Sunday, June 07, 2015

Maybe The Most Aquamusing Of All...

Let it not be said that we, at aqua musings, do not give a swimmer a cesspool of a chance to complete his laps -

There has always been, ah, alternatives to a modern reinterpretation of what Aegir, Poseidon and Neptune (to name but three) represented to the truly old world; in recent times, in fact, we have seen quite a plethora of them emerge out of the abysses and other polluted shallow waters all over the globe. We've listed them before; they are too numerous to list, in truth!

Suffice it to say, that sea heroes have been plentiful: from Sinbad to Popeye the Sailor Man.
And then there was...  Marine Man.

Not this Marine Man...!


None come close to the most believable, most impressive for realistic and, one might even say, the most necessary nowadays: he was invented by Jules Verne and he was named Captain Nemo.

Though Nemo is our absolute favorite, we will confess having a soft spot for Marine Man there: though extremely short-lived, his series of adventures was very much fun and entertaining. It was as if Cousteau's son had merged with the typical sea-based super-hero of the day (namely: DC's Aquaman) and the end result was much greater than anyone had anticipated it could be...!  There were elements of many classic heroes in there, as well: one could sense (and it gets confirmed here.) All this adds up, in our book! Heck, we would recommend Ian Churchill's Marine Man before we recommend Geoff Johns first three volumes of his ''new 52'' Aquaman relaunch which finally restored that sea king to his proper positioning, righting the most aberrant nonsense of all in the process: that an alien, any alien (a Kryptonian, to be specific) would have ever been made out to be stronger than an Atlantean never made any sense whatsoever, really, come on!  Glad that has finally been straightened out, DC - it only took you guys some seventy-five years or so, hmm? And we are equally elated that, although the resemblances are stunning, Aquaman has allowed Marineman to swim about freely: even all the way across the pond, to France, where publisher Glénat translated him and made quite the splash in the process, too! But that's another story...

But let us waste some more of our time (!) and explore far murkier depths than these: let us go back to the late 1930s, when creative minds had narrow a clue, preditors had even less of one and some atrocities were, therefore, allowed to see the light of day...

Once upon a time, there was a comic-book creator (ack - almost as irritating to type ''creator'' under this optic/topic as it is to refer to, say, sports figures or the like as ''icons'' - the religious undertones involved bordering on blasphemous trespasses and all...! But we'll carry on... because it is not such a big deal, nowadays, rrrright?) and this ''comic-book creator'' had a name and it was Bill.

Now, Bill had a dilemma: his publisher promised him a lot of pages in one of those dime-a-dozen publications but only if he could come up with an equivalent to the dastardly competition's most impressive specimen yet - a veritable superman, if there ever was one, indeed...

Back in those darker days, they used to take things ultra-seriously: things such as copyrights and infringements - the works! Hence, Bill was to make damn sure that his new creation (ack - okay, never mind...) would be so new (ha!) and so different that there would be absolutely zero chances to be sued by the mean lawyers across the street there...!

Hence, he set forth, back to his dockside lair, to ''create'' something so strange, so uncanny, so ultimately unappealing that no one would ever want to lay claim to it, sue it or, hell, call it their fave!

And, you know what?  Bill succeeded! 

For it was then, shortly thereafter (I mean, how long does it take to come up with a knock-off ripping off all the key elements of the competitor in a distorted, lawsuit-proof way - eh?) Bill Everett came back to his Funnies preditor with... Namor The Sub-Mariner.

First, the name: he tried a hell of a lot of things, but settled on one of his precious list of monickers spelled backwards: because such was the way to compete without fear of being sued, Bill had figured already - one had to think backwards! And so, after judging ''Greek/Keerg'' too creepy, he went with ''Roman/Namor'' immediately!

He gave it some Scottish blood: the next best thing to Irish, with the McKenzie name, prefiguring, unbeknownst to everyone at Timely, the eventual navigator of the Entreprise, Scotty!

