Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner was introduced to the world in 1939’s “Motion Picture Funnies Weekly,” a comic published by First Funnies Inc. before being reprinted in an expended version in “Marvel Comics” #1 by Timely, the company that would eventually become Marvel Comics. One of the oldest characters in the Marvel pantheon, Namor has played many roles during his long history — villain, hero, soldier and at one point even a business man. Generally, he’s been most concerned with being a monarch to his subjects, the people of the underwater continent of Atlantis. Recently though, he’s tried out two new roles. Not only is Namor a human-Atlantean hybrid, he’s also a mutant and several months ago, he decided to explore this aspect of his heritage by joining the mutant hero group known as the X-Men.
Namor’s newest role, that of vampire slayer, spun out of his affiliation with the X-Men. In the debut arc of his current ongoing series, “Namor: The First Mutant,” writer Stuart Moore and artist Ariel Olivetti pitted their protagonist a race of undersea bloodsuckers that had allied themselves with a force of vampires invading the X-Men’s home town of San Francisco. This week, the series’ second arc began with the release of issue #6. We spoke with Moore about his plans for the title which include sending his protagonist to Hell, an appearance by the villainous Doctor Doom and a possible civil war in Atlantis.
CBR News: Stuart, let’s kick things off by talking about the character of Alani Rya, or Loa, who played a role in the first arc of “Namor.” It looks as though she’ll be a prominent supporting player in the series going forward. As far as I can tell, the young female mutant didn’t have any previously revealed connections to Namor, so what made you want to bring her into this series and link her past with him like you did in issue #5?
Stuart Moore: As we were working on the first storyline, the “Namor” editorial team — Jeanine Schaefer and Jody Leheup — had an idea at about the same time I did. We all thought Namor could use, not a sidekick exactly, but an identification character; his version of Kitty Pryde to Wolverine, a sort-of-normal person who could keep the underwater drama from becoming too remote, too alien. Somebody who’d be experiencing Namor’s world with fresh eyes, at the same time as the reader.
We also wanted to strengthen Namor’s ties to the X-Men. So the editors suggested Loa, a fascinating character and one they’d never really found room to explore in depth. In fact, when I started researching her, I had a tough time finding stories where she’d used her powers! But she was a natural for this book; she’s a surfer from Hawaii, she looks really cool, and her disruption power basically involves “swimming” through matter. I really got to like her, and she fit perfectly into the story I already had planned for issue #5.
At the end of the inaugural arc, Namor mentions that he can no longer ignore matters that go on outside the walls of Atlantis. In his mind, what exactly does this mean? Are we going to see Namor start to play the role of undersea explorer and diplomatic envoy?
You’re already seeing that. Namor’s been a sort of ambassador to the surface world through the X-Men for some time, and in Jonathan Hickman’s current “Fantastic Four” stories, he’s working with Sue Richards to broker peace with other underwater tribes.
But in a larger sense, yes, you’re picking up on one of the main themes of our book. In the past, Atlantis was an isolated, walled-off society — for centuries, the surface world wasn’t even aware of its existence. That ended on the day the first surface-world depth charges accidentally dropped onto Atlantis. Namor knows he’s living in a different, much smaller world than his predecessors. And despite his arrogance, he’s also idealistic enough to want to build a better, more free society than the relentless warrior culture he inherited.
In the series’ initial arc, the actions of Namor’s grandfather played a huge role in the plot, and it sounds like the actions of past Atlantean kings will also haunt Namor in this next arc, “Namor goes to Hell.” What is it about the old rulers that make them such interesting and prominent characters in this series? Is it simply Namor’s connection to them as current monarch of Atlantis or is there something else going on here?
Namor’s grandfather, Emperor Thakorr, was a very immediate presence in his early life. As seen in issue #2, Thakorr wasn’t always kind to his grandson; Thakorr comes from that earlier tradition of warrior-kings, where you teach the kids, harshly, to toughen up or die. A very old-world, almost barbaric way of ruling both your kingdom and your family.
