Royal Family Values: Atlantis and Wakanda by Jerry Whitworth
As rumors circulate about the content of the sequel to 2018’s hit film Black Panther, speculation has the 2022 film bringing Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner to the Marvel Cinematic Universe after years in limbo with Universal Pictures. In the comics, the characters are no strangers to each other. In addition to both royals being Avengers, Namor came to blows with T’Challa’s grandfather Azzuri during the events of World War II, sat together on Iron Man’s clandestine Illuminati (though, T’Challa stepped away after the initial meeting), and both of their nations went to war with each other to vast mutual devastation. Lets take a look at some of the notable players and the similarity in their roles.
Born from a union between Atlantis’ Princess Fen and human Leonard McKenzie during his quest to secure Vibranium in the Antarctic, Namor (whose name means ‘Avenging Son’) is a mutant hybrid of both of his parents’ species. Born with wings on his ankles, Namor is capable of flight as well as inexplicable telepathy with aquatic life including his fellow Atlanteans. Raised below the waves in Atlantis, the conflict of World War II brought the hot headed prince to the surface where he aligned with Captain America and the Allies against the Axis menace. Joining Namor in his struggles on the surface was Aquaria Neptunia, his cousin also born of a union between Atlantean and human inevitably nicknamed ‘Namora’ after her more famous kin. Following the war, Namor lived on the surface as an amnesiac bum under the effects of the Serpent Crown. His memory restored by the Fantastic Four’s Human Torch, Namor believed his nation destroyed by nuclear conflict and began his first of many wars against the surface world. Both Namor and T’Challa are strong, smart rulers of small but powerful nations whose hearts are guided by the will of their people. Time and again put into impossible positions between the needs of their countries and the world, the Sub-Mariner and Black Panther are mirror images of each other.
Like her cousin Namor, Aquaria Neptunia was born of the union between a surface dweller and Atlantean noble. Her home country destroyed by nuclear weapons, Aquaria eventually migrated to Atlantis where she became a childhood friend to Namor, their cousin Byrrah, and Meranno. Following the second World War, Aquaria’s father was murdered by gangsters and after she aided Namor in bringing them to justice, she remained on the surface as his partner (moving in with Betty Dean, Namor’s closest friend on the surface). Aquaria came to be referred to as Namora (meaning ‘Avenging Daughter’) in honor of her cousin and in time became a hero in her own right, operating separately from Namor. When her cousin left the surface to focus on Atlantis, Namora began working as an agent for the United States government and joined groups such as Ulysses Bloodstone’s Monster Hunters, Jimmy Woo’s G-Men, and Nick Fury’s Avengers. When Namor disappeared, Namora tried searching for him in vain. In time, Namora bore a child cloned from her DNA named Namorita and moved to the nation of Lemuria where she married its ruler Merro. This union put her at odds with Llyra, a human-Atlantean hybrid and foe of Namor who sought the throne of Lemuria for herself. Llyra eventually poisoned Namora and appeared to kill her, leaving the villain to marry Merro. However, Namora was instead in a state of suspended animation and was revived by the G-Men. The Okoye of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a close confidant of T’Challa, his chief protector and oft times partner. In battle, few are as trusted to watch the ruler of Wakanda’s back than Okoye.
The clone of Namora carried to birth like a natural pregnancy, Namorita lost her mother to the machinations of Llyra only to be raised by her parent’s supposed murderer. When Namor liberated Namorita from Lemuria, she was raised on the surface by one of her mother’s closest friends in Betty Dean. While attending college at Empire State University, Namorita became a founding member of the New Warriors, a group of teen heroes that included Nova (in time, the two becoming lovers). Namorita inevitably lost her life along with other members of the New Warriors during an incident that famously gave rise to the storyline Civil War. Like Shuri, Namorita is a young royal living in the shadow of their older, more famous relative (namely, Namor and T’Challa). The animated brand Marvel Rising saw Shuri join the Secret Warriors, a group of young heroes not unlike the New Warriors.
An engineer that supervised construction of a domed structure in the ocean near Atlantis to grow food, Dr. Walter Newell crossed paths with Namor when the Plunderer attacked and destroyed the dome. Following this, Newell became an infrequent ally of Namor and eventually designed a special ocean exploration suit he used to become the hero Stingray. Meeting and eventually marrying Namor’s friend Diane Arliss, Stingray teamed with many heroes and for a time offered his headquarters Hydrobase to the Avengers when their mansion base was destroyed (in time, the Avengers recognized him as a member). When the aquatic superhero team Deep Six was formed, Stingray was the only mostly surface dweller to join its ranks (the team also included a reformed Tiger Shark, Newell’s brother-in-law). Years later, when Namor formed the Defenders of the Deep to protect the oceans from surface dwellers, he offered membership to Stingray but when the scientist demonstrated reluctance to join, Namor nearly killed him. While Namor has made several allies over the years on the surface, Stingray was one who largely had one foot in both worlds like the Sub-Mariner. For the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Everett K. Ross was a CIA operative whose life was saved by T’Challa and who helped the king regain his throne and save the world from Killmonger. One of the few outsiders allowed into Wakanda, Ross proved himself a trustworthy ally for the traditionally clandestine nation.
