Namor, also known as The Sub-Mariner, is one of Marvel’s oldest comic-book characters, dating back more than 80 years. Yet when he makes his first MCU appearance in the upcoming Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, it will be the first time he’s ever been portrayed in live action on screen. The honor of this milestone will go to Mexican actor Tenoch Huerta, whose previous work includes The Forever Purge and Narcos: Mexico. He’s also bringing along a couple of other characters from the comics, including Attuma (played by Alex Livinalli) and Namora (played by Mabel Cadena).
What else do we know about the version of Namor we’ll be meeting in the film? And what do you need to know about his comic-book origins? Let’s break it down.
Explaining who Namor is to someone who’s never read the comics often comes down to a simplistic comparison: “He’s basically Marvel’s version of Aquaman.” Although Namor’s first appearance in the comics predates Aquaman’s first DC outing by two years, it’s pretty clear who had a better publicist. In some respects, though, that assessment isn’t totally wrong.
Namor’s and Aquaman’s origins in the comics are strikingly similar—both come from Atlantis and have the same parental mix of a royal Atlantean mother and a human father. They share a lot of abilities, too. Although Namor’s powers changed over the years, depending on whoever was writing him, his most consistent abilities were in line with Aquaman’s—superhuman strength, endurance, and agility; breathing, hearing, and seeing acutely underwater; and telepathic communication with sea life.
One thing Namor could usually do that Aquaman can’t is fly. Namor was originally born with wings on his feet, something that’s as unusual for Atlanteans as it is for humans. That’s because Namor is a mutant. He’s often called Marvel’s “first mutant” (by order of appearance, not chronological time), which makes it appropriate that he should be the one to usher in a new age of mutants in the Marvel films. Yes, technically, Ms. Marvel was the first MCU superhero to be associated with a mutation, but she won’t be appearing on the big screen until The Marvels next summer.
Those similarities to Aquaman may have been one of the reasons the writers of Wakanda Forever went back to the drawing board to create an entirely different background for Namor, rooted in the culture and mythology of ancient Mesoamerica, including the Mayan and Aztec civilizations. He’s no longer a hybrid human from Atlantis but the ruler of an underwater realm called Talokan, based on the Aztec netherworld Tlālōcān. Huerta even learned to speak his lines in Mayan for the film.
Unlike Atlantis, which was depicted in the comics as a real place hidden beneath the ocean, Talokan is a parallel realm, and it seems like it can be reached through any body of water, connected to the ocean or not. This explains how Namor can pop up in Wakanda even though it’s a landlocked country in the middle of the African continent. According to a line delivered by M’Baku in the trailer, “His people do not call him general or king. They call him K’uk’ulkan, the feather serpent god.” From this, we can guess that Namor’s relationship with this deity may parallel Black Panther’s relationship with the cat god Bast.
There are some aspects of the character that have been preserved in this version, though. He still has his pointy ears and winged feet, a mutation that allows him to fly. There may even be some comic references woven through the film, too. There was an arc in the comics that culminated in Namor flooding Wakanda, and we can see scenes of water rushing through its streets in the trailer.
In the comics, Namor was very protective of his people, and saw outsiders as a threat until proven otherwise. This often put him on the opposite side of heroes who got in his way. Sound familiar? As similar as their philosophies might be, Namor and T’Challa never really got along in the comics (see above about that flooding incident), so it will be interesting to see if that animosity is carried over to the other Wakandans in his absence.
The trailers so far have made it seem like Namor may be an antagonist in the film, but we think that may be a misdirect. While he might arrive in Wakanda ready to rumble, it’s more likely he’ll end up working with the good guys by the end of the film toward a common goal. The inclusion of the character Attuma, Namor’s nemesis in the comics, supports this prediction.
While Namor was usually portrayed as an anti-hero, Attuma was a straight-up villain. He was a warrior from an ousted tribe of Atlanteans and believed he should be the ruler of Atlantis. He also wanted to conquer the surface world and rule that too. Basically, he’s just thirsty for power. Although Namor arrives with Attuma at his side, they may ultimately disagree over how to deal with Wakanda and we could see a rift form that will grow wider by the end of the film, and even carry over into the MCU at large.
The other Talokanian who arrives with Namor in the film is Namora. She’s the one with the amazing feathered headdress in the trailer. She’s more of a wild card, as the two of them have a long and complicated relationship. At various times she’s been Namor’s childhood friend, cousin, and love interest. Marvel could never decide. Like Namor, she was half Atlantean. She was sometimes depicted with blue skin and sometimes pale, but it looks like they are going with blue for the film, so her heritage remains unclear for now. This could be a creative choice intended to set her and Attuma apart from Namor visually, and perhaps thematically as well.
That’s pretty much what we know about Namor so far, but if you want to know more about the film you can check out all the other details we have on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Marvel always likes to save a few surprises for the theater, though, so we’re excited to see what else they have in store.