What can Marvel Studios possibly do with Namor the Sub-Mariner in a post-Aquaman world? Despite different publication history, both characters deal with similar ideas and exist in the backdrop of the legends of Atlantis; undersea monarchies, vast submarine empires who have an antagonistic relationship with the surface world due to pollution. Even the characters' powersets are almost identical.
The Sub-Mariner was created back in 1939 and Aquaman in 1941, but DC is striking first with a big-screen adaptation of their own undersea hero. The similarities between the two concepts leave Marvel faced with a very thorny problem; should the studio ever choose to develop Namor for the big screen, they'll need to find a way to make sure he doesn't simply look like a retread of Aquaman. There have already been comparisons between Aquaman's trailers and Marvel's Black Panther - a superhero king who is monarch of a hidden, advanced nation challenged by a sibling - but that's small-fry next to a comparable under-the-sea adventure.
So how should Marvel Studios adapt Namor for the MCU? What approach can they take that clearly differentiates the character and his world from the one explored in Aquaman? We have some ideas.
- This Page: The Similarities Between Namor and Aquaman
- Page 2: How Marvel Studios Could Still Introduce Namor
The Similarities and Differences Between Namor and Aquaman
Atlantis was briefly mentioned by Platoin his dialogues Timaeus and Critias, written around 360 BC; Plato claimed to have translated them from Egyptian sources, but modern scholars aren't convinced that was truly the case. According to Plato, somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean there was "an island which was larger than Libya and Asia together," a warlike and imperial nation that was "insolently advancing to attack the whole of Europe, and Asia to boot." The nation of Atlantis was ruled by what Plato called "a confederation of kings, of great and marvelous power." This great island was dedicated, appropriately enough, to the water god Poseidon; as a result, it was singularly ironic that Plato described the nation as sinking beneath the waves, destroyed after a massive earthquake. Plato's dialogues have become the foundation for countless legends and fantasy series - including both Namor and Aquaman.
DC's version of Atlantis is very much true to Plato. In DC Comics, Atlantean society predates human civilization, with a race of aliens settling on the continent of Atlantis 65,000,000 years ago. An asteroid impact caused the entire continent to sink beneath the waves, but Atlantean scientists were able to artificially mutate the survivors in order to ensure they could survive underwater. The people of Atlantis then claimed the seas as their home, establishing their dominance over the aquatic life-forms and tribes already living in them.
Marvel's vision is fairly similar, with the nation of Atlantis flourishing 10,000 years ago and sinking beneath the waves in a volcanic cataclysm. The god of the oceans, Neptune, blessed the Atlanteans with gills with which to breathe underwater, and Atlantean tribes settled throughout the seas. In both comic franchises, the undersea tribes are ruled over by the King of Atlantis, although separate tribes have their own monarchs.
Amusingly, both Namor and Aquaman are half-human hybrids whose very existence bridges the gulf between humanity and the people of Atlantis. Namor's mother was a princess sent on a scouting expedition to the surface world who slept with a human sea captain before being forcibly "liberated" by Atlantean warriors; Aquaman's mother was an Atlantean queen who was washed up on the rocks next to a lighthouse after a storm, and fell in love with the lighthouse-keeper. The big difference in origin is that while Aquaman was brought up on the surface, Namor spent his formative years beneath the waves. Past that, though, even the two characters' powersets are pretty similar, although Namor's equivalent of "talking to fish" has typically meant he summoned legendary sea-monsters rather than sharks and shoals.
But there is one key difference between Namor and Aquaman. When Aquaman was introduced, in 1943's More Fun Comics #73, writer Mort Weisinger immediately embedded the character in Atlantean mythology. In contrast, Namor's backstory emerged over time. It wasn't until 1962 - a full 23 years after his creation - that Namor's people were identified as Atlanteans, binding the character into that rich tapestry of legends and pseudo-history. For Marvel, that may be the key to differentiating their hero.
What Exactly are Marvel's Plans for Namor?
The current barrier for Namor is that the film rights to the character are rather complicated. Up until the mid-2000s, Marvel Studios didn't produce their own films; rather, they sold the rights to other studio, and profited from the contracts. The rights to Namor were sold to Universal, and while production rights appear to have reverted to Marvel due to inactivity, the distribution rights are still believed to sit with Universal. This is similar to the rights situation with Hulk, who appears in team-up movies but not solo movies. Similarly, Kevin Feige has said he believes there's "a way to probably figure it out," but even he's admitted that the film rights to Namor are "not as a clean or clear as the majority of the other characters." As a result, Marvel don't appear to have any solid plans for the Sub-Mariner in the near-future.
That hasn't stopped Marvel planting Easter egg clues, though. In Iron Man 2, there's a brief glimpse of a S.H.I.E.L.D. activity map. It shows hotspots that are being monitored by S.H.I.E.L.D., including the fictional African nation of Wakanda. Another marker is in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, right where Pliny's accounts would suggest the capital of Atlantis would be situated. So far, though, nothing has come from this particular Easter egg.
Page 2 of 2: How Could Namor Work in the MCU?
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019