• Home
  • Comics
  • Movies
  • Videos
  • Games
  • TV
  • Characters
  • Shop

Imperius Rex! – The Sub-Mariner Strikes Back!

Diving deep into the Sub-Mariner mini-series with co-writer Mathew Cherniss

By Jim Beard

Sub-Mariner #2

Civil War raged through the superhuman population of the Marvel Universe but seemed to barely impact the underwater kingdom of Atlantis. Now that the battle is over, Iron Man's focus turns towards the legendary city of myths and its infamous monarch--Namor, the Sub-Mariner! In his brand-new mini-series, SUB-MARINER, Namor is a beleaguered ruler. Pressure from all quarters bears down on the former Defender and he reacts in the only way he knows how: he presses back. The series delivers intrigue, suspense, action and drama in the powerful Sub-Mariner manner, its ultimate goal to illustrate Namor as one of the most unique characters in the history of comics. We swam out to catch a few waves with SUB-MARINER co-writer Matthew Cherniss and he revealed what makes Namor tick for he and writing partner Peter Johnson. Bring a towel and get ready to take the plunge, True Believers! Marvel.com: Namor is Marvel's oldest running characters (alongside the original Human Torch). How does that play into your handling of him in SUB-MARINER? Cherniss: When you have a character that is as established as Namor, the tendency can sometimes be to try and re-invent the character by giving him new motivations, point-of-view, etc. I think that is a huge mistake. While people can evolve slightly over the years, let's be honest, they really don't change much. Good characters are the same way. However, the circumstances that surround them can change drastically and force them to make different choices than they have in the past. That's where our series comes in. Marvel.com: Why do you believe people are attracted to stories of Atlantis, or underwater stories and characters in general?

Sub-Mariner #1
interior art

Cherniss: It's funny you say that, because I think one of the challenges with doing a Namor comic is that people aren't attracted enough to underwater stories. My theory is that the main reason a Namor series has not succeeded over the long-term has nothing to do with the character, and everything to do with the setting. The same can be said for a certain underwater character at another company. When a character is set in a world that is wholly unfamiliar to your own, it is very hard to relate. It just feels so distant. When Namor gets involved in things on the surface, readers love the character. When it's over, he goes back underwater to battle sea monsters and no one cares anymore. Our goal with this story is to change that once and for all, so that by the end of the story Namor is so enmeshed in the goings-on of the Marvel U. that disappearing under the sea will no longer be an option. That being said, I do think the depths of the ocean are a place of mystery and danger for many people, and that does have value in telling stories. Marvel.com: With so many years of Marvel stories about Namor, how do you find something new to say? Cherniss: As the Marvel Universe changes, the equation of how each character fits into that world changes as well. It is really a matter of looking at Namor in terms of the world he now resides and trying to figure out how he would respond in that environment. One of the things that makes a character iconic is that you are constantly interested in how he reacts to new situations. Given all the turmoil right now in the Marvel Universe, it was a no-brainer to take some time to tell a story about how these changes impact Namor and his world. Marvel: Who is Namor at his core? Hero? Villain? King? Adventurer? Or something else?

Sub-Mariner #3
interior art

Cherniss: I think all of those words describe some aspect of Namor. If you forced me to choose one I'd have to go with "Warrior." Let's face it, Namor can throw down a beating with the best of them. However, one of the things that makes Namor interesting is that he assumes the mantle of "hero" and "king," and many times those jobs are not conducive to being a warrior. Frankly, it becomes counter-productive. One of the things we are doing in the series is watching Namor battle against his basic instincts to try and maintain control. At the end of the day, when push comes to shove, Namor's going to beat the living hell out of you, but he can't always start there. Marvel.com: What do you believe Namor creator Bill Everett's intentions for Namor were, as a character? Cherniss: It's hard to say, having never spoken to him, but I think it is fair to say that back in the '40s when so many of today's great superheroes were being developed, the creators had no idea that the characters were going to have the longevity, or the far-reaching impact, that they have today. Everett and his peers really ended up creating modern day myths that will outlast us all. When you think of it that way, it is an honor to get a chance to add to the myth, even in a small way, and it is important to take the responsibility seriously while still having fun. I think one of Bill Everett's greatest contributions is that he helped to establish the "anti-hero" in the comic book world. Namor wasn't the only anti-hero, but he was one of the best, and I have to think Bill would be proud of that fact. I think Wolverine and a number of other "heroes" in the Marvel U. owe something to Namor. Marvel.com: With so many to choose from, what would be your most favorite Sub-Mariner storyline/series of the past several decades?

