Sub-Mariner #16; "The Sea That Time Forgot!"

THE SUB-MARINER #16; August 1969; Marvel Comics Group; Stan Lee, editor;
featuring "The Sea That Time Forgot!", written by Roy Thomas, pencilled by Marie
Severin, and inks credited to "Joe Gaudioso" (a pen name  for Mike
Esposito).  On the atmospheric cover signed by Marie Severin and Frank
Giacoia, Namor is struggling to escape a mass of clinging seaweed, as an
Egyptian-looking figure in a small boat watches.  In the background are old
wrecked ships, and behind them a large symbolic shadowy figure of the villainous
Tiger Shark.

Review by Bill Henley

No, I'm not planning to review
the whole run of the Roy Thomas SUB-MARINER, but I thought I'd cover this issue
before I put these comics away.  I had actually intended to review this
issue some time back as a follow-up to a couple of reviews I did covering Batman
and Green Arrow stories in which the heroes discovered a "Sargasso Sea" (or in
the GA story a "Sargasso on land") where ancient men survived-- but I couldn't
lay my hands on the issue at the time. I'm not sure where the fantasy concept of
the Sargasso Sea being a home for immortal castaways first originated, but this
story was the most effective use of the idea I recall seeing.  
The splash page has a blurb, "Perhaps the Most MEMORABLE Sunken Saga of ALL!!"
and indeed, it was a memorable story for me, and it still holds up for me upon
re-reading (which, alas, cannot be said of all Roy's stories of that
period).  The splash otherwise consists of a symbolic image of Namor in his
royal Atlantean crown and regalia, with head vignettes of supporting characters
Dorma, Dr. Walter Newell, and Tiger Shark.

Sitting in his throne room,
Prince Namor (still actively ruling Atlantis at the time of this story) hears a
report from Thakos, the last survivor of a well-manned and heavily armed
Atlantean warship sent on a patrol mission.  While hunting for Namor's
deadly enemy Tiger Shark (a surfaceman who had been transformed into a deadly
undersea combatant in issues #5-6), the patrol crew found itself in a
little-known part of the ocean marked by swarms of glowing eels and dangerous
storms.  They spotted their quarry, Tiger Shark, seemingly trapped in a
tangled net of seaweed, but the ship was forced to change course and take to the
air in order to avoid being trapped itself.  As the ship took to the air,
the crew sighted "a graveyard of a vast armada" of ancient ships, half hidden by
the mists.  But then "a fatal blast from nowhere struck (the) vessel,
destroying it!" and leaving only Thakos as a survivor.  Thakos feels "in
the doldrums of disgrace" that he has lived while his fellow crewmen have
perished.  Namor reassures him that he has done his duty, but warns him not
to speak to anyone of what he has seen.  Namor confers privately with his
chief scientist Vashti, who is concerned that the "People of the Mist",
inhabiting the sector of ocean known to surfacemen as the Sargasso, may have
broken an "age-old treaty" with the Atlanteans.  If so, the realm may face
"WAR-- with a breed of men whom DEATH itself has renounced!"  And yet, if
Tiger Shark now dwells among the mist people, it is Namor's duty to go to the
Sargasso and confront him!

