In our post last October regarding Sub-Mariner #57, we discussed how Subby’s creator Bill Everett, who’d returned to write and draw the series in 1972 with issue #50, began to have trouble keeping up with the book’s monthly schedule due to chronic health issues; this situation eventually led to occasional fill-ins by other creators, as well as to ongoing help for Everett on both the writing and artistic ends of things.
During this period, the continuing uncertainty over Everett’s status month-to-month was evidenced in the title’s letters pages, where the anonymous Marvel Bullpener(s) responsible for answering reader correspondence would be telling fans in one issue (#55) that Everett probably wouldn’t be handling every story going forward, as “getting back into the swing of a monthly deadline is harder than you might imagine”; then, a few months later (in issue #58), explaining that “due to deadline problems, Bill will now be doing final art over the layouts of Irv Wesley [i.e., Sam Kweskin, who occasionally used the Wesley pen name], while Steve Gerber, working closely with the ebullient Mr. Everett, who will continue to plot the yarns, handles the scripting chores”; and then, finally, acknowledging (in #59) that “Bouncin’ Bill Everett has, indeed, moved on to other projects for Mighty Marvel (the monthly deadline on Subby’s book, sadly, proved too much for the compulsively conscientious Mr. Everett to handle)”.
But then, only a month later, Sub-Mariner #60 arrived on stands, and though Everett hadn’t contributed to the art, he did have a plotting credit on the story. (The issue’s lettercol didn’t bother to try to explain the situation, referring to Everett’s work on the title only in the past tense.) And then, on February 13, 1973, issue #61 showed up, sporting not only an Everett cover (though we should note that the artist had here worked from an original pencil sketch by John Romita), but also the following magnificent full-page splash, clearly by Everett as well:
The credits informed us that Steve Gerber had written the script, while the art was by “[Bill] Everett, [Winslow] Mortimer, and [Jim] Moon[e]y”. But as it turned out, Everett had only drawn the first four pages, handling both pencils and inks; everything after that had been pencilled by Mortimer and inked by Mooney. What was going on?
At the back of the book, the letters column led off with a missive from Will Hamblett of Santa Monica, CA, expressing dismay at the prospect of Bill Everett leaving Sub-Mariner completely, and offering hope that Marvel would find some solution to allow the creator to contribute in some fashion, even if he couldn’t handle 20 pages per month. The Bullpen’s anonymous letter-answerer (my money is on editor Roy Thomas) responded:
Sadly, Bill Everett’s health would never recover enough to allow him to “return to the pages of SUB-MARINER” (although he did have one more credit left to come on the book, as we’ll discuss later in the post). He died while undergoing heart bypass surgery on February 27, 1973 — just two weeks after this issue, featuring the 55-year-old creator’s last new Sub-Mariner art, was released.
But the new back-up feature that had been devised as a means for allowing Everett to continue working on the book would go on — at least for the next five issues. In fact, that feature — “Tales of Atlantis” — is the main reason that your humble blogger is writing this particular blog post in the first place.
Having said that, however, let me hasten to say that the main feature in Sub-Mariner #62, Everett-less as it may be, is still not without merit or interest of its own. So we’re going to take a look at it as well… though since it’s the second part of a continued story, we’ll need to spend a bit more time with #61 to bring us up to speed.
And so we’ll turn from the letters page back to the first part of the issue — more specifically, to the middle of page 4, the last one drawn by Everett (yes, the lettercol answer-writer had it wrong when he said the artist had only completed the first three pages). Having spent the last couple of pages with Namor, who’s just resumed his role as the ruler of Atlantis for the first time since forsaking the throne back in #38 (Jun., 1971), our story now turns to two of the series’ primary supporting characters…
As you probably know if you were around at the time, airplane hijackings were very much a thing in the early 1970s… so this is topical material (at least in a general sense; I don’t recall any hijacked flights “disappearing” in the real world).
At this point, the reader turns to page 5 — and to the artwork of Win Mortimer and Jim Mooney, who’ll handle the rest of the issue:
In his 2017 introduction to Marvel Masterworks — The Sub-Mariner, Vol. 8, Roy Thomas wrote:
Steve [Gerber], with his weird brand of humor, had the hypnotizing villain called Gremlin leap out of an airliner’s baggage room shouting “Hiya, kids! Hiya!” There must’ve been at least a few old-timers out there who recognized that as the introductory tagline, years earlier, of a radio/TV puppet called Froggy the Gremlin.
