Namor's 'Imperius Rex' And 9 Other Comic Catchphrases Explained – Screen Rant

Long core to comic books, catchphrases such as “Imperius Rex” have become hero calling cards that warrant deeper explanation.
Comic books have provided readers with a lot of memorable dialogue over the years, and that includes a slew of iconic catchphrases. In Marvel's Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and DC's Black Adam and upcoming Shazam: Fury of the Gods, comic fans are introduced to some of the best catchphrases in the industry.
From Deadpool's "Chimichangas!" to Solomon Grundy's "Born on a Monday," many iconic characters have become tied to their catchphrases. These proclamations include battle cries, expressions of hope, and prayers to the gods. Ultimately, they convey a deeper meaning and connect fans to their favorite heroes in lasting ways.
Unleashed for the first time in Tales To Astonish #77 by Lee/Everett and seen in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the ruthless King Namor rarely takes the battlefield without using his bombastic catchphrase, "Imperius Rex!" So understandably, the Sub-Mariner conjures memories of an ancient general on the battlefield, his battle cry echoing impending doom to any foe or foolish opposition.
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Curiously, this catchphrase meaning was shrouded in mystery until Jason Aaron's Thor run. Tackling the phrase in Thor #1, Namor yells, "Imperius Rex!" saying it translates into the mightiest sharks feeding on the foes of Atlantis. This is most likely a loose translation given in the heat of battle; nonetheless, Namor's classic cry remains one of the most menacing.
Following the success of the Shazam Family DC films, Black Adam and Shazam, many comic fans will be familiar with this electric catchphrase. Created by Beck/Parker in 1940, "Shazam!" would be the magical incantation uttered by the Council of Eternity's chosen champion, infusing them with the deistic attributes of stamina, speed, strength, wisdom, power, and courage.
However, while Captain Marvel and Black Adam use "SHAZAM," they draw strength from two separate pantheons. Thus, the former Marvel Family calls upon the West's Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury, while the Egyptian pantheon of Shu, Horus, Amun, Zehuti, Aten, and Mehen power Black Adam. This empowering phrase's beauty lies in its simplicity as an acronym for the celestial powers the champion draws from and the catchphrase itself.
Just as nostalgic as when it was first uttered, "Avengers, Assemble!" has only gained recognition following the massively successful MCU. Though most commonly associated with the comic-accurate first Avenger, Captain America, multiple team leaders of the Avengers have used this phrase over the years.
Undoubtedly among the most recognized team battle cries in comics, "Avengers, Assemble!" immediately conveys the idea of team, first and foremost. Calling out to the various Avengers, each bringing a unique element that, only when coming together as one team, becomes something marvelous and enduring.
A definite throwback to a different age of comics, Etrigan the Demon brandishes one of the most poetic catchphrases in all comics. A wonderfully conceived character and DCAMU powerhouse that is a superb example of the dichotomy of life combines the soul of Jason Blood, a virtuous knight, with that of a demon from the fiery depths, Etrigan.
Like fellow DC powerhouse Shazam, Blood's strength comes from uttering a magical incantation. So, whenever the need should arise, Blood speaks the words from a poem on Merlin's grave, famously ending with the epic "Rise the demon Etrigan." This rhyming aspect was core to Etrigan's character, poetic justice for a knight bound to the soul of a demon and a most eloquent way to call forth the wrath of hell.
Undoubtedly one of the most identifiable catchphrases in comics, "Hulk SMASH!" is precisely what it sounds like, utter destruction. Originating in Tales to Astonish #88 by Lee/Kane, this catchphrase hits with the rage of a gamma bomb and is often preceded by the obliteration of whatever Hulk deigns to smash. Alas, the staying power of this irradiated battle cry lies in its clarity.
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With his transformation into the Hulk, Banner sacrifices most of his genius-level intellect for nigh unlimited strength and indestructibility. This brains-for-strength trade-off leaves Hulk very rudimentary in his speech and higher mental functions. Perfectly apropos for Hulk, "SMASH!" signals the impending carnage without using too many brain cells.
The furry X-Men stalwart Kurt Wagner, better known as Nightcrawler, has foiled evil and befuddled his opponents since his first BAMF in Giant-Size X-Men #1. In his many adventures since, Nightcrawler has uttered numerous undecipherable phrases, likely coming from his time spent traveling with the acclaimed Munich Circus.
Undoubtedly the exclamation "Mein Gott!" rings in the minds of X-Men fans. Most often used to signal the gravity of the situation, Nightcrawler's switch from English to German lets readers know something crucial has just transpired. Lastly, it makes sense that Nightcrawler, a devout Roman Catholic, would incorporate His Holy Name into his staple OMG declaration.
The classic catchphrase of the real-life hero behind many of the most popular comic characters fans have come to know and love, the incomparable Stan "the Man" Lee. Lee's creative genius gifted fans with all-time superhero greats like Captain America, Hulk, and Spider-Man. Indeed, without Lee's heroic drive and determination to push Marvel forward and build up the magical Marvel universe, the MCU would not exist.
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As one of the most prominent ambassadors for the comics' industry, Lee would become the face of Marvel Comics, adopting his timeless catchphrase "Excelsior!" Meaning "upward and onward to greater glory," Excelsior would represent not only Marvel but the comic industry as a whole, reflecting its duty to the fans always to reach for the heavens, pushing the limits of the imagination and fueling the superhero in us all.
The last son of Krypton, Kal-El, represents the highest moral standard in DC Comics, aside from rare lapses in judgment. Indeed, Superman is one of the most identifiable heroes on the planet, even to non-comic fans. Superman aspires to represent the best traits reflected in humanity, those being the power of Truth and the need for Justice while working for a Better Tomorrow for all.
However, this phrase is technically a revision that saw DC modify the last tenant in October 2021 from "the American Way" to "a better tomorrow," reflecting a more modern, updated take on Superman. Regardless, Superman's virtuous morality powers the core principles of Truth and Justice he stands for, giving everyone hope for a brighter future.
First uttered in Wolverine (Vol. 1) #1 by Claremont/Miller, Wolverine's signature catchphrase encompasses this fan-favorite creation of Roy Thomas. Hearkening back to his anti-hero wet work and mercenary days, where Wolverine served as the top operative of the black ops Weapon X program, this phrase alludes to Logan's renowned skill set as a combatant and tracker.
Wolverine's success rate for completing missions and eliminating threats with deadly efficiency earned him a notorious reputation throughout the intelligence community. So indeed, whenever Canada's Department H needed a task completed at all costs, Wolverine topped the list because he's the best at what he does, and what he does isn't very nice, much like Wolverine himself.
A part of the foundational Trinity of DC Comics, Princess of Themyscira and child of Zeus and Queen Hippolyta, Wonder Woman, has always been articulate and well-spoken, her words purposefully chosen. Also, as such a tenured and historical character, Wonder Woman has multiple phrases that fans have come to associate with her, like "Merciful Minerva."
Therefore, it should be no surprise that her signature phrase, "Great Hera!" alludes to her unique combination of wisdom and humility. As comic fans can appreciate, the Amazonian Princess calling upon the matriarch of Olympus, and her divine stepmother, is quite telling and speaks volumes about Wonder Woman.
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Kevin Lee is a reader, writer, and gaming enthusiast residing in Germantown, MD, originally from Washington D.C. Kevin recently retired from an accomplished mixologist career to pursue his true love of penning prose regarding comics, movies, and video games for Screen Rant. An avid animal lover, Kevin graduated with an A.A. degree from Montgomery College.


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