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The Forgotten Wiseguy Influence on John Byrne's Namor Run

This is Foggy Ruins of Time, a feature that provides the cultural context behind certain comic book characters/behaviors. You know, the sort of then-topical references that have faded into the “foggy ruins of time.” To wit, twenty years from now, a college senior watching episodes of "Seinfeld" will likely miss a lot of the then-topical pop culture humor (like the very specific references in “The Understudy” to the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding scandal).

Today, we look at the influence that the late 1980s/early 1990s crime drama, Wiseguy, had on John Byrne's Namor run, specifically the supporting cast members, the Marrs siblings.

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When John Byrne launched Namor's new ongoing series in 1990, he had a bit of a problem. Namor did not exactly have an extensive supporting cast to choose from, so Byrne mostly had to make up a cast from scratch. Secondly, Byrne noted that Namor tended to work best when playing off other people, so the supporting cast was going to be a big deal in the book, so he needed to have some good characters (luckily, Namorita was already established, which helped out a lot). The first issue introduced Carrie and Caleb Alexander, a father and daughter marine biologist team who discover Namor (then believed to be dead) and helped him deal with his mood swings. He decided to purchase a company and become a businessman. He supplied the money and the Alexanders became his front for the purchase of Oracle, Inc.

Namor bought the company just in time, as Desmond Marrs was about to kill himself due to a lack of challenges. His sister, Phoebe, walked in on him about to do it and she saved his life and then he learned about Oracle and he decided that destroying this new company would be the challenge that his life needed...

As you can tell, they were an unusual pairing.

In the third issue, Desmond plans to use Phoebe to seduce Namor. See how creepily close Desmond and Phoebe are?

Byrne intended their relationship to be an incestuous one, but obviously, this being the early 1990s and not Game of Thrones, it was all subtext.

Of course, Desmond was abusive to Phoebe, as well...

In fact, when he finally got Namor to notice Phoebe, it was by throwing her off of a roof!

Phoebe, naturally, actually fell in love with Namor, as shown in Namor #14...

Byrne, meanwhile, had also used the Marrs siblings in his Iron Man run with John Romita Jr., as enemies of Tony Stark. Tony defeated them pretty easily, which put their company at financial peril. Thus, when Namor asked Desmond to take care of Oracle when Namor went on a mission, Desmond felt it was the perfect opportunity to raid Oracle to fund Marrs Corp. However, Phoebe explained her new found feelings...

When Caleb Alexander discovered Desmond's plot, he planned on stopping him and the desperate Desmond actually turned to direct violence!

Finally, in Namor #19, we learned that Desmond had also turned to selling drugs to prop up his company's cash shortfall and so the Punisher came a calling and Desmond chose to take his own life to rob the Punisher of the pleasure...

Phoebe Marrs continued in the book during Byrne's run, but obviously, that was it for the main Marrs sibling deal. Okay, so what source was Byrne using as an inspiration for these characters?

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