Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Monarch And The Mystic!

Many of us remember a famous scene which took place on a New England beach, a meeting which saw the beginnings of the formation of none other than the Defenders:

Fortunately, it seems Namor and Strange had already established something of a rapport prior to this meeting--albeit a somewhat forced rapport which at that time helped to influence Namor's decision to join Strange on an urgent mission. Yet, what were the circumstances of that encounter--a deadly mission from which only one of them returned?

Prepare to explore a bizarre mystery, as we journey into a new

Marvel Trivia Question

When did Dr. Strange and the Sub-Mariner first meet?

We know from their meeting in New England that the first adventure between Strange and Namor involved the Undying Ones, a race of demons whose leader the Defenders fought a pitched battle with in their early days. From the dramatic image above, we see that their meeting took place during the time that Strange had adopted his masked identity; but it was also when Namor was going through something of a turning point in his own life, returning to Atlantis to reverse the effects of an alien experiment which had closed his gills and removed his ability to breathe under the water.

Namor's lead scientist, Ikthon, was successful at curing Namor. But as he recovered, Namor was contacted by Strange and told of the danger of the Undying Ones, who were on the verge of ending their self-exile from Earth's dimension and making ready to invade us anew, thanks to an idol they'd left to facilitate their passage:

The images and narrative that Strange give Namor are enough to convince him of how imperative it is to locate the idol. Fortunately, it seems that Sub-Mariners require little to no time in post-op:

Namor is led to the home of a friend of Strange, Kenneth Ward, who had been slain by one of the Undying Ones. Ward's daughter, Joella, admits him, but Namor is led by Strange directly to Ward's study, where he finds hard evidence of Strange's warnings.

Namor is able to fend off the demon's attack and banish it--but he finds further evidence of the idol in the study, which leads himself and Joella to the cemetery, and a monument of a judge who presided at Boston's witch trials:

At last, Strange reveals himself, having used Namor to uncover this mystery in order to avoid detection by the Undying Ones. And, thanks to his intervention, it's revealed that Joella is also one of this deadly race:

But, too late, they realize that "Joella's" cat is also a demon--and while Strange and Namor have been piecing together Ward's story, the demon has made contact with the idol, and opened the way to horror:

We can only imagine how his inability to stop a cat is going to look on Strange's résumé, even though we know it was really a demon. But he'll have to deal with the fallout of that embarrassment down the road, because both he and Namor have their hands full repelling the prelude to a full-scale invasion:

The struggle takes an unfortunate turn, though, when Namor's battle with the Nameless One hurls them both into the realm of the Undying Ones, where Strange quickly follows. And, despite their bravery and resolve, they realize they only have minutes before they're overwhelmed:

So it comes down to a choice of one of them fighting a delaying action, while the other is given the chance to escape. A choice that is taken out of Namor's hands:

Returned to his own dimension, Namor considers himself indebted to Strange--perhaps a curious way for him to give himself closure, since it seemed likely that Strange faced certain death from the hordes of the Undying Ones. In comics time, though, it would only be two short months before we saw Strange again, trapped as a prisoner of the Nameless One but finding release at last when the incredible Hulk would enter that realm in the midst of battle with the Night-Crawler. Roy Thomas, who wrote all three of the tales we've covered here, obviously felt the chemistry between these three who in a way stood apart from humanity (as well as from the super-being community in general) was worth exploring--next as the "Titans Three" (along with the Silver Surfer), and then as the "non-team" of the Defenders. Ironically, it was the Sub-Mariner, who made no secret of the fact that he didn't care at all for formalizing this alliance, who ended up helping Strange to originally get this ball rolling.

Sub-Mariner #22

Script: Roy Thomas
Pencils: Marie Severin
Inks: Johnny Craig
Letterer: Artie Simek


Anonymous said...

I'm glad Dr. Strange returned to his old self after that ridiculous bald, blue super-hero phase.When I was 12 I bought a collection of his early "Strange Tales" stories (a sort of early graphic novel 1978 style) and he's always been one of my favourite Marvel characters.

Anonymous said...

Me too, Colin. I guess it was Marvel's attempt to make Strange more visually striking or super-hero like, hence the mask.

Anonymous said...

One funny thing I noticed about this. The Sub-Mariner arrives in Boston and says, "THE CITY CALLED BOSTON!!
Whereas, anybody else would just sigh and say, "Jesus, I'm in Boston."

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