Does Marvel Have Namor's Character Rights?
Thanks to Marvel's impending bankruptcy in the '90s, they sold off the film rights to most of their characters. The positive was X-Men, Spider-Man, and Blade series all made it to the big screen. The downside, however, came when Marvel Studios was launched without some of its most well-known heroes and villains. In the years since, Marvel has regained Daredevil, Ghost Rider, and dozens more. Marvel didn't own Black Panther's film rights for a time either. But with the impending deal for Disney to buy Fox and the cooperation between Marvel and Sony, nearly every character will soon be available for the MCU. Namor, however, is a bit trickier.
Debuting in 1939's Motion Picture Funnies Weekly, Namor the Sub-Mariner is one of Marvel's oldest characters. Half-Atlantean and half-mutant, the character has super-strength and flight and could even control aquatic life for a time. He also commands the kingdom of Atlantis and its army, making him the Marvel equivalent of Aquaman—though Namor predates the DC hero by two years. He spent years fighting alongside Captain America and the Invaders during World War II, but he's regularly served as an anti-hero and outright villain in many X-Men and Avengers stories.
On the film front, it was long assumed Universal owned the rights to Namor, something Kevin Feige confirmed in 2013. The next year, Feige elaborated on Namor's film rights by saying it was complicated and Marvel shared the rights with Universal. Though Marvel has never been entirely clear about their character rights, it seems Namor is in a similar boat as Hulk. Universal owns his film distribution rights, but only when it comes to a solo movie. That's why we haven't seen a standalone Hulk film since 2008 but the character can still show up as a supporting character like in Avengers movies and Thor: Ragnarok.
Adding another wrinkle, however, was Joe Quesada claiming Marvel own Namor's rights back in 2016, which was soon followed by a flurry of actors expressing their interest in the role. Evidence of a Namor movie even emerged last year during the production for Marvel's Inhumans. The theory soon emerged that Namor would be an Inhuman in the MCU, thus allowing Marvel to avoid the idea of mutants. But with Fox's characters about to return home, it may not be an issue much longer.
Black Panther 2 Is The Best Way To Introduce Namor
We've already laid out how Black Panther 2 could introduce Storm, but Namor would be even easier. If Marvel wants to go the mutant route, they shouldn't be held back for much longer. If not, Namor's powers could simply be explained by his Atlantean roots. Marvel could then seed the idea of mutants without needing to address them directly in Black Panther 2. Namor's true heritage could then be revealed in a future film where the X-Men arrive in the MCU.
Black Panther already brought internal strife and questions of T'Challa's fitness to rule into question, meaning the sequel needs to take a different approach. T'Chaka partially exposed Wakanda to the world and the result saw Killmonger attack. Avengers: Infinity War will make the kingdom a front for Thanos' war and bring all sorts of outsides. Black Panther 2 will have to deal with these consequences and it could see Wakanda thriving as part of a larger world.
The appearance of Namor, fearing Wakanda's expansion could threaten Atlantis, could bring a new foe to the nation's door and lead to the citizens worrying that abandoning their isolation was a mistake. That would put Black Panther 3 in a interesting position to get even more political as it explores the fallout of everything that's happened to Wakanda in the MCU so far. And if we see T'Challa and Namor work together to stop the next big threat to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it could be the beginning of the end for the new king and a way for Shuri to step up and take the throne. With the comics as inspiration, there's a number of directions the series could go in, but adding Namor as the villain of Black Panther 2 could be the most exciting path.
- Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
- Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019