Bill Week: Day Two! There’s quite a few fellows with my first name in comics– and these are the coolest. Stay current (or really out of date as well, if you’d like) with the archive!
Today: Another classic Golden Age creator with a prominent creation or two under his belt (and pen).
211. Bill Everett
Namor, Namor, burning bright, in the oceans of the night… And stuff.
Bill Everett, a descendant of the rockin’ English artist and poet William Blake, is a renowned artist himself, originating in the Golden Age of Comics. He’s most famous for creating Namor the Sub-Mariner, the original aquatic hero. That wasn’t the first hero Everett created, though– he came up with the first Amazing Man for Centaur Publications (click the link for his Toonopedia entry).
Namor came shortly thereafter, first debuting in Motion Picture Funnies Weekly #1, only eight copies of which ever existed. This story was reprinted and given extra pages in Marvel Comics #1 in 1939, and the Sub-Mariner quickly became one of Timely’s major characters, along with Simon and Kirby‘s Captain America and the original Human Torch. Everett’s art style was a bit raw at first (but hey, they were drawing huge comics at a ridiculous pace back then), but evolved into a beautifully intricate drawings, with Namor as the lean and fiery savior and scourge of the seven seas. The Sub-Mariner was the first anti-hero in comics; he’d just as soon save humanity as try to conquer it. Everett would return to the character in the ’60s, when Namor was once again given his own title during the Marvel explosion. Everett created another aquatic hero, The Fin, but he didn’t take off as well as the Sub-Mariner.
Here are a couple pages from a fun ’50s Sub-Mariner story written and drawn by Everett, and scanned from Les Daniels’ gigantic Marvel tome (click to blow up):
“Sufferin’ Shad!” Mad scientists, robots, a kooky dame, and a parody of the Creature from the Black Lagoon, all gloriously caricatured and detailed. It’s fantastic work. And you gotta love Namor’s upside-down-triangle head.
Everett also drew classic Golden Age titles like Marvel Boy and Venus, and provided gorgeous and frightening covers for a ton of books, including “Astonishing” and “Strange Tales,” and the best-titled comic ever, “Man Comics!”
He produced work off and on throughout the Golden Age and beyond, co-creating the Simon Garth Zombie character along the way in a one-off tale that would be resurrected years later in the ’70s. The character still shows up now and then, and I’d certainly use him if I was a Marvel creator. Anyway.
In the ’60s, Everett worked for Marvel on a few books when he wasn’t busy during his art director job in Massachusetts. It was during this time that he developed Daredevil with Stan Lee, and drew the first issue. He was having trouble keeping his deadline back then, due to his day job, so he bowed out after that first ish. It’s a shame– I would’ve liked to have seen what he could’ve done with the title, especially since Namor showed up a handful of issues later.
He also worked on some Hulk and Dr. Strange stories during this time before returning to his enduring Sub-Mariner creation. Nobody drew Namor better than Bill Everett, and he proved that every time he drew the guy.
Like I said, Bill Everett had a truly marvelous art style that got better and better over time. He was also a writer of some really fun tales, too! From adventure to horror to war to superheroes, he showed a great versatility and unmistakable skills. Mr. Everett passed away in 1973; the comics medium, and its fans, have missed him ever since. He wasn’t just a great artist– he was a great guy, and a great Bill. I’d hope his ancestor William Blake would agree.
Click here for a lovely tribute to Bill Everett by Monique Pryor.