In 1920, an expedition ship, The Oracle, was exploring in the South Pole. The captain, Leonard McKenzie, ordered charges detonated in the ice floe their base was on to check for scientific evidence of anything useful. Unbeknownst to Captain McKenzie, the ancient undersea city of Atlantis was directly beneath them, and the charges they were setting off were causing destruction to it and its citizens.
The elders of Atlantis ordered an army assembled, and had Emperor Thakkor’s daughter, Fen, who closely resembled a surface white woman, to go above and be a spy for them.
Fen went above and snuck into the hold of the ship where she allowed herself to be ‘discovered’, hunched up and pretending to shiver from cold. She was brought to the captain who took pity on her and wrapped her in warm clothes, which actually nearly made her too hot. She couldn’t understand the English language, nor could she stomach the food they tried to feed her, but she came to realize that Captain McKenzie was a good and decent man. As she learned his language better, the two of them became friends, and then fell in love. They were soon married.
But she was continuously delivering secret reports to her people. She told them that the surface dwellers were too powerful. Another bombardment from above wiped out all but a few of the Atlanteans.
When Fen hadn’t returned for a time, Atlanteans attacked the ship and rescued her, supposedly killing McKenzie in the process.
Shortly after, Fen gave birth to a son, Namor – a half white/half Atlantean mutant. Unlike the Atlanteans, Namor had white skin and could live out of water for much longer periods of time. He also had wings on his ankles and could fly. He possessed incredible strength and quickly grew to hate the surface dwellers for what he perceived as their injustices against his people.
At first, in his twenties, he tried to destroy mankind but was frequently thwarted by the original Human Torch, Jim Hammond. He did become friends with a surface woman, Betty Dean, a New York City police officer. And when World War II arrived, he joined the fight against the Axis powers as a member of the All-Winners Squad and The Invaders alongside Captain America, Bucky, The Human Torch and Toro.
At some point during that time, he became injured and disappeared.
In the sixties, he found his way to the Bowery slums of New York City and was living in a flophouse with amnesia. He was soon unwittingly found by the Silver Age Human Torch, Johnny Storm, who recognized his likeness from an old Golden Age comic book. He carried the ragged bum to the harbor and dropped him into the ocean, hoping to revive his memory.
The Sub-Mariner’s memory did return, but when he found his kingdom in ruins, the result of underwater nuclear testing, Namor once more blamed the surface dwellers. He returned to tell The Human Torch that he had renewed his old crusade of vengeance against humankind.
The Torch called the rest of the Fantastic Four and they battled with Namor. Defeated, Namor vowed to return. And he did, again and again.
He developed deep feelings for Sue Storm, aka The Invisible Girl, and she reciprocated to a degree. That became the basis for many of the repeated battles between Namor and the Fantastic Four through the years.
Namor eventually found his people. He attacked New York once again with his renewed host but was once more turned back by the Fantastic Four.
Sometimes hero, sometimes villain – Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner holds an honored place amongst the ranks of the Marvel Universe.
In 1939, Martin Goodman was publisher of Timely Comics.