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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Sub-Mariner Key Comic Issues

Getting back to vintage key issue goodness. LK requested this, and I think it's a good call and long overdue.

What's even better is that this character helped to start it all for the company that would become Marvel Comics. That's right, we're talking about Sub-Mariner, known as one of the Big Three during the Golden Age of Timely Comics.

Along with the original android Human Torch and Captain America, Sub-Mariner and his fellow Timely superheroes not only fought villains and each other in the pages of their comics, they also competed with all the other superhero comics that littered the newsstands back in the day.

However, Sub-Mariner was different from Human Torch, Captain America and any other superhero that was being put out during the birth of superhero comics. No, not because he's the first Marvel mutant superhero.

He is comics very first anti-hero. Namor is the first comic character who walked the fine line of hero and villain in comics. Way before other anti-hero comic characters like Punisher or Wolverine, there was Namor the Sub-Mariner.

For that, this character deserves to be spotlighted with respect, and here it is. A homage to the first anti-hero in comics: This is the first part to this Submariner key comic issues list!

1st printed appearance & origin of Namor
1st appearance of Princess Fen and Thakkor
1st mention of Leonard McKenzie

Now, this is comic book history. Creator of Namor the Sub-Mariner, Bill Everett initially had an 8 page story of Sub-Mariner in this Motion Picture Funnies Weekly. It was intended as purely a promotional give away comic.
These promotional comics were sent to theater company owners to give away. The planned promotion failed. In 1974, only 8 samples of the promotional comic were found in the deceased publisher's estate.

You wanna talk rare? This one right here is rare. It is the 1st appearance of Namor the Sub-Mariner and the story was 8 pages and in black and white.

Anyways, this promotional comic also sees the first appearance of Princess Fen, who is Subby's momma. Like in the story, she is part of the royal family of Atlantis and disregards her father, Thakkor, in investigating explosions sent above from the surface world.

She meets Subby's poppa Captain Leonard McKenzie, whom is not shown in this issue and only referenced. Leonard teaches her how to read and write. 

Fen returns to her father to show him what she has learned from the surface dwellers. Emperor Thakkor would send his daughter periodically to learn more about them so they could best know how to deal with them.

Fen and Leonard fall in love of course and Fen had Namor. Namor is half human and half Atlantean, and is the first mutant superhero in Marvel Comics. Unlike most Atlanteans, his skin is of Caucasian color and homeboy can fly! Atlanteans are normally blue in skin tone and can't fly.

This 36 page promotional comic came out in April, 1936. 

eBay - I didn't expect to find this on eBay, but I decided I'd throw up the eBay link directly to the search results for this rare key issue in case it does pop up there.

1st Timely appearance of Sub-Mariner
1st full appearance of Dorma
1st issue to series

You wanna talk about the super mega Marvel key issue comic ever? This one right here is it. Timely is the predecessor to Marvel Comics, and this is the companies first comic ever to feature superheroes.

In April, 1939, Bill Everett did a promotional give away comic titled Motion Picture Funnies Weekly published by Funnies, Inc as mentioned already in the listing above this one.

Although you figure it was a good idea, the promotional tactic failed and Motion Picture Funnies Weekly was dropped due to being unsuccessful. When the promotional idea failed, Everett took his character to Timely Comics.

Although those rare promotional give away comics does hold the first printed appearance of Namor the Sub-Mariner, it was widely recognized in the comic industry that Marvel Comics #1 was the character's first appearance in comics. Now, it's the first newsstand appearance of Submariner? Err...okay?

In truth, though, the 12 page story featured in Marvel Comics #1 is a reprint of the Motion Picture Funnies Weekly promotional comic. The latter was printed in black and white, and artists at Timely had to color over the black ink and expand the original 8 page story to 12 pages.

It also looks like Dorma makes her first full appearance in Marvel Comics #1 and the character must have been expanded on in the extra four pages that was created under the Timely publication. In Motion Picture Funnies Weekly she only had a cameo in it.

Once again, another debate will probably spring up about this one as well, which seems to be the trend in the current ka-ching back issues and comic collectors market. Either way, I just find the historical shit interesting, or the behind the character story of how he came to be published.

Despite the debate, there's no doubt that Marvel Comics #1 is a hugely important comic for the company that would later become what the title to this comic reads.

October, 1939 was when Marvel Comics #1 was published. 

eBay - This one isn't located on eBay at the moment either, but you never know when it'll pop up. If you got the dough for this monster key, that is.

ComicConnect - Wow, the fine folks over at ComicConnect have two copies of this monster key. One is a whopping CGC 9.4 NM Restored copy, and the other is a .5 PR CGC copy and it's a Universal. Both are up for auction currently at the time of this writing.

