Two panels show classic comic images of Aquaman and Namor, the Sub-Mariner

Namor vs. Aquaman: Who Was Created First?

Marvel Comics and DC Comics both feature aquatic superheroes with super-strength and an affinity for the oceans. But who came first—Namor, also known as the Sub-Mariner, or Aquama, a.k.a. Arthur Curry? These characters have actually been around for a lot longer than you think.

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DC/Warner Bros. beat Marvel Studios to the sea by debuting their underwater hero, Aquaman/Arthur Curry, first. Played by popular Game of Thrones actor Jason Momoa first in Justice League and then in the standalone Aquaman movie, this strapping Aquaman quickly dispelled the jokes that had run for decades about how Aquaman was a bit of a silly superhero with the power to talk to fish. But while DC was the first to show their aquatic hero on the big screen, Marvel Studios is catching up. Namor is rumored to have an origin story in Black Panther 2: Wakanda Forever, where he’ll be played by actor Tenoch Huerta and, like Momoa’s Aquaman, the Sub-Mariner will receive a different background than in the comics.

Did Namor or Aquaman actually come first in the comics?

Baby Namor, aka Sub-Mariner, in a Marvel Comics panel

Both the Sub-Mariner and Aquaman have been part of Marvel Comics and DC comics mythos for a long time. But the Sub-Mariner, also known as Namor McKenzie, was first. Writer-artist Bill Everett created the character all the way back in 1939, intended for a comic called Motion Pictures Funnies Weekly which never came to be. Instead, Namor made his debut in Marvel Comics #1 in 1939. According to Wikipedia, during the Golden Age of comics, Namor was one of the top three characters for Marvel’s predecessor Timely Comics, along with the Human Torch and Captain America. It’s interesting that both the Human Torch and Captain America are so much more widely known than the Sub-Mariner these days, but that’s set to change when he hits movie screens.

Aquaman, like Namor, is also more than eighty years old in comics years. He was created by artist Paul Norris and writer/editor Mort Weisinger and was first seen in More Fun Comics #72 in 1941. So technically, Namor is about three years older than Aquaman. The two characters share similar backgrounds, characteristics, and powers in many of their comic book incarnations. They’re both princes/kings of Atlantis who can telepathically communicate with marine life, possess incredible strength, thrive underwater, and fiercely defend their ocean homes.

The characters have also changed quite a lot since their creation, with Namor depicted as sometimes a superhero, sometimes an anti-hero or villain in his quest to protect his home kingdom, Atlantis, from the surface-dwellers (that’s us). For his part, Aquaman’s characterization has become more serious in recent years after he was often the target of jokes and memes for his ability to telepathically speak to fish and his rather silly depiction on cartoons like Super Friends. Now, with Jason Momoa embodying him, the onscreen Aquaman has become impossibly cool. Talk about a turnaround.

Aquaman "I'm useless they said" meme

Who would win in a fight?

If it came down to a battle to the death between their comics counterparts, my money would be on Namor over Arthur, although in the Marvel vs DCA comic event, Aquaman beat Namor by “summoning a whale to leap out of the water and land on Namor.” Points for creativity there.

Movie-wise, it’s impossible to say what Huerta’s new and reimagined Namor will be like, and whether he’ll be introduced as a villain first. And will he join the Illuminati, as he has in the comics, since we saw the superhero group appear in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness? It’s hard to imagine, however, that anyone could top Jason Momoa’s sheer level of winking cool that he’s brought to the silver-screen Aquaman. Time will tell! Really, I think considering all that these guys have in common, they should be super best friends.

Aquaman meme

(images: Marvel Comics, DC Comics)

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Kaila Hale-Stern
Kaila Hale-Stern (she/her) is a content director, editor, and writer who has been working in digital media for more than fifteen years. She started at TMS in 2016. She loves to write about TV—especially science fiction, fantasy, and mystery shows—and movies, with an emphasis on Marvel. Talk to her about fandom, queer representation, and Captain Kirk. Kaila has written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.