Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is soon to hit theaters, and with it comes the live-action introduction of one of Marvel’s most complex characters. In the sequel, he’s being set up as an antagonist to the people of Wakanda, and possibly even poised to invade and conquer the advanced African nation now that it’s lost its king and protector in T’Challa. Still, the trailers show a regalness to him that hints there’s far more than meets the eye.

As the ruler of the underwater nation of Talokan, Namor brings with him just as much weight and responsibility as T’Challa himself, a king trying to keep his people safe. Considering the location, the MCU is diving into a realm it’s not yet explored. Before Black Panther: Wakanda Forever hits theaters, here’s a guide to Namor, and how his introduction is primed to change the MCU forever.

Namor’s Backstory & Origins In The Comics

Some may be surprised to know that Namor, or Namor the Sub-Mariner as he’s sometimes called in the comics, is one of the oldest Marvel superheroes. Created by legendary comic book writer Bill Everett, Namor made his debut all the way back in 1939, back when Marvel Comics was still known as Timely Comics, making him even older than Captain America–as well as predating Aquaman by a few years. At the time, Bill Everett claimed he was inspired by the Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous epic “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”

Namor was born in the capital city of the underwater empire Atlantis. His mother was Fen, the princess of the realm, and his father was a human sea captain, making Namor half-human and half-Atlantean. He was also Marvel’s first mutant, and his unique genetic background and mutation make him incredibly powerful. Namor has the typical speed, durability, longevity, and agility of superheroes, but also the strength of 1,000 land-dwelling men–in fact, he’s even held his own in a fight with the Hulk in the past. He’s adapted to survive underwater, able to breathe water and swim at superhuman speeds, even by Atlantean standards, as well as hear a school of fish a hundred miles away. Strangely enough, Namor also has the ability to fly thanks to the wings on his ankles, an ability possessed by neither humans nor Atlanteans, making him a mutant. As the king and protector of Atlantis, he’s both loved and respected by his people for his uncompromising attitude toward land-dwellers.

How Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Is Changing Namor

As one may have noticed from the trailers, the MCU’s version of Namor isn’t the ruler of Atlantis, but of a kingdom known as Talokan. Unlike the generic underwater kingdom of Atlantis in the comics, Talokan is firmly based on and centered in ancient Mesoamerican culture, with the Mayan and Aztec influences strong in Namor and his people. Everything from their clothing to their art, to the Mexican actor Tenoch Huerta himself, is inspired by the culture, taking its cues from the vibrant and sometimes terrifying history and mythology of Mesoamerica.

The reason for the change is simple: both Huerta and director Ryan Coogler wanted the opportunity to make Namor and Talokan feel more grounded while also representing a culture and tradition that’s not yet been portrayed on screen in a superhero movie. As Coogler said in a recent interview with Inverse

“There have been a lot of representations and creative depictions of Atlantis based off of Plato’s Atlantis, the Greco-Roman concept of a city sunk into the sea. That idea exists in a lot of different ways. We wanted our film to exist alongside those movies and be different. It was really out of respect to the audience, not wanting to give them something similar to other things that have come before it. If you Google lost cities or lost continents, this idea of things sinking into the ocean and disappearing, or even people that live in the water, you’ll see that idea represented in myths all over the planet. So that encouraged us to try to find a way to do it differently.”

It’s certainly an interesting take, and one that will mesh well with the equally fascinating Wakanda.

Namor Could Change The MCU Forever

Namor is, one might say, complex. He’s been at times a hero, a villain, and most often settles on antihero–in fact, he’s often considered the first antihero of comics. Even when teaming up with the Avengers and other heroes in the comics, his condescending, abrasive, and impatient ways often make his teammates want to punch him in the face–up to and including Spider-Man. He’s a dick, and that’s putting it diplomatically. He’s at times allied with and brawled with just about every superhero team and independent hero in Marvel, from the Avengers and Fantastic Four to Daredevil and Black Panther. Namor is about Namor, and he doesn’t really give a damn if others have a problem with that. He’ll start beef with everyone and anyone, and the annoying thing is that he has the powers and skills to back it up.

Of course, the MCU take will likely not be quite so abrasive–one doesn’t want him to always take the attention away from other characters. Still, Namor’s focus on his people and his people only, as well as his warlike nature, is poised to bring a brand-new dynamic to the live-action Marvel universe. Tony Stark was undoubtedly an agitator, and MCU heroes have come to blows before. But none of them hold a candle to Namor’s “You’re with me or against me, and if you’re against me, I’ll go straight through you” approach to getting what he wants. It will be deeply interesting to see what happens when Namor is up against not just the citizens of Wakanda, but when he has to interact with the heroes of the wider MCU. Chances are, it will not go smoothly–it rarely does with Namor. It’s exciting to know the Sub-Mariner is about to make his debut when Black Panther: Wakanda Forever hits theaters. When he does, expect him to leave his mark on the MCU in a big way.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is in theaters Friday, November 11. Get tickets now.

  • Editorial