The Last Sub-Mariner Story (of the 1950s)

In 1953, after an absence on the newsstands of four years, Martin Goodman resurrected his company’s three big successful super hero characters from the 1940s; Captain America, the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner. By all accounts, this decision to bring back these heroes appears to be in response to the strong reaction the new ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN television program was garnering. It’s also possible that the fact that the 1944 Captain America movie serial had been reissued this year as well (under the title RETURN OF CAPTAIN AMERICA.) Either way, Goodman called for the return of the three big success stories Timely Comics had had in the area of super heroes, and gave them another shot at stardom.

Despite some good work from artists such as John Romita, Dick Ayers and of course Bill Everett, this revival only lasted for a short period of time, and then the heroes were gone once again. All except the Sub-Mariner, whose solo series continued on for an additional year, finally wrapping up with issue #42 in 1955 (the numbering had been continued from the 1940s edition.)

The reason for this stay of execution for Namor was apparently a potential deal that was in the offing. Plans were being made to feature the Sub-Mariner in a television series similar to ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN. According to legend, Lloyd Bridges had been approached to play Namor–Bridges would go on to find fame and fortune in the role of Mike Nelson in the TV series SEA HUNT. How real or close this Sub-Mariner show ever came we’ll never know–but the prospect was enough for Goodman to keep SUB-MARINER on the release schedule for a longer period of time.

Most of the Sub-Mariner stories during this revival were both written and illustrated by the character’s creator, Bill Everett. Everett’s style and facility with the comics form had grown since the early days of the medium, and his Sub-Mariner stories from this period were among the best-looking super hero strips on the stands. Everett also lettered most of these stories, integrating the lettering into the images in a smooth and naturalistic fashion.

This is the final story that saw print in SUB-MARINER #42, which makes it the final pre-Marvel super hero story published by the company. (There was one later story that may have started life as a Sub-Mariner tale and that was reworked. We covered that story here:)

Following this, the next time the character would see the light of day was in the fourth issue of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s new Silver Age super hero magazine, FANTASTIC FOUR.

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