Spotlight On… Sub-Mariner #50

Namorita makes her historic debut in Sub-Mariner #50! While only appearing for 8 pages, Nita’s first appearance is worth it just to see her meet her famous cousin the Sub-Mariner by punching him in the face! She is quickly established as a spunky yet vulnerable young girl, in many ways more human than Namor. The issue includes her initial origin (before she was revealed to be a clone) and the apparent death of her mother, Golden Age sidekick Namora. If you only get one of Namorita’s 1970s appearances, this is probably the one to get.



Sub-Mariner #50
“Who Am I?”

June 1972

-Writer: Bill Everett
-Penciler: Bill Everett
-Inker: Bill Everett
-Colorist: unknown (uncredited)
-Letterer: Jon Costa
-Cover artists: Gil Kane and Vince Colletta
-Editor: Stan Lee (uncredited)
-Publisher: Martin Goodman (uncredited)

Cast:

Namorita, Sub-Mariner, Prince Byrrah, Llyra, ‘Salamar the Sustainer’, mutant Crab-men, the body of Namora, ‘Prince Byrrah’ (imprisoned Atlantean), Cindy Jones

In Brief:

Amidst abandoned Atlantis, Namorita makes her debut – as the pawn of Prince Byrrah! Can she free the body of Namora from dishonor? Will she be able to save an amnesiac Namor the Sub-Mariner from the vengeance of Llyra? Plus, more mutated crab-men than you can shake a stick at!

Summary:

With the body of her late mother, Namora, held against her, Namorita was forced to work for Llyra, Empress of Lemuria, and Prince Byrrah, former heir to the Atlantean throne. Nita was sent to find her cousin, Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner, and bring him back to the abandoned ruins of Atlantis, beneath the Ross Sea of Antarctica.

After searching for days, Namorita finally reached the point of exhaustion off the coast of New Orleans. She was abruptly awoken by what appeared to her to be a middle-aged man kissing her. In reality, it was Namor, the very man she was searching for, who mistook her for a drowning human. She punched the man, yelled at him and headed back into the ocean to continue her search.

She soon realized that she had run out of time. Llyra and Byrrah were expecting her, with or without Namor. She returned to the Atlantean ruins empty-handed, recalling her encounter with the dirty old man she called the ‘Masher’. Back in the custody of Byrrah and his Crab-men guards, Namorita feared for her mother’s body and herself.

Namorita sat in her room, with two Crab-men standing guard, until she heard the voice of Prince Byrrah ordering the guards to bring her to him. Her eyes kept to the ground as she was led to Byrrah’s chamber. He commanded her to raise her head and look at the one she had searched for, Prince Namor. Her only hope for freedom had arrived. As she looked up, there stood the ‘Masher’. Both Sub-Mariners were filled with confusion. Namor was also battling amnesia. His memory began to return as he thought back on Namorita’s mother, Namora, and their childhood friendship. He also remembered Namorita as a child, then called Nita. Namorita continued to look on, even as Namor attacked Prince Byrrah for using Namorita. But someone was missing. Namorita noticed her first. Llyra came from behind Namor, armed with a gun. At last, all of Namor’s memories came back. Llyra had been responsible for the deaths of his wife, Lady Dorma, and his father. Llyra attacked, seeking revenge for Namor’s refusal to be her mate. Namor dodged Llyra’s first shot, and rushed to protect Namorita. As the two Sub-Mariners continued to dodge, the battle inched towards a field of oil-springs. Namor, overcome with rage, advanced on Llyra, knocking the gun out of her hand. Namorita took the chance to help and dove for the gun. Namor tossed Llyra, who almost collided into Namorita, causing her to lose the gun. Llyra fell into the oil-spring. Namorita looked on in disgust at Llyra’s fate. Namor consoled her, as she told him that she suspected Llyra had also killed her mother. The two swam off towards another part of Atlantis to compare notes. But, in the excitement, the two did not notice that behind them the discarded gun was pointed right at them…

(Namorita appears next in Sub-Mariner #51 “Armageddon — At Fifty Fathoms Full!”)

