Marvels Snapshots #1, Marvel Comics, Cover by Alex Ross.
This week’s POP Cover Of The Week features a realistic close-up of one of Marvel’s earliest heroes, Namor the Sub-Mariner, exactly as he appeared in the Golden Age, when the publisher was still known as Timely Comics.
Alex Ross’s paintings have been constant, visually-powerful reminders of how even more awe-inspiring Marvel’s heroes can be when treated in a photorealistic way, since the publication of the Kurt Busiek/Alex Ross Marvels miniseries in 1994.
Marvel is still milking the 25th anniversary of that event with Marvels Snapshots— a reference to the through-the-eye-of-the-camera viewpoint of the original Marvels series— “eight double-sized, standalone issues showcasing Marvel’s most beloved characters from the Golden Age to today.” Issue #1 features Namor, and while he was certainly an important figure in Timely/Marvel’s early years, he’s hardly been a “beloved character” since then.
Alex Ross is providing close-up views of characters on each cover, and sometimes, seeing a character like Namor depicted in a photorealistic way can be a bit disturbing. While most of Namor’s body has always been comparable to a normal human's—except for Mercury's wings on his ankles— Ross has kept creator Bill Everett’s Golden Age proportions of Namor’s above the neck features daringly and faithfully as-is, starting with the high forehead, unusually shaped head, and never a hair out of place. Namor’s long elf-ish ears with tips as tall as the top of his head, and high, dramatically arching eyebrows would make Mr. Spock green (greener?) with envy. Seeing a man looking like this leap out of the ocean and land at your feet would be horrifying and very alien-looking to many.
Ross’s hyper-realism includes a wet shine on his skin, veins popping, fish scales on his trunks, detailed feather pattern on the ankle-wing, and a beautiful rendering of the chiseled “S” on his belt buckle, which I have always felt was a rather unusual choice for Namor to make, instead of a more appropriate “N.” I also always felt it was equally unusual for him to refer to himself as “The Sub-Mariner.”
I am looking forward to the possibility of featuring another Marvels Snapshots as a future POP Cover Of The Week!
Marvels Snapshots #1 from Marvel Comics is available March 11, 2020.