- Who Is Namor, the Sub-Mariner?
- Namor’s Origin
- Namor’s Powers and Abilities
- Namor’s Signature Villains
- Could Namor Swim Into the MCU?
- The Sub-Mariner in TV and Games
Marvel’s Namor Explained: Who Is the Sub-Mariner?
Who Is Namor, the Sub-Mariner?
Created by Bill Everett, the Sub-Mariner made his debut in 1939 in Timely Comics’ Marvel Comics #1. Even though the original Human Torch also debuted in that issue, Namor the Sub-Mariner can be called the very first original Marvel character since he had appeared months earlier in Motion Picture Funnies Weekly (of which only a handful of copies were printed).
Half human and half Atlantean royalty, Namor is proud, quick-tempered, and willing to do anything to protect his kingdom. He’s been an Avenger and one of the X-Men, a founding member of the Defenders, and even fought alongside Captain America in World War II against the threat the Nazis posed to the entire world. He’s the ruler of Atlantis and fights with fervor for his people.
But Namor isn’t a natural do-gooder like Cap. His temper and arrogance make him more of an anti-hero who has no qualms about destroying anything that gets in the way of his goals. In his very first appearance, he kills two innocent deep divers simply for being in his undersea domain. While time has softened his stance on humans, Namor has kept the same hubris throughout the 80-plus years he’s been a part of the Marvel universe.
Namor’s first appearance in Marvel Comics #1 introduced him as “an ultra-man of the deep [who] lives on land and in the sea, flies in the air, has the strength of a thousand men.” After a deadly first encounter with humans, the prince’s mother explains his history for the reader.
The pointy-eared prince is the son of an Atlantean princess and a human explorer named Leonard McKenzie. Their story began in 1920 in the waters of the South Pole. The captain’s expedition vessel repeatedly blasted the ice above Atlantis, which rocked the city below with explosions that claimed the lives of many Atlanteans. Princess Fen was sent to the humans above to act as a spy. She and the captain fell in love and were married, but Fen didn’t forget her mission.
While the princess did consider Captain McKenzie a good man, she never lost her distrust of humanity and blamed them for the destruction of their kingdom. She passed those beliefs on to Namor, her “Avenging Son.”
With his roots in the Golden Age of comics, his star would eventually fade until Stan Lee brought him into modern Marvel Comics in 1962’s Fantastic Four #4. The “new” Human Torch, Johnny Storm of the Fantastic Four, came upon an amnesiac Namor in New York City. Namor’s fate became intertwined with the Fantastic Four as he fell in love with Sue Storm, maintained a bitter rivalry with Reed Richards, and counted Doctor Doom as an ally.
Over the years Namor would fight both for and against the world above, all in the name of keeping his own people safe. Namor has also found more love interests over the years — human, Atlantean, and alien. He’s teamed up with the Avengers and X-Men, and also with Doctor Doom and a supervillain group called the Cabal.
Most recently, he battled Amadeus Cho, Silk, and the Agents of Atlas in the Atlantis Attacks (2020) miniseries in retaliation for the capture of an Atlantean creature.
“Are you a hero, Namor? Or are you a monster?” Cho asked him in the first issue.
“I am a king,” Namor replied. “So I’m both.”
Namor’s Powers and Abilities
Namor is often deemed the first mutant of Marvel’s long publication history (if not the earliest in the Marvel in-universe timeline). Those iconic wings on his ankles? Those aren’t part of his Atlantean or human ancestry, but instead a mutation that gives him the ability to fly. As he soars out of the water for a surprise attack, Namor is known to shout his catchphrase, “Imperius Rex!”
The Sub-Mariner also has superhuman strength and endurance, the ability to breathe underwater, and limited telepathic ability with sea creatures and Atlanteans. He can swim at super speed and has an extraordinarily long lifespan.
Namor is a born leader of the kingdom of Atlantis and has played the diplomat on the world stage. During writer-artist John Byrne’s notable run on the character, Namor also showed his business acumen when he entered the human corporate world for a time.
Namor’s Signature Villains
The Atlantean Attuma is probably the closest thing Namor has to a nemesis. The supervillain first appeared in the pages of Fantastic Four and was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. His family had been banished from Atlantis, and he sought to conquer the underwater city to claim it for his own. He succeeded on more than a few occasions. Attuma also crashed the wedding of Namor and Dorma, mind-controlled the Avengers into attacking the Sub-Mariner in Super-Villain Team-Up #9, and became the Breaker of Oceans during the Fear Itself storyline.
Doctor Doom has been both friend and foe to the Sub-Mariner. In Fantastic Four #6 (1962), he tricked Namor in a plot against the superhero team, seemingly sending the Sub-Mariner to his own death. Since then they consider each other to be equals—a rarity for both men—and have struck an odd sort of friendship over the years.
During the major comics event Avengers vs. X-Men, Namor became host to one part of the Phoenix Force, and unleashed his amplified powers against Wakanda in probably his most villainous turn yet. Avengers vs. X-Men #8 sees Namor destroy most of the country and its people with a massive tidal wave as the devastating Phoenix powers corrupt him. T’Challa and Namor would be enemies for the years following.
Could Namor Swim Into the MCU?
While Namor hasn’t been introduced formally in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, an observant fan asked Avengers: Endgame writer Christopher Markus if the underwater earthquakes mentioned in passing in that film are a reference to Atlantis. Markus responded, “Sometimes, you plant seeds. Sometimes, they grow.” And which country are those earthquakes near? Wakanda, home of his comics foe Black Panther, possibly setting up Namor as the villain in Black Panther 2.
While not a direct confirmation, it’s certainly a strong hint that the Sub-Mariner could become a part of the MCU. Universal’s rights to the character are complicated, Kevin Feige has told IGN in the past, but the transition of Spider-Man and other characters from 20th Century Fox to Disney proves that there may yet be a way to “figure it out.”
The Sub-Mariner in TV and Games
- TV: The Marvel Super Heroes, a 1960s animated television series, had a segment dedicated to Prince Namor. Since then he’s appeared in more animation like the Spider-Man series of the 1980s, The Avengers: United They Stand, and The Fantastic Four series in both the ’90s and early 2000s.
- Games: 1991’s Spider-Man: The Video Game saw the first introduction of the Sub-Mariner as a playable character. Players faced him as a boss in the Fantastic Four PlayStation game; later, Namor would play a part in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. Most recently he can be found as a playable character Marvel Strike Force, Marvel Contest of Champions, Marvel Puzzle Quest, and Marvel Super War.
Will Marvel’s oldest original character become its newest star on the big screen? Only time will tell.
Kelly Knox is a freelance entertainment writer who also contributes to StarWars.com, DCComics.com, Nerdist, and more. Follow her on Twitter at @kelly_knox to talk Star Wars, Dungeons & Dragons, and comics.