Annotations:

  • Bill Everett, creator of Namorita, is also the creator of Namor the Sub-Mariner, the first character of the comics company now known as Marvel. The Sub-Mariner first appeared in Motion Picture Funnies Weekly #1 from 1939. Namor was born the hybrid offspring of Princess Fen of the undersea kingdom of Atlantis and an American seaman, Captain Leonard McKenzie. In 1920, McKenzie’s ship, the Oracle, was on an expedition to Antarctica in search of the mythical Helmet of Power at the behest of one of his passengers, carnival mentalist Paul Destine. They discovered the site of a city once built by water-breathing Lemurians as well as the so-called Helmet of Power. However, McKenzie distrusted the uses to which Destine would put the Crown and caused an avalanche to bury the city. Making his way to safety, McKenzie planted explosives to break up the ice flows, unaware of the existence of the Atlantean capital city beneath the icebergs off the Antarctic Coast. The damage the city sustained prompted King Thakorr to send his daughter, Fen, to investigate. Fen took with her a potion enabling her to breathe air for up to five hours per dosage. She soon discovered the Oracle and went aboard, startling McKenzie and his crew by her appearance. In a strange twist of fate, the captured princess quickly learned English, and she and McKenzie soon fell in love and were married. However, when Fen had not returned to Atlantis for several weeks, Thakorr dispatched a war party to the surface, assuming she had been taken prisoner. The ensuing scuffle aboard the Oracle apparently killed Leonard McKenzie. Returning to Atlantis, Fen later gave birth to McKenzie’s son. Fen named this first known hybrid offspring of Homo sapiens and Homo mermanus Namor, which in the Atlantean language means “Avenging Son.” Namor grew up in Atlantis with a hostile attitude toward surface-dwellers. When Thakorr discovered men in diving suits near Atlantis, he assumed they were advance scouts for an invasion force and ordered Namor to attack New York. Over the following months, tensions between the Sub-Mariner and the surface people escalated. Several times Namor battled the original android Human Torch, who sought to stop Namor from wreaking destruction in America. On one occasion, Namor desisted from wreaking havoc because he was impressed by the courage of policewoman Betty Dean, who had come on her own to plead with Namor to stop. Over time, Namor and Betty Dean would become friends and companions, and the two were in love for some years. Dean and the Torch persuaded Namor that his true enemies were not all surface-dwellers but the forces of the Axis powers. When Adolf Hitler ordered an attack on Atlantis’s capital city, Namor vowed to retaliate. As the United States entered World War II, Namor allied himself with the Human Torch, his partner Toro, and the super-soldier legend Captain America in forming the superhuman team, the Invaders. They fought for the Allied cause on many fronts, often coming into conflict with Axis superhuman agents. Following the war, Namor briefly fought crime as a member of the All-Winners Squad. Some time later, Atlantis’ Antarctic capital city was again besieged by violent quakes. In a cavern on Antarctica, Namor found Paul Destine, now calling himself Destiny, who had finally obtained the Helmet of Power after spending decades in suspended animation. His power destroyed much of Atlantis, killing Thakorr and Fen, and ultimately scattering its people across the globe for many years. Destiny used the Helmet to force Namor to fly to New York City, giving him nearly total amnesia and dulling his ability to think. As a result, Namor spent years as a wandering derelict in New York City until he was discovered in the Bowery by Johnny Storm, the second Human Torch and member of the Fantastic Four. Storm dropped the Atlantean in the harbor, which restored most of Namor’s memory and the ability to think clearly. However, when Namor found an Atlantean outpost in ruins due to collateral damage from an atomic test by Homo sapiens, Namor’s hostility toward the surface world reared anew. He attacked New York City in an attempt to avenge the ruin of his homeland, but was thwarted on