Thursday, September 9, 2010

Because You Demanded It! Aquaman

Two Aqua-Origins!

Not all heroes start with an origin story, but the good folks at DC felt that a guy who could breathe underwater and command sea creatures probably needed SOME explanation. Here, in an excerpt from the Dec, 1941 issue of More Fun Comics #73 we see Aquaman briefly explain his origin to a mystified sea captain:

It is interesting to note that Aquaman is not the first water-breathing superhero. That honor goes to Namor, The Sub-Mariner, who debuted in Marvel Comics #1 October, 1939. Aquaman's original origin is significantly different from the Sub-Mariner's, as the Sub-Mariner is the son of a human sailor and an Atlantean princess. However, in 1959, following the makeovers received by Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Flash, Hawkman and The Atom, Aquaman was refitted with a Silver Age revision to his origin which has a few familiar concepts:

I particularly like how he seems to have always worn an orange shirt and green pants.

One of the great things about Aquaman is his utter lack of a Secret Identity. He doesn't even have a name other than Aquaman until 1959. And even when he's revealed to be Arthur Curry, it's not like he's masquerading as , for instance, the bumbling second mate on a Coast Guard cutter or something equally inconvenient. He's just Aquaman. He lives in the sea. Being Aquaman is apparently a full-time job.

By the late 1960's, Aquaman was moved from just being a very helpful guy to being the king of Atlantis. I've always felt that Aquaman , forgive the expression, "jumped the shark" at that point.

Heavy hangs the head that wears the crown, as they say, and by the 70's Aquaman became a very heavy cat. Always worried about pollution and the good of Altlantis. He was no longer the happy-go-lucky superhero stopping pirates and delivering letters to remote islands. He had a wife and a baby son and tons of responsibility. And his villains started getting more and more aggressive.

Honestly, when I read the Silver Age Aquaman, I become nostalgic for a simpler time (in comics, anyway) where superheroes were pure adventure and no writer would have EVER thought of killing off a superhero's infant child just to boost readership.

R.I.P Aqua-Baby.


  1. You and me both.

    The Justice League Unlimited comics based on the cartoon series captured the right combination of clean simplicity without being patronizing or goofy.

    Other efforts of modern comic hacks fall woefully short. Very few are talented enough to do anything but cheap violence and shock schlock.

    It's a pity that so many of the creators of modern comics apparently despise superheroes.

  2. Blaze, I used to be a regular reader of the "Batman Adventures" comics, based on the 90's cartoon. It actually had a lot of old-school charm.

    I feel like, since the 1980's, most comics writers want to put their "mark" on any character they get ahold of. Look, I understand that when you write a novel a character should be different at the end of it than they were at the beginning. However, I think superhero comics (the regular, monthly serials, not graphic novels) should be exempt from that sort of change.

    Every time something is made "permanent"- crippling Batgirl or killing off Robin, etc. it seems to create a vacuum. Wasn't too long before there was a new Batgirl and a new Robin and DC is back to having so many extra characters they need a new "Crisis". Lame.

    For more of my own angry opinions on the subject, see my "An Open Letter To Comics Publishers" rant from a few weeks back.

  3. Aaron: Loved this post, loved the write up on Aqua Man, who has always sort of slipped through the cracks for me.

    I also agree about past comics being simpler. Oddly, for all their weightiness and darkness these days, they seem far less mature. I think in prior days, comics were written by adults for a kid audience. Of course, a certain adult perspective was always lying just beneath the surface. Now, comics are written by kids (very, very young artists) for adults - oh, so serious, sexual and graphic - sort of a adolescent take on adult themes. Kids wanting so bad to seem tough. Comics today seem very intent on vanishing into a black hole of generic ugly as themes get darker and darker, more violent, intense, and less fun. Thanks so much, Frank Miller. Was Bat Man really a Dark Knight?

    I have hope, though. Great comics will have their return!

    That is to say, great post! -- Mykal

    PS: My verification word was "blogish." Don;t you love that!

  4. Mykal: I know, right? An some of the blame has to go to the editors. How is photoshopping a playboy centerfold into a Spider-Woman costume cover-worthy? I feel like none of these new guys ever saw boobies before they became comic book "artists". You are right on the money, they actually seem less "mature" through their immature fixations with sex and violence.

    Also, if I remember correctly, before Frank Miller made it uber-hip to call Batman "The Dark Knight"... wasn't the term used in the 40's (you know back when he was the "real" Batman of Miller's claim) "The Darknight Detective" ? That would mean that he was a detective in the dark of NIGHT. Not a Dark Knight. SHEEESH!

  5. The killing of Aqua-Baby does make some sense, thematically--there's a reason why so few superheroes are parents: it just makes them a lot harder to write.

    That said, it still probably shouldn't have been done; and it DAMN SURE shouldn't have been used as a "let's mentally torture Aquaman" plot device for the next two decades.

  6. rob! I have never understood the brooding, moody, sullen, angry Aquaman. It's almost as bad as if they gave Speedy a drug problem. Oh, wait...

  7. ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhh..................... is a traumatic just a reason someone wants to become a hero?