Namor often feels like the Rodney Dangerfield of Marvel Comics. He has an illustrious career as a superhero, king, and defender of the multiverse, but has never held the same status as his peers. In team books he often holds a second seat. and it’s rare for him to receive a miniseries or an ongoing that doesn’t share another character’s name. Even when he encounters land-loving leaders in the comics, he tends to be treated as something less than a king or one of Earth’s mightiest mortals. Namor the Sub-Mariner gets no respect.
Even with a publication and placement history that makes him seem like an A-lister relegated to the B-list, Namor is far from a bad character. Isolating him from his traditional treatment reveals a hero who is one of the most essential Marvel Comics creations to ever be printed in four colors or more. Whether you examine the character’s real world history or his increasingly complex continuity, Namor is a superhero who helps to clarify a lot about what makes Marvel Marvel.
Now that Namor is making a big showing in Avengers and setting himself up as a central antagonist for Marvel’s premiere team, and possibly a hero in his own right for future stories, it’s worth considering who exactly Namor is at Marvel, and why he matters.