And now you, too, can appreciate this obscure pop culture reference.
Gremlin uses his hypnotic disc-thingy to put everyone on board the aircraft, including Namorita and Betty Dean Prentiss (not to mention the cockpit crew), to sleep; then he takes over the controls and turns the plane to the north, flying it out over the Atlantic Ocean until he reaches an island he hails as “Hydrobase”…
After receiving Gremlin’s report that the airplane’s passengers are all safe, healthy, and ready for “the process”, the mysterious Dr. Hydro orders a band of underlings — all of whom are, like himself (and Gremlin, as we see when he unmasks) green and scaly — to begin the usual “debarking procedures”:
Nita guesses — correctly, as it will turn out — that Hydro’s “chemical bath” won’t affect her, due to her already amphibious nature. Still, she figures that she and the others are going to need help to get out of this mess, so she attempts to use her magic earring to summon Namor. Alas, the jewelry’s communicative mojo is no match for “the tank’s metal walls“. Or something. Anyway, for now Nita, Betty, and the other passengers are out of luck — though of course still much more fortunate than the victims of the Nazi death camp gas chambers to which this entire sequence obviously alludes.
For those of you wondering about the red-skinned blonde woman named Tamara: She’d made her debut several months previously in Sub-Mariner #58, introduced therein as the last living member of an amphibious alien race. A small group of these aliens had fled to the oceans of Earth from their own dying planet, only to be killed by Atlantean soldiers who tragically mistook them for invaders; Tamara, who’d stowed away on the aliens’ spacecraft, was the only survivor of the brief but deadly battle. She had subsequently attempted to destroy Atlantis all on her own in the name of vengeance, but had been thwarted by Namor (though only narrowly). Recognizing that she had just cause to hate their people, Namor and the then-ruler of Atlantis, Lord Vashti, had attempted to make amends, offering Tamara not only a pardon but even citizenship; and a short time later, after she had been first taken captive by a Russian fishing vessel and then put into protective custody by the United Nations, Namor had led an expeditionary force to New York City to rescue her.
In the present, with that very negative experience with the surface world just behind her, Tamara encourages Namor to go fetch his young cousin back to Atlantis before something similar befalls the girl (not that Tam’s that crazy about the Atlanteans, but they’re still better than us air-breathers, apparently). So Namor heads straight for the surface, and to Betty Prentiss’ house — only to find that nobody’s home. Luckily, however, his arrival on his friend’s doorstep has been observed by a friendly neighbor (it’s probably also fortunate that Subby took the precaution of slipping into his surface-dweller streetwear [prepared for him by “the royal tailors of Atlantis”, no less] once he was topside, though who knows?)…
Once he has the details from Betty’s helpful neighbor, Subby heads for the airport, ditching his surface-man duds on the way. Having learned that a number of Florida-bound planes have been hijacked prior to Nita and Betty’s, he opts to hop on the first flight out heading for the Sunshine State… and when I say “hop on”, I mean hop on:
Naturally, Namor’s ride is indeed destined to meet the same fate as his cousin and friend’s earlier. It’s the exact same M.O., although the wielder of Dr. Hydro’s hypno-disc goes by the codename “Lazar” this time (and if Steve Gerber dropped in an in-joke based on that name, neither Roy Thomas nor I caught it). And so, soon enough, this plane too arrives at…
But to Namor’s dismay, he finds that Dr. Hydro’s “simpering, scaly hordes” are a lot harder to take down than he’d expected — and the villain’s “hydrocules” — highly pressurized water balls, fired from a gun-like weapon — pack enough of a wallop to knock him off his feet…
Breaking free from his assailants, Namor sprints for the sea — but in doing so, he unknowingly sets off an automatic security system, and just as he’s about to reach the water…
Namor falls to the beach, unconscious. Hours later, he awakens to find himself being held within a bizarre structure…
And that’s it for Sub-Mariner #61. Issue #62 — which featured an all-Romita cover, this time — would find Steve Gerber joined once again by Sam Kweskin, over whose layouts Frank Giacoia rendered the finished art:
After establishing that Namor remains in the same pickle we saw him in last time, the story quickly switches over to Namorita, who hears one of Hydro’s henchmen gloating about her cousin’s capture — not to mention the impending invasion of Atlantis — and promptly decides to make a break for it. (Don’t ask me when and how she retrieved her green bathing suit/costume, which she clearly wasn’t wearing in issue #61’s “dressing chamber” scene…)
Resurfacing, Nita flies into the base’s headquarters building through an open window, and begins to tear through the place looking for Namor…
Meanwhile, Nita has finally located the “nerve center” of the Hydrobase complex where her cousin is being held. The place is unguarded, but that still leaves the problem of freeing Subby from his “atomic” cell…
Subby and Nita promptly head for the beach. Once Nita has disarmed the electric-force security system at her cousin’s direction, they both hop into the water — and Namor is back to his imperiously powerful self in no time. On to Atlantis!
