While Fox and Sony are the most famous beneficiaries of Marvel's early film licensing deals, those studios aren't the only ones who sought potentially hot Marvel properties in the pre-Iron Man days. One of those characters is Namor, the Sub-Mariner, which was licensed years ago by Universal Studios but never developed into a film. Unlike some of the more famous licensed properties, the contracts with Universal apparently remained valid even though years passed without a movie release.
This may have changed recently, however. Marvel's Chief Creative Officer, Joe Quesada, revealed that the Namor film rights are back with Marvel Studios... to the best of his knowledge.
Appearing on Kevin Smith's Fat Man on Batman podcast, Quesada was asked about Namor by Smith and his co-host Marc Bernardin. At first, Quesada seemed to think that they were asking about the character in the comics, replying:
"We do, he's in the comics."
Once it was clarified that the question concerned the film rights, Quesada confirmed that Marvel Studios had the rights to the character:
Smith: No, what studio. How come you guys aren't diving into the water. Do the same people who have Iron Man have Sub Mariner?"Quesada: "Yes, as far as I know yes we do. Yeah, it's not at Fox, it's not at Sony."
This isn't the solid confirmation that fans were likely hoping for, however. In addition to sounding like he isn't quire sure which studio has the rights, the mention of Fox and Sony but not Universal suggests that Quesada may not be as up-to-date on the situation as one might expect.
Of course, fans might remember that this isn't the first time that Quesada has commented on the Namor rights. He stated that Marvel Studios had the rights in 2012 as well, sparking a lot of speculation about the character appearing in a future film. This led to Kevin Feige clarifying the rights issue in 2013, which was the last official update that fans have received until now.
Given the history of the Namor discussion and the fact that Quesada has been wrong about it in the past, it will probably be best to wait until additional confirmation pops up before expecting to see Namor's winged feet on the big screen. That confirmation (or an update that Universal still has the rights) may come sooner rather than later, since the question will probably be asked to Feige at some point now that it's come up again.
As Marvel's long-standing contract with Universal is often cited as one of the reasons that a new Hulk movie hasn't been made, it's possible that the Namor rights are still with Universal as well. Then again, if Marvel has plans that involve the character then the studios could have worked something out since the last time we were updated on it. If they did, though... well, it would be too much to ask for to see Namor show up in a Marvel-produced Fantastic Four movie, wouldn't it.
Captain America: Civil War is in theaters now. Doctor Strange opens November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man: Homecoming – July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel– March 8, 2019; Avengers: Infinity War Part 2– May 3, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on July 12, 2019, and on May 1, July 10, and November 6 in 2020. There is currently no Namor feature on the Marvel or Universal slates.