In the Hell story, the Atlantean Kings drag Namor down to the underworld with them. The reasons aren’t simple, and they’re not as clear as they might seem at first. But it’s all part of Namor’s struggle to bring his kingdom into the 21st century.
Without giving too much away: After defeating the Aqueos vampires, Namor believes he’s made peace with his grandfather’s ghost and banished the past. Now he can build the new colony, New Atlantis, into the society he knows it should be. In “Namor Goes to Hell,” he gets a hard lesson: It’s not that simple.
How important an element is the setting in “Namor Goes to Hell?” What can you tell us about the titular Hell of this arc? What kind of dimension is it and why have several Atlantean kings ended up there?
The setting was absolutely crucial — it was the first thing I figured out. As seen in the preview pages, Namor’s Hell is very different from Wolverine’s. For Namor, Hell is an arid desert, without life — most importantly, without water. That gave us a chance to wrench Namor 180 degrees away from his usual, underwater realm, and Ariel Olivetti did a beautiful job bringing the Hell-desert to life.
Early on in the story, the Atlantean Logomancer, Namor’s scientist/magician, says: “For some people, Hell is a punishment for sins. For others, it’s just a big pool of self-doubt and loneliness.” In order to escape, Namor first has to figure out exactly what his Hell is, and then come to terms with it.
Who are the antagonists of the “Namor Goes to Hell” arc and what is it about them that makes them good foils for the Sub-Mariner?
The Atlantean Kings — Namor’s predecessors — are a big shadow looming over his shoulder, every day he sits on the throne. Is he as good as they were? As tough? As kind? As effective? Meeting them in person drags up all those doubts for him, and more.
And then there’s Doom.
Speaking of the good Doctor, it sounds like Doom plays an important supporting role in this arc. How would you describe the past and current relationship between Namor and his Latverian royalty counterpart?
They’re both monarchs, both kings, and that means they share certain experiences and burdens that other people can’t understand. But it also means they’ll never really be friends the way normal people are. They’ve both got the fate of thousands of people resting on their every move, and they’re both manipulators in their way. I see their relationship as a constant back-and-forth — each of them wants the other in his debt. That chess game is played out in this storyline, hopefully in some surprising ways.
Who are some of the other important supporting players in “Namor Goes to Hell?”
The Logomancer has become a favorite of mine. He’s a crusty old scientist-mage, the only guy in Atlantis who might be able to figure out how to re-open the gateway to Hell. And then there’s Abira, a member of the young Atlantean offshoot called the Tridents. She’s searching for her place in this new world, and somehow it keeps leading back to Namor.
There are a couple of X-Men appearances, too, which I’ll leave as a surprise.
In April, you begin your third storyline with a tale that finds the Sub-Mariner facing off against his old foe Krang, which sort of begs the question: why was Krang working alongside Namor in the initial arc of this series? How complicated is the dynamic between these two characters?
It’s a dance of power, but at its core it’s pretty simple. Krang covets the throne, but he’s not a simple super villain; he wants to rule his people, and he honestly believes he could do it better than Namor. While Namor was off assaulting the underwater vampires, I suggested that Krang lead the defense of New Atlantis –Victor Gischler incorporated that brilliantly into the main “Curse of the Mutants” storyline, in “X-Men.” The people of Atlantis remember that, and we’ll explore the consequences in both “Namor Goes to Hell” and the next storyline, “The Fire Down Below.”
Let’s wrap with a question I know is on a number of fans’ minds — do you have any desire to bring Namora from the Agents of Atlas into the book?
I like Namora, but it’ll be a little while. Namorita, too — she’s a fun character, but we won’t get to her right away.
Also, Ariel Olivetti is wrapping up his time on “Namor” with the Hell storyline, and then we have the incredibly talented Antonio Fuso coming on for “The Fire Down Below.” Ariel’s done amazing work — his Namor is powerful and imposing, and his underwater settings are just incredible. But I’m also excited about Antonio. He did a great-looking Vertigo graphic novel recently, and he’s one of those artists who can draw anything — military, sword and sorcery, you name it. Issue #9 is one of the most jam-packed scripts I’ve written, so he’ll probably be cursing my name before this is over, but I’m looking forward to the collaboration.