Namor and the Human Torch were two of the biggest heroes of the Golden Age, and their clash still resonates with importance.
The Golden Age of Comics were a very different time, and when Namor and the original Human Torch made their debut many of the stories and tropes familiar to fans today were still in their fledgling forms. Over the years Marvel established a reputation for pitting its heroes against one another, and that tradition goes back all the way to the clash between the publication’s very first heroes.
The bout between Namor and the Human Torch from Marvel Mystery Comics #8 earned its place in the history of the Marvel universe, but the outcome of the matchup rarely comes up. Who actually won the famous feud?
By 1940, superhero comics were a hot ticket item, but the Human Torch and Namor were still in their fledgling stages after debuting in 1939. Appearing in the same magazine, Marvel Mystery Comics, their tales often depicted the two as ultimately good pulp heroes who nevertheless ended up at odds with society. For Human Torch these odds often came in the source of a misunderstanding as the android struggled to gain control over his ability to produce dangerous flames. The aquatic Namor was more deliberately misanthropic, declaring war on the human race with his astonishing physical abilities.
It is at the start of the comic that Namor’s war came to a head, angered by humanity’s attempts to execute him previously. He began his one-man war in New York City, destroying many famous landmarks like the Empire State Building and the Holland Tunnel before setting his sites on the George Washington Bridge. It was on that bridge that the Human Torch went to meet his opponent for the first time. The two would clash many times from that point forward, and their first meeting set the rhythm for their battles.
With his physical superiority, Namor hurled steel girders at the Torch who would then melt any object tossed his way. When the two came to blows they crashed through the city demolishing anything in their wake, and their battle ultimately stretched into the following issue. Their fight came to a head when Namor hefted a two-ton tube to imprison the Torch, robbing his flame of oxygen. Namor seemed to have won their battle, but he was as much of a prisoner as his opponent.
Leaving the tube unattended would allow the Torch his freedom, and opening it up would ignite his opponent and begin their battle anew. The fight ended in a deadlock, with an unlikely supporting character being the cause of the final conclusion. Policewoman Betty Dean was a supporting cast member in Namor’s stories, attracting the Sub-Mariner’s notice in the NYPD’s attempts to imprison him. But her service on the force put her in proximity to the Torch, and ultimately the policewoman negotiated an armistice between the two. Dean assured Namor that the Human Torch would not pursue him if Namor left New York without further issue. The battle thus ended ambiguously, and jumpstarted a longstanding Marvel tradition.
Decades later such sensational battles between Marvel heroes became synonymous with the brand, and they generally proceeded according to much the same fashion. Two heroes would test their might against one another, ultimately come to some kind of dead lock, and cooler heads would ultimately prevail. The clash between Namor and Human Torch became the template for superhero battles from that point on, and cemented its place in the lore of their universe with titles like Marvels depicting it as a godlike struggle that made the citizens of New York first realize the bold new world they were witnessing.
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