Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Bill Everett's Sub-Mariner

Bill Everett was a giant in the world of Golden Age comics. He was on the forefront of the superhero movement in comics and created the Sub-Mariner for Timely's Marvel Comics #1 (Oct. 1939) which was a hit and became one of Timely's most popular characters.

Golden Age Sub-Mariner
Namor the Sub-Mariner, like his creator, started out as an angry youth. He was a super strong, flying mutant that came from a liaison between his Atlantian princess mother and human, sailor father.

From Marvel Comics #1, Oct. 1939
Before he got into comics Bill Everett was trained as an illustrator and brought these techniques to his comics work like the beautiful half-tone effect he uses on these pages.
For all of the destruction reaped on their Atlantean cities Namor, the Sub-Mariner struck back. Namor's attack of the surface men, especially Americans got to the point where he brought his war to New York.

From Marvel Mystery Comics #8, June 1940

New York also just happened to be the stomping grounds of Timely's other popular hero, the Human Torch. It was only logical that the Human Torch, defender of the common man, would retaliate against his aggression and defend his chosen people.

Carl Burgos' Human Torch story in Marvel Mystery Comics #8, June 1940
Issue 8 of Marvel Mystery Comics had Namor reeking havoc in New York, like taking the top off of the Empire State Building and letting the animals loose at the zoo while the Human Torch, in his strip, spent the issue cleaning up after Namor, which led to the famous...
"Battle of the Century!"

Carl Burgos, the creator of the Human Torch was great friends with Bill Everett and so it was a natural that they would eventually work together. 

Marvel Mystery Comics #9
Fire vs. Water

Marvel Mystery Comics #9, July 1940, was the knock-down-and-drag-out cross over battle between Timely's top two characters, the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner.
Marvel Mystery Comics #9, July 1940 dubbed "the Battle of the Century" Sub-Mariner vs. the Human Torch.
 The art duties were shared evenly between Bill Everett and Carl Burgos.

For a youth of the time, to see two of their favorite heroes inhabiting the same strip, actually fighting against each other must have been a dream come true. The long wondered question of who is the strongest would finally be answered. Apparently they are equally matched because the fight ended in a standstill. After all that fighting they simply agreed to not fight anymore.

One would think that Timely would have recognized a winner when they had one but it took them almost a year to have them team up again, this time in Marvel Mystery Comics #17, March 1941. 

Marvel Mystery comics #17, March 1941

This time they were teaming up against a common enemy, the Nazis, who are building a tunnel under the Pacific to invade America. 

Six months later they got another chance to team-up in the infamous Human Torch #5, Fall 1941. This is an infamous issue for the fact that Everett spoke about it in an interview with Roy Thomas about it's unusual creation.
Roy writes; "He did mention from time to time that one lengthy Torch-Namor story had been produced over the course of a long, chaotic weekend."
Bill Everett said in the interview; "There were quite a few of us that got together and went to my apartment and did the whole thing. we just stayed there the entire weekend. Nobody left except to go out and get food or more liquor and come back and work."
Roy speculates that it was Human Torch #5 because it fit the description of being a 60 page team-up between the Sub-Mariner and the Human Torch worked on by the two creators.
The Human Torch #5, Fall 1941 by Bill Everett, Carl Burgos, and assistants.

Bill Everett's Subby work in the 50's

Shortly after this issue WWII happened and Bill Everett, like most other young American men, went to fight overseas. When he came back he continued drawing for the Sub-Mariner. In the meantime he had matured as an artist. He would go on to produce some of his best work in the late 40's and early 50's.

In addition to Subby he also created a female counterpart, Namora

Bill Everett's Subby work in the 70's

When the superhero genera lost it's audience in the mid 50's, he would go on to produce some amazing horror and romance work. Later, in the 60's Stan Lee would bring back many of the Golden Age heroes like the Sub-Mariner and would create many new very popular ones like the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man and he would need artists like Bill Everett to draw them. Bill would be instrumental in the creation of Marvel Comics' Daredevil.
In the early 70's Bill would be back to work on Subby writing and drawing the comic.

From Sub-Mariner #50, June 1972
Bill would also introduce a new character reminiscent of his old creation. Instead of Namora, he would introduce Namor's cousin, Namorita.

Unfortunately we didn't get much more work from Bill Everett. In February of 1973 he died at the young age of 55. He was an amazing talent and had a huge hand in the development of the American comic book. Bill, wherever you are, thank you for all of your amazing work.


  1. Love this page so much. Thanks

  2. Very nice page. Small correction: The Sub-Mariner was actually created for a magazine called "Motion Picture Funnies Weekly #1" which was published, but not released. Everett expanded it and colored it for Marvel Comics #1. So Namor is actually the oldest Marvel character.

    Everett worked for a free-lance organization called "Funnies, Inc" that did both magazines. Martin Goodman hired them to create material for his first comic magazine.

  3. Excellent tribute. There's an announcement in Sub-Mariner #52 of Everett's sudden shocking death and I believe he had only finished penciling the first 3 pages of the book. I see that some of his pencils and inks for later books appeared that I assume he'd finished prior to his death. A true titan of the medium and so impressive how his art evolved from the early Golden Age and into the Bronze Age.

    1. Issue 61 is where he did the first few pages

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