Comic Character Spotlight: Namor

Welcome to this week’s Comic Character spotlight! In anticipation of the upcoming release of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (2022), we’ll be diving into the film’s apparent antagonist, who has been a staple in Marvel Comics far longer than the titular Black Panther.  

 Namor, also known as the Sub-Mariner, was initially created by the writer and artist Bill Everett for the purpose of appearing in the unreleased comic “Motion Picture Funnies Weekly.” Yet, interestingly, his first appearance actually took place in 1939’s “Marvel Comics” #1 which was the first comic issued by Timely Comics – which existed within the 1930s – 1940s before Marvel Comics officially became its own publishing company.  

This time period was dubbed by longtime fans of Marvel as the ‘Golden Age’ of Comic Books, heralding the origin of classic Marvel Comic book characters including Namor, Captain America and Human Torch. I’ll save a future Comic Character Spotlight for both Captain America and Human Torch. 

So, who is Namor? He is the mutant son of an American sea captain, Leonard McKenzie, and the daughter of Emperor Thakorr of Atlantis, Fen. Atlantis – a fabled undersea kingdom – serves as Namor’s birthplace where he is later crowned as the prince. He possesses a wide array of abilities, including but not limited to: superstrength, versatile combat, aquatic adaptation, durability, agility, flight and speed.  

One of the most intriguing aspects of Namor’s character is the inability to place him under a two-dimensional label of “good” or “evil.” Rather, as he lives comfortably in the space between the two categories, it’s best to view him as an anti-hero. Typically, his motivations revolve around the protection of his people at any cost, particularly against the “surface dwellers” who oftentimes play a part in the death of his people and destruction of his Atlantean home.  

For instance, throughout the Golden Age of Marvel Comics, he plays a part in wreaking havoc against civilization for the deterioration of his homeland. Similarly, “The Best Defense” #1 (2018) sees him taking vengeance against the repeated offenses of the “Surface Dwellers.” He truly does live up to his name “Namor” which translates to “avenging son” in Atlantean.  

Despite his rage towards the surface dwellers, he has fought alongside them in special cases where their goals align and they share a common enemy –having teamed up with the Avengers, Fantastic Four, Invaders, Defenders, X-Men and the Illuminati.  

In the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Tenoch Huerta will portray Namor in his live-action debut in the film “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (2022). In contrast to his motherland being Atlantis in the comics, Huerta has revealed through various interviews that Namor’s nation will be that of Talocan. If the promotions for the film are to be taken at face value, there seems to be conflict brewing between Wakanda and Talocan. It’s definitely going to be interesting to see the cause of this potential conflict once the movie is released next Friday on November 11.  

Although I am curious about why it took so long for Namor to have his live-action debut, especially considering that he existed in the Golden Age of Marvel Comics, I’m extremely excited for it. Marvel’s antagonistic figures are generally very “hit or miss,” often ranging from being compelling to rather simplistic. However, with Namor, his complex motivations and innate desire to shield his people from harm makes it likely that he’ll be an enthralling antagonist to watch. In addition, as Namor is a mutant, his introduction signifies that the MCU will finally start to openly integrate mutants’ existence into the overarching narrative of future phases.