Imperius Rex! One of Marvel’s first and oldest characters in its comic book history finally rises to the surface of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But who is Namor the Sub-mariner, really? And what might his newly established presence in the MCU foreshadow what’s to come in Phase Five and Six?
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever may be the end of Marvel’s Phase Four, but it’s only the start of a new chapter. With Namor in a place of prominence, it may be his to write.
Warning: Minor spoilers for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever ahead.
Who is Namor in Marvel’s comics?
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever brings forth Namor in his long-awaited and arguably long-overdue MCU debut. Namor is one of Marvel’s oldest characters, with his first appearance in the pages of Marvel Comics #1 (published by, wait for it, Timely Comics) in 1939 by comic book artist Bill Everett.
When the fiery Human Torch was first being developed by colleague Carl Burgos, Everett strove to imagine a water-based character to complement and rival Burgos’ creation. Everett reportedly found inspiration in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 1798 poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. (The name “Namor” came from Everett listing regal names and liking “Roman” backward.) In a recent YouTube video profiling Namor, Variant Comics cites a quote by Everett, who revealed his own fascination with the sea originating from reading about the expeditions of Admiral Byrd to the South Pole between the late 1920s and 1930s.
In the comics, Namor is the half-human king of Atlantis, born to a human father and the Atlantean princess Fen. In addition to his mixed-race heritage, he is also a Mutant with feather wings on his ankles, a signature of his mutation which allows him the ability to fly. Namor is often considered the “first” mutant in Marvel’s history, predating even the X-Men. (But there are mutants who’ve lived for thousands of years in Marvel’s fictional canon.)
Abrasive, arrogant, and fiercely protective of his people, Namor isn’t the easiest superhero to get along with. Though he’s been a member of the Avengers, and other groups like the Invaders (with Captain America and the original Human Torch), the original Defenders, and the Illuminati, you’ll most often see Namor working on his own. He’s half-human, but resents the people of the surface, and is all too ready to “crusade against white men.”
Of all the superhero teams in the Marvel Universe, Namor’s had the most run-ins with the Fantastic Four, resurfacing in the officially-named Marvel Comics for the first time in Fantastic Four #4. One key character Namor has an interest in is Sue Storm, with whom he’s shared a history of flirting and stolen kisses. While the married Invisible Woman has never left her husband Reed for Namor (at least in the mainstream Marvel continuity), their attraction is rich with unsatisfied tension. If you’ve ever been in a committed relationship but felt an irresistible spark with someone else, then you know the story of Namor and Sue.
Namor in the MCU
Despite his seniority in Marvel’s history and prominence in almost all of Marvel’s biggest storylines, Namor hasn’t really broken through into the mainstream until now. For Wakanda Forever, Mexican actor Tenoch Huerta embodies a reimagined Namor, one who hails from an undersea Mesoamerican kingdom. This new Namor not only represents a new ethno-fantasy in the Marvel Cinematic Universe but thematically echoes Wakanda’s own identity as an ultra-secretive nation with a precious resource the rest of the world seeks to plunder.
By the end of Wakanda Forever, the calculating Namor doesn’t see his defeat at the hands of Shuri as a loss, but a chess move to get him closer to his ultimate goal. The vengeful Namor still desires to attack the surface world. The arrival of the Fantastic Four, soon to star in their own movie scheduled for theaters in February 2025, means it’s only a matter of time before Namor shows up again to bully Reed Richards and kiss Sue Storm right in front of him. As a mutant, Namor will surely interact with the X-Men too, whenever they officially join the MCU.
Then, there’s Avengers: Secret Wars. While the MCU often rearranges the plots of the comics to fit the MCU, it’s important to note both Black Panther and Namor had a role in Jonathan Hickman’s 2015 comic Secret Wars (not to be confused with the other 1985 comic, also named Secret Wars). Depending on how much Namor will be involved in the fight against Kang the Conqueror, Namor may become an Avenger or even form the Illuminati — but only if he knows it will benefit him and all of Talokan.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is now playing in theaters.