Friday, January 25, 2013

Marvel Comics Silver Age DisContinuity 004
Fantastic Four #4

Marvel Comics, Fantastic Four, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Discontinuity
One of the greatest guides to the concept of continuity in a specific series is The DisContinuity Guide: The Unofficial Doctor Who Companion by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, first put out in 1995. From my point of view the genius of this work is in the way the authors peel back the layers of a complex text like Doctor Who, and start back at the beginning, when we didn't know anything about the series or what it would eventually evolve into.

This allows us to see the ways in which the universe was expanded, sometimes carefully, often times not. We get to see undeveloped themes and the earliest examples of new themes.

Like an evolutionary biologist studying our small, brown furred burrowing human ancestors, we get a look at the way things were without the baggage of the way things are.

Marvel Comics DisContinuity 004

Title(s) :
The Coming of... Sub-Mariner!
On the Trail of the Human Torch!
Enter the Sub-Mariner!
Let the World Beware!
Sub-Mariner's Revenge!
Return to the Deep!

Publication Date/On Sale Date : 

May 1962/Feb 1962
Writer/Artists : 

Sources : 
Timely Comic superheroes, Atlas Comic superheroes, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner", Leviathan, Jonah, Marvel Monster comics, Peter Pan

No Prizes : 
Sue is so concerned with finding her brother that she stops for a refreshing soda.

Reed, while searching for the Human Torch, snatches a guy off a moving motorcycle to interrogate him. He later stretches to ask a passing helicopter and then a moving train. For a scientist to use such an impractical means of searching for answers is embarrassing. 

The Thing loves property damage. Rather than walk into a garage by the door, he smashes in through the wall. He then throws a hot rod through another wall.

When the Sub-Mariner meets the Human Torch, he doesn't seem to remember that he met another Human Torch, Jim Hammond, years ago in Marvel Mystery Comics #8 and subsequent issues. Perhaps this is an aftereffect of his amnesia.

Quotes : 

Namor: Revenge!! I'm talking about the revenge I shall have for the destruction of my undersea kingdom!!

Johnny: I hate to say it, Thing... but, I'm proud of you!
Ben: Big deal! That, and a dime, will get me a cup of coffee!

Continuity : 
This issue marks the return of the Sub-Mariner!

Sue: "This is the first time (sob) that the Torch's section (of the Fantasticar) has been left behind."
Johnny hangs out at Swanson's Garage with friends, all of whom know his secret identity. We find out he's a great car mechanic.

The Human Torch can use his finger as a welding torch.

The Thing finds Johnny and threatens to hurt him. Johnny is saved when the Thing suddenly turns back into his human form. But of course the effect is only temporary.

Johnny decides to hide out in a cheap Bowery hotel. While there he finds an old issue of a Sub-Mariner Comic from the 1940s. The issue Johnny reads has a cover different from any Sub-Mariner comic I could find from the 1940s, unless it's a cover-less comic and the art is from an interior page.

Johnny recalls how his sister, Sue, described the Sub-Mariner: "He used to be the world's most unusual character... He could live underwater, and was as strong as ten men... He was supposed to be immortal!" Reed thought that Namor died years ago, as no one has heard from him for years.

As Johnny reads, a fellow tenant tells him that there's an old man in the hotel that is as strong as the Sub-Mariner was supposed to be. After Johnny breaks up a fight between the old man and the other tenants, he uses his flame to give the man a shave and a haircut, only to reveal that the man IS the Sub-Mariner. What a coincidence!

The Torch decides that to bring back the Sub-Mariner's memories, all he has to do is drop him in the ocean. Somehow this works. His memories restored, Namor heads back to his undersea kingdom, only to find it destroyed by atomic bomb tests. (Were any atomic bomb tests conducted in the Atlantic Ocean?)

Caption: "No, Namor, Prince of the sea, isn't quite human-- for his race was old when the stars were young!"

Namor vows to destroy the human race.

