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Eternals might debut one of Marvel's biggest characters

Another day, another character introduction rumor that's taking the MCU speculation train off the rails. 

Marvel's The Eternals is still in the midst of production, and while the studio has been candid about the major players of the film, the titular alien race who come together to shield humanity from the Deviants following Avengers: Endgame, there are bound to be surprise additions to the story. A Twitter user by the name of Ahmed Maged is claiming to have knowledge of such a character, tweeting that they spoke with a young Syrian actor, Zein Alrafih, who described his character in The Eternals as "a kid whose father gets killed by sea monsters" (via Reddit). This character will reportedly age along the plot of the movie and be replaced later with an older actor.

This description loosely fits the general backstory of Namor the Sub-Mariner, one of the oldest characters in Marvel Comics canon, and one that has been long requested to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

For what it's worth, Alrafih is indeed a part of The Eternals. Salma Hayek — who plays Ajak, the leader of the Eternals — even posted to her Instagram page a picture of herself, Alrafih, and Sprite actress Lia McHugh. Still, the purported conversation between Maged and Alrafih is suspect, as it allegedly occurred over Instagram direct messages and there's no hard evidence of Alrafih saying anything about his character.

That said, The Eternals introducing Namor wouldn't be the first time the MCU used a film as a soft rollout for a character. The inclusion of Namor's homeland of Atlantis in a film like Eternals – with its huge scale and demigod principle characters – would make sense as well. But speculation around including Namor in the MCU has been fraught for some time. Who exactly is Namor McKenzie, Prince of Atlantis, and why does this new introduction rumor make less sense than it seems at first blush?

Namor: Flippant, furious, fun

Namor McKenzie is the half-human, half-Atlantian son of Leonard McKenzie and Princess Fen of Atlantis, gifted with the ability to live amphibiously as well as fly, thanks to the handy little wings on his ankles. He's widely regarded as Marvel Comics' first mutant character, though he's not, in terms of in-universe chronology, really the first mutant. He was simply invented first, originally appearing in Motion Picture Funnies Weekly's first issue in April 1939. Namor didn't nab the "mutant" moniker until much, much later as comics evolved into the modern landscape we know today with the X-Men that popularized the concept of mutants. 

The outstanding character trait for Namor is what basically amounts to a bipolar personality. This is due to his mutant heritage, having one parent from the surface world and the other from the sea. Namor must monitor how much time he spends underwater and on land — too much of either will throw off his entire metabolism, leading to fits of rage. This has resulted in Namor having a very patchwork legacy within the Marvel Comics canon; sometimes he's a hero, most often an antihero, sometimes an outright villain. Namor's killed a bunch of innocent people in his long life, and is simultaneously frenemies with both Captain America and Doctor Doom.

Why so long-lived and celebrated, then? Because people always enjoy a messy mutant who lives for drama, and Namor is chiefest amongst that elite class. He flounces out of good and evil organizations on a dime, starts wars for petty reasons, and is at any given time willing and able to backstab just about anybody for his own gain. No character has to be good, kind, or particularly emotionally stable to be fun, right?

A popular guy with a murky distribution history

When we say Namor is in high demand for inclusion in MCU, we mean that. There are currently three films in which Namor is rumored to be — or at least hoped to be — included: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Black Panther 2, and now The Eternals. 

Already, one can see why this new bit of street talk is muddied by the reality around it. On top of this issue is the fact that Namor as a property suffers from the same problem the Hulk does: he's owned by Universal, and is subject to that rule where a character can be in a team-up movie but isn't permitted to have a solo story. That might no longer be the case, as additional rumors claim that Disney and Universal may have hacked out a deal, but that has yet to be confirmed. While that doesn't shoot down the potential to put Namor in a Phase 4 MCU movie, it's not the most economically efficient choice. People are still asking about that Hulk movie, after all; demand for a solo Namor film would come up quickly and probably be just as insistent.

Of the three future Marvel films fans want Namor to be introduced, The Eternals has the least amount of canonical tissue to make his inclusion viable. The comic connections between the Eternals and Atlantis are second-hand at best, but Namor has gone on a number of adventures with Doctor Strange (they served together in the Illuminati organization) and has a very long and difficult history with the King of Wakanda. Namor and T'Challa's nations have been to full-scale war with each other, and on a one-to-one personal level, they don't get along at all; when they have needed to work together during major global crises, it's tense. 

For now, it seems we can toss this theory back into the speculation river, because it's a mess that only time can parse.