Issue(s): Sub-Mariner #28
...but that's about it, and Namor is able to walk about New York unmolested and in plain view of the police in this issue. Anything regarding the fear that the Atlanteans would rise up against Namor in response to his lack of action in the face of the rejection of Atlantis' bid to join the UN has been dropped.
The environmental theme introduced in #25 is continued here, however. It's something that we're seeing in other Marvel books as well at this time, and clearly represents the zeitgeist of 1970, but it's a natural fit for the Sub-Mariner.
Namor is complaining about the pollution of surface dwellers, so Diane Arliss (who Namor has been "visiting" with since the end of the previous issue; and we're not spared a scene of Lady Dorma lounging in her bedroom feeling jealous) takes him to an environmental protest to prove that young people, at least, want to do something about pollution. My criticism is that the protestors basically have a Not In My Back Yard attitude towards pollution.
In addition to that sign you see there, one of the protestors, who happens to be the son of the guy building the factory, later begs his father to "just build your factory someplace else". The problem with that sort of approach is it just pushes pollution to areas where people don't have the resources to fight back (see, for example, environmental racism) or to areas where there are no people, which doesn't really solve the problem, especially from the Sub-Mariner's point of view. I know i'm getting a little heavy here, but it is topical, for once!
Anyway, after Namor initially fends off some goons sent to lean on the protestors (in a scene with some really ham-fisted dialogue from Thomas; did we really need the script to hammer in the fact that Namor is very strong, a point that Sal Buscema is clearly getting across just fine in the art?)...
...he's invited to an anti-pollution rally.
Unfortunately, the factory owner has built the world's most evil construction vehicle...
...and he uses it to attack Namor.
When the owner's son puts himself between Namor and the, er, Brutivac...
...the father realizes that "this ecology stuff" might actually have something to it, proving that the only hurdle in dealing with our environmental problems is getting older people to pay attention to their kids.
Marvel's heart was in the right place, anyway.
I really liked Sal Buscema's art in issue #25 when he came on board to this series but since then it's looked a little angular and thin (aside from the Brutivac!). The only difference is that Jim Mooney and Joe Gaudioso were credited with inks on that issue and it's just been Gaudioso since then, but i don't know if it's that or deadline pressures as the series went on.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: This begins not too long after the end of the previous issue, with Namor still visiting Diane Arliss in New York.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (1): showDiane Arliss, Lady Dorma, Sub-Mariner 1970 / Box 5 / Silver Age
1970 / Box 5 / Silver Age
Joe Gaudioso was yet another pseudonym for Mike Esposito. Word is that Stan Lee was upset for not seeing that.
Posted by: haydn | August 15, 2013 12:15 AM
Thanks, Haydn. I thought i "knew" that but i still had him listed as Gaudioso in a number of entries. Fixed it.
Posted by: fnord12 | August 15, 2013 10:29 AM
I have made the comparison before. I've heard others make the comparison. Spider-man once even called him Spock ears! But I never realized how much Spock and Namor looked alike until just now, when I saw the latter hiding under that hat.
Posted by: Silverbird | July 20, 2014 10:23 PM
I strongly suspect the resenblance to Mr. Spock noted above was quite deliberate. Compare Namor's appearance and outfit in those street scenes to Mr. Spock's 20th century disguise in the classic Terri Garr episode, "Assignment:Earth!" http://www.letswatchstartrek.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Picture-61.png
Posted by: Ubersicht | November 22, 2016 9:47 PM
The Namor/Spock resemblance was also remarked on in an early issue of Not Brand Ecch.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | November 23, 2016 10:39 AM
fnord12, Your observations about environmental racism here are spot-on and insightful. I was only 14 in 1970, but my friends and I were still old enough to start becoming increasingly critical of Marvel's efforts to "get in touch with the college kids" and what they seemed to perceive as the zeitgeist of the times. We considered stories like this to be simply pandering to the young in an effort to drive sales, rather than any sort of sincere understandings or concerns on their part. I did then, and would still, speculate that Stan Lee and/or Martin Goodman were putting a lot of pressure on Roy Thomas and other younger writers to be more "hip" and "tuned in" to the concerns of college students, again, just to drive sales. This sort of thing actually prompted most of us to give up comics "for life." In my case, "for life" actually turned out to be 9 or 10 years, but most of my friends never looked back.