And indeed, the scene changes to Tiger Shark
himself as he finally frees himself from the mass of living seaweed which has
held him.  Needing a rest, he climbs aboard an ancient frigate he finds
floating amongst the weeds, enveloped in mists so thick that even Tiger Shark,
now a pure water-breather, can survive there.  He is welcomed onboard by a
remarkable group of men-- an African warrior, a Viking, a couple of pirates. a
knight in armor, a sea-dog swordsman, and a German submarine officer from World
War II.  The men are hostile to the newcomer-- "On your KNEES, dog, or by
WOTAN, I'll hew thee limb from limb!"  "Aye, and I with you, me bucko-- for
I like not the cut of his jib!"  But they are quelled momentarily by the
central figure among them, an ancient Egyptian!  "ENOUGH!  Am I not
the eldest here?  It is for NEKHBET to say if the intruder lives or
dies!"  As Tiger Shark shouts his defiance, one of the pirates leaps to the
attack, but is hurled aside by the Shark's superhuman strength.  Nekhbet
calls for Shark to "stay your hand" and the Shark agrees on condition of an
explanation what is going on here.  Nekhbet complies: "I was the FIRST of
those who came to this place... forgotten YEARS ago..." commander of an Egyption
galley blown off course and out to sea while sailing around Africa.  The
rest of his crew perished of thirst and hunger or sy suicide before Nekhbet came
to rest in the Sargasso, where the mysterious mists kept him alive
indefinitely.  "Since that day, the OTHERS whom you see have also come to
rest here... so many of them ENGLISH PIRATES that we have adopted their native
tongue!  But from whatever clime, NONE has ever escaped... or DARED
escape!"   Unimpressed, Tiger Shark declares his intention to "CLEAR
OUT of here-- NOW!"  Nekhbet declares that this is forbidden, but the Nazi
sub captain asks Shark to take him along in his escape, telling the Shark that
they can "become "masters of the WORLD together" thanks to a secret weapon
hidden aboard the Nazi's sunken sub.  "Sounds like you've got a DEAL,
pal!", says the Shark.  And the other lost seamen from earlier times all
volunteer to join the escape; "We'll serve you WELL to be free of here!" 
Only Nekhbet hangs back "Even the mysteries of IMMORTALITY cannot allay the
scourge of HUMAN GREED!" 

Meanwhile, "not many leagues distant,"
Namor arrives and parks his sub-sea vessel, hoping that the "mist-men" will not
attack "one lone figure".  But he is not alone after all, as a stowaway,
Lady Dorma, emerges from his ship.  Why did she defy Namor's command and
accompany him?  "This is no time to speak of matters of the HEART!", says
Dorma; but she has spotted a "dim flashing light younder" which needs
investigation.  Namor finds that the light is from an air-breathers'
bathyscaphe, wedged on a reef.  "Is there NO PLACE free of them-- even in
the wine-dark DEPTHS?"  But despite his annoyance, Namor cannot let the
humans die, and he uses his sub-sea strength to pull the vessel loose and bring
it to the surface.  There, he finds that the bathyscaphe came from a much
larger human vessel-- an oceanographic research ship commanded by Namor's
acquaintance, scientist Dr. Walter Newell.  Namor orders Newell to take his
ship and leave the dangerous area, but Newell says he cannot comply, for it is
his duty to investigate a dangerous discovery.  He shows Namor a collection
of dead and dying sea life, and then a ship's log from a World War II German
submarine whose mission was to unleash "a deadly, long-lived virus" upon the
United States.  The sub never reached American shores, but now it is
leaking death into the sea-- and it was only one of two subs sent on the same
mission!  The other one must be found!  Namor declares that he knows
where the other sub may have drifted, and in his usual headstrong manner, leaps
into the sea to handle the matter himself.  Newell calls Namor back, but
Dorma admonishes him; "Do not WASTE your words, Doctor... save them for

Meanwhile, Tiger Shark is seeking the same lost sub, and after
struggling through more seaweed, he finds it!  "If what that left-over Nazi
told me about it is true-- I'll have my revenge on the whole world for turning
me into a great, gilled FREAK!"   Concerned that Namor may not be able
to accomplish his mission alone, Newell takes one of his undersea vessels to
follow Subby, accompanied by Dorma, and also calls for backup from the U.S.
Navy.  And back in the region of mists, Nekhbet tries one more time to
dissuade his fellow castaways from escaping.  But they aren't inclined to
pay attention; "TIGER SHARK will lead us out of the mists-- into a world filled
with our INFERIORS!"  "SI!  For are we not IMMORTAL?  Are we not
destined to RULE the world without?"  Having seized leadership from the
ancient Egyptian, Tiger Shark seizes Nekhbet intending to kill him, but is
halted by the arrival of Namor on the scene.  "It is not for you to take a
human life-- YOU, who have become more than FISH, but less than MAN!" 
Nekhbet urges Namor not to destroy the "shadowy abode" of the mist-men and
promises that "those who dwell here will NEVER invade the outer world!" 
Tiger Shark boasts that he now speaks for the mist-dwellers, but Namor responds,
"If the eternal ones listen to such as YOU-- they DESERVE no voice, EVER
AGAIN!"  As Tiger Shark and Namor battle, the Nazi captain makes his way to
the sub which the Shark has brought to the site.  Namor promises that he
will defeat the Shark before the Nazi can unleash his weapon, but the Shark
pulls Namor with him into the mire of seaweed so that the Nazi and the other
mist-men can complete their deadly errand!  And meanwhile, there is a new
and dangerous distraction for Namor, for Newell's ship and Namor's beloved Dorma
have arrived on the scene.

