Published July 15, 2022

Meet Namor, One of Marvel’s First Super Heroes

Explore the Prince of Atlantis' checkered history as both a hero and a villain of the Marvel Universe.

There are few characters in Marvel Comics with a history quite like Namor’s. Following his first appearance in Bill Everett's MARVEL COMICS (1939) #1, Namor often toed the line between being a hero and villain, leading him to become one of Marvel’s earliest examples of an antihero. Here’s a brief breakdown of Namor’s history in the Marvel Universe.

Namor’s Early History

Namor has gone on a lot of different adventures over the decades, but the most important of the hero’s early stories were retold in SAGA OF THE SUB-MARINER (1988), which starts with the unique circumstances of his birth. As the son of AtlantisPrincess Fen and a sailor named Leonard McKenzie, Namor is an Atlantean/human hybrid. Additionally, he is also a mutant, a fact that has informed many of his adventures. As a result of his genetic makeup, Namor possesses incredible physical strength and durability. He’s also able to fly thanks to the little wings on his ankles.

Due to Atlantis’ fierce xenophobia, Namor was often treated poorly because of his unusual heritage, despite being heir apparent to the civilization’s throne. Still, as a youth, he had a few friends, including his cousin Dorma. Eventually, Namor killed several divers from the surface while recovering cargo from a sunken ship. His cousin, Prince Byrrah, then manipulated Namor’s grandfather, the Atlantean Emperor Thakorr, into sending the Sub-Mariner to the surface to get revenge on the world. 

Namor arrived in New York City during World War II and proceeded to wreak havoc. However, after he learned more about what was happening and following an attempt by the Nazis to destroy Atlantis, the Sub-Mariner found himself teaming up with Jim Hammond, AKA the original Human Torch, and Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America, to fight the Nazis in Europe as a member of the Invaders.

When the war ended, Namor came home to Atlantis to find Byrrah and conspired to have him exiled. Then, he returned to the surface and joined the All-Winners Squad, which was essentially a continuation of the Invaders, until he was invited back to Atlantis for his grandfather’s birthday. When he arrived, though, he found many Atlanteans had been slaughtered and his grandfather was injured. Together with his cousin Namora, the Sub-Mariner returned to the surface to track down the attacker.

After fighting crime for several years, Namor returned to Atlantis, believing it impossible to bridge the gap between the human and Atlantean civilizations due to the bigotry he’d seen and experienced on the surface world. Soon, a series of earthquakes rocked Atlantis, killing his mother and grandfather. When Namor went to investigate their cause, he encountered Paul Destine, AKA Destiny, who had been part of the fateful expedition where Leonard McKenzie met Fen. Destiny took away Namor’s memories, and the Sub-Mariner ended up amnesic at a flop house in New York.

Namor Returns and Wreaks Havoc

Eventually, Namor had a chance encounter with Johnny Storm, the Human Torch of the Fantastic Four, who restored his memory. This also resulted in Namor meeting Sue Storm for the first time. He immediately began to pine for her, and has ever since. 

After getting his memory back, Namor headed home, only to find the city left in shambles. He believed Atlantis had been destroyed by nuclear testing and began his war on the surface world anew, teaming up with such characters as Doctor Victor von Doom and Magneto to accomplish his goals. The Sub-Mariner eventually found that Atlantis wasn’t destroyed after all and that his people had, in fact, just moved. 

Namor eventually regained the throne of Atlantis and was forced to contend with many different political adversaries. Those included Attuma, who attempted a coup against the Sub-Mariner, and Llyra, the leader of another undersea nation called Lemuria. Namor’s romantic relationship with Dorma also deepened, though Llyra’s machinations eventually resulted in her death. Later, he married Marrina Smallwood, a member of Alpha Flight, though she too died. 

Additionally, Namor helped found a super hero team called the Defenders and, at one point, even joined the Avengers. In the aftermath of the Kree/Skrull War, he also became a co-founder of the Illuminati, a group dedicated to protecting the world by major threats by any means necessary.

Namor’s Recent History

In recent years, Namor has played a key role in many Marvel’s most important events, all while suffering a lot of personal tragedy. At the start of CIVIL WAR, the villain Nitro killed Namorita – the daughter of the Sub-Mariner’s cousin Namora – in an explosion. In his quest for vengeance, Namor captured Nitro. As the event went on, however, Namor sided with Captain America against the Superhuman Registration Act, at least partially at the behest of Sue Storm. 

In the aftermath of CIVIL WAR, Namor found many of his old allies had abandoned him either for siding with Captain America or because of the revelation that he’d hidden several Atlantean sleeper cells in the United States. This resulted in Kamar, Namor’s long-lost son, attempting to take over Atlantis. However, Kamar failed, and Namor decided to kill his own son and send the Atlanteans into hiding rather than have them under the thumb of outside powers. Namor himself began working with Doctor Doom and even helped in the formation of the Cabal, a group of villains. 

During AVENGERS VS. X-MEN, Namor sided with his fellow mutants and ended up becoming one of five characters to get a piece of the Phoenix Force. Using his powers, Namor attacked Wakanda, absolutely devastating the African nation, to put Earth’s Mightiest Heroes down for good. This ignited a massive conflict between Wakanda and Atlantis. 

During NEW AVENGERS, Queen Shuri launched an attack on Atlantis, despite Namor trying to make peace with the nation. In response, Namor manipulated Thanos and the Black Order into attacking Wakanda. He also formed a new version of the Cabal that destroyed other worlds to protect Earth-616, the main Marvel Universe, but the Cabal eventually grew out of control and even destroyed Wakanda.

The destruction of Wakanda was undone by the events of SECRET WARS, and Namor once again took the throne of Atlantis. However, the Squadron Supreme, furious with Namor for having destroyed their worlds, attacked Atlantis, devastating the nation and murdering the Sub-Mariner, though he was eventually revived. 

Most recently, Namor joined the Avengers to help in the battle against the Council of Red, which is comprised of different versions of Mephisto from across the Multiverse who aim to manipulate events to their advantage, as well as a Multiversal version of Masters of Evil led by Doom Supreme. While the outcome of that battle is far from over, Namor has already proven himself a key ally in the fight, having stood toe-to-toe with a younger version of Thanos.

To follow Namor's continuing adventures, check out AVENGERS by Jason Aaron and Javier Garrón.

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