backgrounds can relate to. Plus, the old comics offer plenty of charm with their fast-paced displays of free-flowing imagination. Looking back on these early issues, it’s not hard to see why the characters have survived the decades.

(Spoilers ahead, but these came out over five decades ago, so…)

Let’s get to it. As Stan Lee would say, Face Front, True Believers! Make Mine Marvel! Excelsior! ’Nuff Said!

Wait. Not ’Nuff Said yet. We need the list…

10) The Amazing Spider-Man #3 (by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko)

The superhero genre has a simple but effective formula: The hero almost loses to the villain but ultimately prevails, often improving him or herself along the way. Doctor Octopus’s debut shows an early example of that formula in action, back when flawed superheroes were still a fresh idea. As the book opens, Spider-Man is feeling supremely confident in his crimefighting abilities, and he’s itching for a challenge.

And he gets one, and he gets clobbered, leading Peter to wonder if he’s even cut out for this superhero lifestyle after all. So he’s got a choice: quit, or try again but do it better this time.

Peter Parker is still growing into his role at this stage, and that’s part of what made this series so novel—the superhero was actually growing as a person.

And we haven’t seen the last of Spider-Man on this list. The Amazing Spider-Man was easily Marvel’s strongest series of this era. Continue reading

Today’s Super Comic — Marvels #1 (1994)

Marvels depicts the dawn of the Marvel Universe from the perspective of ordinary people, particularly one ordinary photographer, Phil Sheldon. The world is changing in unexpected ways, making everything seem both scary and grand.

The painted art of Alex Ross adds the necessary sense of realism, as much as “realism” can apply to things like a combustible android and amphibious man.

The first issue focuses on Marvel Comics’ Golden Age, beginning with its earliest characters—the Human Torch and Namor the Sub-Mariner. Both initially appear as frightening figures, not heroes, especially when the two battle each over New York City, leaving all sorts of destruction in their wake (fun fact: the first comics crossover was a battle between the Torch and Namor in 1940). Captain America’s debut, however, causes far less concern and far more excitement.

All the while, plain normal Phil has to figure out what place a regular man has in this strange new world.

When you’ve been reading superhero comics year after year, you can easily start taking the concepts for granted—yeah, of course a person can fly, why not? But Marvels offers a fresh perspective, allowing everything to seem new and exciting again. Read all four issues.

Writer: Kurt Busiek

Artist: Alex Ross

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Marvels (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Captain America #48 (2009)

In order for the reader to care about the plot, the characters need to care about the plot. Yeah, that’s a pretty basic observation, but it’s an essential ingredient. And Captain America #48 provides an excellent example of how it works.

An unscrupulous scientist seeks to eradicate about 35 percent of the world’s population—for the good of the planet, of course. To achieve this, he’s used the remains of the original Human Torch to create a virus, one that renders its victims combustible. (Marvel’s first Human Torch was an android who debuted in Marvel Comics #1 in 1939; no relation to the Fantastic Four’s Human Torch.)

That’s all a good start. It raises the stakes by putting the fate of the world in the balance. But that alone would be too big and too impersonal. We’ve seen the fate of the world imperiled time after time in comics. We need a personal connection.

In this case, Bucky Barnes fought alongside the Human Torch in World War II. They were colleagues and friends, and those were happier times for Bucky, before he was forced to become the Winter Soldier. Bucky already lost Steve Rogers not long ago, and now another friend’s memory and body are being disrespected. Bucky is fighting not only to save the world, but also to preserve the honor of a man he respected more than just about anyone (other than Captain America, of course).

Joining Bucky in this mission are Namor the Sub-Mariner (another WWII ally) and the Black Widow (his current girlfriend). They represent his past and present, and they both have their own personal reasons for getting involved.

Not that anyone should need a personal motivation for saving the world, but it makes for a much more interesting story.

Writer: Ed Brubaker

Pencilers: Butch Guice, Luke Ross, Steve Epting

Inkers: Butch Guice, Steve Epting

Cover: Steve Epting

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Captain America: The Man With No Face (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 14 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Fantastic Four Annual #1 (1963)

Fantastic_Four_Annual_Vol_1_1Marvel’s early Silver Age was in top form in the Fantastic Four’s first annual.

The story, the FF’s longest-ever at the time, builds on elements previously established, such as the attraction between Namor and Sue Storm. Namor has finally found his Atlantean race, and they declare war on the surface world.

What’s most interesting, and groundbreaking for the era, is how Namor meets his defeat. (I’m going to spoil the ending, but this story is 53 years old, so…) The FF don’t succeed in overpowering the Sub-Mariner, but when the Invisible Girl is seriously hurt, Namor drops everything to get her to a hospital. The Atlanteans see this as a betrayal and abandon him, leaving Namor ostracized both on land and in the sea.

The issue represents what ‘60s Marvel was all about—epic action and big sci-fi ideas, all grounded in character. Sure, it’s dated, but it remains a fun time nevertheless because of the colorful characters inhabiting this imaginative world.

As a bonus, we get a short back-up story that expands a scene from The Amazing Spider-Man #1, in which Spidey crashes in on the FF’s home. And we all know what inevitably happens when 1960s Marvel superheroes meet for the first time…

Writer: Stan Lee

Penciler: Jack Kirby

Inker: Dick Ayers

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in The Essential Fantastic Four vol. 1 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 8 and up

Today’s Super Comic — The Incredible Hulk #371 (1990)

incredible_hulk_vol_1_371It’s a Defenders reunion special in the pages of The Incredible Hulk. Doctor Strange and Namor the Sub-Mariner work together to defeat a possessed Hulk, and Bruce Banner assists from the inside.

The action combines magic, psychology, and good old-fashioned fisticuffs, and the book never forgets its sense of humor (writer Peter David gets bonus points for working in both a Doctor Who and a Star Trek reference early in the issue). And it advances the Hulk’s ongoing storylines, leading to an unexpected cliffhanger that sets up a rather unconventional romantic obstacle for a comic book character.

A fun time all around.

Writer: Peter David

Penciler: Dale Keown

Inker: Bob McLeod

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in The Incredible Hulk Visionaries – Peter David, vol. 5 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Defenders #1-5 (2005)

Defenders indefensibleOkay, one more funny book…

The same creative team that brought humor to the Justice League (see yesterday’s review) performed an encore of sorts with Marvel’s Defenders.

The Defenders debuted back in the 1970s, teaming up powerful loners Doctor Strange, Namor the Sub-Mariner, the Hulk, and later the Silver Surfer. It ran for a respectable length but didn’t last. Might have fared better if anyone had realized the group’s tremendous comedic potential.

Doctor Strange is absurdly melodramatic. Namor is impossibly arrogant. The Silver Surfer is ridiculously philosophical. And the Hulk is the Hulk. Why did this take decades to figure out?

Anyway, Giffen, DeMatteis, and Maguire have loads of fun letting these characters be the most cartoonish versions of themselves and letting them bicker accordingly, but they don’t neglect the important rule they followed during their Justice League International tenure—we can have our fun, but the threats still need to be serious. In this case, the dreaded Dormammu and his sister, Umar, attain god-like power and rewrite reality. So just a little something for the fellas to sort out.

Well, not the Silver Surfer. He declines Doctor Strange’s invitation so that he may commune with others who “ride the board.”

The Silver Surfer hangs out with surfer dudes. Defenders nailed it.

Writers: Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis

Penciler: Kevin Maguire

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; collected in Defenders: Indefensible (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 13 and up