Friday, March 02, 2007


The Prince of Atlantis

Speaking of holes at the bottom of the ocean, in the latest installment of his regular "Comic Urban Legend" column for Comics Should Be Good, Brian Cronin explains that Marvel Comics' Prince Namor was orginally intended as a tie-in to an aborted movie serial.
Ronin Ro describes the situation in his book, Tales To Astonish: Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and the American Comic Book Revolution.

In 1936, Republic Pictures answered the successful Flash Gordon serials by launching a serial series called Undersea Kingdom, which told the tale of “Crash Corrigan” taking a “rocket submarine” to the lost city of Atlantis only to become caught up in a civil war.

Columbia Pictures decided to answer this by having their own serial (in Technicolor!) called The Lost Atlantis, which would features as one of the plots a surfaceman falling in love with Atlantis royalty, with the two having a son, who would star in his own spin-off serial called The Prince of Atlantis.

Eventually, though, budgets could not be worked out, and the series was cancelled before the serial ever aired. However, one of the marketing ideas for the comic was to have comic book artist Bill Everett create a comic book serial to tie in to both serials.

Everett did so, and the comic was printed into a promotional giveaway comic called Motion Pictures Funnies Weekly.

However, once the movie was cancelled, so was the giveaway book. Until 1974, most everyone thought that Namor’s first comic book appearance was in Marvel Comics #1, but that very same story appeared in Motion Pictures Funnies Weekly!
It occurs to me that many of the Golden Age characters of Timely Comics (later Marvel) were much more sfnal than their contemporaries at the other houses. The Human Torch was an android, Captain America was the result of scientific experimentation, and Namor was a member of a hidden subspecies of humanity. This at a time when many other heroes got their powers from magic rings, helmets, and belts, or had them granted by supernatural forces like gods or hidden lamas or such (with aliens like Superman and heroes who got their powers from drugs, such as Hourman and the original Blue Beetle being notable exceptions). Come to that, in Marvel's Silver Age the only heroes who have anything that might not be considered sfnal origins are Thor (whose "divine" origins were later given a science fictional spin when the Asgardians were revealed to be merely extradimensional aliens) and Doctor Strange (but there again, his "magic" was involved with trucking with powers in other dimensions and realms of existence, and could conceivably be explained as interaction with spacetimes of differing physical laws). I think that's largely why Marvel's new Ultimates line works so well, which treats all of the characters and concepts as science fiction; they play a little fast-and-loose with Thor, giving the reader the equally valid interpretations that the character really is an Asgardian god, or that he might just be a complete nutter with a high-tech hammer.

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