One of the most notable characters in Marvel Comics history is Namor, the Sub-Mariner. The King of Atlantis is one of the oldest Marvel characters, first appearing in 1939. He recently got a movie adaptation of the successful MCU movie Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, which excited many fans. Of course, Namor’s role in Black Panther started discussions about his affiliations and loyalties within the MCU and comics, which prompted this article topic. In this article, we will discuss if Namor is a hero, villain, or anti-hero in movies and comics.
Namor was always characterized as an anti-hero in the comics, and it seems that the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of the character is going in that direction. Throughout his tenure in the Marvel comics, Namor often changed his alliances, joining Avengers against the great foe or going against them to protect his kingdom. In the end, Namor is first and foremost the protector of Atlantis and his family, which presides over any other life on Earth, which makes him an anti-hero in Marvel Comics. In the MCU, Namor is established similarly, with his kingdom of Talokan being in the first place, which puts him against Golden Tribe and Black Panther.
We will discuss Namor’s loyalties in comics and Marvel Cinematic Universe, compare two character versions, and conclude the article’s topic. If you are interested, stay with us until the end.
Is Namor a hero, villain, or anti-hero in Marvel comics?
Before we indulge in Namor’s character in Marvel Cinematic Universe, let’s discuss the King of Atlantis in Marvel comics. As we already mentioned, Namor, the Sub-Mariner, first appeared in the comics in 1939 and, since then, has been an important part of the Marvel Universe.
Bill Everett created him as the opposite character of Carl’s Burgos notable Human Torch. The ruler of the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, Namor, is a mutant-hybrid son of a human father and an Atlantean princess who bestowed him powers of superhuman strength, aquatic healing, electrolocation, flying, enhanced senses, skill in combat and more.
When his mother got pregnant with Leonard McKenzie, a human who was killed after Princess Fen’s soldiers came to extract their royalty, she returned to Atlantis. Namor spent his whole youth in the underwater kingdom, preparing himself as a future ruler of Atlantis.
Atlanteans always felt threatened by the surface world, with World War II, Nazis, and other outside threats of the Earth looming across the notable kingdom, and Namor always had to step up to protect his world. That included turning against the “good guys” like Avengers, Fantastic Four, but most significantly, Black Panther and his Wakanda.
The latter is definitely the most significant rival to Namor and his Atlanteans. At first, it stems from a misinterpretation of Namor’s words to his people – a few Atlanteans decided to steal Wakanda technology and bring it to Atlantis, which Black Panther didn’t take so lightly.
They eventually patch up their differences, but AVENGERS VS. X-MEN from 2012 sees Wakanda and Atlantis officially in the war. Avengers and X-Men differ in their opinions on what to do with Phoenix Force, with the Avengers voting to dispose of it and X-Men trying to keep it and use it for future battles. Namor, naturally, sides with X-Men and even gets the piece of Phoenix Force which he uses to unleash the giant tidal wave on Wakanda, where the Avengers went into hiding. Namor destroys countless lives, and Black Panther never forgives the Atlanteans.
This event was similarly adapted to Black Panther 2, and we will discuss it more later, but Namor’s dodgy affiliations don’t stop here.
If we look through other major events in Marvel comics, we can see that Namor’s loyalties changed a lot, but always for the benefit of his people. Yes, putting yourself above others can create problematic character traits, and Namor is a “champion” in that aspect. For example, in The Secret Invasion storyline that included the Skrull Invasion, the secret society of superheroes called The Illuminati is left with one less member, Namor.
He thought about leaving the group during Iron Man’s efforts to propel the Superhuman Registration Act., a law enforcing the mandatory registration of super-powered individuals with the government.
This Act also kickstarted a Civil War among the superheroes, but Namor refused to participate. The Sub-Mariner departed the Illuminati during Secret Invasion when the group was disbanded, and Norman Osbourne became the director of H.A.M.M.E.R., formerly S.H.I.E.L.D. The former Green Goblin seized the Avengers tower and Avengers Initiative and made Iron Man the enemy of the State. Osborn eventually formed Cabal, a secret society of supervillains, to establish his power even more, including Namor, as a representative of Atlantis.
Namor had one goal for joining Cabal – finally forming relations with surface dwellers and mutually cooperating. The ruler of Atlantis saw an opportunity to “squash bad blood” with the outside world and thought Norman Osbourne’s reign in the United States would benefit his kingdom. Of course, this made Namor the supervillain because he affiliated with Osbourne, Dr. Doom, Hood, Loki, and others, all villains and criminals he fought with Avengers for decades.
However, the group of supervillains still pursued their own goals and decided to scheme among each other against power-hungry Osbourne. Namor established an alliance with his former lover and teammate, Emma Frost, who vowed to protect his psyche from Osborn, while Namor told her he would protect mutant-kind. After Osborn and Doom decide that they will ruthlessly slaughter Atlantean terrorists, Namor immediately withdraws from Cabal and, with Emma Frost, helps to defeat Dark X-Men.
This moment establishes Namor as more of an anti-hero than a supervillain because he didn’t want to destroy or rule the world like Doom and Osbourne; he just wanted his kingdom to prosper in peace.
Is Namor a hero, villain, or anti-hero in Marvel Cinematic Universe?
With that being said, when Namor was announced to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, most fans didn’t know how his character would be introduced in Black Panther 2, especially after the death of Chadwick Boseman and his Black Panther.
However, from the movie’s beginning, Namor is established as the main antagonist of the movie and the main foe of Wakanda. The movie’s beginning establishes Namor’s origin story; he was born to a Mayan mother and a Purepecha traveler in Yucatán. Spanish colonization was in full force during that time, and the colonist brought smallpox infection that started massively killing members of the Mayan tribe.
Just before Namor was born, to survive, the tribe consumed a special underwater blue plant laced with Vibranium, which altered the tribe’s anatomy and biology. This event marks the birth of the Talokan people, the MCU version of Atlanteans.
Namor was the firstborn son of Talohan, who became empowered when his mother ingested the blue plant coated with Vibranium – Namor became a ruler of his kingdom and was worshipped as a god. When he went to the surface world, he witnessed the atrocities of Spanish colonists and killed them all, vowing he would protect the Talokan people with everything he had.
Fast forward to the Black Panther 2 movie, Namor is seen attacking the American ship scrambling for Vibranium near Talokan. After discovering that Riri Williams invented the Vibranium Detector and unknowingly endangered his kingdom, he wants Wakandians to give him the young scientist.
The conflict escalated with Nakia breaking out Riri and Shuri from Talokan, which prompted Namor to announce the war against Wakanda. Namor kills Queen Ramonda, making Shuri a new Black Panther. The final fight ensued, Black Panther got the upper hand, and Namor ultimately yielded. Shuri, a new Black Panther and Princess of Wakanda, and Namor, the ruler of the underwater kingdom Talokan, decided to form a new alliance.
Wakanda and Talokan will join forces when the danger comes close to protect the world. In the end, Namor transformed from villain to anti-hero, which propelled his characterization from Marvel Comics – he acts from his kingdom and people first, then others. Furthermore, after he kills Ramonda and attacks Golden City, Namor realizes that killing innocent people doesn’t empower anyone but the efforts to protect the ones we love and cherish the most.
After the conflict, Shuri offered Namor peace in exchange for the alliance, and Namor took it with both hands, which makes him a textbook example of an anti-hero. Namor’s origin story might be altered in MCU, but he still retained, in my opinion, his biggest asset – his unique character traits.