My affection for Roy Thomas grew as he did, and I really enjoyed his later work on All-Star Squadron and Infinity Inc. for DC, but during the 70s he was widely perceived as a "plastic flower child." He was very nice to me in the 90s and corresponded with me privately (i.e., while not publishing any of my letters, ha). He patiently answered my silly questions about the publishing history of the Legion of Super-Heroes at great length, and no profit to himself. He's a good guy(!) but in 1970 he was just turning 30, and under a lot of pressure the likes of which I can only imagine.
Posted by: James Holt | October 3, 2017 10:15 PM
The first Earth Day took place in April 1970, & Stan definitely recognised ecology/pollution as a topical issue they will use a lot over the year - in Amazing Spider-Man 89-90, there are a multiple references (by everyone from students to Robbie & JJJ) to pollution & Peter says he would love to go along to the anti-pollution demonstration but he considers Doc Ock a "one man ecology crisis" all by himself.
Similarly, the letters pages of Iron Man #35 and #38 feature complaints about the amount of anti-pollution stories in Iron Man comics of 1970, including someone accusing Marvel of "brainwashing" their young readership with all these stories about civil unrest & pollution.
It wasn't just Marvel either, fellow pop culture behemoths Motown will also try & get in with the kids the next year by forming a spin-off record label called Ecology in 1971, followed by Marvin Gaye's references in his 1972 protest album, which Rolling Stone at the time congratulated as being more intelligent than the rest of the genre of ecology songs they'd been hearing lately.
If you were old people trying to sell to the young, the environment seemed to be the hip thing to associate with.
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | October 4, 2017 5:58 PM
James Holt, I think the frequent use of environmental themes in comics had less to do with taking a calculated stance designed to drive sales than it was a reflection of the overall zeitgeist. Heck, even a conservative Republican like Richard Nixon was impacted enough by environmental concerns to create the EPA this year. Also, 1970 was the first full year of comics moving towards relevance and becoming attuned to real-world concerns. This comic was published within a month or two of the groundbreaking O'Neill/Adams run on Green Lantern/Green Arrow. Interestingly, O'Neill was also working in pollution and environmental themes on Justice League of America at the same time.
Posted by: Zeilstern | October 4, 2017 7:44 PM
Zeilstern, I'm a little more acquainted with some of the pro-environment activities Jonathan just cited than I am with the 1970s work of Denny O'Neil and Neil Adams on the two Green DC characters. The GL/GA comic which featured Speedy as a junkie on the cover is actually one of the few comics I bought during the period from about '71 to '79. My familiarity with Roy Thomas' work at Marvel in 1970 is a little less spotty, but mostly limited to vague memories, rekindled by the SMM Chronology Project's entries for 1970 which I've recently been reading, right up to this one. Here, I've also reviewed some of the 1970 Stan Lee-credited environmentally-themed stories.
I know that environmental concerns were very much part of the early '70s zeitgeist from having lived through that period. I very much respect your opinions, but I still don't think Thomas would have been focusing on such stories if it hadn't been editorially encouraged for him to do so. I didn't see so much focus on environmental issues in Thomas' later work for DC. Not saying he wasn't concerned, but only that his understanding seemed fairly limited and, dare-I-say, poor at that time. Frankly I wish the '70s zeitgeist had continued into the 21st century but I don't think it has. Nixon was probably less conservative than most Democrats seem to be since the Reagan revolution IMO.
Thanks for the info on O'Neil's DC work, I hope I might get the chance to look into at some future date.
Posted by: James Holt | October 5, 2017 9:53 AM
Hey James, I respect your opinion too and you may indeed be right. I know I've enjoyed reading your comments. For me, when I think about the overwhelming number of environmental references worked into superhero comics in the early 70's by young writers, it looks a lot more like "zeitgeist" than "calculated stance to drive sales". We already know about O'Neill and his relevance push over at DC, often including environmental themes. O'Neill and Thomas were roomies in the late 60's btw. As for Thomas, later on in 1970, he'll create the Man-Thing, whose entire reason for existence revolves around some pretty strong environmental themes. Then another Thomas friend, Len Wein, will create Swamp Thing over at DC in '72. Steve Gerber will also work in environmental themes in both his run on Man-Thing and his run on the Defenders. And that's just off the top of my head. For me, the chain of causation runs like this - "young writers who lean liberal> create plots that reflect their personal beliefs and the general zeitgeist". If I'm reading you correctly, you are taking the stand that Stan Lee notices the changing zeitgeist then directs his writers to capitalize on it. I guess the reason I'm being a little argumentative is that I've always felt those 70's Marvels to be the deeply personal vision of the writers and artists and not a cynical ploy to capitalize on current trends.