Meanwhile, back in the city itself, Lord Vashti and Tamara receive news that the battle isn’t going well, as the Atlantean soldiers falter for lack of a commander. Vashti gloomily intones that they can now only pray for Prince Namor’s swift return; otherwise, “surely, all is lost.” But Tam has had enough:
But Subby doesn’t want to waste any more time than necessary fighting flunkies. “Where is Dr. Hydro?” he demands; and the answering call comes: “Here, Sub-Mariner!”
That “Finis” might suggest that our storyline has come to an end (although it’s almost certainly actually there simply because no one had come up with a “Next Issue” blurb, and you have to signal that “that’s all for this month, folks” somehow). Sure, there’s the problem of those hundreds of transformed humans* to deal with (it would end up taking seven years to resolve that one, believe it or not), but Dr. Hydro, at least, has been dealt with once and for all. Hasn’t he?
Well, no, as it urns out. Dr. Hydro would make an unexpected return just one issue later, in Sub-Mariner #63, in which we readers would learn that the very special modification of the amphibian-making process that he (and only he) had undergone had, in addition to giving him the power to mentally dominate the other humans subjected to the basic version of his process (a revelation which tidily explained the origin of the doc’s “simpering, scaly hordes” of faithful followers), allowed him to transform himself into water vapor. This latter ability ironically turned out to be his undoing, as Namor was ultimately able to suction him up and imprison him in a sealed container from which he could never escape (and in which he was expected to eventually expire).**
Intriguingly, the late Bill Everett received a posthumous credit for “story” for this issue, with Steve Gerber only being credited for its “dialogue”. Since it seems unlikely that Everett could have recovered long enough in late ’72-early ’73 to knock out a full plot for issue #63, two whole months after being forced to drop out of #61 after drawing only four pages, I suspect that this issue’s plot probably was originally meant to fill out the bulk of #61 — and that the story material Gerber and company produced for what became #61 and #62 as we have them was intended to mark time until Everett’s hoped-for return to duty. That’s all pure speculation on my part, of course, but it would seem to fit the facts as we have them.
In any event, we’ve now reached the point where we’ll need to bid so long for now to Namor, Namorita, and the rest of the our lead feature’s cast, so that we can move on to what your humble blogger considers this post’s actual main attraction (never mind that it never even scored a cover blurb for any of the five issues in which it ran): the short-lived back-up series, “Tales of Atlantis”:
For any reader in 1973 who’d already been following Marvel comics for a while, this new strip’s title was an obvious callback to “Tales of Asgard”, which had run in the back pages of Journey Into Mystery/Thor from 1963 to 1967, and had featured adventures of Thor, Odin, and their godly peers in the mythic past, long before Dr. Donald Blake had found that gnarled wooden stick in a Norwegian cave. Like its predecessor, the new “ToA” was set in a remote, legendary past — though rather than drawing on Norse or other traditional sources of myth, Marvel’s creators would here be building on the fictional prehistory dreamed up in the 1920s and ’30s by pulp author Robert E. Howard. In thus linking the imagined ancient past of Marvel’s superhero-centric universe with that portrayed in the Conan and Kull comics the company was also publishing at the time, Howard Chaykin and company were following the lead of the “Doctor Strange” feature in Marvel Premiere, into which Roy Thomas and others had recently been incorporating various elements from Howard’s horror and sword-and-sorcery fiction.
