The Sub-Mariner may finally surface in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
While attending an awards screening of Black Panther, critic Erick Weber had the chance to ask Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige three questions. Weber was able to confirm an Avengers 4 trailer will be out before the end of the year and the status of Guardians of the Galaxy 3 is “on hold,” but his third question received a more interesting response. According to Feige, Namor “could” appear in a MCU feature; it’s just down to “if & when.”
Namor’s intellectual property status has been one of the more curious tales in Marvel’s rise to media powerhouse. While the rest of the Fantastic Four characters were sold off to 20th Century Fox during the lean 1990s, Namor was somehow orphaned from the rest when director Phillip Kaufman and entities like Saban Entertainment optioned the character by his lonsome. He eventually landed at Universal, where he languished for much of the 21st Century. And unlike the Incredible Hulk, with which Universal must first refused to distribute a Hulk movie before Marvel will make one, Namor was presumed to be under Universal’s complete control. In 2012, Feige said Universal could not make a Namor film, but “there are older contracts that still involve other parties that mean we need to work things out before we move forward on it.”
Then roughly two years ago, Marvel Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada claimed the rights to Namor were squarely in Marvel’s pocket. Feige’s update seems to confirm Quesada’s earlier statement, but it leaves a giant question mark which ultimately explains why Universal did nothing with Namor while they had the rights to him.
Though one of the original Golden Age Marvel characters from its days as Timely Comics, the Sub-Mariner’s history is largely entwined with The Fantastic Four. In fact, his strongest stories see him positioned as a romantic rival for Sue Storm’s affections or a foe of the team. Even outside of his FF affiliation, he often plays better as a foil to other heroes than a strong traditional lead hero. A studio like Universal would be disinclined to build out a world for him and Marvel Studios may not see him as a lead either. But he could prove to be a mighty addition to the world in a supporting role.
Which brings us to the “if” of the matter. If Marvel Studios gets control of The Fantastic Four, the safe bet would be to hold him in reserve for their FF plans. Come to think of it, he might make a great antagonist for their MCU debut. Converting a foe to friend would set the team apart from other Marvel movies and leave Doom as looming threat. Of course, his retcon as Marvel’s first mutant suggests there may be a future for him in their X-Men plans as well. Time will tell of course. It always does.