this and other occasions by the Fantastic Four. During this time, Namor found many Atlantean survivors and, learning that Thakorr had died, set himself up as ruler of Atlantis. Almost immediately, he led Atlantean forces against the surface world but was thwarted by the Fantastic Four again. Namor, having developed romantic intentions on Susan Storm, a member of the Fantastic Four, later took her captive, but when she nearly drowned, Namor himself took her to a surface hospital. The Atlanteans, outraged, abandoned Namor as their ruler. While searching for his people, Namor encountered the ice-bound Captain America, not recognizing the man he fought alongside decades before, and in a fit of rage, threw the entombed hero into the sea, inadvertently contributing to his rescue by the hero team Avengers. Namor eventually returned to his people, who were now no longer nomadic, at a base in the Atlantic Ocean and became ruler again. There he fell in love with the Lady Dorma. Namor eventually regained his full memories, thereby learning of his wartime alliance with Captain America and of Destiny’s responsibility for Atlantis’ destruction. Realizing that he could not blame Atlantis’s destruction on all surface dwellers, Namor banned official acts of war against Homo sapiens and even began to help them occasionally. [Thanks to the Unofficial Handbook of the Marvel Universe, no longer on-line, and the Marvel Directory]
  • You might find yourself asking some of the following questions: Why doesn’t Namor remember anything? What was Dr. Doom doing there? Who’s Cindy? What’s Namor doing in New Orleans? Who are the two friends Namor lost? Essentially, what’s going on?! Well, the eleventh issue of Saga of the Sub-Mariner, Roy Thomas’ re-telling of Namor’s history, clears most of this up without having to go back-issue hunting. Namor is prone to amnesia, which he had recently succumbed to after his bride Dorma was murdered, he abdicated the Atlantean throne, and his long-lost human father was murdered. When he came to his senses, he found himself in the home of one Cindy Jones, a model very…familiar… with businesses out on the street. Dr. Doom somehow tracked Namor to Cindy’s home, and asked Namor for his help in acquiring the Cosmic Cube from Modok. Despite not knowing who Doom was, Namor agreed. During the fight, the Cosmic Cube was destroyed. The trio managed to escape to New Orleans. Dr. Doom dropped Namor and Cindy off, hoping that he and Namor could be friends when his memory returned. By now, Cindy had put two and two together as to who Namor was, and insisted he leave. And so, the two friends Namor refers to losing are Cindy Jones and Dr. Doom. This brings us to the opening scene of this issue.
  • Namorita’s mother Namora had her own solo series in 1948, Namora the Sea-Beauty, which lasted three issues. Namora first appeared in Marvel Mystery Comics #82 from May 1947.
  • Plot dangler: Namora’s skin is blue despite all of her previous Golden Age appearances depicting her as pink-skinned like Namor. How is this possible? It could be a coloring mistake (repeated in Sub-Mariner #61). It could be because she’s dead and in a block of ice. But, it could also be connected to the standard Atlantean blue skin she had before she went through puberty, as was revealed in New Warriors #44. There’s a back-up story in Sub-Mariner #54 (a reprint of a Sub-Mariner story from the ’40s) that doesn’t contradict this. A fifteen-year-old Namor meets a pink-skinned Namora for the first time since they were infants. She’s definitely younger than he since her father named her after Namor, but by how much is unknown. It’s possible Namora’s parents sent her to live closer to Namor when her skin turned pink, so she wouldn’t feel too different from the other Atlanteans. Could Sub-Mariners revert to blue skin after death? There’s never been anything to suggest this, but you never know. Another possibility: since Salamar the Sustainer was a mechanical creation of Byrrah to fool Namor, perhaps the body of Namora was a ruse as well. Could Namora still be out there somewhere? Considering her body was never seen or mentioned again following this issue, and the revolving door that is death in the Marvel Universe, it isn’t impossible. UPDATE: In 2006, Namora returned in Agents of Atlas, a mini-series starring Marvel characters from the Golden Age of Comics.
