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Join Namor on the metaphorical couch for some weak Freudian/Atlantean psychoanalysis – Sub-Mariner #38

June 12, 2013

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There’s no character more in need of some time on a psychiatrist’s couch than Namor, the Sub-Mariner. How many times has he invaded the surface world again? How many times has a taken either a minor incident or an imagined slight and elevated it into an enormous causus belli? A justification for yet another sea vs. land war of survival? How often has he displayed a lack of patience that would take Yosemite Sam aback? Is there a character that carries more tension in his face than Namor? (I mean, just look at those eyebrows.)

You think maybe, just maybe, this might have something to do with his upbringing? An Oedipal complex that generates outright hostility to his human father’s old dominion? What from his life made him who he is?  

The regal, snobby, standoffish Namor would never submit to the indignity of the psychoanalysis necessary to get to the bottom of his unique brand of peevishness. There will be no teary support group breakthroughs for this monarch of the seas — perhaps for the best, since some poor schlub in Rageaholics Anonymous might get a trident through the chest if they get too sassy. But this comic book, coming well into his Silver Age solo run, is the next best thing, with Namor doing a mental inventory about all the things that have made him the man he is (was) today (then).

Written by Roy Thomas, master of the retcon and going elbows-deep in fictional character histories, and penciled and inked, respectively, by Ross Andru and John Severin, the whimsically titled “Namor Agonistes!” opens with our sometimes hero lamenting the death of his blue-skinned love, Dorma:

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Not to get off track, but what Andru does with just the vantage point in the first panel shows how something as simple as choosing a point of view can be so very fundamental. (And fish swimming between you and the subjects aren’t so bad either.)

Namor paces around Atlantis, lost in his thoughts, thinking back to the entire breadth of his life to figure out how he — and his beloved — came to this lowly state. He goes as far back to before he was born, when his Atlantean mother met his human father:

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Of course, human dad Captain MacKenzie was killed just after he was conceived by Mama Namor’s people (though, in true comic fashion, he would reappear, alive and well, shortly after this issue). Lack of a strong fatherly influence in his life? Are we onto something?

The best part of this retro story comes when Namor makes his first entrée into the late-1930s, early 1940s surface world. He pops up in, of course, New York City, a burg that always seems to be populated by 95% bleacher bums:

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How dare they compare him with Johnny Weissmuller?! (Who was Johnny Weissmuller again? And Buster Crabbe while we’re at it? Hey, at least we all know Orson Welles — don’t we?)

There’s even a Hitler reference. Also, MOTORCYCLE ENGINEERING MEANS NOTHING TO HIM:

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So his first experience with the peers of his human side goes about as bad as you can imagine, with buses smashed and both sides none too pleased. Namor is in such a huff, he even fires off an angry memo:

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The fact that he signed the billboard “The Sub-Mariner,” like Tobias Funke leaving a note to his wife on Arrested Development, fills me with a joy that’s difficult to describe. Something bright. Something pure. Something that makes me want to be a better man. One wonders if he has his own personalized stationary, perhaps with his “Imperius Rex” motto included. We can hope. And if he had included a “sincerely” or “with warmest regards” on there, I might have died from giddiness.

Lest we think Namor only thinks about conflict, there’s also some love, whether with NYC policewoman Betty Dean or holding hands with Sue Richards:

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The end result of all this introspection isn’t an emotional breakthrough, though. Instead, as the cover spoils, Namor renounces his underwater throne, blaming himself — justifiably so — for most of the ills that have beset his kingdom:

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You have to think that, stunned and distraught looks to the contrary, the blue-skinned Atlanteans are going to be doing the Myposian Dance of Joy as soon as Namor is out of range. FINALLY HIS RULE IS OVER. They’ll be popping open the Atlantean equivalent of bottles of champagne — fermented mashed kelp or something.

Namor would be a king without a kingdom for a couple of years, before reclaiming his throne later in this solo run. And his time away from the cares of office would do nothing to temper his, well, temper. He was still enough of a prick to — once his series was cancelled — co-star, along with Dr. Doom, in Super-Villain Team-Up. So this book was much ado about nothing, though the ado was deftly executed. Ayers’ scene-setting was as good as anyone’s, and Severin’s inks, most recently praised here on the blog in a splendid Nick Fury story, do so very much.

But Namor? He can renounce his throne over and over again. He can retrace his life story over and over again. And he’ll still be the same old Namor — until he seeks out the services of a licensed professional. Don’t self-medicate or self-analyze. Lay down on the couch, big guy — you can keep a bucket of water next to you to splash intermittently on your face. Just get it done.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 12, 2013 8:42 pm

    And he signed “The Sub-Mariner” in cursive, too. Ending your threat so personably probably didn’t do much to hammer home that bit about “utter annihilation.”

    • June 12, 2013 9:45 pm

      Why oh why couldn’t he have dotted the “i” with a heart?

  2. Ronnie Poore permalink
    June 14, 2013 2:47 am

    i was never a fan of Subby, so i never bought an issue, and didn’t know that my favorite comic artist: John Severin ever worked on the title. ya learn somethin’ new every day.

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