Namor, The Sub-Mariner is the ruler and protector of the underwater empire Atlantis. However, away from his home, he is many other things. Sometimes a hero, other times a villain, but a lot of the time an antihero – who has much disdain for the surface world. It makes him a fascinating character and a cult favourite for many.
If you’re curious about Namor and want to read some of his stories, this list will point you in the right direction. It has five great selections that show different sides of Namor and are great entry points for the character.
Written and art by Bill Everett.
Namor is one of Marvel’s oldest characters, debuting in 1939 as part of Timely’s (as Marvel was known back then) first comic. If you flick through the stories in this issue, there’s a particular trend. They follow the adventures of heroes saving the day. However, the Sub-Mariner story flips this to show a vengeful antihero who attacks every surface dweller he sees.
Overall, it’s an interesting tale explaining Namor’s motivations and highlighting his abilities. It’s also a curious look at one of the first antiheroes in the context of superhero comics.
The Coming Of… Sub-Mariner
Written by Stan Lee. Art by Jack Kirby.
While Namor was a popular character during the 1940s, he mostly disappeared from the stands when superheroes fizzled out in the following decade. It wasn’t until the early 1960s that he would return in the pages of Fantastic Four.
After a disagreement with the rest of the team, Johnny Storm hides out in a rough part of town. That’s where he meets a homeless man who turns out to be an amnesiac Namor, The Sub-Mariner. However, when Namor’s memories return to him, he causes havoc on the surface world. A kind that only the Fantastic Four can stop.
The Coming Of… Sub-Mariner is Namor’s integration into the modern Marvel Universe. From this story onwards, he’ll become a regular in early Fantastic Four stories and other superhero comics as a hero, anti-hero, and villain.
Issues: Fantastic Four (1961 series) #4
Collected Editions: ‘Fantastic Four Epic Collection: The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine’ or ‘Marvel Masterworks: Fantastic Four Volume 1’ or ‘Mighty Marvel Masterworks: The Fantastic Four Volume 1’ or ‘Namor, The Sub-Mariner Epic Collection: Enter The Sub-Mariner’
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Written by Peter Milligan. Art by Esad Ribic.
The Depths is an outlier when it comes to Namor stories. It’s a psychological horror tale set deep under the ocean. Set in the 1950s, it follows a rationalist sceptic and a submarine crew as they traverse the dark ocean searching for Atlantis. However, their expedition is not without dangers – originating from both the mind and dark depths.
Namor is barely in this. However, that’s not a bad thing. His absence is what makes it so effective. Instead of being front and centre, he’s a fearful tale that the submarine crew speak of. A spectre looming in the background from the dark depths, making his presence felt in small bursts. The result is an atmospheric horror that plays on the crew’s fears and how scary the ocean depths are.
Written by Alan Brennert. Art by Jerry Ordway.
Marvel released several one-shots in 2020 that explored Marvel characters from the perspective of ordinary people. Namor was the first to get one of these stories with a tale set in 1946 and narrated by Namor’s human girlfriend – Betty Dean.
Having a character study from another’s point of view allows for enough distance for the story to ask questions and probe. In this instance, the comic explores Namor’s temperament and, by extension, war-time PTSD. It’s a side of Namor readers haven’t seen before but makes a lot of sense in the context of post-World War II.
Oh, and Namor fights a Nazi in a robotic shark suit.
King In Black: Namor
Written by Kurt Busiek. Art by Benjamin Dewey and Jonas Scharf.
Told in the background of the King In Black comic book event*, this flashback miniseries looks back at young Namor’s first adventure. Namor joins Atlantis’ greatest heroes on a quest for a cursed artifact. However, it all goes wrong, and through this experience, he learns what it takes to be a hero for Atlantis. The comic is juxtaposed with present-day sequences showing how optimistic Namor once was before being whittled away by his experiences.
Benjamin Dewy renders the underwater world in beautiful detail. It’s populated with all kinds of sea life and is a joy to look at. It’s by far one of the lushest-looking comics on this list.
*Don’t worry if you haven’t read this event. While it has connections to King In Black most of it can be read without any knowledge of it.