A distant cousin of Namor and member of Atlantean nobility, Lady Dorma fell deeply in love with Namor and often aided him during his conflicts on the surface world. In time, the pair became lovers but the emergence of the Invisible Girl and Namor’s attraction to the super heroine complicated their relationship. Krang, a high ranking officer in the Atlantean military, desired Dorma and joined with her to turn Atlantis against Namor. However, Namor managed to regain his people’s loyalty, leaving Dorma to align with Namor’s nemesis Attuma to conquer Atlantis. Dorma, who thought she could seduce Attuma, was instead spurned by the barbarian warlord so she sought the aid of the Fantastic Four to liberate her homeland. Time and again, Dorma worked her way back into the good graces of Namor only to betray him again and the pair to then later make up. Eventually, Namor accepted Dorma as his consort and she swore loyalty to him, the pair in time becoming engaged for marriage. The marriage, though, never came to pass when Dorma was murdered by Namor’s foe Llyra where Dorma saved her love with her dying breath. Nakia is portrayed as an aloof romantic interest of T’Challa in the Marvel Cinematic Universe but in the comics, she desired T’Challa only to be spurned by him. Instead, she became a spiteful foe known as Malice who attacked T’Challa’s loved ones and inevitably died as a consequence of one of her own plots. What’s interesting about Nakia’s future is that Disney now has access to the X-Men franchise and among that property is Storm, a character T’Challa married in the comics. Time will tell if Storm could be to Nakia what Invisible Girl was to Dorma.
Brother of Diane Arliss, one of Namor’s closest allies on the surface world, Todd Arliss was an Olympic swimmer who suffered a spinal injury that ended his career. When geneticist Dr. Lemuel Dorcas offered to repair the Olympian’s spine, he used the DNA of a tiger shark and Namor to turn Arliss into a monster. Becoming Tiger Shark, a pawn in Dorcas’ plans for world domination, Arliss turned into one of Namor’s most reoccurring foes, notable for having taken the life of the Atlantean’s father. Tiger Shark aligned with many villains over the years, from Namor’s foes like Llyra and Attuma to groups in the Masters of Evil, Hood’s Gang, Offenders, and the Lethal Legion. When Arliss’ sister was in danger, he briefly turned over a new leaf and aligned with Namor and joined the aquatic superhero group Deep Six (along with his brother-in-law, Walter Newell, aka the aquatic hero Stingray, and alien Tamara Rahn who became his lover). Tiger Shark time and again alternated from villain to hero, most recently becoming a hero again as part of Namor’s Defenders of the Deep. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, M’Baku began as a foe of T’Challa to then become an infrequent ally. However, in the comics, M’Baku as Man-Ape is one of his most longtime enemies, even joining the Lethal Legion, Masters of Evil, and Villains for Hire. It should be mentioned, M’Baku also shares a number of traits with Namor’s nemesis Attuma, a barbarian chief whose people were exiled from Atlantis ages past and lead multiple invasions of their former homeland (finding success time and again). However, Attuma typically remained Namor’s foe until after the recent war with Wakanda when Atlantis was left horribly devastated and Attuma decided to finally align with the nation rather than try to conquer it.
Little is known of the origins of Krang save that he was an Atlantean soldier who took part in the mission to reclaim Princess Fen from the surface. Therein, she had fallen in love with a human named Leonard McKenzie with whom she bore a child in Namor. When Namor came of age and joined the Allies during World War II, Krang (by then a captain) opposed becoming involved in the surface conflict. When an attack by the Nazis on Atlantis left Emperor Thakorr in a coma, Krang aligned with their ruler’s step-son Byrrah to place him on the throne over Namor. Byrrah and Krang worked to discredit Namor in the eyes of Thakorr when he eventually awoke. When the Serpent Crown seemingly killed Thakorr and Fen as well as left Namor amnesiac on the surface, Byrrah took the throne, aligned with the barbarian chief Attuma, and raised Krang to the status of warlord over all of Atlantis’ armies. In the ensuing years, Krang assembled forces in plans to invade the surface and conquer it. Additionally, the warlord sought the favor of Lady Dorma who mourned the loss of her beloved Namor. When Namor returned, he and Dorma deposed and exiled Byrrah leaving Namor to ascend the throne. However, when Namor became interested in the Fantastic Four’s Invisible Girl, Dorma aligned with Krang to turn Atlantis against its new ruler. Their alliance lead to Krang taking control of the underwater nation but Dorma’s guilt lead her to aiding Namor to return to power. Krang returned again and again as a foe of Atlantis and aligned with Dr. Dorcas to make creatures such as Orka and Tiger Shark and paired with various others including Llyra. Eventually, Krang abandoned his ambitions and became Namor’s Minister of War. For W’Kabi of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he was the loyal leader of Wakanda’s armies who was manipulated into the service of Killmonger.
