Spotlight On… Sub-Mariner #52

Namorita‘s third appearance ever is in Sub-Mariner #52, where she meets her future guardian Betty Dean Prentiss! Nita appears on only 7 pages of this issue, but this and the next issue set up her status quo for some time to come.



Sub-Mariner #52
“Atomic Samurai!”

August 1972

-Plotter: Bill Everett
-Scripter: Mike Friedrich
-Penciler: Bill Everett
-Inker: Bill Everett
-Colorist: unknown (uncredited)
-Letterer: Artie Simek
-Cover artists: Gil Kane and Joe Sinnott
-Editor: Stan Lee (uncredited)
-Publisher: Martin Goodman (uncredited)

Cast:

Namorita, Sub-Mariner, Sunfire, Dragon-Lord, Betty Dean Prentiss, Betty’s housekeeper, crew of the Santa Clara

In Brief:

Namorita will never be the same when she enters the surface world! Somewhere within the strange New York City lies her new guardian, Betty Dean Prentiss! Plus the deadly challenge of Sunfire!

Summary:

Namorita and her cousin Namor finished constructing a cabin amid the ruins of Atlantis. But Namor decided that young Nita, bereft of parents and an undersea homeland, needed a proper guardian at this important age of growth. Despite Nita’s protest, Namor decided on a surface-woman to care and provide schooling for her.

The two Sub-Mariners emerged from the ocean and flew through the night sky. Namor told Nita of the woman he had chosen – Betty Dean Prentiss. Three decades ago, before World War II, he and Betty had shared the deepest friendship, perhaps even love. But because of Namor’s slower aging rate, the two parted ways. He sensed Nita’s fears and reassured her that Betty was a shining beacon of warmth, kindness and strength.

As they approached New York, Namorita found the city beautiful. Namor led her to an alleyway with a pile of abandoned clothing. The two emerged unnoticed on a crowded sidewalk with their Atlantean features hidden. Nita was frightened to be so close to the run-down surface-people for the first time. She clung to Namor for protection. Namor searched through a phone book for all of the Prentiss listings. Eventually, they arrived at the right place. An old woman answered the door and confirmed that Betty lived there. She became suspicious of the unkempt strangers at her door and asked that they leave. When Namor pressed, she threatened to call the police, which triggered Namor’s temper due to his past with surface-world authority.

Namor forced his way in. The woman grabbed a mop and began to defend herself until Namorita pulled Namor back. She convinced him that the woman would never tell them where Betty is if he scared her. Nita talked with the woman, who revealed that Betty was away on vacation on the island of Krakinowa, near Japan. To the woman’s surprise, Namor and Nita ran upstairs to the roof, removing their surface-world clothing, and flew off towards Krakinowa. Namor remembered the island from World War II. As they again flew through the night, Namor stated how he was occasionally surprised by her common sense maturity. Nita responded by saying that she was surprised with his stubborness, but she still liked cuddling up to him.

Some time later, the two Sub-Mariners scanned the beaches of Krakinowa for a sign of Betty Dean Prentiss. Namor spotted a tourist being attacked. Nita decided they should save the tourist. Namor soared in and realized that the tourist was Betty. Filled with rage at the thought of someone harming her, he struck the attacker before Betty could stop him. She explained that she was completely safe, it was the poor harmless man who was hurt. From above, a blast of fire struck the ground and a blazing figure swiped the man from Namor’s hands. Another blast from the mutant called Sunfire struck Namor down. Namor prepared to pursue him, but Nita tried to stop him. She thought the conflict was a local quarrel, but Namor refused to let it go and told Nita to stay put. She became angry with the way he treated her like a kid and insisted he let her go with him. Namor explained that combat is not a child’s game and asked Betty to keep her there. Betty agreed to stay with Nita, but refused to rule over her. Nita reluctantly stayed. As Namor flew off in pursuit of Sunfire, Betty explained to Nita how she learned to give Namor his head a long time ago.

