Fantastic Four no4 1962

Fantastic Four no.4, May 1962. Cover by Jack Kirby and inked by Sol Brodsky. Colors by Stan Goldberg. First Silver Age appearance of Sub-Mariner, “the mightiest living mortal on earth”.

This is one of my favorite single issue stories. The Human Torch fights with the Thing at the end of issue 3 and quits the team. Reed is worried what damage an angry Torch might do to the world. This echoes the original appearance of the Torch when he terrorizes the city, setting buildings ablaze wherever he ran.

Johnny hangs out with friends working on cars as a literal human blowtorch while his ex-teammates look for him.

On a hunch, Ben goes to the garage, where he bursts in on Johnny. The two fight again and Johnny slips away when Ben becomes momentarily human.

Johnny drifts around the Bowery where he picks up an old copy of Sub-Mariner Comics (very meta!) He wonders whatever happened to the “immortal” prince. When an old bum displays astonishing strength, Johnny recognizes him as Namor with amnesia.

Torch gets the bright idea that a dunking in the ocean might restore his memories, which it does. Namor swiftly swims to his undersea kingdom (not yet named as Atlantis). Seeing the ruins glowing in radioactivity, he realizes that humans did it with their undersea atomic tests. Always volatile, he explodes in fury, seeking revenge on the surface world.

He summons Giganto, a monstrous behemoth that could swallow a whaler whole. After Sue steals the horn, Namor ensnares her. He offers to show mercy if only she will be his bride. Sue submits saying that she should sacrifice her life for the food of humanity. Namor is appalled that she doesn’t recognize the great honor of being wed to him.

Lee and Kirby continued to play up this love triangle for the first three years. Sue became enamored (heh) with Namor and secretly pined for him while Reed assumed it was he that held her heart. Imagine, a hero in love with a villain.

After reading these initial Namor stories and taking a look at his early Golden Age stories, it’s clear that he was Marvel’s version of Superman: super-strong, bulletproof, survived being electrocuted, and could thrive in any environment. He repeatedly took on Marvel’s best heroes in the early days of the Marvel Age.

Yes, there are some zany aspects to this story, but the strong parts far outweigh the weak ones.


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