Sub-Mariner #39, "And Here I'll Stand"

THE SUB-MARINER #39; July 1971; Marvel Comics Group; Stan Lee, editor;
featuring "...And Here I'll Stand!", written by Roy Thomas and drawn by Ross
Andru with inks by Jim Mooney.  On the cover, Namor is lifting a military
truck and threatening to hurl it at the U.S. Army soldiers attacking him; "I
WARNED the surface world-- not to ATTACK me!  Now I shall DESTROY you--
destroy you ALL!"  One of the soldiers shouts, "RUN FOR YOUR LIFE! 
The Sub-Mariner's gone BERSERK!"  (For several years during the mid-late
60's Marvel avoided using word balloons on its covers.  When they changed
their policy, they often went overboard with the balloons, as

Review by Bill Henley

For a time in the late 60's/early
70's, Roy Thomas eclipsed Stan Lee as my favorite Marvel writer, and, along with
DR. STRANGE, SUB-MARINER (a character for whom Roy evidently felt a special
attachment) was my favorite Marvel title.  This issue made a special
impression on me at the time.  In previous issues, Namor witnessed the
murder of his beloved Lady Dorma by the villainess Llyra (is Dorma still
dead?  I'm sure she'd be alive again by now if Sub-Mariner were appearing
in his own series regularly) and renounced his Atlantean throne, seeking instead
to make a new life for himself among surface-dwelling humans.  As this
issue opens, Namor climbs ashore in Florida onto an abandoned seaside
installation of some sort (its nature isn't clear from the visuals) and succumbs
to a monumental temper tantrum over Dorma's murder.  "LLYRA!  Stand
you FORTH, murderess!"  When Llyra doesn't make an appearance, Subby takes
out his frustrations by smashing things and ultimately bringing down the whole
abandoned facility with a Samson-like feat of strength-- "an act of unrelieved
VIOLENCE-- which is FORGOTTEN before it is finished, strangled by its own cosmic
FUTILITY! "  Namor returns to his natural habitat; "Once more that brief,
eternal trek into the lapping WAVES-- into the SEA, which drowns both hopes and
fears alike-- the sea, where even TEARS are laced with salty brine..." 
(One of the reasons I liked these Thomas scripts as a teenage fan was the
quasi-poetic turn of phrase in the dialogue and captions.  I have to admit
that when I reread these stories now, most of this purple prose doesn't wear so

Some time later, Namor arrives at the city of New York on a
moonlit night.  After some musings about how the city is little changed and
yet much changed from when he first saw it (and tried to wreck it) back in 1939,
Namor decides that he needs some place where he can "dwell apart" while he tries
to convince the surface-dwellers to accept him.  He thinks he has found it
in an abandoned prison island in the city harbor.  "Once it was a PRISON,
where land-crawling humanity locked away its failures, its MISFITS... (now) none
has any USE for it... none but the SUB-MARINER!"  He may have abdicated his
undersea throne, but Subby still seems to view himself as entitled to live in an
imposing, palace-like setting.  He sets out to transform the crumbling
prison into a more appropriate venue for himself, starting with reshaping a
statue of a lion into the likeness of a leaping fish.  Namor spends the
night carrying out a massive remodeling job with his bare hands.  And as
the sun rises, a couple of previously bored cops in a police helicopter are
startled by the sight of Prison Island made over with a Sea World-type decor--
and by "the crazy in SWIMMIN' TRUNKS, standin' on top of the wall!" 
Recognizing him as the Sub-Mariner-- who, undeniably, had attacked and invaded
the Big Apple on several previous occasions-- the cops alert the authorities,
and radio disk jockeys arouse the populace at large.  And, before long, a
Harbor Police speedboat arrives at the island.  "All right, Namor-- let's
hash this out before any of the TV CREWS get here!  You got an INVASION
FORCE hid in there, or what?"  Once again resorting to  verbiage as
purple as his royal lineage, Namor explains his intentions: "Bear this word back
to a city which will rise FEARFUL this morn... Namor has come ALONE to this
rock-strewn isle, where none but HE would wish to set foot.  There is no
song of WAR in Namor's heart... but only a prayer for PEACE."

As the TV
crews, reporters and an assortment of curious civilians arrive on the
scene,  Subby attempts to explain his unthreatening intentions.  After
making a play for sympathy by telling of the death of his intended bride
(shocking news for Diane Arliss, a human friend of Namor's from previous Thomas
stories), Namor tells the crowd that he wants to "claim the human half of his
heritage" from his father, Capt. Leonard McKenzie.  All he wants from
humanity for now is the ownership of the "tiny island" as a "place to think",
and in return he will offer "knowlege... the secrets of the sea-bottoms!" 
But one onlooker is unwilling to let a "half-breed freak" lower the property
values on New York's East Side, and he grabs a pistol and pops off at
Namor.  Sub-Mariner is unhurt by the pistol pellets, but he's cheesed off,
and he attempts to grab and disarm the man.  The guy rushes to his boat
where he has a bigger gun stashed, but Namor seizes him and appears on the verge
of killing him when Diane Arliss's voice is heard urging him to relent. 
All this is being eagerly filmed by a crew of sensation-seeking TV reporters--
until Subby forfeits the sympathies of the media by hurling the miscreant human
straight at them, wrecking their camera. 