Tiger Shark's new allies are not very
trustworthy, as the Nazi captain and a British sailor who has joined forces with
his old enemy, plot to take Newell's ship and use it to escape the mists while
Namor and the Shark struggle.  Namor declares, "There is no honor among
assassins!" and Tiger Shark realizes, "Namor's right!  I could never have
trusted the Nazi!"  The Shark remedies his mistake by attacking the Nazi
captain from behind-- "HE won't get up again!"-- and seizing Dorma as a
hostage.  Dorma urges Namor not to submit for her sake, but the Sub-Mariner
gives his word that, in return for Dorma's life, "you may leave this place in
PEACE!"  And so, with Newell's "hyper-powered vessel" cutting through the
seaweed barrier, the "most fit of the ancient vessels" follow, with all of the
mist-men on board-- except one.  Standing on his own ancient vessel,
Nekhbet of Egypt remains behind sa the mists close around him.  "My fellow
mist-men have CHOSEN their own destinies...while I shall end my sojourn here as
I BEGAN it.... alone!"    (When I recalled this story, not having
re-read it for many years, I thought this striking scene was the final panel,
but I see this isn't the case.)

Tiger Shark glories as the ancient ships
emerge into the light of day; "HAH!  I don't even need to use germ warfare
against the land-crawlers!  How can THEY hope to stop the phantom fleet of
mist-men are equally delighted-- at first; "By Wotan!  Behold the gleaming
SUN!"  "It shines as bright as the day I first set sail from Spain!" 
"Maybe you'll return there soon, man... as its king!"  Tiger Shark reneges
on his deal with Namor, refusing to allow Dorma to return to the life-giving
sea. The Shark sneers to Namor, "You stand alone-- against my entire
ARMY!"  But Namor's reply is, "Your army is but a grim JEST,
man-that-was!  LOOK at them now!"  Shark does, and to his dismay-- and
Dorma's horror-- once out of the influence of the Sargasso mists, the ancient
seamen are suffering instant old age and withering to dust!  Their ships
are also reverting to "rotting timbers" and sinking!  The dying mist-men
cry their despair, and "then, from lips that should have turned to DUST
centuries before... NOTHING MORE is heard..."

One of the ancient crews
still survives, however-- though the surviving Nazi sub crew have turned into
weak and elderly men after "staying young these past fifty years!"  (Fifty
years?  Since this story was published in 1969, it would have been less
than 25 years since they entered the mists.)  But Tiger Shark warns them
that, "if you want to get any OLDER," they will obey his orders and relesae the
deadly germ-warfare torpedo aboard their sub!  Namor leaps to stop them,
but Tiger Shark grapples with him, and sa the two sub-sea superbeings battle,
the Nazi crew fire the torpedo.  Now it is up to Walter Newell to stop a
catastrophe that may destroy the surface world and Atlantis alike.  Newell
steers an abandoned freighter whose cargo is several tons of dynamite (it's not
altogether clear just where this freighter came from, perhaps it was one of the
ships from the mist that wasn't old enough to disintegrate) into the path of the
torpedo, knowing that only a big explosion can destroy the germ-warfare
virus.  He accomplishes his mission!  But a naval aircraft that has
reached the scene spots Namor, assumes the Sub-Mariner is up to troublemaking
again, and fires a pair of missiles which stun Namor, allowing Tiger Shark to
escape, and apparently seal the fate of Dr. Newell, "slain by the very ones he
sought to save!"  (Actually, I think Newell turned up alive in some later
stories.)  "And yet, his REAL murderer was-- TIGER SHARK!  When next
we meet-- one of us must DIE!  THUS SWEARS THE TRUE SUB-MARINER!" (I don't
offhand recall if Tiger Shark ever did have a final, fatal confrontation with

Marie Severin wasn't my favorite artist of Marvel's Silver
Age, but she maintained an effectively atmospheric look for this story, and
likewise Roy T.'s high-flown pseudo-archaic dialogue and captions, often awkward
in stories of contemporary superheroics, worked pretty well in this tale
focusing on a band of time-lost immortals.