Silver Age Saturdays: Tales to Astonish, Starring Namor, the Sub-Mariner. Issues #90-91.

Tales to Astonish featuring Namor the Sub-Mariner, Issue #90: “To be Beaten by Byrrah!”

Written by Stan Lee; Penciled & Inked by Bill Everett; Inking assist by Marie Severin. Cover art by Jack Kirby & Vince Colletta.

This is the first appearance of Byrrah in the silver age of Marvel comics, having starred in the past during the golden age Sub-Mariner run.

Byrrah is Namor’s cousin and longtime rival. Way back, Byrrah used to fight Namor often as one of the Sub-Mariner’s rogue gallery villains. Since then, Namor has forgiven the guy and even put him in charge of city defense and infrastructure. That’s a red flag… Anyway, Byrrah still wasn’t into it – gasp – and so he’s been slowly plotting Subby’s downfall.

These days, Byrrah is loved by the Atlanteans, and he uses this as the backbone of his campaign against Namor. Basically, Byrrah starts a protest against the Prince of Atlantis overnight. He calmly decries Triangle-Head’s policies, claiming he is a violent warmonger whose rule of Atlantis so far has been wildly unstable. Fair enough. Byrrah promises to bring peace to the Atlantean people if they were to vote him in as the new ruler, and Byrrah quickly pulls ahead in the popular vote, gaining confidence and steam. The only people to side with Namor appear to be the Lady Dorma and the Lord Vashti.

Namor, for his part, is dismayed and depressed that the people can feel this way about him. He claims that any wars started are always in defense of the empire, but these excuses fall on deaf ears.

Winning the popular vote, Byrrah finally challenges Prince Namor to a duel. Through single combat, the ruler of Atlantis would be determined. The Sub-Mariner is confidant that he will handily win this battle, but Byrrah has rigged the battleground. After a battle that was pretty even, Byrrah gains the upper hand by throwing a man-sized “saw-fish” – whose snout was coated in a crippling poison – at Namor. Subby, unable to dodge the fish, instead took the brunt of the attack on his shoulder. First blood goes to Byrrah, and the poison quickly weakens the Sub-Mariner enough for Byrrah to actually defeat him.

Byrrah 1 – Namor 0…

Onto the next issue.

Tales to Astonish featuring Namor the Sub-Mariner, Issue #91: “Outside the Gates Waits Death!”

Written by Stan Lee; Penciled by Bill Everett; Inked by Dan Adkins.

We pick back up with a new bullpen member on inks – Dan Adkins. Everett has also started drawing Prince Namor as a bulked-up buff!

So Byrrah is the new ruler of Atlantis. Namor is super rattled over this development, but tries – and fails – to stay calm. Byrrah’s first act as tyrant is to have Subby arrested. The Sub-Mariner resists, but is subdued by a marvel science gun. Dragged in front of the throne, Namor finds that the new ruler has allied himself with Krang and Attuma, both who sit on either side of Byrrah. Apparently Byrrah has made some promises to the two warlords, and the defeat of Prince Namor was one of them — here served to the two villains on a cold dish. I thought this was incredibly badass, however instead of executing triangle-head, Byrrah exiles him to Inferno Isle, whereupon none who tread ever return… Sigh…

Inferno Isle is ruled by a gargantuan lava monster, who lives inside the island’s single active volcano. This creature is extremely hazardous to the existence of anyone on this horrifying island, but has a critical weakness to water, as Namor is quick to discover. Baiting the immense lava monster out of his volcano, the Sub-Mariner dupes the giant into falling into the ocean. Victorious, Subby heads back to Atlantis, forsaking the citizens for making their foolish decision, yet still seeking vengeance against his sworn enemies.

While the battle against the lava monster was happening, Lady Dorma did not sit idly by and watch Atlantis’s downfall. Putting on her spy cap, she discovered a scientific hypnotism Marvel machine in Byrrah’s palace and deduced that it was the cause of the people’s lack of faith in Prince Namor. Pressing a button, Lady Dorma reversed the hypnotic effects of this machine, and the public gradually came to their senses. Realizing what they had done, many of the imperial guardsmen turned on the three warlords. With Byrrah’s ruse up, Krang and Attuma got really pissed off, ridiculing Byrrah’s short reign. Attuma smacks the shit out of the failed tyrant, and elopes with Krang, who promises a future alliance between the two.

When Namor gets back to Atlantis, Lady Dorma and Lord Vashti fill him in on what really happened, and they have a really cute closing sequence where they’re all hugging happily.

What I Thought

Bill Everett drew more octopuses with faces on them.

Namor has been drinking lots of milk.

Lady Dorma was the heroine of this story, and that was great to see. We now have Susan Storm, Sif, Wanda Maximoff, Medusa, and Jean Grey being effective female presences. Why does Stan hate Janet van Dyne so badly?

Interesting how timeless political campaigns really are. This echoes the elections of current days, and it provides a touch of realism to an otherwise fantastic story.


Coming Up

We’ve been waiting with baited breath for some time to see… the Incredible Hulk!

Next week, we’ll be knocking off seven issues from our Hulk list, bringing us from the current 557 comics read in the Order to 564. We’re truckin’.



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