Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How to take over an undersea civilization

Superman, of course, not only jump-started the superhero genre in comic books--his appearance also set off a frenzy of superhero creation that has been unmatched in comic book history.

Every month, comic book companies would be throwing new heroes at their young readers just to see who would stick. Timely Comics (the future Marvel Comics) did pretty well. The Sub-Mariner, the original Human Torch and Captain America all found readers and each of these characters was soon being featured in multiple comic books.

Then there were those who only appeared a few times before fading into obscurity. The recent trade paperback Marvel Firsts: WWII Superheroes gives us an interesting look at a lot of these guys. Some of them were pretty lame, but there were those that definitely had potential but just didn't happen to catch on.

Daring Mystery Comics #7 (April 1941) gave us the Fin. He was yet another undersea hero brought to us by Bill Everett, the creator of the Sub-Mariner. It's a fun story and the Fin definitely had potential.

The Fin is Pete Noble, a crewman on an American sub that rams a derelict and sinks. Noble manages to lock himself in an airtight room, then later puts on a breathing apparatus and cuts his way out with a blowtorch.

After confirming that the rest of the crew is dead, he finds he mysteriously can't swim to the surface. Also, the water pressure doesn't bother him.  He soon finds a cave and gets zipped up to a air-filled cavern by a whirlpool. Once there, he finds a race of bizarre flying fish people.

They attack him. He kills a couple of them, convincing them that he's an ancient hero called the Fin returning to them. So now he's the ruler of an undersea civilization. Who knew it would be that easy?

He returns to the wreck of the sub and makes himself a costume. And that's it for the first issue.

I looked the character up and discovered he was also in Daring Mystery Comics #8 and apparently Comedy Comics #9 (the same comic with its name changed). If the plot summaries I read are accurate, he fights a Nazi U-Boat commander named the Barracuda and finds a magic cutlass that can cut pretty much anything. He also discovers he has super strength while in the water, can swim at high speeds and can breath underwater on his own. As near as I can tell, no explanation for how he got his powers is ever given.

He did pop up again in a 2004 Invaders comic (in a version of the team set in modern day), in which he's called away from his kingdom and out of retirement from the Navy to command a high-tech battleship. That seems to be his last appearance.

Anyway, that first story is a lot of fun. I've always loved Bill Everett's kinetic art work--his imagery always has a snap to it that carries the story along with zest and efficiency. The design of the flying fish people is particularly entertaining.

The character's origin would have needed a little more fleshing out had he continued on, but all the elements of a great series was there. It's too bad the Fin didn't catch on.

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