For Your Consideration: Marvel Masterworks: Sub-Mariner Volume 7

Robert Greenberger

Robert Greenberger

by Robert Greenberger

Marvel Masterworks: Sub-Mariner Volume 7

Marvel Masterworks: Sub-Mariner Volume 7

It is rare for a creator to return to his original creation after decades away, let alone recapture the magic that made the work unique in the first place. But that was Bill Everett, a man who defied expectations time and again. For his last act, the writer/artist return to the Sub-Mariner, who he created in 1939, and breathed fresh life into him for nearly a year before failing health ended his life. Those final stories are being collected in Marvel Masterworks: Sub-Mariner Volume 7 and they are well worth a look.

Everett was originally contracted to create a story for Motion Picture Funnies Weekly, designed as a premium at movie theaters. The project collapsed and when Editor Lloyd Jacquet asked Everett for a series to use in Marvel Comics #1, he reused the Sub-Mariner. Namor was an Atlantean-human hybrid, comics’ first angry young man as he waged war against the surface world and was there for the first major crossover in comics’ history, his epic fight with the Human Torch.

As the comics dwindled in number during the 1950s, Everett drifted from the field, working for the Norcross Greeting Company, illustrating cards. He knocked around at a variety of companies, raising his family and battling alcoholism until he phoned Stan Lee at the dawn of the Marvel Age. After helping launch Daredevil, his inability to meet deadlines meant he knocked around on a variety of features, often working over Jack Kirby’s layouts. He returned to Subby beginning with Tales to Astonish #87 but his work was stiff and he was preoccupied with his drinking and wife’s failing health so he finally moved on; switching primarily to inking others, notably a run over Jack Kirby on Thor.

In 1969, Everett finally joined Alcoholics Anonymous and while sharing an apartment with writer Mike Friedrich, he began to repair his personal life then professional career. Blake Bell wrote in Fire & Water, “Everett’s personal salvation started manifesting itself in his work. He began to regain confidence in his storytelling and his pencils, and in early 1972, Lee decided to give him one last go at his creation, the Sub-Mariner. Although sales had been slumping on the title up to his first issue back…Lee must have been impressed by Everett’s recovery enough to have pencil, ink, and write the book.”

At the time, Sub-Mariner was a second-tier character, often used to fight a hero for a crossover and was a founding member of the Defenders. But, after Roy Thomas stepped down as the series’ writer, the title drifted without aim or purpose. Everett’s return arrested that and propelled him back to prominence.

“Remarkably, Everett turned out some of the best work if his career. The level of detail in his work and the refinement of his line work is on par with his material from the 1950s. He also left behind much of the stiffness that had plagued his mid-to-late 1960s work, returned to the mad, frenzied pace of his action scenes that been so familiar to readers of his 1940s work,” Bell noted.

Sub-Mariner #55

Sub-Mariner #55

As Everett arrived with Sub-Mariner #50, so did a young teen, Namorita, daughter of his character Namora, who has been a fixture in the Marvel Universe ever since. His initial storyline pitted the sea king against Prince Byrrah and revived the water versus fire theme as Namor took on the Japanese mutant Sunfire. Subby’s first romantic interest, Betty Prentiss also returned to the supporting cast.

Unfortunately, Everett’s creative rebirth was matched with his deteriorating health so he could not sustain the pace of a monthly. Friedrich stepped in to dialogue several issues with issue #56 being a fill-in by Friedrich and Dan Adkins, who co-plotted and drew the issue. Friedrich and Alan Weiss also produced a short story set between the events of issues #36-37. By issue #58, Everett needed plenty of help and Steve Gerber stepped in to dialogue from here on, ultimately inheriting the book. Veteran artist Sam Kweskin also took on some of the art chores with inks by John Tartaglione and Jim Mooney, altering the look and feel of the series.

But his final full issue, #56, shows Everett in full flourish as he revived his other great creation, Venus and used her for a foil.

Everett’s year on the series restored Namor to full power and glory as the volume ends with his regaining the throne to Atlantis from issue #60. And while revisiting old friends such as Venus and Betty, Everett also gave us the red-skinned Tamara Rahn, a water-breathing alien from Laab. When the Atlanteans accidentally mistook the visiting aliens as enemeies, they slaughtered all but Tamara who then took on the Sub-Mariner, seeking revenge. Once they straightened things out, she was named an honorary citizen of Atlantis and remained a supporting player in Sub-Mariner’s world for years to come.

Sadly, Everett had a massive heart attack in November 1972, finally dying on the operating table in February of the following year. His legacy is now being collected and can be enjoyed anew. His lush line and inventive storytelling is on display once more and is certainly worth a good look.


Marvel Masterworks: Sub-Mariner Volume 7

Classic comic cover from the Grand Comics Database.


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