Monday, August 13, 2018

When Titans Tussle!

Aside from his rumbles with Thor, and, on rare occasion, the Hulk, you don't see many one-on-one battles with Hercules that go the distance. What might have been a compelling exception to that assertion would have been to pit the Prince of Power against another unyielding powerhouse who, under other circumstances, would have become a fine recurring foe whose threat potential could have made their bouts as memorable as the issue covers which did their best to sell that concept.

Today, we remember the pairing of Hercules and the Sub-Mariner as one beginning in antagonism but going on to a healthy rivalry built on mutual respect. Yet it was their first meeting in the pages of The Avengers in 1967 which held the promise of much more.

Their battle, however, was to be relatively brief, overshadowed as it was by the title characters as well as the presence of the Cosmic Cube--compounded by the head-scratching complication by writer Roy Thomas of having Hercules grow substantially and inexplicably weaker while battling Namor under water, something even the two combatants couldn't understand.

Nearly three years later, when Namor was well into his own series, a guest-appearance by Hercules seemed the perfect opportunity for them to settle their old score--yet Namor's attack was due to being conscripted by the Olympian known as the Huntsman, well-named since his function as dictated by Zeus was to seek out and return his errant son to Olympus. To that end, the Huntsman mesmerizes the Sub-Mariner to act as a suitable distraction so that Hercules can be taken unawares.

The fact that Namor is going after Hercules not of his own free will saps this conflict of half of its marquee value, since it leaves the door wide open for the story to become a forerunner of what would become a typical Marvel Team-Up plot where both characters meet in battle only to come to their senses and join forces against their common enemy. Indeed, what would otherwise be the opening panels of a page-turning rematch between Hercules and the Sub-Mariner leads to just that.

In all likelihood, Thomas is intent on Namor taking the high road in this affair now that the character has his own title as the Prince of Atlantis, while an attempt may also be at work here in trying to reignite interest in Hercules, missing in action since Thomas pulled him from The Avengers in '68. Regrettably, that means this will strictly be a guest-star story, and nothing achieving the level of the cover-to-cover battle issue we were treated to in that year between Namor and the Hulk.

As for the Huntsman, he has his own ideas on how to deal with this situation, using his staff to create gargantuan mythical figures to do his work for him. From then on, it seems that Namor and Hercules are committed to fighting side-by-side from this point on.

Zeus indeed intervenes, though the story ends with Hercules reconsidering and deciding to return to Olympus after all, to his father's satisfaction. For whatever reason, the Sub-Mariner's memory of the entire matter is erased--though if it's to allow these two to meet in battle again someday, it seems wasted effort considering that Hercules retains his own memory of their alliance. (Then again, whoever accused Hercules of being anything but rash?)

Fifteen years later, when Hercules has rejoined the Avengers, it looks like our pair might engage in no-holds-barred hostilities, when the Avengers visit Hydrobase in the hopes of using it as a hangar for their aircraft and discover a foe from their past haunting the facility. But, what's got Hercules' dander up?

Believe it or not, there's method in Hercules' seeming madness in engaging in this unprovoked attack. But don't look to the Sub-Mariner to be his voice of reason, because, brother, it's on.

On the other hand, who cares what's going on? It looks like we may finally be getting our money's worth from one of these issues! (And let's hope so, since we're shelling out 50¢ more this time!) But our luck is lousy, since, once again, the Avengers seem to think this is their title--and instead of looking the other way (or just pulling up some beach chairs with some popcorn), they bring a halt to this fight pronto. Yet in this case, all's well that ends well.

With Namor going on to join the Avengers, the tension level between Herc and Namor is a little high at first, given their strong egos--but under Roger Stern's scripting, their interaction as comrades is nearly as entertaining as the "what might have been" of their suitability as adversaries, with Stern having made the best of a situation that was probably going nowhere.


Anonymous said...

I have both these comics but I really love the Avengers issue.
I've always been a Sub-Mariner fan and I enjoy seeing him get his due credit. Not a lot of guys can mix it up with the likes of Hercules or the Hulk and walk (or swim) away in one piece.
You get the sense these guys are old friends with mutual respect, and an occasional quarrel, while hard on the local real estate, won't change their relationship.
It's funny, because I just recently started talking to an old buddy of mine who I had't spoken to in almost twenty-five years. We grew up together and parted on bad terms, but once we started talking again none of that mattered. We started laughing and joking again like we were kids. There's hope for all of us, I guess.
Neither Subby or Hercules are easy guys to be around sometimes. Namor is one thing, with his amphibious bi-polar condition, but when Hercules told Thor he wanted to hang around with him in Manhattan, Thor thought, "This is all I need. I love the guy, but he has a propensity for property damage. If Firelord or the Wrecking Crew show up, they're gonna have to clear the streets."


Comicsfan said...

Thor should talk, M.P.! ;)

Anonymous said...

...well, that's a good point, actually. Between Ego-Prime, Ulik and the Destroyer, insurance rates out there must have went through the roof.