2nd appearance of Namor the Submariner

Although the original Human Torch does appear in separate stories with Namor and the two follow each other from comic to comic, this list will just deal with Submariner keys. In this issue, the comic title changes from Marvel Comics to Marvel Mystery Comics.

Marvel Mystery Comics #2 sees the 2nd appearance of Sub-Mariner since Marvel Comics #1 was basically just an extended reprint with 4 more pages added to the story. A few other characters make their first and only appearances in this Submariner story so I won't bother listing them.

Early Timely comic, early appearance of Sub-Mariner? You bet this is one of the big boy Sub-Mariner key comic issues. Marvel Mystery Comics #2 was published December, 1939.

eBay - As expected, no luck finding this one on eBay currently either.

3rd appearance of Sub-Mariner
1st appearance of Betty Dean
1st Chief of Police John Wilson 

Betty Dean is one of the oldest supporting characters for Namor in comics. When Thakkor, known as the Holy One, sends Namor to wreak havoc on New York, Betty Dean was a police officer sent by Chief of Police John Wilson to apprehend the Atlantean mutant.
Of course, being Namor and all, he was distracted by her beauty even at gun point. U-boat Nazis would interrupt their first meeting, and Namor would bring Betty to the safety of a nearby island before saving an American ship that was being attacked.

After his heroics were accomplished, Betty would ask Namor to help the human race, and this would cause the internal conflict that Sub-Mariner has dealt with throughout his career in comics. Despite what you think about Subby, he is a revolutionary comic character for his time and even during the Silver Age.

Some fans may say that Namor is a knock off of Aquaman. Maybe, but there was depth to Namor that Aquaman lacked. Namor fought to protect the seas from a surface world that was constantly threatening and destroying it. At the same time, he has proven to aid the surface world as well.

Although fans of the character constantly saw Namor wreak havoc on Homo Sapiens, they were not appalled by his actions. In contrast, they viewed his actions with some sort of justification. Never before had there been a comic character who walked the fine line of villain and hero.

Sub-Mariner challenged the traditional role of the comic superhero in more ways than one at the time. Marvel Mystery Comics #3 January, 1940.

eBay - Surprise, surprise, there are actually copies of this Golden Age goodie on the mighty eBay. All are CGC slabbed, Restored and lower grade, which is to expected. Highest grade is a 4.5 VG+.

ComicConnect - CGC 4.5 VG+ Restored copy here and probably the same one on eBay.

4th appearance of Sub-Mariner
1st Namor cover

It would not be long before Sub-Mariner was spotlighted on the cover of comic book, and Marvel Mystery Comics #4 is his very 1st comic cover. The cover is a classic.
Not to mention, this issue also holds his 4th appearance. In the story, Sub-Mariner Goes to War, Namor agrees to help stop the Nazis raid on supply ships and planes at the urging of Betty Dean. Convincing Thakkor to use the Atlantean warships to help stop the war.

Subby then uses the power at his disposal to whomp on some Nazis. February, 1940 was when this comic was published.

eBay - Only two copies located here at the time of this writing. They are both raw copies and both are up there in price. One is advertised as a VG, and selling way over guide price which is a no-no to me.

1st Sub-Mariner crossover story
1st Sub-Mariner meets/vs Human Torch
2nd crossover story in comics

Okay, this one is technically seen as the first superhero crossover ever, and even though the characters both had separate stories running in Marvel Mystery Comics, this story arc in Marvel Mystery Comics ran through issues #7 through #10 and is the 2nd time in the history of comics that two different and separate superheroes met in a storyline that spanned across two or three issues.
So technically not the classical crossover from one title to a completely different title of a character or characters, but this issue is the first time any Timely/Marvel superheroes have ever met and established a shared continuity. The first to do so was the original Human Torch and Namor the Sub-Mariner.

Pretty historic issue in the world of comics. June, 1940 was when this historic Golden Age comic was published and revolutionized the comic industry forever. Marvel Mystery Comics #8 would help to keep the ball rolling concerning characters crossing over.

eBay - Only one CGC 5.5 FN minus. Looks like the PGX copy was snagged from the last time I featured this comic in the crossover key issues list.

Talk about about some big Golden Age key issues. We've got the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th appearance of Sub-Mariner ever. Plus, this part begins with a failed comic that not too many know about concerning the history of how Namor first came to comics.

All it took was for Timely Comics to get a hold of the character and distribute it nationally to have the character take off. Namor McKenzie would forever make comic history in more ways than one, rightly detailed in part one of this homage to the first anti-hero in comics.

Not even close to being done though, as you probably expected. This series will be quite long. Although the Golden Age fleshed out the character, there were not many supporting characters written into the Golden Age Sub-Mariner mythos.

We still have the Silver Age and Bronze Age to get into, and creators would definitely add more characters to the mythos during those times. You've been warned, and the goodness will continue in Part 2 of this Sub-Mariner key issues list. Just click the link below to continue.

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