Before Black Panther: Wakanda Forever released in theaters and became a juggernaut in the way most Marvel movies do, there was plenty of anticipation to see how the film would handle Namor the Sub-Mariner. Now that the film has come out, the character’s received a new surge of attention thanks to his portrayal by Narcos: Mexico’s Tenoch Huerta Mejía and his reworked origin as the ruler of the underwater kingdom of Talokan.
With how Marvel Studios prepares basically anyone to step up for a solo adventure after being a guest star in someone else’s story, you’d be right in thinking we’re due for a Namor spinoff in the near future. But longtime Marvel Studios executive producer Nate Moore told The Wrap that Disney remains barred off from giving the character his own standalone feature on account of Universal Pictures continuing to own the movie rights to the Sub-Mariner. (By that same logic, you can presume a Disney+ series is off the table.) Back in the 90s when Marvel Comics was in danger of going bankrupt, it sold off character rights to other studios, like Fox or Sony. Universal got Namor and the Hulk, and even though they’ve tried over the decades to get a movie for the underwater antihero off the ground, nothing really came of those efforts before the Black Panther sequel.
As it stands, Marvel’s deal with Universal even affected Wakanda’s promos: Moore continued that Namor couldn’t even be alone on marketing materials unless it was for a poster. You know how some Marvel movies have commercials that hype up the danger of its villain? This was why Wakanda Forever did one for the Talokanil overall and not their leader specifically. “There weren’t really things we couldn’t do from a character perspective for him,” he explained. “But we also made some big changes to really anchor him in that world in a truth that publishing never really landed on, I would argue, in a big way.”
It’s currently unclear how long Marvel Studios’ deal with Universal will continue, or if the studio is actively trying to make a play to reacquire Hulk and Namor. Likewise, it isn’t known if it’s possible for Marvel to use a Namor-adjacent character as a lead and have Namor show up, as we saw with She-Hulk. Unlike with the Netflix characters, it might not be possible for the studio to just run the clock until such a time when the rights revert to them. “Namor will return,” promised Moore, but in what capacity will be unclear until Marvel straight up says so, or it gets leaked in merchandising material.
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