Here’s a weird little throwback adventure, one that some have theorized might have represented an earlier unpublished Sub-Mariner adventure being burned off, but that I think simply amounts to something of an inside joke. In this 1956 premiere issue of ADVENTURE INTO MYSTERY, there’s a short 4-page story drawn by Tony Mortellaro about an undersea couple who tries to live on the surface world but things don’t work out. And the lead character, Kanu, is a dead ringer for Namor. Ironically, Bill Everett, the Sub-Mariner’s creator, drew the cover for this issue.
Tony Mortellaro, the artist on this story, is another of those unsung workmen of comics in the 1950s. Today, he’s probably best remembered for assisting John Romita on his Marvel work, in particular AMAZING SPIDER-MAN–he would always sneak the message Backgrounds By Mortellaro in whole or in part onto billboards and newspapers and other such objects. Locating Mortellaro became a kind of Where’s Waldo game with Romita’s 1970s Marvel output.
The story itself here was pretty clearly not commissioned as a Sub-Mariner adventure. There are just too many incongruous details to it, from the fact that the lead character is married to him not being familiar with the surface world. So i think the fact that Mortellaro chose to draw him resembling Prince Namor was a bit of humor on his part. The SUB-MARINER revival comic of the 1950s had only ended a year or so before.
Regardless, it’s an interesting curio and a last throwback to the Golden Age days when Namor was one of the best-selling and most popular characters in comic books. He wouldn’t be seen again until the Marvel Age and FANTASTIC FOUR #4. Kalu, however, has never resurfaced.
The story also has a bit of a weird moral to it: don’t be curious. I don’t know that I can really get behind that thinking today.