Black Panther: Wakanda Forever has finally hit theater screens, and it’s brought a few new characters along with it. Perhaps the biggest name to make their Marvel Cinematic Universe debut is Tenoch Huerta‘s Namor, the King of Talokan and one of the fiercest warriors Earth-616 has ever known. The character makes his highly-anticipated first appearance on the big screen after decades of failed attempts, and the result is radiant. However, the Sub-Mariner’s live-action interpretation is a little different than his original comic book take. Not better or worse, per se, but definitely not the same. As such, it becomes the duty of Murphy’s Multiverse to inform its readers of the history of Namor – as it happens on both the page and the screen.
Comics – Namor McKenzie, the Sub-Mariner
Much like his portrayal in the MCU, Namor is initially introduced to the world of Marvel comics as a terrifying vengeance from the deep. Along with the original Human Torch, the “Sub-Mariner” was one of the first Marvel characters ever to grace the page. Namor debuted in 1939’s Marvel Comics #1, in a story that saw him as an enemy of the United States. However, his true cause was not completely unjust. As King of Atlantis, and lifelong inhabitant of the ocean, Namor has always been most faithful to his people and their way of life. If the surface world were ever to endanger this, Namor would not hesitate to take action against the rest of Earth’s civilization.
The future monarch was born in the Atlantean capital to Fen, the daughter of Emperor Thakorr, and Leonard McKenzie, an American sea captain. Fen and McKenzie had fallen for each other while the former was infiltrating the latter’s ship, and produced a half-blooded mutant son with pink skin and feathered ankles. The Atlanteans did not take kindly to this, quickly killing McKenzie and forcing Fen back to her home. Namor would then be raised as the Prince of Atlantis, building a strong relationship with the underwater nation while occasionally popping to the surface world and handling scenarios involving oil spills and attacking foreign powers. Growing into adulthood, the Sub-Mariner gained incredible strength and durability, as well as other powers including flight, Marine life telepathy, and hydrokineses.
Namor rose to further prominence during the Second World War, when he joined Captain America and the Allied Forces as part of the Invaders – a superhero team formed to bring down the Nazis. This period would cement Namor and Atlantis as a world power, bringing McKenzie into contact with several notable leaders and members of the superpowered community. It was during WWII that Namor first met the Black Panther and visited Wakanda, who he and Atlantis would eventually develop a lasting back-and-forth with. After the war, Namor became further integrated into the Marvel universe, encountering the likes of the Fantastic Four and the Avengers. His status as friend or foe was always dependent on the situation, even after helping to found Marvel’s version of the Illuminati and save the planet on multiple occasions.
MCU – Namor, the Feathered Serpent God
The MCU’s version of Namor is similar in spirit, if not in detail. He maintains his nationalistic attitude and undying devotion to his people and is still very much a jerk when the scenario calls for it. However, in Wakanda Forever, the undersea ruler is not from Atlantis but is instead from the nation of Talokan. He is also not born into a royal bloodline, with his homeland alternatively finding life at the same time as him. As explained in the film, Namor’s people were driven from their land on the surface world by diseases, specifically, smallpox, brought on by colonizers. Luckily, the future citizens of Talokan discovered a reserve of vibranium in the waters off their shore, and a form of Heart-Shaped Herb growing above it.
Taking the Herb, Namor’s people were able to recover from their illness. Unfortunately, they also found themselves unable to survive on land and were forced to retreat beneath the waves. They built a new city underwater and began to thrive. Namor’s mother took the Herb with Namor still in the womb, and as a result, he was born a mutant with astonishing abilities. Winged feet, human skin, and immense strength led to his crowning as the prophesized ruler of Talokan, better known to its people as K’uk’ulkan – the “Feathered Serpent God”. Aging at an incredibly slow rate, Namor would rule over Talokan in secret for centuries.
It’s not until T’Challa, King of Wakanda, reveals the presence of vibranium to the world, and Riri Williams, a gifted student from the United States, creates a machine that detects vibranium, that Namor feels the need to make himself known. In an effort to protect his country, Namor wages war on Wakanda and lays waste to its lands and royal family. Every bit as aggressive as his comic book counterpart, Namor makes sure everyone knows not to trifle with Talokan, and founds an uneasy alliance with Wakanda in the process.