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Former Marvel Artist Anthony Francisco Digs Into The Unlikely Origin For Namor's Design In Black Panther: Wakanda Forever - Exclusive

The official trailer release for the upcoming MCU adventure "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" has fans feeling very emotional. Naturally, one thing resonating with fans is the brave way the inhabitants of Wakanda — and the actors who play them — are dealing with the loss of King T'Challa and Chadwick Boseman, the charismatic film star who embodied the beloved screen character. The trailer is also drumming up excitement, however, with the most detailed look yet at Namor (Tenoch Huerta), who is finally making his live-action debut in the MCU 83 years after the character's debut as the Submariner in Marvel Comics #1 in 1939.

Bestowed with the gargantuan responsibility of designing the look of Namor at the beginning of production for "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" was Anthony Francisco, who for nearly nine years was a key creative in Marvel's team of Visual Development artists. Having grown up a fan of Marvel Comics, Francisco shared his love and passion for the material as a concept artist for well over a dozen MCU films. As such, he's worked on key designs for several blockbusters, including the first two "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "Ant-Man" films and their upcoming threequels, as well as "Avengers: Infinity War," "Avengers: Endgame," and the last three "Thor" films.

Francisco also designed key elements for "Black Panther" such as the Dora Milaje, the fierce group of female warriors who serve as Wakanda's special forces. For "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever," the artist was tasked with conceptualizing Namor, who materializes in the film as the powerful ruler of the underwater kingdom of Talocan. In his iteration in the Marvel Comics, Namor was introduced as the child of an American explorer and Atlantean princess. 

Not surprisingly, the characters of Marvel have long been engrained in Francisco's artistic sensibilities — so much so that his initial ideas for Namor's look emerged from a place tucked away in his imagination that materialized in an unusual way after he watched documentaries about the Mesoamerican history.

The symbolism for Namor's design was 'taken from a dream'

While the teaser trailer for "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" only showed intermittent glimpses of Namor, the new trailer reveals much more of the superpowered mutant, including the intricate designs Anthony Francisco created for his costume. Francisco said his ideas emerged from a dream after he watched documentaries on Mesoamerica, which includes stories about the plight of the Olmecs, Aztecs, and Mayans.

"I remember now the inspiration for the symbolism I put into his costume that you see on the necklace, because it's out now. You actually see my design. That's an original design. It's not copied from anywhere," Francisco told Looper in an exclusive interview. "It was taken from a dream. I was dreaming about, 'How am I going to represent Namor? He's life and death, and they say he gives lives? What kind of god do they see in him?' The feathered serpent — Kukulkan — is the one I was thinking of."

From there, Francisco said it was a matter of taking the inspiration of Kukulkan and imbuing it with technology to make Namor an even greater threat to Wakanda.

"I was thinking, 'How do I put technology together with the folklore and the gods into what Namor is, and the civilization underneath?'" Francisco recalled. "I came up with a bunch of ideas to show it and the relationship with the ocean and with the animals, and these different, crazy ideas that they actually started using.'"

While Francisco left Marvel after his work on "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" and a pair of other major MCU films to develop his own IP — "Creature Chronicles" — he remains grateful for all the opportunities he had with the studio. He's especially proud that he got the seal of approval for his work on Namor from his bosses, including director Ryan Coogler and his MCU Visual Development colleagues. "Ryan Meinerding, the head of Visual Development, told me that I 'carried a lot of the weight' — I did 'a lot of the heavy lifting,'" Francisco enthused.

"Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" is in theaters November 11. You can follow Anthony Francisco's work at his website, as well as his Twitter and Instagram accounts.