(Namorita, last seen in Sub-Mariner #51 “Armageddon — At Fifty Fathoms Full!”, appears next in Sub-Mariner #54 “Decision”)

Annotations:

  • In the 1940s, Betty Dean, first appearing in MARVEL MYSTERY COMICS #8, played the part of a Lois Lane-esque sidekick to Namor. An example of their relationship can be seen in the back-up feature of the next issue, SUB-MARINER #53, where an 8-page story from the 1950s by Bill Everett was reprinted. Sometime between her Golden Age appearances and this issue, she got married to an unnamed Mr. Prentiss, who eventually died and left her a widow. This issue was her first modern appearance.
  • This was Namorita’s first time in New York City, and one of her first times on the surface-world. She would eventually become more comfortable among surface-dwellers than Namor.
  • Up to this issue and this issue’s first two pages, Namorita is seen wearing simple earring studs. Once she and Namor arrive in New York City, she is wearing hoop earrings, probably the same earrings she would later claim as magical buccaneer earrings.
  • Sunfire first appeared in X-MEN #64. Sunfire’s mother was severely affected by the explosion of the atomic bomb that the United States dropped on Hiroshima towards the end of World War II. She was left a hopeless invalid and died years later giving birth to Shiro. Shiro’s father, Saburo Yoshida, was a diplomat who was one of postwar Japan’s greatest statesmen. When Saburo was absent from home on diplomatic missions, Shiro was left in the care of Saburo’s brother Tomo, who was fanatically anti-American. Tomo taught Shiro to share his hatred of Americans, whom Shiro regarded as his mother’s murderers. Tomo came to suspect that Shiro was a superhumanly powered mutant due to the effect of radiation on his mother’s genes. Tomo brought Shiro to a site in Hiroshima and had him pick up some of the still slightly radioactive soil there. Touching the soil triggered Shiro’s first major release of his power. Under his uncle’s encouragement, Shiro vowed to avenge Japan’s wartime defeat by using his powers against the United States. Shiro trained himself in the use of his powers, assumed the name Sunfire, and adopted a costume reminiscent of the Japanese rising sun emblem. Sunfire went to the United States where he destroyed a monument at the United Nations and clashed with the X-Men in Washington, D.C. Saburo was present and attempted to persuade Sunfire not to destroy the Capitol Building. While Sunfire listened to Saburo, Tomo fatally shot the diplomat. Furious, Sunfire then killed his uncle. Charges were not pressed against Sunfire due to his diplomatic immunity, and he was allowed to return to Japan. [Thanks to the Marvel Directory]
  • This story arc (Sub-Mariner #52 & 53) is Dragon-Lord’s only known appearance.
  • This issue was re-presented in Saga of the Sub-Mariner #11, page 16, panel 6 – page 17, panel 1 from 1989. The entire issue is immensely condenced to two panels, dropping the trip to New York City and the entire conflict with Sunfire.

Reviews:

(from the letter column of Sub-Mariner #56)
The opinions expressed below are those of the original writers.
To submit a review of your own, use the comments field below!
No postage required!

—-

My compliments to Mr. Everett on his successful return to his creation, the Sub-Mariner, as its artist. His work has greatly improved and refined in just the last three issues (50-52). The art in #50 was distinctly “cartoonish”; #51 showed improvement, but there was still a bit of overexaggerated action and some weakness in the backgrounds. Then came issue #52, and the re-adaptation seems nearly complete with smoother action, better backgrounds.

The character of Nita is coming along well. How about an origin for her? We know, from #51, who her mother was, but not her father. Since her mother, Namora, Subby’s cousin, was a mutant Atlantean, which is why Namora and Subby look similar (pink skin, etc.), then Nita must have a surface father.

Item three, the defoliant mess at the end of #52. Since most, if not all, herbicides presently used are unstable and break down in sunlight, Sunfire can solve the whole problem. Whether or not this is what you are planning, I hope you will consider awarding me a no-prize for it. Not that I want the prize itself that much, but I figure it is the only way I’m ever going to find out what the heck a no-prize is.

-Lon Rombough

—-

With the combined efforts of Mr. Everett and Mike Friedrich, we have in SUB-MARINER a comic book that is a model for the rest of the Marvel Empire.

SUB-MARINERs #51 and 52 are deeply satisfying stories, full of classic, imaginative artwork. I commend Mr. Everett for original and striking and most memorable works of art. His glimpse of the proud Namora in Namorita’s flashback (#51) is a triumph. I hope we can expect Mr. Everett to produce such masterpieces for a long time to come.

Mr. Friedrich is creating a very interesting Namorita. I am proud of her for calling Namor a “big dummy.”

Namora, proud and as quick-tempered as Namor, is a possibility also. Wouldn’t her flashing eyes and long hair enhance the magazine? I surely think so.

I am so pleased with the Prince of Atlantis that I can offer no criticism. Always, Make Mine Marvel!

-Benita Goldman

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