A pure blood Atlantean royal raised alongside his hybrid human/Atlantean cousins Namor and Aquaria, Byrrah secretly resented their mixed heritage and mutant abilities. As time passed, his dislike of them turned to hatred as he actively sought to assassinate them to clear a path for himself to the throne. With Namor’s remarkable capabilities making such a feat difficult, Byrrah aligned with Atlantean warlord Krang to try and turn their nation’s ruler Emperor Thakorr against the heroic prince. In time, Namor came to realize Byrrah’s treachery and actively sought to expose him. Such did not come to pass as it appeared Thakorr and his daughter (Namor’s mother) Princess Fin were killed and Namor left amnesiac by the Serpent Crown leaving Byrrah to sit on the throne. Along with Krang and the barbarian chief Attuma, Byrrah ruled the oceans until Namor returned years later and, with Lady Dorma’s aid, deposed the trio to take Atlantis for himself as its rightful ruler. Byrrah returned time and again along with Atlantis’ enemies including Dr. Dorcas and Llyra only to meet defeat each time. For the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Erik Killmonger is T’Challa’s cousin and a viable heir to the throne of Wakanda which he exploited to take power. Where Byrrah and Killmonger differ, however, is Byrrah is typically depicted as a schemer rather than fighter. As an aside, Llyra also tried to use the Atlantean bloodline of kings to rule Atlantis by having a child with Namor’s nephew Leon McKenzie named Llyron.
A brilliant geneticist, Dr. Lemuel Dorcas sought world domination and fixated on capturing Atlantis as a stepping stone in that direction. Turning Todd Arliss, brother of Prince Namor’s close friend Diane Arliss, into a monster called Tiger Shark and aligning with Warlord Krang (turning his acolyte Orka into another monster), the pair came close but failed to conquer the underwater kingdom. Adding Byrrah to their alliance and later joining with Attuma (creating the Piranha and an army of Men-Fish/Aquanoids), Namor time and again defeated Dorcas. For a time, it appeared Dorcas had died only to later return having turned himself into a starfish/human hybrid. In his absence, his creations featured prominently in Namor’s life including joining Attuma’s Deep Six which saw Tiger Shark, Orka, and the Piranha (with Nagala and the Sea Urchin) among their number. While Dr. Dorcas tried to use Atlantis as a stepping stone to conquer Earth, Ulysses Klaw in the Marvel Cinematic Universe simply wanted to profit off of Wakanda’s primary resource in Vibranium. Interestingly enough, Namor’s nephew Leon McKenzie plundered the Vibranium Namor’s father acquired in the Antarctic and became the supervillain Black Moray.
Childhood friend of Atlantean royals Namor, Aquaria, and Byrrah, Meranno grew to become a brilliant scientist who secretly despised the Sub-Mariner. When Namor lead Atlantis into the second World War beside the Allies, Meranno chose to reveal his homeland’s location to Germany very nearly resulting in its destruction (ruler Emperor Thakorr placed in a coma as a consequence). With Namor ascending to the throne, he exiled Meranno who was accepted by the Nazis and transformed through experimentation into the Unter-Wasser Mann (or, U-Man for short). As the Allies produced the Invaders which included Captain America and Sub-Mariner, the Axis had the Super-Axis formed under hypnosis by Lady Lotus which included U-Man among its number (U-Man later raped Lotus which produced a daughter). Decades after, Meranno returned to Atlantis as a servant of Attuma, joining Tyrak and Orka as his generals. Meranno’s daughter Nia married World War II hero the Fin and became his queen ruling over the undersea kingdom of Neptunia. Meranno’s betrayal of Atlantis in some small manner mirrors that of N’Jobu, brother of T’Chaka and father of Killmonger in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, while Meranno acted out of his hatred of Atlantis’ prince, N’Jobu betrayed Wakanda to empower descendants of African slaves whom Wakanda willfully abandoned to protect its secrecy. While Meranno’s daughter grew to become a hero, N’Jobu’s son sought vengeance for his father and to realize his dream and more by conquering the world.
While these are the most prominent comparisons, there are others such as Princess Fen/Ramonda, Vashti/Zuri, Andromeda/Ayo, and Neptune/Bast that I invite you to look into you.