Posted by: Zeilstern | October 5, 2017 12:27 PM
And all cards on the table, a lot of my own core values and beliefs were shaped by those Bronze Age Marvel comics so it hurts to think it may have all been a gimmick to drive sales.
Posted by: Zeilstern | October 5, 2017 12:29 PM
I didn't really mean to imply that it was all just a gimmick, or that Thomas' motives or internal beliefs were insincere. I do think there was strong editorial encouragement for this type of story, and I have considerably less faith in Lee's motives or sincerity, since Lee is often even deliberately disingenuous and often even makes jokes about his own insincerity. He really does seem to me to swing pretty fast and loose about what motivates him.
Just got a call and I have to get back on the clock for awhile right now, but I'll try to make a better case for myself later on today. ttys I hope
Posted by: James Holt | October 5, 2017 1:02 PM
Zeilstern - Since I was involved in this debate also, I should just clarify my position, which was that Stan had been targeting college-age readers throughout the 60s and that a concentration on environmental protests was something that Stan would have recognised as relevant to their intended audience, and slipped it into comics in the same way he would previously attempt to use 60s youth slang. Since some Iron Man readers complained about the amount of the "environmental" themed issues at the time, I agree with James that there was likely some editorial encouragement. (I was going to direct you to Iron Man #25, which Fnord jokingly called "Tony Stark produces An Inconvenient Truth", as an example, but I see you previously commented there noting this very trend.)
However, my belief that Stan recognised the subject as something that might sell comics does not have any bearing on whether he might have also had a genuine interest in the subject (while environmental concerns were at a peak, & of particular interest to the youth, they had been building to the general public over the past 2 decades). Similarly, it's easy to imagine that Thomas/Goodwin etc may have felt strongly about the subject but also that Stan was encouraging them to write more in the same vein. One does not disprove the other. (Certainly I can't imagine anyone being able to convince Gerber to write anything other than what he wished to write.)
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | October 5, 2017 5:36 PM
Jonathan, great point, in these comics, it's hard to disentangle the desire to capitalize on environmental concerns to sell more copies from the desire to use the art form to make a heartfelt point about the environment. And like you say, the two are not mutually exclusive. This thread just got me thinking about how my own values were so profoundly affected by these Bronze Age Marvels.
And I don't say it often enough but fnord, this site has given me hundreds of hours of enjoyment over the past few years . Thank you so much for all your work!
Posted by: Zeilstern | October 5, 2017 10:10 PM
Guys, sorry I missed you but I had to get some sleep. I was starting to make errors again today anyway. Burning both ends of the candle lately, but like Zeilstern, I've been getting so much fun out of this site. Amazing to me how I've kept coming back to these comics off & on all through my life. Nice to see so many other people here have similar nostalgic affections (afflictions?).
Staying focused on sales for these guys (and many of us) was essential for them to keep doing what they did, and keeping the comics coming. Martin Goodman might be a bit of an exception, but, with his hand on the purse strings, he was essential to the process. I believe Thomas & Lee both had some good intentions & concerns about the environment. Sometimes maybe I'm looking for other motives, but I shouldn't overlook that. I think Lee & Goodman saw the day coming where they'd need somebody new to take over for Lee. Thomas wanted & was glad to be that person, but it was a mixed bag. Kirby made fun of Thomas, calling him "Houseroy," & saw him as a toady for Lee/Goodman. Whether I agree or not, or think he took the right path, there was some truth to his perceptions. Kirby, Lee, & Thomas all got good things out of these relationships, but there were also many costs for all 3. Thomas hasn't been one to complain or grouse about it much, hardly at all it seems, which is kind of amazing in itself. Whether he liked it or not, w/out sales, Thomas would have been pressed to write about something else.
Posted by: Holt | October 6, 2017 3:14 AM
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