This story is set some five hundred years after the time of King Kull, which should help account for the evident disparity in technological sophistication between the “barbaric” Atlantis of that worthy’s era and the relatively advanced civilization we see on display here. What it doesn’t explain, however, is why these Atlanteans (as well as the Lemurians who are about to literally crash the scene) are colored blue, like the water breathing Homo mermani of Namor’s time, rather than the “Caucasian” skin tone that Marvel had been using for Kull and his kinsmen. (A few months later, an editorial response to a letter published in #66 acknowledged that this had indeed been an error on the anonymous colorist’s part. The gaffe would be corrected when King Kamuu and Queen Zartra showed up thereafter, in a couple of “Man-Thing” and “Son of Satan” stories also scripted by Steve Gerber.)
At the time that the first episode of “Tales of Atlantis” saw print in March, 1973, Howard Chaykin’s resume at Marvel consisted of a whopping three credits: a ten-page “Man-Thing” story in Fear #10 (Oct., 1972), an eight-page horror short in Chamber of Chills #4 ( May, 1973), and ten out of twenty pages of the “War of the Worlds” story in Amazing Adventures #18 (May, 1973) — the latter two of which had come out only one month prior to Sub-Mariner #62. It may therefore be somewhat surprising that Marvel was prepared to let the then 22-year-old creator plot as well as draw an ongoing feature; on the other hand, Chaykin was by now slightly better established at Marvel’s main rival, DC Comics, where he was already pencilling a bi-monthly series, Sword of Sorcery. Could editor Roy Thomas have been making a special effort to keep Chaykin engaged with Marvel? Perhaps, and perhaps not; in any event, the decision here to artistically pair the young artist with Joe Sinnott — probably the slickest, most polished inker Marvel had available — certainly helped show off Chaykin’s still-developing, but already exciting, style to its best advantage.
Well, I have to say that even if my fifteen-year-old self (along with virtually everyone else who might have been reading this back in March, 1973) hadn’t already known the answer to Kamuu’s question, the “Next” blurb would have given it away; “Atlantis Dies!” doesn’t leave a lot of room for ambiguity, after all.
Still, it’s the journey that counts, not the destination, right? And so we’ll move on to Sub-Mariner #63, as the same creative team of Gerber, Chaykin, and Sinnott continue their chronicle of Atlantis’ final hours. (You’ll note that Chaykin doesn’t get a plotting credit here; I’m inclined to believe that might have been an unintentional omission, since the credit will be back for the following installment.)
Kamuu and Zartra are soon joined by members of the city’s council, who — unsurprisingly — have only bad more news to report: the streets are flowing with burning magma, the marketplace is littered with incinerated corpses, and the temple lies now in ruins, “its priest trapped within — !” (That last bit might seem like an oddly specific detail right now, but it’ll actually be relevant a couple of episodes further on.) Kamuu gloomily accepts these tidings, then sends the council, along with the other royal advisers, home to spend their final moments with their loved ones… or at least that’s the plan…
Yeah, as if death by unnatural disaster wasn’t already bad enough, we’re not done with interpersonal violence, either. It seems that a single Lemurian warrior, Nolem by name, eluded both harm and capture in the earlier palace battle and has been hiding behind a curtain since then, awaiting his chance. Kamuu takes the guy out with a single sword stroke, but that’s of no help to Zartra, alas…
Kamuu carries the lifeless Zartra to a nearby cushion; after laying her down gently, he walks to his throne, where first he sheathes his sword, then chains himself in place to await the end…
Pretty damn bleak, right? But oh, so pretty to look at.
For the record, of the four divinities invoked by Kamuu in his final moments, Valka is the only one I’ve been able to trace to R. E. Howard’s Kull stories (or to any other source, for that matter); I suspect that Gerber (or maybe Chaykin) simply made the other three names up.