The police warn Namor
that if he attacks any unarmed civilians, they will have no choice but to try to
"take him in."  Diane Arliss now turns her pleas for calm and restraint to
the cops; "Don't make him angrier than he already IS... you don't know him... I
DO!"  The head cop on the scene contacts the city's mayor, who agrees to
"pursue a policy of WATCHFUL WAITING... Don't antagonize the Atlantean
further... HE COULD TEAR THE CITY APART!"   As the police and
spectators withdraw, Diane expresses sympathy for the loss of Dorma, but warns
Namor, "You're going about this all WRONG!"  (I'd have to agree with
that.  Wouldn't it have made more sense for Subby to contact the Fantastic
Four, or some of the other superheroes with whom he had established at least a
truce, and ask them to negotiate for him?)  For the moment, Namor is left
alone to do more of his remodeling work and replenish his strength with "such
creatures as still can LIVE in man-ruined waters" (watch out for mercury
poisoning, Subby).  Diane Arliss, now working as a reporter, searches a
newspaper "morgue" for a clipping she vaguely recalls seeing, which might have a
bearing on Namor's course of action.  And a lot of New York citizens aren't
satisfied with a peaceful outcome... and a special mayoral liaison, called to
duty when the mayor is called out of town, is more amenable to their calls for
more aggressive action against Namor.  As National Guard tanks line the
shoreline opposite "Namor's Island", Navy frogmen approach the island from

And so, the truce is abruptly broken as the National
Guard officer in charge warns Namor to abandon Prison Island within three
minutes, or the troops will open fire.  This time Diane Arliss's pleas for
peace are ineffectual.  Namor thinks he still has one ace in the hole; "Do
they think they deal with one as brainless as the lumbering Hulk?  They
know they CANNOT drive me from this isle without totally DESTROYING it... and
all that they have BUILT upon it!"  Nonetheless, the rows of eight-inch
guns open fire!  Namor attacks and destroys the guns one by one, though he
apparently avoids inflicting casualties on the attacking troops.  But even
as the guns are silenced, another sound is heard-- that of the explosive charges
set on the island by the squads of underwater demolition men.   "You
DESTROYED the island-- without a TRACE-- rather than let ME dwell upon it! 
But WHY, man?  What have you GAINED!"  "VICTORY, Namor.  That's
all we were TOLD to gain."  Instead of renewing the conflict, Namor
withdraws into the waters, and the troops also withdraw.  "And perhaps it
is of some significance that not ONE of the troops ever looks BACK on what he
has wrought."  (As with Roy's purple prose, I'm less impressed with the
intended message about the futility of war and military action now than I was as
a teenager. I can see the humans' actions as a valid matter of principle on
their part.  Maybe the Guard commander should have asked Namor whether,
when he was ruling Atlantis, he would have taken kindly to surfacemen
establishing an undersea base on the outskirts of Atlantis without asking

As Namor sits "sunk in dire defeat" on a small
remnant of the wrecked isle, he is approached by Diane Arliss and Walter Newell
(the high-tech oceanologist sometimes known as the armored Stingray) in a
rowboat.  As solace for the loss of his intended home, Diane offers Namor
the old newspaper she has found.  At first Namor is angered, asking if the
paper contains "tidings of a war I helped win" (presumably referring to World
War II, after Subby decided he hated Nazis and Japanese worse than other
surfacemen) and starts to rip it up.  But then he spots the photo and news
story Diane intended him to see.  Muttering quick apologies and thanks to
Diane for providing him with a new goal and purpose,  Namor plunges into
the sea to renew his strength and then flies off to begin a new quest.  A
puzzled Dr. Newell asks Diane what was in the old paper that was of such
importance to Namor.  "There is a CHANCE-- perhaps the remotest, most
insane POSSIBILITY-- that Namor's HUMAN FATHER is ALIVE!"

Like Namor,
when I first read this comic I was excited to see where this new quest might
lead the sea prince.  Unfortunately, at this point, despite his affection
for the character, Roy Thomas apparently became too busy to keep writing
SUB-MARINER, and Gerry Conway took over with the next issue.  Conway's
dialogue and captios were about as convoluted as Roy's, but his storytelling was
less compelling, and I quickly lost interest in the title, though as a
completist I kept buying it. (The quest for Namor's father came to what I
thought was an anti-climactic end, though I won't go into detail in this
review.)   I didn't really get interested again until Namor's creator
Bill Everett returned with issue #50. and even then I regretted that Roy T. and
Everett-- who were good friends-- didn't work on the title together. 
Though in retrospect I'm not sure how well a Thomas/Everett collaboration would
have worked, especially since Everett's notions of how Subby should speak were
quite different from Roy's.