Namor uses a seashell like trumpet horn to summon Giganto, a giant undersea monster of the type common in the Marvel monster books. Namor leads the beast to attack New York City. In response, New York City is evacuated! Giganto has a water spout, like a whale.

Reed uses a chemical smokescreen emitted from the Fantasticar in an attempt to distract Giganto, to no avail.

The Thing straps an a-bomb to his back and finds a way into Giganto's mouth. Inside Giganto the Thing has to fight off a strange creature and escape before the bomb goes off.

Upon meeting Sue, Namor declares her to be "the loveliest human" he's ever seen. He offers to spare humanity if Sue will be his bride.

Note the way Namor grips that sea-horn.

The Torch for the first time uses his power to create a whirlwind that lifts both Namor and the body of Giganto and dumps them both back into the sea. This is an amazing feat, as Giganto must eigh a conservative million tons. The trumpet Namor used to control Giganto is lost "forever" at the bottom of the sea. 

This issue opens in New York. Central City, from this issue forward, is no more, and all previous adventures are retconned to New York as well.

When Reed recaps the previous issue, he leaves out the fact that the giant monster brought to life wasn't actually brought to life at all, but made to seem to come to life via the hypnosis of the  Miracle Man. Also, Reed seems to think that the Torch is also on the run from the police and the army. There's a panel of the Torch melting through steel walls from Fantastic Four #2, but in reality all those misunderstandings with the authorities were resolved by that issues end, so Reed comes off as rather confused.

Links : 
Reed briefly recaps the Human Torch's battles with with the giant monster and his fight with the Thing which led him to quit the team from Fantastic Four #3.

Namor, the Sub-Mariner, hasn't been seen in comics since Sub-Mariner Comics #42, in 1955, seven years previous.

Namor says that if Sue marries him, she could become Princess Namora. Namora was Namor's cousin, first introduced in the Golden Age in Marvel Mystery Comics 082.

Location : 
New York City. With this issue the Fantastic Four no longer reside in Central City. It is revealed that our team has been in New York all along.

Namor's undersea kingdom, destroyed, somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean.
Unseen Adventures :
There is a seven-year gap in the record here between Namor's last appearance in Sub-Mariner Comics #42 in 1955 and Fantastic Four 004. What happened to bring Namor to such a lowly station?
Bottom line : 

This issue re-introduces the world to the Sub-Mariner, not seen in comics for seven years. When Lee and Kirby bring the character back, they also establish for the first time that the Fantastic Four universe is the same world in which the Golden Age superheroes had their adventures. At that time the company published their comics under the Timely and Atlas comics imprints. So the Timely and Atlas superhero comics are all now theoretically part of the Fantastic Four back story, beginning with Namor's introduction in Marvel Comics #1, which also introduced the golden age Human Torch, with whom the Sub-Mariner crossed over with in Marvel Mystery Comics #8 and Marvel Mystery Comics 009. In one fell swoop Lee and Kirby brought 321 (by my count) issues worth of back story into their fledgling superhero universe.

This issue has a letters column, and one letter again stands out, because it can be seen as the prototype of the famed and controversial "No-Prize." When a reader points out an apparent mistake in the book, Stan Lee offers $5.00 to the fan who can explain it away.  Later, such explanations from fans would earn "No-Prizes" because such work would garner no prize. 

Throughout the issue, there are messages in the margins announcing, "The Hulk is Coming!" and asking, "Who is the Hulk??" and "What is the Hulk??" the messages promises that "You've never seen anyone like the Hulk!" In our next installment, we'll get the answers to these questions, and see if the hype lives up to reality in Marvel Comics Silver Age DisContinuity 005 Incredible Hulk #1

Also, we'll debut the first of our Marvel Comics Golden Age DisContinuity series, starting with the issue that started it all, Marvel Comics #1, featuring the first appearance of Namor, the Sub-Mariner and the original, golden age Human Torch!

I'd love additional insights and comments.

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