When fans of Marvel Comics’ X-Men franchise think of valuable members of the group, their thoughts generally go to leaders like Cyclops, telepaths like Emma Frost and teleporters like Pixie. These days, though, the X-Men are particularly lucky to count Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner, among their ranks. His vast physical power makes him an invaluable asset in combat and the resources and technology at his disposal as ruler of Atlantis has also proved beneficial in helping to maintain and support the infrastructure of the X-Men’s island home Utopia.
Namor was added to the ranks of the X-Men because, chronologically, he is thought of as the world’s first mutant. The underwater monarch made his debut in 1939’s “Motion Pictures Funnies Weekly,” 24 years before “X-Men” #1. His superhuman physical abilities and his amphibious nature are generally believed to be a result of his human and Atlantean parentage. However his ability to fly is believed to be a mutation. Namor joined the ranks of the X-Men in the 2009 storyline “Utopia” and has made regular appearances in “Uncanny X-Men” ever since. This August, he’ll get involved in some solo action when his new ongoing series “Namor: The First Mutant” by writer Stuart Moore and artist Ariel Olivetti begins. CBR News spoke with Moore about the project spinning out of developments in the opening arc of the new “X-Men” series which finds the titular team combating a vampiric invasion of San Francisco.
CBR News: Stuart, how did “Namor: The First Mutant” come about?
Stuart Moore: I’ve been working with the X-Men editors lately on a variety of small projects: “Wolverine Noir,” “Deadpool Team-Up” and “Cloak & Dagger.” When this came up, I jumped at it. I’ve always loved the character, and lately I’ve been reading a lot of Robert E. Howard – Conan and Kull, especially. Namor fits right into that, especially the mythic, old-world nature of his forgotten, fallen kingdom.
Namor is one of Marvel’s oldest characters, and as such has been depicted in a variety of ways: anti-hero, hero, business man, monarch and avenging son. Will Namor be playing any of these roles in this series, or are you looking to take the character in a completely new direction?
Initially, we’ll be dealing with him as monarch and avenger (with a small “A”). As time goes on, we’ll explore different facets to his character.
It seems like this first storyline is very much about his dual allegiance to both the Atlanteans and mutants. In your mind, why has Namor remained so loyal to the mutants of the Marvel Universe? Is it simply because he has an attraction to Emma Frost and he believes that this will get him closer to her? Is it a strategic alliance since Atlantis is now destroyed? Or does he genuinely feet part of the mutant cause?
Yes, yes, and yes. It’s a mixture of all the reasons you’ve mentioned. One thing I don’t want to do is nail down Namor’s larger motivations too exactly. His greatest trait is his royal pride, which means sometimes even he doesn’t know why he does certain things.
It sounds like the inaugural story in “Namor: The First Mutant” spins out of developments in the “Curse of the Mutants” storyline which is about the X-Men fending off a vampiric invasion of San Francisco and begins in July’s “X-Men” #1. Do readers need to read that issue in order to understand and enjoy the first issue of “Namor: The First Mutant?”
You don’t have to read “X-Men” #1 and 2, but if you do, you’ll get a much bigger picture of the events surrounding our story. Without giving too much away: as we open, Namor is on a mission for the X-Men. That’s the catalyst for our book, and the events of issue #1 play a vital part in “Curse of the Mutants.” But they also set off a chain of events with immediate, very dire consequences for Namor and the Atlanteans.
Namor’s relationship to the X-Men is our starting point, and that relationship will continue throughout the series. But at its heart, this is not an X-Men story, it’s a Namor story.
In terms of plot and themes what is the opening story of “Namor” about?
I can’t get too specific about plot without bringing down the “Curse of the Mutants” on both our heads. But it’s about the consequences of pride; the curse of divided loyalties; and the price of stirring up secrets buried beneath the ocean floor.
Speaking of the ocean floor, where does this first story unfold? From the solicits, it sounds like this a tale that’s set primarily beneath the waves.
Yes, that’s right. We’ll meet a new group of Atlanteans, very different from any we’ve seen before, and learn some secrets about the city’s past. Namor will also have to make some hard decisions about his people’s future. But events on the surface world have a big influence on those decisions, too.
In this initial arc of “Namor” you pit your protagonist against a group of Atlantean vampires. What can you tell us about these characters? Do they have all the powers and weaknesses of your traditional Marvel U vampires?
They’re a different breed from surface vampires, with some special abilities that stem directly from their environment. They live very deep beneath the sea, in total darkness, in deep trenches and caves where blood-rich prey is scarce. As a result, they’re very, very hungry.
Who are some of the other supporting players in “Namor: The First Mutant?”
Let’s see – there will be at least one familiar Namor supporting character, and assorted X-Men will turn up as the series progresses. The new group of Atlanteans are crucial, and the vampires are pretty important themselves.
Ariel Olivetti is perhaps best known for his work depicting heroes with gigantic physiques, so what can readers expect from his art on “Namor?” Will we get scenes of super strong characters slugging it out, or is this a darker, more subtle work?
Ariel actually works in a wide variety of styles. Most people know him from his “Punisher War Journal” work, but he’s very versatile. As the action moves deeper, to the lair of the vampires, he’s working in a moodier style, using a lot more black, to suit the horror-story mode of those scenes. I think he’s going to impress a lot of people.
How would you describe the tone of this series? It sounds like there’s a hint of superhero action, but there’s also a strong vibe of pulp horror and weirdness here since you’re dealing with things like a lost world of Atlantean vampires?
Definitely a horror vibe. My big influences here are Lovecraft, Howard, that sort of thing, but with a modern horror-film sensibility. The danger with Namor is that everything will become too courtly, too formal and distant. I’m going for a very visceral storytelling style, all action and emotion, with a strong mythic, pulp feel to the background.
Any hints or teases as to where you’re taking the title after this first arc?
We’ll be exploring a balance of underwater and surface world stories. Namor has a foot in both worlds; his first obligation is to his people, and the threat of the vampires will bring that home in a way that continues after the first storyline ends. But he’s also a mutant, which ties him to the X-Men. And his attraction to both Emma Frost and Sue Richards – two very different women – keeps pulling him back to dry land, too.
Namor is an amazing character to write. He’s the kind of guy who sees a problem, sizes it up, and then acts. He’ll dive right down the mouth of Hell and take on anyone or anything. He’s also a very powerful presence-it takes an extremely strong will to stand up to him. But this radically new threat will test him in a lot of ways.