Making their debut as separate features in Marvel Comics #1 (spring of 1939), the unconventional approach that would one day define Marvel Comics was already in play, as the Torch and Namor were portrayed more as freaks and dangerous forces of nature than DC's costumed crimefighters (though, to be fair, the early Superman and Batman had a bit of an edge to them as well).
In fact, right from the very beginning, Namor was comics' first anti-hero, whose arrogance and constant, rage-fueled attacks on the surface world (and the Human Torch) made him very much the dark flip-side of Superman's stoic benevolence. Later, once America entered World War II, Namor abandoned his war on humanity and joined with other Timely heroes (including Captain America) to "kick some Axis"...yet his hatred for humanity has continued to ebb and flow like the tide.
However, Namor's loyalties weren't the only thing to shift over the years. More than any other superhero, the Sub-Mariner's physical appearance has varied so dramatically, has been so consistently INconsistent (or, as we say in the biz, "off-model"), it truly has to be seen to be believed....which is where I come in.
First of all, here's Subby as those of us in the "modern era" know him. Taken from two of my favorite covers, we've got Namor's green Speedo look alongside the regal dark-blue jumpsuit he currently wears. Both looks are consistent in their general look (wrist bands, ankle wings, arrogant body language), yet there is enough variation in his eyebrow arch, hairline and head shape to hint at the eye-popping permutations of earlier times.
In this snippet from his first cover appearance (Marvel Mystery Comics #4, 1940), Namor's facial features and head shape look fairly normal, with his pointed ears and angular eyebrows the only sign of his exotic heritage. Ah...but check out that funky light brown hair...an odd look for a character better known for a steely-black head of hair.
By 1941, Namor's face begins to take on a much more exaggerated, almost elvish appearance, as seen here on the second issue of All-Winners Comics. Topping it off (literally) is a crop of firey red hair (must have been from all those fights with the Human Torch)!
Four years later, on the cover of All-Winners Comics #17, Namor's face had become so elongated...so harshly angled, that it looked more like an African Fang Mask than the regal undersea scion we met back in 1939.
Incredibly, like some sort of "Golden Age Michael Jackson", Subby's already bizarre face became even more crazy and extreme by 1946. As you can see in these excerpts from All-Winners Comics #19, Namor's head became an eerie, utterly inhuman abstraction.
Forget about his human/Atlantean heritage...by this point, Namor looked like a cross between an alien, Dick Tracy villain Flattop, and Charles Burns' Big Baby character!
Mercifully, the post-WWII collapse of the superhero craze banished this rather demented version of Namor. After a several year hiatus, the Sub-Mariner briefly resurfaced during the mid 1950's...this time with a much less cartoonish cranium and a major league hatred for Commies.
Following this brief return, Namor once again vanished from the newsstands... and wouldn't return until Stan Lee and Jack Kirby reintroduced him in Fantastic Four #4 (1962). So...with his transition to the more refined Silver Age of comics, Namor's bizarre facial distortions became a thing of the past, right?