DC vs. Marvel: Aquaman vs. Namor The Sub-Mariner
For as long as there have been comic books, there has been the feud between DC and Marvel. Both are heavy-hitting comic companies that continue to gain legions of fans every year. The purpose of this column is to take one DC persona and one Marvel persona of equal measure and popularity and pit them against each other to see who would come out on top.
Arthur Curry (also called Orin) was born to a human father (Tom Curry) and Atlantean mother. One backstory says that as a young boy growing up in Maine, Arthur’s powers began to develop and on his mother’s deathbed he discovered his true heritage. In another version of his backstory, Arthur was raised by dolphins and later adopted by Tom. After adventures with Greek Gods and Atlantean prisons, Arthur eventually claimed his birthright as the King of Atlantis. Aquaman has a rich backstory including his wife Mera, Queen of Dimension Aqua and their children. Arthur and Mera stayed strong through many tragedies, including the death of Aquababy, and their romance is one of the most loved in comic history. After being killed defending Atlantis, Aquaman was revived as a Black Lantern and eventually brought back to life by the White Lantern Central Power Battery. Since his debut in 1941, he has had numerous epic storylines throughout his comic history. Although the continuity of Arthur’s backstory has changed with DC’s always shifting universe, he is always half man and half Atlantean, and most importantly, the King of Atlantis.
Namor McKenzie was born to an American seaman and the princess of Atlantis. His father died when he was very young and he grew up with his mother and her people. Putting aside his resentment for humans, Namor began to (begrudgingly) become the surface’s protector. Known as the Sub-Mariner, Namor not only ruled over his underwater people, but formed many alliances on the surface to keep humans safe including The Defenders. He has even partnered with supervillians at times. During the Civil War Namor disagreed with Iron Man’s support of the Superhero Registration Act. Namor has been married a few times throughout his history as well. Through the years, he has been alternately portrayed as a good-natured but short-fused superhero, or a hostile invader seeking vengeance for perceived wrongs that misguided surface-dwellers committed against his kingdom. Due to his reliance on a grey area of justice he is the first known comic “antihero” as well as the first mutant in the Marvel Universe (due to his unexplained powers). Regardless of the light he’s painted in, Namor is known as Marvel’s sea-man since 1939. Both men have long histories and rich backstories, hence this category is a tie.
Aquaman’s abilities include super-strength, durability, and speed, and being able to stay underwater indefinitely, as well as telepathy, which he uses to communicate with sea-life and allow them to do his bidding. Being half human and half royal Atlantean, Arthur is not only a super-human, but a super-Atlantean as well. Arthur also has enhanced sight, hearing, and smell as well as superhuman reflexes. He is a master swimmer, expert combatant and tactician and accomplished diplomat. His only weakness comes from staying outside of the water for too long.
Namor possesses superhuman strength, stamina, and durability. He can also fly and communicate telepathically with most sea life. The Sub-Mariner can speak English, Atlantean, and Lemurian and is a highly skilled business executive. The Sub-Mariner has the ability (at times) to mimic the characteristics of all the undersea creatures including sonar, lateral lines, and bio-electricity. His body is specially developed for underwater existence (including highly developed vision and specialized blood circulation) and like Aquaman; he cannot stay out of water for too long without losing his powers. While both men have similar amphibian abilities, it’s Namor’s to ability mimic sea creatures and take to the sky as well that gives him the edge in this category.
Point: Namor the Sub-Mariner
Aquaman was a founding member of the Justice League of America (in some timelines) and is known for working with them. He was also involved in the disbanding and reforming of the Justice League in Detroit. He oftentimes works with his wife Mera and sidekicks Aqualad and Aquagirl. When you picture Aquaman, it is usually within the group of The Justice League.
Namor has been affiliated with the X-Men, The Defenders, The Illuminati, The Invaders, and The Avengers. He even worked with The Fantastic Four. Both superheroes are team players but it is Aquaman’s loyalty and importance to The Justice League that gives him a point for Affiliations.
Aquaman wears a characteristic orange and green armor made from a chain-mail like substance. He carries the Trident of Neptune which gives him great power and the divine right to rule the sea. With it he can manipulate and conjure water and disperse energy through bolts and forcefields. He can even control the weather and turn living creatures into different species, as well as make things disappear. At various points in his storyline Arthur also possessed the Cybernetic Hand, a prosthetic to replace the one he lost to piranhas that could be altered to form various weapons. At one point he also possessed the Waterbearer hand (given to him by the Lady of the Lake) which possessed various magical abilities including a healing touch.
The Sub-Mariner has had a few costume changes over the years. His most common look is that of a bright green, scaly speedo or a shiny black suit reminiscent of extraterrestrials. He is also often seen with a golden belt and wrist bands. Namor is the current owner of the Power Gem, which can back all other gems. He also uses the Proteus Horn to communicate with sea life. For a little while Namor was given the Time Gem which allowed him to control time (past, present, and future). While both men have impressive arsenals, Aquaman’s costume and trident are not only extremely powerful but much more recognized than Namor’s paraphernalia.
For a long time Aquaman was DC’s whipping boy. Despite being one of the main members of the Justice League, and very powerful in his own right, he was the butt of many jokes. Aquaman has appeared in various cartoon series including The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure, Super Friends, and Justice League. Arthur Curry has had multiple live action appearances on the show Smallville, played by Alan Ritchson. Aquaman is often referenced (usually jokingly) in popular culture including The Big Bang Theory, Entourage, Family Guy, and Spongebob Squarepants. With the New 52 series, Aquaman is re-envisioned as a battle-hardened warrior who is aware of his social status (the writers poking fun at his reputation). His newest storylines are widely regarded to be some of the best of New 52 and with a Justice League movie slated for 2015, it’s possible he may reach the big screen. Aquaman was rated the 147th greatest comic book character of all time by Wizard magazine and the 53rd greatest comic book hero of all time by IGN. Love him or hate him, everyone knows who Aquaman is.
The Sub-mariner was the first official Marvel superhero and has appeared in various animated television shows including The Marvel Super Heroes, Spider-Man, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, Fantastic Four, The Avengers: United They Stand and Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest Heroes. In 2006 it was announced that a Sub-Mariner movie would be produced but it has yet to come. Namor was listed as the 88th greatest comic book character by Wizard magazine and IGN ranked Namor as the 77th greatest comic book hero of all time. Comic book fans definitely know who Namor is but outside of that realm, his name doesn’t bring about as much recognition as Aquaman’s does, which is why Aquaman wins for social relevance.
Both Aquaman and Namor the Sub-Mariner are long-lived and powerful superheroes. They rule Atlantis in their separate universes but only one can win this battle, and that’s the ever-talked-about Aquaman.