It has been brought to my attention by my editor that Aquaman doesn’t get his dues. That’s something that, as an Aquaman fan and a geek, I sometimes forget. It’s true that pop culture, or at least the more mainstream part of it anyway, still thinks of him as the lamest character on Super Friends. Never mind the fact that Apache Chief and the Wonder Twins have gone the way of mix tapes and lava lamps. God, I miss lava lamps.
Why is that? How can it be that after 70 odd years of existence his only mark on the popular culture landscape seems to be ‘‘That guy who talks to fish’’ when his own 1967 Filmation cartoon introduced him as the ‘‘Swift and Powerful Monarch of the Ocean’’?
I guess my best bet would be that the jokes on The Big Bang Theory and Robot Chicken are just easy and the people who work in these shows grew up on Super Friends in which Aquaman was just ‘‘That guy who talks to fish’’.
Hmmm...They grew up on Super Friends. Just like my dad who grew up on the 70s Incredible Hulk TV show with Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno and my mom grew up on the 60s Batman TV show with Adam West and Burt Ward and a slew of great actors who you wonder just how they got them to be in this campy capes trip. They see these characters as very simple. Much simpler than their comic book counterparts.
That just means that, in 5 years or so, we will see pop culture gain a new respect for Arthur Curry, King of the Seven Seas. How am I so sure? Well, if you remember, the news of Ryan Renolds being cast as the Green Lantern in the 2011 movie was met with some people asking why Green Lantern was played by a white guy...
That’s right, unlike our parents, my generation grew up with a different idea of who Green Lantern and Aquaman were. Bruce Timm and Co.’s celebrated Justice League and Justice League Unlimited introduced us to John Stewart, the black Green Lantern. It is also in this show that we were introduced to a much different Aquaman that the one our parents had known. More in tune with his comic book counterpart written by Peter David and Grant Morrison, this Aquaman was a bearded King with a harpoon for his left hand and a grudge against a surface world that carelessly dumped garbage in the oceans.
Heck, even in the much more light-hearted show Batman: The Brave and the Bold Aquaman is portrayed in a very positive light. Sure, he’s a bit of an oaf, but he’s noble, fearless and nothing can bring his spirit down. Even in a cross country trip with the family in a RV, he’s still ready to be a hero.
Do you know what the coolest thing is about my generation of fans who grew up on Justice League and the next one whose first introduction to the character is in Batman: The Brave and the Bold? We will read the comics the shows are based on! Sure, the previous generations did too obviously, but today comic books are sold in bookstores as well as in specialized comic shops. This is probably one of the best times to discover why Aquaman deserves respect.
Don’t know where to start? Allow me to makes a suggestion or two: DC Showcase, Chronicles and Archives books are a great place to see what sort of shenanigans the King of the Seven Seas got himself into during the Silver Age of comics: Stories of an underwater emergency room, New Venice under the watchful eyes of Aquaman can all be found in those old comics, with a copious amount of deadly electric eels.
The collections of Grant Morrison’s tenure on JLA are just what you need if you’re interested in the bearded bad mother you saw in the Justice League cartoon.
The New 52 Aquaman by Goeff Johns, especially the first volume, is just awesome. The first issue made waves and sold out when it first came out as it debunked every misconception the common man has about Arthur Curry. Yes, I did just say ‘‘made waves’’ and, no, I am not ashamed.
Still, my personal pick would be The Brave and the Bold, No. 32: Aquaman and The Demon; April 2010, written by J. Michael Straczynski and drawn by Jesus Saiz. It is a team-up book in which Aquaman and the demon Etrigan joins forces to prevent Cthulhu from breaking out of R’lyeh. If it that wasn’t enough, the whole story is narrated by a sailor who bore witness to the epic struggle and is now questioning his sanity.
I’m pretty confident that Aquaman will get is due soon enough, even if the latest rumors about the always upcoming Justice League movie seem to indicated that he won’t be part of the roster. I’m writing this in early 2013, maybe future rumors will prove me wrong. People can, and will, make all the same lame jokes again and again, but I know better than to mess with the guy who lords over 71% of the planet, has a body that can resist the pressure of the ocean floor and can bend sharks to his will.
It’s a good thing he’s one of the good guys.