Anyway, Atlantis is dead… though not for ever, of course. Sub-Mariner #64 would bring the tale of what happened next (although in this case, “next” means “5,000 years later”):
Seashell trumpets blare, as Elanna leads her troops to battle upon “her menacing manta mount”…
Elanna hurls herself at Stegor, toppling him from his dolphin. He swears she’ll pay with her life for such effrontery…
“Kamuu“? Gee, that’s a familiar name. But to learn what this unlikely coincidence might portend, we readers were going to have to wait a month for the next installment… and when Sub-Mariner #65 did show up in June, 1973, we’d find that the feature’s page count had been dropped from six to five — and, more importantly, that there’d been a major change to the roster of the tellers of these “Tales of Atlantis”:
Howard Chaykin had moved on, and his name no longer graced the credits box. (Although you have to figure that if he really had been plotting the series up until now, and not simply co-plotting with Steve Gerber, that at least some of his ideas must have been carried forward into this episode — so maybe he should have gotten a credit of some sort. Just sayin’.) By this time, the creator was gearing up to start work on a new project at DC, one which would find him both plotting and drawing a full-length science-fiction adventure strip of his own creation — “Ironwolf”, in DC’s Weird Worlds title — so one could hardly begrudge the guy for deciding he wasn’t going to have time to continue turning out these short backups (especially given how little Marvel was doing to promote them). Even so, and with all due respect to the professional craftsmanship of new penciller Jim Mooney and new inker Frank Chiaramonte, Chaykin’s visual imagination and strong sense of design would definitely be missed on the series going forward.
As our story continues, young Kamuu wanders wonderingly through the ruins of the sunken city… until he steps onto a particularly thin piece of volcanic crust, which promptly crumbles beneath his weight…
Remember the bit in the second episode about the priest who was trapped in the rubble of his temple as Atlantis fell? Yeah, this is obviously that same guy… and he’s really pissed off about having been stuck at the bottom of the ocean for the last five millennia. From the perspective of us readers, however, what more fitting adversary for the hero of a sword-and-sorcery yarn (which this obviously is, undersea milieu notwithstanding) could there be than a temple-haunting skeleton?
Kamuu bravely draws his sword against this undead horror, only to have it shattered by the blade of Shabarr. Now weaponless, he realizes his only hope of survival is to escape — but though he manages to swim up and out of the temple ruins, the skeletal priest immediately follows after him, ultimately pursuing him into what remains of Atlantis’ royal palace…
In July, 1973, Sub-Mariner #66 brought us the fifth and (to date) final episode of “Tales of Atlantis”, as Joe Sinnott made a welcome return to the creative team for the series’ last outing…
I can still recall my younger self getting to this page back in 1973, and being instantly annoyed that the Pre-Cataclysmic Kamuu and Zartra were still being portrayed as having blue skin; after all, they’d been colored correctly for their joint cameo in Gerber’s “Man-Thing” story in Fear #15, published two months previously. Adding to my irritation was the fact that this issue, #66, was the very one in whose letters column Marvel acknowledged that coloring the two surface-dwelling royals (and the story’s other air-breathing Atlanteans and Lemurians) that way in the first place had been a mistake. (Believe it or not, several months later, in issue #69, yet another lettercol editorial response put the blame for this compounding of the original error on assistant editor Marv Wolfman, who’d allegedly made the call in the interest of keeping the characters’ appearances consistent; hmm, I guess he hadn’t been following “Man-Thing”…)
And that’s all she wrote, folks. With the following issue of Sub-Mariner, #67, the headlining feature expanded to once again fill all the available story pages, as Marvel instituted a new direction for Prince Namor’s adventures that the company hoped would improve the title’s sagging sales. Alas, this move was evidently too little, too late, as with the following issue, Sub-Mariner‘s publishing frequency would be reduced from monthly to bi-monthly… and eight months and four issues after that, the title would be canceled.
But the saga of the final “Savage” days of Subby’s title will have to wait until another time. Here and now, we’ll take a moment instead to bid a fond adieu to “Tales of Atlantis” — a promising series that never really managed to get off the ground (or should that be sea-bed?), but certainly gave us a highly enjoyable 28 pages worth of comic-book storytelling while it lasted.
And who knows… maybe one day someone at Marvel will pick up the loose narrative threads left hanging at the conclusion of the feature’s “first book”, and tell us what happened afterwards to Kamuu and Zartra: The Next Generation. (If nothing else, I’d like to know for sure that the traitorous Orrek eventually got what was coming to him.) I know it seems unlikely — but if Doctor Hydro can make a comeback after five freakin’ decades, then obviously anything can happen.
*”Hundreds — including Betty, Namor! Don’t forget that.” Oddly enough, Namor did appear to forget about Betty Dean Prentiss, at least for a while… as did Steve Gerber and his collaborators. After this issue, Namor’s longtime friend (and onetime romantic interest) wouldn’t appear again on panel until issue #70, almost a whole year down the road (by which time Sub-Mariner would have a new writer, Marv Wolfman).
