Namor the Sub-Mariner is one of the oldest superhero characters in comic books, first appearing in Marvel Comics #1 back in 1939—pre-dating even Captain America in what was then known as "Timely Comics."
He's remained a regular fixture in the Marvel Universe, appearing as both an ally and antagonist to the Fantastic Four and the Avengers, a member of the Defenders, and a dude with a powerful crush on the Invisible Woman. Recently, his status as "Marvel's First Mutant" has seen him step away from the underwater kingdom of Atlantis and joining up with the X-Men on their island sanctuary of Utopia.
Namor has starred in plenty of his own series, too—for 72 issues starting in 1968, a 1984 mini-series and a '90s ongoing originally written and drawn by John Bryne, and distinguished for launching the career of Jae Lee. Former Marvel president Bill Jemas co-wrote a 12-issue series in 2003 as part of the company's short-lived "Tsunami" line, and a six-issue miniseries profiled the character in 2007, during the post-Civil War era of "The Initiative." Most recently, he starred in a 2008 Peter Milligan-penned series, Sub-Mariner: The Depths, as part of the Marvel Knights line of "not quite in continuity" tales.
Now, the impetuous half-human, half-Atlantean is stepping into a new ongoing series, out in August and from writer Stuart Moore (Zendra, Wolverine Noir and penciler Ariel Olivetti (Space Ghost, Punisher War Journal). Following-up on last week's announcement, we reached out to Moore on the direction of the new series, Namor's recent stint with the X-Men, the current status of Atlantis and settling the issue of whether or not Namor is a poor man's Aquaman.
Newsarama: You've written a pretty wide variety of Marvel Comics, but I believe this is your first time writing Namor, at least in a starring role. What's attractive to you about the character?
Stuart Moore: Namor is all attitude, with the power to back it up. His biggest asset is also his greatest flaw: his pride, which allows him to bull through almost anything but also leads him to make gigantic errors, with tragic consequences. In a way, he's the grandest character in the Marvel Universe. He's like Conan underwater, in the modern world.
Plus he has a whole world under the sea that the other heroes can't share. As a kid, I loved that.
Nrama: Why do you think now is a good time for a new Namor series?
Moore: Well, I hope it's a good time, but I'm mostly concerned with making it the best book I can. That said, there's a real fascination with antiheroes right now, and Namor fits right into that. In his very first stories, back in the Golden Age, he walked right onto land and started trashing New York, just because he was pissed off. Namor was hardcore from the start.
Nrama: What do you think about Namor's shift from being more on the Fantastic Four or Avengers side to being part of the X-Men cast? Do you think he fits in well with the X-Men, and why?
Moore: He's always been established as a mutant -- it's why he can fly, when no other Atlanteans can. So on one hand, he has an affinity with the X-Men; but on the other, they are surface people, so they'll always be alien to him at best, and enemies at worst.
He's also fascinated with Emma Frost. I love that dynamic, especially as Matt Fraction has set it up. It shows you the decadent side of Namor, as opposed to his purer affection for Sue Richards.
Nrama: Namor has had a couple of ongoings and a few miniseries in the past, but still has a tag with most fans as being a character that's great in a supporting role in a book, but not really a star. How do you combat that kind of notion? Is it even a concern for you as a writer? Basically, how do you get casual fans to think of him as more than just a poor man's Aquaman?
Moore: Namor actually came before Aquaman, but that's just quibbling. I prefer to think of him as comics' first antihero -- a man of great emotion and pride, whose first priority is to his people. Except when it's not.
I should emphasize, too: The first storyline is very much a horror tale, as you'd expect from a story about underwater vampires. These creatures are very different from land-based vampires, and in many ways more powerful. They also live very deep down in the ocean, where protein-rich prey is rare. So they're very, very hungry.
Nrama: The press release for the new Namor book makes it clear that, for at least the first arc, the title will be tying heavily in with X-Men. How much of a role will the X-Men play in the book? Is it being considered part of the X-Men "family" of titles?
Moore: The first story arc, "Royal Blood," deals with Namor's involvement in the vampire situation set up in the new X-Men title, which starts in July. Namor #1 plays a very specific part in that storyline. After that first issue, the stories diverge, though the X-Men will continue to appear in our book. I definitely want to do more with Namor and Emma, but as I tell everyone: This is a Namor story, not an X-Men story. The events of "Royal Blood" will rock his world to the core.
Nrama: What are Namor's motivations as the book starts? He's always been defined as the protector of Atlantis, but recently he's been staying with the X-Men on Utopia, and showing that he has loyalties to the mutant world, as well. Basically, are we going to see more of Namor undersea or on land?
Moore: The first storyline takes place largely undersea, as Namor and some new allies must dive down to the very heart of the underwater vampires' lair. But a good number of Namor's warriors are on Utopia right now -- or, actually, underneath it, where they've established a new undersea base. So he'll be travelling back there as well.
As for Namor's motives and loyalties: That's the very core of the first storyline. I can't get into too much detail, but in issue #1, he undertakes a mission on behalf of the X-Men. And that kicks off some big, big trouble for the entire undersea world.
Nrama: What's the status of Atlantis? It was destroyed, but the press release material for Namor #1 suggests that it might be making a comeback.
Moore: You'll see the current state of Atlantis in issue #1, and it'll evolve from there.
Nrama: Looking forward, what are your plans for developing a supporting cast for Namor?
Moore: Right off the bat, I'm giving him some very different Atlantean allies. One of the things I want to do is make the Atlanteans a bit more relatable, more human, without losing any of their fierceness or warrior culture. Namor's invaded the surface world so many times, the Atlanteans sometimes seem like just blue monsters. We'll be exploring some different sides to their civilization.
Nrama: What about any plans for appearances from a past nemesis like Attuma?
Moore: It's possible down the line. We're setting up a new situation for Namor and some new supporting characters, and once that's set, we'll see who else shows up.
Nrama: How has working with Ariel Olivetti been so far? His visuals are always striking, and seem quite well suited for a work like this.
Moore: Yes, I've always liked Ariel's work. He's going for a particular, very moody look to the undersea scenes, especially in the first issue, where Namor dives deeper than he's ever gone before. I can't wait for people to see it.