It was with the physical features, however, that Bill hit the mark (as he hit the final nails in the coffin of his, ah, ''creation'' too - ugh! Sounds like a Frankensteinian endeavor we're talking about here; Mary Shelly must be tossing and turning in her grave!) as he made his strange, misbegotten mutant (retroactively made into one, eventually) truly the oddest hodge-podge thing on two legs, thus far - in a medium prone to have them in spades, unfortunately!

Bill gave his sub-par guy nothing less than pointy ears: the standard feature for an alien, even in those days (although, again, he was supposed to be not from space at all: that was his rival's schtick, the one he wasn't supposed to copy - remember? Oh well.) and in so doing, Bill prefigured yet another member of the Entreprise crew who would take those pointy ears to glorious new heights, as we well know: Mr. (not Dr.!) Spock, of course.

That was the second and last Star Trek reference today, folks - rejoice, Trekkies, too: I won't be dragging your favorites in this mud much longer!

Other distinctive features decided upon were the horrible monster eyebrows, another legacy of a bygone era which accentuated that distinctive feeling that this was a funhouse mirror image of the competitor Superman; complete with slit eyes and funny pencil-neck geek allure! Verily, Classie Freddie Blassie would have roughed up this guy in ten seconds flat, I tell ya! He was such a scrawny, outlandish freak in his final take, it was virtually impossible to link him to the source material he had ripped off indeed!  In achieving this, not only did Bill save thousands upon thousands of dollars to his preditor and pub-leech-er in punitive damages, he also prefigured yet another character that was to come from there -rearing his unsightly, goofy head once Timely would have morphed into Marvel- and that was to be the aptly-named, purported to be an alien in true form... Impossible Man!

Another impossible feat came to Bill's mind, though: flying! What if his sub-par guy could fly? Superman was only leaping tall buildings, at that point! Good old Bill loved Peter Pan, Greco-Roman mythology (duh) and always fancied Hermes' head gear - so it had to be! He lifted the wings off that helmet and thought to affix them on his guy's... ankles? The ankles? Well, they were tiny wings and his guy was no angel at all, so the wings on the back were immediately out of the question: Timely already had a honest-to-gosh good guy named Angel anyways (and he could not fly! Hell, he would even die, before long! His X-Men successor took that name in the 60s and flew with it - literally.) and, besides, this sub-par cretinous creation (...) was supposed to be coming from the sea, and it wasn't a flying fish, so... The wings stayed affixed to the ankles: Namor's Achilles' Heel, if you will, because he seldom makes good use of the ability to fly, it looks ridiculous and, quite obviously, impossible for such tiny wings, where they are, to allow to propel a six-foot tall guy in a well-balanced manner unless they were magic, like Hermes' - and they are not.  Just all around ridiculous - such is the true foundation of that ''Marvel universe'' fanboys go gaga for (no pun intended, ''lady''...) now that movies are being made one after another about it; and yet, and yet... Three quarters of them don't even know who this ''sub-mareener', dud is...! But we are digressing...

Back to 1939 and the early hours of this ''creating'' fervor: Bill added what he deemed to be the necessary final touch for his sub-par guy to become a true sensation. His guy had to have a different attitude, an aura that would set him apart from all the other, truer, heroes. He looked for one final source of inspiration for this: he looked left - nothing. He looked right - still nothing. And then it hit him: Dracula! No doubt he was led to this conclusion by the mere fact that, just like his sub-par guy, Drac had the most unorthodox way to fly: he had to morph into a bat in order to do so - or, at least, so it used to be! Hence he also ripped off the bloodsucker's hair style and there it was, at long last: his sub-par guy was sickeningly distinctive enough to be deemed ready for his launch!