Alas, the latter comic was almost Betty’s last appearance, as well — as a living person, anyway. But that sad story will have to wait for another post, another time.
**And well we might all have assumed he had, since he wouldn’t be seen again for almost fifty years. But, believe it or not, Dr. Hydro showed up just a couple of months ago in the first issue of Marvel’s new Scarlet Witch series — with no explanation of how he’d escaped Namor’s tin can, naturally. Comics, y’all!
With all due respect to the late great Bill Everett, this story makes very little sense. First of all, Doctor Hydro is a STUPID name and all involved should be ashamed of it. It doesn’t fit the character or his goals in any way whatsoever. Secondly, it would be nice to know WHY he’s so convinced man needs to “return” to the sea. And keep in mind that “returning” is about as loose a concept as it gets, since the closest mankind gets to an aquatic ancestor is a sea urchin (according to a very brief surf of the internet) and it’s difficult to see the resemblence. Still, Doc Hydro is a man with a mission, but it’s a very ill-defined mission, isn’t it? “Man needs to return to the sea,” but he’s made no provisions for that return; in fact, until he discovers the existence of Atlantis, his plan seems to be to throw his subjects in to the water to let them “sink or swim!” Plus, look at the technology here! The floating base, the lifetime of scientific research it took to develop his process, the war machines he built to attack Atlantis with, where did Hydro get the money for it all? I know that most villains seem to build their grand machinations out of a kit in the mail that also includes their ridiculous villain name and costume, but Hydro was obviously very well-funded by someone who also believed in his crazy plans and we’re never given an idea as to who. Finally, why does Hydro need to kidnap folks to turn them into mer-people? You don’t think there are enough lost, crazy people out there who wouldn’t jump at the chance to attain some great destiny at a huge personal cost? Please.
I’m realize I’m tilting windmills against that great leviathan of “comic book logic,” on this one, but for some reason this story really sticks out as making no sense and I’m wondering if anyone ever came back in and filled in the blanks with Doctor Hydro and his insane beliefs, because what we have here is sketchy at best.
As for the Tales from Atlantis feature, it was very pretty. Chaykin and company did great work here and you begin to see the seeds of the great talent he’d become. I also like the fact that they linked the stories to the parallel history of Kull and Conan. That was cool. Skipping 5000 years between the second and third stories, however, with not even a synopsis of how that history unfolded is just lazy story-telling. Who are these kingdoms of the Eastern and Western Seas and how did they come to breathe water? Why has Atlantis been abandoned for so long? Why do Kamuu and Zartra have the same names as the characters from the original story? If Zartra’s mom was a mystic who could see the future, why didn’t she stop the war and just arrange a marriage between the kids? I know, I know, comic book logic, but comics have become SO. MUCH. BETTER in the last fifty years in terms of story-telling and continuity, that it’s difficult to give Gerber and company a break here.
Of course, my frustration could also come from the fact that I’ve never liked Namor and hardly ever read his adventures. I could be snarky, Alan, and say, “thanks for reminding me why,” but that’s not fair to the book. Namor was no more illogical than most comics stories being published at the time and I’m really happy that we’ve set the bar so much higher in recent years. Imperius Rex!
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The book came out around the time the “aquatic ape” theory that our more recent ancestors had been a form of ape that adapted to swimming rather than trees so it’s possible Hydro is referring to that. Or that it’s just one of those “The sea, mother to all life!” things and it’s meant kind of mystically.
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Thanks, Fraser. Happy birthday the other day, btw.
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Thanks. It was good.
It was odd to see Howard Chaykin inked by Joe Sinnott, but it certainly resulted in the pages looking more or less like the Marvel house style (whilst retaining Chaykin’s interesting page designs). I much preferred seeing him inked by the Crusty Bunkers.
By the way, the Bunkers, as you know, were Neal Adams and his team of artists at Continuity Associates. Though Neal passed away last year, assumed his family was helming Continuity, but last I checked, the site was down. You can see the link at nealadams.com but it won’t open. I went to web.archive.org and Continuity’s site was still active last year. Would be sad to see it shut down after all this time.
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Looking at the splash page of the first “Tales of Atlantis” chapter, if it wasn’t for the credits I never would have known these were Howard Chaykin pencils. Joe Sinnott’s inking really overwhelms Chaykin’s style here. On the other hand, on a number of occasions Chaykin has expressed the opinion that his work before American Flagg! in 1983 was not very good. So perhaps he was appreciative of having a strong, accomplished inker such as Sinnott?