Sub-Mariner #3
interior art

Cherniss: There's been some good stuff, but nothing is better than the Stan Lee, Jack Kirby stories inside the Fantastic Four. We're talking about some legendary stuff. Marvel.com: Agreed! For the most part, Namor was on the fringes of Civil War. Why? Cherniss: I think it goes back to what I mentioned earlier with Namor being far away, under the sea. It becomes difficult to find ways to incorporate him into stories that are so firmly planted on American soil. Given the challenges, I think Millar and the rest of the writers did a great job finding ways to bring him into the story. Namor lost someone close to him, was re-united with a certain invisible female and played a part in the final battle. I think that is a pretty solid effort given the complexities. Marvel.com: Namor's been an Invader, an Avenger and a Defender. If he would never, ever have any more communications with the surface world and his friends and associates there, would it bother him? Could he go on? Cherniss: I'm sure that part of him wishes he could be done with the surface world. But the truth is there is no going back. There is too much history there and I don't think Namor would be content sitting at the bottom of the sea when there was action elsewhere. I think he would just like his involvement to be more on his terms and less based on situations that, from his perspective, he is forced into. Marvel.com: There's a lot of potential real world significance in your SUB-MARINER mini-series, as far as politics, terrorism, etc. Is it important to your story? Do you feel like you need to balance that with more "comic booky" sensibilities?

Sub-Mariner #3
interior art

Cherniss: At the end of the day, this is a comic book, not a political manifesto. When I buy a comic I want to be entertained, not preached to. That being said, to do a story about terrorist cells and completely ignore the situation we find ourselves in as a country is ridiculous. At the end of the day there is no hidden political message inside the story. The characters are doing what they feel they must, and there are huge ramifications to those choices. Namor is his own man, he had reasons for the choices he made, and now he must reckon with those choices. Marvel.com: In SUB-MARINER #1, Namor's people, the Atlanteans, seem to be getting to the point where they've had their fill of him. Has this been a long time coming? Can Namor live without the love of his people? Cherniss: It is important to note that just because the politicians in a country feel a certain way does not mean that the sentiment represents the majority of people in that country. While there may be some frustration in the general public, I think that Namor still holds their loyalty. As for those in the corridors of power…well, it's a completely different story and that is where Namor is vulnerable. You can compare it a bit to Julius Caesar. The Roman people were still loyal to Caesar, but the same couldn't be said for Brutus and the rest of the gang. Marvel: Makes sense, especially when you look at Namor's name spelled backwards. You also seem to have toned down his more florid manner of speech. They're doing the same thing with Thor. How does it change the character, if at all?

Sub-Mariner #3
interior art

Cherniss: I'm not sure it changes the character, but it does change the way readers relate to them. Sometimes, if a character speaks in a manner that is significantly different from your own, it makes it harder to understand the emotional context from which the character is coming from. Namor has always been an iconic character in the Marvel Universe, but he has remained distant as well, whereas characters like Spider-Man or Wolverine have a much deeper relationship with the reader. Hopefully, it still comes across that Namor is a King and has an air about him, but we better understand what he is feeling and the reasons for his actions a little better than we might had he spoken in a more "regal" manner. Marvel.com: He's got another new set of fighting togs in SUB-MARINER #1. What "look" of Namor's over the years do you prefer? Why does he need armor in your series? Cherniss: It depends on the era. I think Namor's green trunks seemed perfect back in the days of Kirby's FANTASTIC FOUR. In this day and age there is something about them that doesn't feel quite right, especially when he spends long periods of time out of the water. It just feels weird in today's comics to watch bare-chested men running around modern day cities fighting villains. We've tried to go with a modified version of his '70s black suit, which we feel like serves the story well. Marvel.com: Get out your hanky…will Namor ever find true, lasting love again?

Sub-Mariner #3

Cherniss: Not in our book he won't! Remember the classic line Jesse "The Body" Ventura had in Predator, "I ain't got time to bleed." Well that's how we feel about Namor in this series. Namor is trying to keep his kingdom from descending into chaos and, at the same time, avoid a war with the surface. I think his love life is the furthest thing from his mind. Besides, let's be honest, a nice sweet love story works occasionally for a character like Peter Parker, but if given the choice would you rather watch Namor fall in love or Namor pound someone into oblivion. I know our vote. Marvel.com: Big question: Why a new Namor series now? Cherniss: We think there is a great story to tell here and the timing has never been better. If now isn't the time to get Namor more involved in the day-to-day happenings of the Marvel U., I doubt there will ever be a good time to do it. Atlantis is on the radar of the surface world for the first time in a long time. Namor has made some questionable decisions with regard to the sleeper cells, and all hell breaks loose in the first issue. The time is now for Namor to become the high-profile character that he deserves to be in the Marvel Universe. Marvel.com: There is no doubt that Namor will go down in comics history as one of the most multi-faceted protagonists ever. And we think this new series shows that off to high degree. Thanks for talking with us, Matthew! SUB-MARINER #1 is on sale now, at fine comic shops everywhere. Reel one in today!

MORE IN Comics See All

Comments

0 comments