First and foremost, the writer has to point out that Namor appeared first in Motion Picture Funnies Weekly (April 1939). Aquaman’s first appearance was in More Fun Comics #73 (November 1941).
Kings of the greatest empires on Earth, yet humble (or semi-humble in Namor’s case) enough to save the surface-dweller’s backsides when threatened as happens monthly since the 1940’s, these two have been each other’s shadow’s entities since they began competition.
But who rules the oceans? Whom crests the waves like the king he is? Meta-human or Mutant?
Lets take a look…
1) Equal Rights: Both parties are super strong, super speedy under the water, fairly invulnerable and have great hair (possibly related to their invulnerability). Namor seems to be stronger and tougher and Aquaman is faster underwater. The Great Hair question is debatable. They are also both long-lived, though exactly the potential of years is yet to be seen.
2) Unique traits: (as of this writing) Aquaman still possesses the much maligned trait of communication with sea life. While this has been the butt of jokes for years, nothing quite says ‘instant army’ like 120 Orca whales in a bad mood. Equally maligned because of the location of wings on his feet possibly giving him flight, Namor is a superior air combatant with many years of battle under his … uh… ‘wings’.
3) Weakness: Aquaman’s weakness is being removed from water for a longtime. Unfortunately this is no great secret in the DC Universe, so nearly every plan to kill or detain Aquaman starts here. Namor’s seems to be being around beautiful and unavailable women. Obviously, Namor has the more cripplingly weakness being in the Marvel Universe.
??4) Mocking Birds: In the New 52 DC setting, Aquaman seems aware of his place in the DC universe as a ‘lesser’ hero. This has led to a interesting and introspective hero that has actually led to it being one of the best books in the New 52. Namor, on the other hand, has been villain, hero, and now mastermind behind the scene. If Dr. Doom had a ‘good guy’ version of himself, it would be Namor. Cocky and cocksure, he is never really going to give his opponents a chance to rest or even be aware they face nothing less than the King of Atlantis. And if you want to survive, don’t call him ‘Spock’… he hates that.
5) Ratings and rankings: Aquaman was listed as the 147th greatest comic book character of all time by Wizard magazine. IGN also ranked Aquaman as the 53rd greatest comic book hero of all time. Namor was listed as the 88th greatest comic book character by Wizard magazine. IGN ranked Namor as the 77th greatest comic book hero of all time.
6) Allies: Aquaman has the Justice League in his corner and his Wife Mera (dont let Namor meet her!) and Aqualad and Aquagirl. Namor has the Defenders, the X-Men, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the Illuminati, and the Invaders. While Aquaman has the more solid stand standing among the premier group among his universe, Namor has the diverse cast with the wider net among his universe.
7) Battle Arena: A battle between the two would count on both striving to keep things well in hand. While Aquaman has the strength and stamina to keep up with Namor for a while, he would quickly realize he need help against the other king. and Namor not being a fool, would try and lure Aquaman in a position where he could use his flight powers to remove Aquaman’s reinforcements from play. There would also be a gentleman’s(?) agreement in place not to pull hair.
And the Winner is…
Once a villain, always a villain. Namor is simply too strong for the golden king of Atlantis, If you can go a few rounds with the Thing, Aquaman isn’t going to be in the same league. To add to injury, Namor is simply willing to go further once he realizes he is not the only ruler of Atlantis — villainous, women-stealing kings don’t take kindly to that — especially not the kind that used to try to invade New York City over garbage dumping in the ocean!