Too bad the black and white promotional giveaway meant to be distributed in movie theaters (!) never got to even land on the printer's desk! Motion Picture Funnies Weekly number one was never published: there were only a total of (seven or) eight samples meant to be sent to theater owners and they never were as the project was unceremoniously canceled by the Funnies Incorporated studio. Those samples stayed in publisher Llyod Jacquet's home until his estate found it in 1974.

Anecdote break: back in the late eighties/early nineties, when I had plans for an Aquaman series for DC, I had planned to introduce a character so envious of the Sea King's prominence that he would have a prosthetic claw grafted onto him in order to give him an edge in combat over ol' AQ! This predated the late nineties ''accident'' that made Aquaman himself the proud owner of a prosthetic...! My guy had a codename, sure, but that is not important right now; what is, is that his real name was going to be... Llyod, in honor of Mr. Jacquet!  End of anecdote!

Timely only recouped what was unused there, shortly after that, added four pages to the original eight (Bill had been promised lots of pages - remember?) and that was published, along with that awful, lame Angel and the original Human Torch (on the cover of all that - looking as evil as an anti-hero could be; ironically, though, he wasn't the anti-hero there - Namor was!) in 1939's Marvel Comics #1. Timely was barely afloat with such ''stars'' though - it struggled throughout the war years, with only Captain America having a true semblance of success and popularity, due in large part to world events at the time...!  (How timely can ye be - eh? I mean, who would you choose to fight off Hitler: that other competitor's Daredevil... a BAT-man... or Captain AMERICA? Huh? Case closed!)

Timely became Atlas, briefly. The name change didn't bring it any more luck. Eventually, someone had the idea that ''hey, it all started with that first retail issue in 1939, right? And it was called Marvel Comics!'' And so the name was chosen - and it stuck, as we well know!

And what an abomination it grew into -a multi-tentacled beast the likes of Cthulu but confined to the entertainment industry; yikes- but that is another story too...

In all of his lamentable history, it is quite clear that this ''namor'' chap has nothing to do with the real Atlantis: Marvel would even explain that and make it into their canon (ugh - another term I have such trouble with, in this kind of context - but never mind that now!) Indeed, his people are blue-skinned (!) and pointy-eared (!!) and originate from another dimension; they are occupying what once was Atlantis illegally!  Call him Namor, the Sub-Squatter already!  And so, in the end, they still made him an alien after all: despite Bill's caution, as he was so wary of those lawsuits that could come...!  Well, no offense Bill but, nobody has ever really cared about your ''anti-hero'' there: DC/National Periodical would eventually sue Fawcett's Captain Marvel/Shazam but it was never going to happen with your, ah, diluted product...!

Bill did contribute better things than this sicko of the seas, though: Venus, Marvel Boy, even Zombie, I would take over Namor, on any given day!  He was within a hair of drawing the classic Tomb of Dracula series in 1972 - but he took ill and died before he could draw a single panel. In the end, Bill Blake Everett, sometimes known as Willie Bee and... Bill Roman... was a victim of his times, really. He was nearly coerced into creating this oddest of characters, one of the most unappealing in all of history, doomed to be forgotten before long. At least Paul Norris had a better fate...

And now that the competition's far more heroic personage is all set to ascertain that he is the king -not sub-par there- fanboys, purists and the like have a problem about it all. After all, they say, ''he came first...'' - yeah, well, we just saw how he came about and I am the Historian here (history major, 1992) not you, so my interpretation of the facts is *in* - not yours!  (It is my blog anyways...!)

I'd place Marine Man over Namor, also: Aquaman first, Marineman second, any number of others third... And, dead last, this sad, misbegotten, anemic carbon-copy of a superman!

Aquaman  - the heretofore Conan of the Seas! 
Namor - just an oddity...

All The Aquaficionadas Agree...!

<<This is the same whale that KNOCKED YOU OUT, Nay-More... 
I don`t care Disney bought you off, brought you into MY world;
I just don`t like you. Never did. NEVER WILL.
Just. Try. Me!>>



What a ridiculous name. 

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