Created in 1939 by Bill Everett, Namor McKenzie also known as the Sub-Mariner has been shown as the defender of the long fabled mythic community of Atlantis for nearly seventy years. The Character originally appeared in the comic Motion Picture Funnies Weekly for the comic publisher Funnies Inc, the comic never took off however and only eight copies have been ever found. The Sub-Mariner ended up catching a lucky break though as later that year Bill Everett was contacted to do a story for Timely Comics (Now Marvel) and decided to reuse his Sub-Mariner story only adding an origin sequence. Leonard McKenzie, leading a scientific expedition in the Antarctic, accidentally discovers the kingdom of Atlantis; who send one of their leaders, Princess Fen, to deal with the humans but she ends up having an affair with McKenzie. When Princess Fen fails to return due to her and McKenzie’s affair the Atlantean King Thakorr fears that she has been captured and attacks the human’s ship and McKenzie is killed in the crossfire. Nine Months later in Atlantis Princess Fen gave birth to Namor McKenzie a half human/half Atlantean hybrid who would grow up to become Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner!
The Sub-Mariner originally started out as a menace to all of humanity and even fought against other Timely heroes such as the original Human Torch. The Nazi’s then made a fatal error and attacked Atlantis which led Namor to join the team of Allied heroes known as the Invaders. After the war, Namor spent more and more time on the surface world assisting the police as well as becoming attracted to Policewoman Betty Dean. As the 1940’s ended Namor’s comic, like most superhero comics at the time, experienced a drastic sales slump and was eventually cancelled in 1949. In 1953 Timely (Now known as Atlas Comics) tried to restart an interest in the superhero genre by re-launching the Sub-Mariner, The Human Torch, and Captain America. The revival was notable in the fact that the Sub-Mariners creator, Bill Everett, returned to title for the short lived 1950’s series. After the 1950’s series cancellation the Sub-Mariner would remain dormant until a revival in the pages of another comic, years later in the Silver Age.
Less than a year after the Sub-Mariner’s 1950 series was cancelled Atlas’s main competitor DC Comics jumpstarted what is now known as the Silver Age of comics with its revival of their Golden Age character The Flash. Atlas went on to become Marvel Comics and started its own successful line of superhero comics starting with the team title Fantastic Four. It was in the pages of Fantastic Four that the Sub-Mariner would be discovered by a whole new era of readers. In Fantastic Four # 4 (1962) the new Human Torch, Johnny Storm, discovered an amnesiac Sub-Mariner living as a bum in New York City and plunged him into the ocean using the water to have him regain his memories. It was revealed that most of Atlantis was destroyed and Namor developed amnesia; when Namor rediscovers this he vows vengeance against the surface world.
In the years that follow the Sub-Mariner appeared regularly as a villain in Fantastic Four as well as sporadically throughout various other Marvel titles. In 1965 Namor became the star of the comic, Tales to Astonish with the creative team of writer Stan Lee and artist Gene Colan which focused on Namor’s life in Atlantis and his duties as Prince. Namor graduated to his own solo title in 1968 by Roy Thomas and John Buscema which started out as a more fantasy type book until becoming a more traditional superhero book fighting various aquatic themed villains such as Attuma, a rogue Atlantean, and Tiger Shark. In addition to his solo title Namor stared in several team books during the seventies such as The Defenders and The Invaders, the latter of which featured Namor’s exploits in World War II alongside other Golden Age Timely heroes such Captain America. The 1970’s series also reintroduced another Golden Age character Namor’s cousin, Namora, and introduced her daughter Namorita who would go on to star in the popular New Warriors series during the nineties.
Sadly, by the end of the seventies the Sub-Mariner’s title was cancelled and he was no longer appearing in any team books due to them being cancelled as well or having written him out. In the 1980’s Namor was reduced to occasional appearances in Fantastic Four as a Villain, save for a four issue miniseries in 1984 by J.M. DeMatties and Bob Budiansky. Even a major crossover event in 1989 that focused on Atlantis called “Atlantis Attacks” barely featured Namor, instead focusing on rogue Atlanteans attacking the surface.
Namor received another chance in the 1990’s with a new solo series by John Byrne titled Namor the Sub-Mariner. This series, following a very popular trend in the nineties, had Namor take a much darker and serious tone having him grow long hair and a beard and he even became CEO of a company called “Oracle” which he used to support environmental causes particularly ones pertaining to the ocean. The series lasted sixty two issues and was cancelled in 1995 as during the late nineties Marvel Comics suffered from severe financial troubles almost forcing the company into bankruptcy. Marvel soon rebounded and rebuilt during the new millennium and in 2003 a twelve issue miniseries was published focusing on untold tales of Namor’s youth by Bill Jemas and Salvador Larroca.
Lately though Namor has experienced somewhat of a revival albeit only in guest appearances and various miniseries. Popular writer Brian Michael Bendis featured Namor in the popular miniseries New Avengers: Illuminati, which showed that Namor alongside, Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Dr. Strange, Black Bolt, and Professor Xavier of the X-Men, had secretly met to discuss and possibly act on potential threats to the earth. Namor was also featured in the popular crossover by Mark Millar Civil War where he supported Captain America against opposing hero Iron Man. Later in 2007 in a six issue miniseries by Matt Cherniss, Peter Johnson, and Phil Briones it was revealed that Namor had a son who attempted to dethrone Namor and name himself king. Due to Namor’s son’s attacks on the surface world Namor was forced to have his people abandon Atlantis for other undersea cities in fear of retaliation.
To prevent against further threats from the surface world; Namor entered into an alliance with another Fantastic Four villain and monarch of fictional country Latveria, Dr. Doom. Following Norman Osborn’s (also known as the Spider-Man villain the Green Goblin) ascent to power both Doom and Namor were called into another secret group known as The Cabal were Osborn promised to help Namor to regain his kingdom in exchange for his assistance. Namor is currently a member of Osborn’s “Dark X-Men” helping him restore order in the mutant community. It looks like Namor won’t be going anywhere soon and if he ever does history shows that he won’t be gone long.