Namor: Who Is Marvel’s First Hero?

This King is a Marvel

Namor:Maybe I was that man once. Maybe you were as well. But then we both lost our people, and our kingdoms crumbled. Even now, while we do what we must to keep the things we love alive, we become everything they hate. Do you know what you bury deep, my friend? Things that have died. [quietly] Who is this Namor, the good and noble? No man I know.

New Avengers Vol. 4: A Perfect World

Sailors watch the surface as divers investigate reports of strange activity. The radio blares an excited voice screaming. A sailor mashes keys at his terminal to surface the diving bell, but something overpowers the winch. There’s another ear-splitting screech as the winch rips away from the deck and disappears beneath the water.

More sailors scramble onto the deck as something shoots from the water. They see a man floating in the air and are those… wings flapping at his ankles? Whatever he is holds the blood-soaked diving bell in the air, its hoses trailing in the water. The radio operator sends out a mayday as the man spins the bell like a flail and slams it into the ship. Sailors evacuate as Namor watches with grim satisfaction.

Namor the Sub-Mariner started it all. He was Marvel’s first hero, villain, and Mutant, among other titles. Not bad for a guy who is constantly confused for his knock-off, Aquaman. So who is Namor? How did he get his powers? Why is he often a villain? Let’s find out.

Prince of the Deep: Namor’s Backstory

Namor:This must be Cape Anna lighthouse. Dorma, it gives me an idea! We can start our crusade here. If we destroy this light, it will endanger many ships, and perhaps destroy them! It will be our first move!”

Marvel Comics #1

Namor debuted in Motion Picture Funny Weeklies #1 in 1939. He was created by Bill Everett, and designed to be the counterpart of a hero called the Human Torch. The book was intended as a movie theater promotion, but no cinemas were interested and the material was repurposed for Marvel Comics #1.

Namor is the son of an American sailor named Leonard McKenzie and Atlantean princess Fen, who was ordered to spy on his warship. Leonard is killed before their son Namor is born, and he is raised at court in Atlantis, where he is taught to hate surface dwellers.

Namor launched many attacks against the surface world, which were often stopped by his love interest, police officer Betty Dean. Following a battle with the Human Torch, Namor was convinced that the Nazis were a grave threat and joined a team of heroes called The Invaders. 

The Invaders tore through the Axis forces, but the constant battles caused Namor to develop PTSD. As an Invader, he befriended a young Black Panther and worked alongside Professor Xavier. The Mutant tried to help Namor with his psychic powers, but instead caused him to develop amnesia.

Avenging Son: Namor’s History

Namor:I vow to be true to the name of Namor, which means “avenging son!” I shall never rest till the insolent human race has paid for its crimes against our people! Now rise, and pledge me your hearts, your hands, your lives!

Fantastic Four Annual #1 (1963)

Namor wandered aimlessly until he found himself being hassled by a group of drunks on a New York street. The altercation caught the attention of the second Human Torch, Johnny Storm of the Fantastic Four. Johnny recognized Namor and dumped him into the ocean, which restored his memories. 

Atlantis had been destroyed by an underwater nuclear test, leading Namor to once more swear vengeance against humanity. He fought many superheroes, but always gravitated towards the Fantastic Four because of his rivalry with Human Torch and attraction to the Invisible Woman. He also discovered Captain America frozen in a block of ice and helped to free him.

A considerably matured and in control Namor rebuilt Atlantis. Despite superhero teams The Avengers, X-Men, and Fantastic Four not fully trusting him, Namor joins a secret team of the best and brightest heroes called The Illuminati.

Fallen King: Namor’s Modern Stories

Namor:What I will not tolerate… what I find unacceptable… is going quietly, like some mewling child, before my time. There is something out there, coming for us, trying to kill us all… And I would do to it what it would do to us. Brothers. Sisters. All the angels have fallen, and we devils are all that remains… So I ask you… Will you help me kill worlds?

New Avengers #23 (2014)

The Illuminati exacerbated Namor’s worst traits. He settled into the role of a fixer, the one who was willing to make the tough calls and get his hands dirty because the others were too cowardly to do so. His ego swelled, often leaving Namor tap-dancing on the line between hero and villain.

During the event Avengers vs. X-Men, Namor absorbed part of the Phoenix Force. It drove him mad and coerced him into committing many atrocities in the mistaken belief that they were for the greater good. He also devastated Wakanda with tidal waves, which put him on Black Panther’s list. Wakanda retaliated and heavily damaged Atlantis. As members of the same team, the former friends reluctantly avoided directly fighting each other.

The Illuminati learned that the universe was ending because of Incursions, events where two Earths from the multiverse collide. Black Panther destroyed one Earth, but refused to continue when he learned the incursions couldn’t be stopped. Namor formed The Cabal so that he and other villains could destroy the Incursions and buy their world time. Black Panther trapped Namor on a soon-to-be-destroyed Earth to avenge Wakanda and the worlds the two had destroyed.

King of the Seas: Namor’s Powers and Personality

Bullseye: [ganging up on Captain America with The Thunderbolts] “He’s not that tough. Who was he fighting, Bob Hope?
Lady Deathstrike: [as Cap chuckles] “You find Bullseye’s attempts at humor funny?
Captain America:No, just my friend up there about to kick your butts into next week.
Namor: [leading an Atlantean army] IMPERIUS REX!

Civil War

Namor has superhuman strength, speed, durability, can breathe underwater, and talks to fish. He is also a mutant with winged ankles that allow him to fly. Namor has a treasure trove of magical gear, most notably the Trident of Neptune, which fires energy blasts.

Many mental health issues haunt Namor. He copes with combat PTSD and an odd chemical imbalance caused by his half-human heritage. Namor will become manic and violent when underwater for too long. Unfortunately, staying on dry land depresses him and makes him paranoid. The writers claim this is bipolar disorder, which is yet more proof that that superhero writers don’t understand mental health.

Namor is arrogant, smug, and altogether a jerk. He’s usually on the side of the angels, but disparages everyone except for Captain America, Doctor Doom, and a very few others who have earned his respect. He is an anti-hero who could be considered Marvel’s counterpart to Black Adam.

The Actors Who Play Namor

John Vernon – The Marvel Super Heroes
Mike Road – Fantastic Four (1967)
Patrick Duffy – Man From Atlantis (Very loose adaptation)
Vic Perrin – Spider-Man (1981)
William Woodson – Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends
James Warwick – Fantastic Four (1994)
Raoul Trujillo – The Avengers: United They Stand
Michael Adamthwaite – Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest Heroes
Tenoch Huerta – Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Didya Get All That?

Marvel’s first hero, villain, and anti-hero.

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