While Namor the Sub-Mariner hasn’t exactly been Marvel’s hottest property since, oh, roughly the 1940s, he’s still a crucial piece of their tapestry. Namor was created by the great Bill Everett and first appeared in the very first comic to sport the Marvel Comics name, 1939’s Marvel Comics #1. Namor appeared alongside the original Human Torch in the magazine, and the an epic battle between the two was the first superhero crossover of its kind. And with the recent success of Black Panther, and the rise of the MCU superheroes taking center stage in international politics, a character like Namor would be a great way to further explore new elements of the world.
Namor is the Prince of Atlantis, and spent his early years as a particularly angry young man, taking his frustrations out on us surface dwellers. The onset of World War II changed his tune, and Namor went from outright villain to anti-hero to Nazi-smashing member of Marvel’s Invaders (a team that also included the Human Torch and Captain America) in short order. In more recent years he has been an Avenger and a member of the Marvel Universe’s “Illuminati,” a secret organization consisting of the most powerful and influential minds like Black Panther, Charles Xavier, Doctor Strange, and Reed Richards. See why this would make sense?
So what’s the holdup?
Well, for one thing, Universal has held the film rights to Namor since roughly 2001. The situation with Universal and Marvel has always been a weird one. For example, the Hulk rights also partially rest with Universal, but Marvel is still allowed to use him…although this may or may not be why there hasn’t been another Hulk standalone movie from Marvel Studios.
Marvel studios boss Kevin Feige is still hoping there’s a chance to use Namor down the line, though. “I think there’s a way to probably figure it out,” Feige told IGN about the rights issues surrounding Namor, “but…it’s not as a clean or clear as the majority of the other characters.” The “other characters” he’s referring to are ones like X-Men and Fantastic Four, whose rights are owned by 20th Century Fox (at least for a little while longer) or Spider-Man, who was always firmly at Sony, until relatively recent developments allowed the two studios to share.
Namor’s co-star in those early Marvel Comics, the original Human Torch, already exists in the MCU, and was seen in the background of Captain America: The First Avenger. Whenever the time comes, let’s see if Marvel decides to retroactively insert him into Cap’s early days, or bring him right into the present to help the Avengers and others confront some upcoming threats.