  • Plot dangler: The poor sap that was forced to pose as Byrrah was probably a wandering Atlantean. I’m sure we’ll never know, and I’m sure it will never matter.
  • Byrrah first appeared in Marvel Mystery Comics #82. Prince Byrrah is cousin to the Sub-Mariner and thus a possible heir to the Atlantean throne. Byrrah eventually gained a reputation as a peace-loving and kind nobleman, even as Namor ascended to the throne. Byrrah became supervisor of the Atlantean weapons factories. Later, using a mind control device, he convinced the citizens of Atlantis to chose him as leader, exiling Namor, and forming an alliance with Atlantis’ enemies, Attuma and Krang. Lady Dorma destroyed Byrrah’s device, and ultimately Namor returned, exiling Byrrah and defeated his enemies’ schemes. Byrrah returned to trick the Atlanteans again, this time with the help of Dr. Dorcas, but was again exiled by Namor. [Thanks to the Unofficial Handbook to the Marvel Universe, no longer on-line, and Comics Central]
  • Llyra first appeared in Sub-Mariner #32. Llyra is the daughter of Llyron, a member of the water-breathing Homo mermani who dwell in Lemuria, and Rhonda Morris, a surface woman who inherited her father’s oceanarium in Hawaii. As she grew, she demonstrates mutant powers, notably the ability to alter the greenish coloration of her skin and hair to resemble her Caucasian mother’s. As Llyra grew into adolescence, she developed schizophrenia, and began to believe that when she changed her skin to pink, she was another person, her imaginary twin sister Laurie. Reaching adulthood, Llyra journeyed to her father’s land of Lemuria, and through elaborate machinations and the use of her other mutant power to telepathically control marine animals, she usurped the throne from its benevolent ruler, King Karthon. Several days after her coup, the Sub-Mariner, a friend of Karthon, voyaged to Lemuria to seek an alliance against the surface people’s ocean pollution. Finding Karthon in chains, Namor engaged Llyra in battle. Llyra was caught in a rockslide caused by a sperm whale under her command and was severely injured. Namor returned Llyra’s body to her mother for burial, but she discovered that her daughter was only in a coma. Morris resuscitated Llyra who then journeyed to Lemuria to recruit mercenaries to accompany her to Atlantis where she could wreak vengeance upon Namor. Llyra and her men kidnapped the Lady Dorma, Namor’s bride-to-be, and brought her to the oceanarium owned by her mother. After a failed attempt at using her chameleon powers to disguise herself as Dorma and become Namor’s wife, Llyra fled Atlantis. Namor tracked her to the oceanarium. Witnessing his approach, Llyra smashed the water-filled cylinder holding Dorma, and by the time Namor reached her, Dorma had suffocated. Llyra escaped and soon allied herself with Namor’s enemy, Tiger Shark, and his assistant Gerard Lymondo. The three of them awakened the ocean-dwelling creature Krago to vanquish Namor and kidnapped Namor’s human father, Leonard McKenzie. In the course of battle with Namor, Tiger Shark split McKenzie’s skull with a lead pipe, and he and Llyra fled. [Thanks to the Marvel Directory]
  • Byrrah and Llyra’s names are occasionally mis-spelled throughout the issue as Byyrah and Lyyra, respectively.
  • This issue was re-presented in Saga of the Sub-Mariner #11, page 3, panel 7 – page 14 from 1989. The mini-series, written by Roy Thomas, was an over-view of Namor’s past which occasionally updated, corrected, or clarified elements of the stories. The only significant change to this issue was Namor recalling more specifically when he knew Nita as an infant: “You were but an infant when I was struck amnesiac for years by the man called Destiny–!” This would place Namorita’s birth some time following World War II and Namor’s involvement with the All-Winners Squad, but before Namor was found in New York City by the Fantastic Four. Going by this information, Namorita was probably born in the 1950s. Although, the oddity that is time in the Marvel Universe could change this in the future.

