You may be able to say that Marvel rules the world right now thanks to the success of both their comic book movies and their comics, but once upon a time things were looking pretty dire for the House of Ideas. Facing bankruptcy in the 1990’s, Marvel got desperate and sold off the movie rights to a large number of their biggest comic book properties. It’s why Fox currently controls the X-Men movie universe and Sony (mis)managed Spider-Man up until they decided to Marvel have the reins again recently. For many of these rights, there was a time-limit factor built into the deal: If the the owners don’t develop a movie with a certain time frame, the rights revert back to Marvel. That’s how Daredevil and Punisher ended up back at Marvel after Fox tried their hand at the characters to little success.
But for some characters though, thanks to murky initial negotiations, and further complicated production deals as owners just did anything the could to keep the rights from going back to Marvel, things got really complex. One such character, which was completely caught up in a web of unfathomable rights, was classic character Namor the Sub-Mariner. The operative word there being “was”.
Appearing on Kevin Smith’s Fatman On Batman podcast (via CBR), Marvel Comics Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada seemed to confirm that that the company was again in control of the character’s cinematic fate. When asked by Smith if “the same people that own Iron Man, own the Sub-Mariner?”, Quesada replied:
“I can’t speak for studios… As far as I know, yeah we do. It’s not at Fox, it’s not at Sony… Yeah.”
There is a little problem there though. Quesada doesn’t mention Universal, who also appeared to be developing their own Namor movie a few years back, but nothing came of it. Thanks to certain rights being retained by individual producers, it could very well be that somebody over on the Universal lot still has a claim in some way or form.
Then there’s the other wrinkle in that while Fox doesn’t have the rights to the character specifically, Namor is a mutant as well as a frequent Fantastic Four support character and both those elements are fully in Fox’s domain. But Namor is also the ruler of the underwater Kingdom of Atlantis though, has massive history with Captain America – the were both part of the WWII superteam the Invaders – and is also a member of the Marvel Comic Universe’s Illuminati (other members are Tony Stark, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Black Bolt and more). Those are all things under Marvel Studios’ control and would all be great ways to introduce the classic character. Since first being introduced back in 1939, Namor has blurred back and forth over the line between hero and villain several times over the years though, so it would be tough to say which side he would be on. My personal favourite depiction has always been somewhere in the middle, as somebody who fights for the greater good, but is not afraid to cross some moral boundaries to achieve those goals.
With all of that being said, you would have to think that if there’s any studio that can truly launch Namor to the biggest success, irrespective of which version that would be, it would be Marvel, given their track record. A co-production deal a la the same way Sony and Marvel are handling the Spider-Man movies, would make the most sense. So does Marvel have any plans for Namor in the works? Quesada could simply say that “I cannot confirm or deny, sir.”
Of course. You can listen to the full Fatman on Batman podcast below, with Quesada’s comments coming around the 41:15-mark:
Last Updated: June 6, 2016