However, moving on to the rest of the story, a bit more of Chaykin’s early style becomes apparent. Certainly the outfit Queen Zartra wears is very much in keeping with Chaykin’s design sensibilities.
Whatever, the case, the collaboration between Chaykin & Sinnott is very striking, so I’m not surprised this short-lived back-up feature made an impression on you.
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Another batch of issues I entirely missed. I only started collecting Sub-Mariner regularly within the last year before it was cancelled. Interesting that they chose to mix up the Marvel Atlantis with not only that of the ancient Greek legend Howard’s Atlantean mythos. From my readings, likely the story of Atlantis was created by Plato, influenced by the volcanic eruption that destroyed the Minoan civilization over 3000 years ago. Looks like Gerber side-stepped the explanation as to how the Atlanteans changed from normal humans to water-breathing hominids, which is not something that would ever happen through evolution or any other real world process over any amount of time. Hence, magic or comic-book crypto-science, such as that responsible for the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the Hulk, etc., etc. One problem Sub-Mariner the comic seems to have suffered from, IMO, was the lack of a likeable supporting cast. Everett seemed to be trying to build one, with Namorita, Betty and Tamara, but for the most part Namor came off as a disagreeable lone-wolf character, with few real friends or even trusted confidants among his fellow Atlanteans. Bit of a contrast with Thor, wherein although it was several years into the series, eventually he did have a good supporting cast of fellow Asgardians who were trusted friends. Might have been interesting to see more Tales of Atlantis set in Namor’s boyhood years, as eventually Tales of Asgard showed Thor’s boyhood years.
Enjoyed reading your insights and remembrances of these mags, Alan!
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Pre-cataclysmic Atlanteans did not become water breathers. We see in this story that Atlantis sank and that eventually homo mermanus settled in the ruins.
Is it just me, or does Subbie in his human clothes here bear a striking resemblance to Spock in “City on the Edge of Forever”?
Also, did Zartra’s Eye ever reappear? They seem to make a big deal of her putting in on the sword, but at least from this Cliff notes version it doesn’t appear to have led to anything.
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Evidently the Eye later figured into a 1978 “Doctor Strange” storyline. See https://marvel.fandom.com/wiki/Eye_of_Zartra
So that explains why when Kamuu and Zartra appeared in a Son of Satan plotline, later letters referred to seeing them “again.” I’d always assumed that as Atlanteans they were something to do with King Kull.
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Just popping in here for a moment Alan to thank you for discussing a story with Namorita in it. Ironically (coincidentally?), just as you had a big crush on Aquagirl, I had a huge crush on Namorita, which, for me as an 11 then 12 year old, seemed much more obtainable (realistic) that the 1970s version of the Black Widow (and thank you for that Daredevil post as well, I’ll make some comments on that soon). I really loved Bill Everett’s somewhat pixieish drawing of Nita and it was really a jolt, when re-reading this now, to see the huge change in look when Mortimer and Mooney took over on page five and started drawing her like a younger Gwen Stacy. (I’m sure that bothered me in 1973 too).
Overall, like Don I did not like this story at all (in fact I have a mostly hate relationship with Steve Gerber’s work in general). I will give points for making the transformation of the kidnapped travelers permanent, which is something that D.C. would never do in a story back then as they generally stuck with the old formula of happy endings for the readers. I remember being Gerber’s work in general). I will give points for making the transformation of the kidnapped travellers permanent, which is something that D.C. would never do in a story back then as they generally stuck with the old formula of happy endings for the readers. I remember being shocked by this turn of events when I read the issues in 1973 but, ironically, in a story that otherwise disdains reality again and again, making the change apparently permanent was a realistic and original story point.
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Also, being Jewish, I was very disturbed when reading this in 1973 to see the evocation of how Jews were led to the gas chambers during the Holocaust. Reading it again today, I find it inappropriate. Jack Kirby (who lived during that time and fought against Hitler) knew how to evoke the atrocities of the Holocaust in a meaningful and appropriate way. Steve Gerber was not Jack Kirby (in fact if Jack was the King, Gerber was the Court Jester).
I’m evidently a much bigger fan of Gerber than you are, Stu, but I have to say, “Court Jester” fits him pretty well.
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