MARVEL MASTERWORKS: THE SUB-MARINER VOL. 1 (Marvel, 2011; Softcover)
Collects Daredevil No. 7 and the Sub-Mariner stories from Tales To Astonish Nos. 70-87 and Tales of Suspense No. 80 (cover dates April, 1965- January, 1967)
Writer: Stan Lee
Artists: Pencilers- Gene Colan (#70-82, 84, 85, and Tales of Suspense #80), Wally Wood (Daredevil #7), Jerry Grandenetti (#86), Bill Everett (#87), and Jack Kirby (#82, 83); Inkers- Vince Colletta (#70-78), Bill Everett (#79, 85-87), Dick Ayers (#80-84), Jack Abel (Tales of Suspense #80), and Wally Wood (Daredevil #7)
Marvel's distribution deal in the 1960s was limited to eight comics per month, so they retrofitted the old Science Fiction/monster anthology Tales To Astonish as a split superhero book. Sub-Mariner and the Hulk co-headlined the book, with each issue being split as follows: 12 pages for the Sub-Mariner and 10 for the Hulk.
Stan Lee's writing rules. Modern comic fans have painted him as a greedy, credit stealing monster, which I completely disagree with. I credit much of my vocabulary to his writing, as I used to sit there with a dictionary by my side as a kid reading those '60s Amazing Spider-Man reprints in Marvel Tales every month. He writes in triplets a lot, which I am a sucker for, and his character dialogue is very Shakespearean. Everyone in Atlantis talks like they are on stage in a play.
This series riffs hard on Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon, with Warlord Krang playing the role of Ming The Merciless and Lady Dorma being Marvel's doppelganger for Dale Arden. While that dynamic is aped repeatedly, the whole Atlantis versus the surface world Cold War metaphor keeps things from being too derivative. Prince Namor (the Sub-Mariner) goes from being outright villain to semi-hero. Namor started out as a sort of anti-hero in the pages of Motion Picture Funnies Weekly #1, (which was quickly reprinted in Marvel Comics #1) back in 1939. The Bill Everett created strip became a regular feature in that title, and it is fun to think of this being a continuation of those old comics.
Speaking of ol' Bill Everett, he does some of the artwork in this book. I wonder how it felt to be a walk on guest for a character that you created. First he was given the job as an inker, and only in the final issue in this book did he get to do full artwork. And what artwork it is! Unlike many artists of his generation, Everett's craft was continually refined and improved as he aged, and his work in the '50s and '60s outshines what he did in the '30s and '40s.
Gene Colan provides most of the artwork in this book, and his brilliant work is marred by hack inker Vince Colletta. Colletta never met an eraser he didn't like, and destroyed many great artists' work during his career. He must have had naked pictures of Stan Lee or something, because there is no way that he could continue getting work based on his talent, of which he had none. It is Colletta's work that keeps this book from getting a 5.
I found it interesting that Sub-Mariner's rampage through New York in Daredevil #7 was reported on the front page of the New York Daily Press and not The Daily Bugle. Has this fictitious(?) newspaper been used elsewhere in Marvel Comics? It's this type of minutiae that makes my OCD world go round. The subplot of Warlord Krang overthrowing Namor's throne while he was away is introduced in this issue and would run until issue 76.
Issue 77 is interesting in that it guest stars Hank Pym (Ant-Man/Giant Man/Goliath/Yellowjacket) and Janet Van Dyne (the Wasp) in their civilian identities. More interesting is that they do not turn into superheros when Namor attacks their deap sea exploration drill. I enjoyed the battle with the Behemoth, even if the character didn't make a lot of sense. This stuff is great if you don't overthink it. My suspension of disbelief is great.
The first crossover in the history of comics occurs here, with the story which began in Tales Of Suspense #80 ending in Tales To Astonish #82. I really enjoyed that crossover battle with Iron Man. I am a sucker for the Secret Empire, and those old the-hero-has-amnesia-and-is-tricked-into-doing-the-bad-guy's-bidding stories always make me smile. Number One tries tricking Namor into battling the Hulk, who defeated the Secret Empire recently, but the battle never occurs because even though they are both in New York City at the same time their paths never cross.
This was a great read that serves to remind us all why Marvel ruled the 1960s. This stuff still rules. Make mine Marvel!
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.5 out of 5.
The OCD zone- This line of books serve as a textbook example why Marvel's collected editions department does a better job than DC's does. Whereas DC will prepare material for Archives, they will never, ever revisit and remaster that material, even when superior sources surface. This is the third (and likely final) time that Marvel has released this particular book, with the restoration being worlds better than the original 2002 hardcover edition and the 2004 “ReMasterwork” edition. Barring original art surfacing, I seriously doubt that superior source material will ever emerge.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: Introduction by Stan Lee from the original 2002 hardcover edition. (2 pages)
Creator biographies by John Rhett Thomas. (3 pages)
Linework and Color restoration rating: 5 out of 5. To the unwashed masses, buying Masterworks can be a confusing and frustrating thing. Older printings used inferior file sources and had lackluster, often unfaithful, coloring. I use my “rule of 2007”. If it was made prior to Marvel cataloging their film at the Sparta warehouse then buyer beware. While the restoration was pretty tight in 2006, there were some terrible mousetrap bindings on those hardcovers.
Many of these softcover Masterworks, such as this volume, boast the most “high def” restoration available for these comics. Everything is as perfect as it is likely ever going to get barring original artwork surfacing. The color palette is 100% faithful to the original publications, and you can almost see the eraser residue from Vince Colletta's “inking”.
Paper rating: 5 out of 5. This paper is perfect. Dull matte finish coated stock with almost no sheen. It is not too thick and not too thin. It feels like “real” comic book paper but is nice enough that it doesn't feel like cheap toilet paper.
Binding rating: 4 out of 5. Perfect bound trade paperback. I really enjoy these softcover Masterworks. They tend to lay pretty flat in one hand while reading, almost like a giant periodical.
Cardstock cover coating rating: 5 out of 5. The usual thick waxlike lamination that Marvel uses.