Reviews:

(from the letter column of Sub-Mariner #54)
To submit a review of your own, use the comments field below!
No postage required!

—-

After 49 terrible issues of his own magazine and some 20 odd mediocre issues in TALES TO ASTONISH, we wonder how come it took so long for the Men at Merry Marvel to put Wild Bill Everett back on his brain child, the Sub-Mariner.

But that unbearably long wait made his comeback on both the writing and illustrating chores (I had to make that distinction because back in TTA he did draw a few issues) so much more welcome. His inimitable style is so much more suited to the strip than Gene Colan’s style. Bill’s rough style gives more of an aquatic effect than Gene’s slick type of art.

Though some of the dialogue was hokey (“Credulous crustacean”), it was enjoyable and a bundle of fun to read. A different variation on an old theme which will undoubtedly be up for a Goethe this year.

I sincerely hope, Stan, you have the good sense to keep Mr. Everett on his baby and no one else. You just can’t beat perfection.

-Joe Farara

—-

SUB-MARINER #50 was knee-deep in nostalgia. It was replete with the decades-old trademarks of Everett’s Sub-Mariner: ridiculous-looking monsters, the bug-eyed Prince Byyrah (with a “B” on his belt, even), a scantily-clad female and those squinty eyes of Namor’s. Of course, there were alterations to conform to Subby’s present-day image – the Sub-Mariner’s refined speech patterns (note the progression from “holy halibut!” to “By the golden girdle of Galathea!”), and the absence of anti-Communist junk, to name two.

Yes, it was enjoyable, but it won’t be if we’re subjected to it month after month. By keeping Mr. B on the mag permanently, you will lay waste to all that Stan Lee, Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway have striven to achieve through the years. Retrogression is hardly what this magazine needs now. Nauseating visions of Namor and his “little cousin” battling the denizens of the deep are beginning to form. Please return Gerry Conway and Gene Colan to the strip, and discard these new plot-lines before it’s too late.

-Greg Puryear

—-

I have a few praises and a few complaints about SUB-MARINER #50. First of all, I thoroughly enjoyed it, as it was written and drawn by the only person meant for Namor, Bill Everett. I like the idea of having Namora’s daughter Nita brought into the scene, but please bring back the supposedly dead Namora. For my complaints – the first one is about Byrrah. As a child he was drawn with eyes that took up half his face like most Atlanteans. Starting with ASTONISH #90 he was drawn with eyes like humans. In this issue he was again drawn with large eyes and has green skin instead of blue skin all Atlanteans have! Next comes Namora. On page 9 she has blue skin as all Atlanteans do but she is supposed to have flesh-colored skin. To help you out, I will Namora’s problem was the colorist’s fault, but with Byrrah – in all three instances he was drawn by Bill Everett without the help of an inker. Please explain, Bill.

To close I have a complaint pertaining to all of your comics. It is that my town has only one store that sells comic books and my favorites don’t always end up on the stands. I must admit that it’s a fairly small town but we are the County Seat of Warren County and only 65 miles from your offices. Please try to remedy this problem.

-Brent Seguine

—-

SUB-MARINER #50 was a solid start to the New Warriors mythos. In her debut scene, an amusing case of mistaken identity and intention resulted in Namorita slugging the mighty Prince of Atlantis. This would not be the first time Namorita, or her future teammates the New Warriors, would butt heads with elders. Nita also injected a much-needed element of carefree exuberance and youth to the title, to play against the melodramatic turmoil of Namor. And unlike previous female sidekicks, Namorita wasn’t afraid of danger and showed signs of the strong independent woman she would become. The best example was in Nita’s response to Namor pushing her out of harm’s way: “You gotta be kidding, cousin!” Even her dialogue is more relaxed and relatable than Namor’s ornate soliloquies. Despite her bravado, however, Namorita was shown to have her vulnerabilities. When Llyra falls into the oil springs, she couldn’t help but feel ill at her fate, even though she suspected Llyra killed her mother. Bill Everett returned with a bang in this issue, providing wonderful illustrations and an understated story containing subtle layers. His addition of Namorita to the Sub-Mariner mythology was incredibly inspired and well executed.

-MyWords

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