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Yes, I did not do a pull-list post this week; I’m sorry. It’s been a busy few weeks, but it got me thinking, I think I’ll start joining my pull-list and picks of the week post. That’s fewer posts for me to write and you to read, but you get a better quality post.
This week was another small week for me; two DC books, Brightest Day #16 and Green Lantern #60 and one from Marvel Amazing Spider-Man #650. I was most looking forward to Brightest Day #16, the origin of Aqualad. DC has been weird with their solicitations with this book lately. I thought this book was supposed to come out two weeks ago but it wasn’t, and this weeks preview had a Firestorm cover. Needless to say this was in fact the origin issue for Aqualad. I was also looking forward to Amazing Spider-Man #650 because it has been a quality book with great writing and art.
So my pick of the week for best comic was in fact Brightest Day #16. I wasn’t going to make this my pick because it wasn’t a stand out in writing or art, though the Ivan Reis pages are always great to look at. I picked this as my best of the week because DC is doing one of the things I suggested they do to make Aquaman a big time player in the DCU. Not only does this issue give an origin to Aqualad and give him a connection to the Aquaman universe that makes sense, it creates new places that can enhance and grow the Aquaverse. This issue seems to go back to the silver age origin oh Arthur, who is the son of a lighthouse keeper, but there seems to be a twist. In the Adventure Comics #260, Aquaman tells a sub captain that he is half man, half atlantean, and tells of his father and mother and how, as a child, he learnt about his powers. This issue of Brightest Day though tells its readers that Arthur’s father was human and that Arthur believed he was human until the age of 13 when Atlantean terrorists came from him. This does not specifically say that the lighthouse keeper is biological father, but the fact that Arthur was raised as a human apparently never sat well with other Atlantean. The modern age origin of Aruthr being the son on Queen Atlanna and the wizard Atlan could still be enact, but I don’t think it is. Regardless, Johns and Tomasi are setting up Arthur and Jackson, the new Aqualad with the status quo of not belonging to either world. We also see a bit of an upcoming story line and that is the Aquawar, which I believe will take place in Brightest Day. I keep reading this issue because it looks like it’s going to be a great re-entry for Aquaman in the DCU by building a new community for him to participate in.
My pick of the week for worst comic was almost my pick of the week for best. Green lantern #60 opens up to this amazing two page splash of a Parallax infused Flash fighting Hal Jordan. Artist Doug Mahnke creates a panel that moves, has a lot of expression and really highlights the Flash’s powers, which can be hard to get right. These two pages alone almost made this book my pick of the week for best comic. The rest of the issue is really well done, and the art stays very strong. We get some good Hal Jordan moments and lots of great action, and we also get a big reveal at the end of this issue, and this is where my pick turns from best to worst. Since Blackest Night has ended, we have witnessed this small figure capturing the different emotional entities, such as Parallax. It has been safe to assume that this figure is a Guardian by his size and ability to use the green light of will, and at the end of the issue we found out it is in fact a disgraced Guardian Krona, who everyone thought he was dead. I don’t know who this character is; I’ve only been reading Green Lantern for a short time, so this big reveal was really lost on me, plus the fact that another guardian gone bad made the reveal feel stale. I am sure if I knew more about the Green Lantern mythos I would have liked the end of this issue a lot more than I did.
Something happened to me this year in the world of comic books; I started reading more DC comics than I ever have. Before this, I normally read Batman titles and that was pretty much it; maybe some Superman here and there. Last summer though, I started reading a couple of Green Lantern titles as he has been a character I always liked, but never read; and with the Blackest Night right around the corner, it was a good point to jump on. Blackest Night soon started to much fan fare and boasted beautiful art by the talented Ivan Reis, and would last until this past spring. With the final issue at hand, something happened that I didn’t expect. If you haven’t read this series and don’t want anything spoiled, I’d suggest skipping ahead, though I’m not spoiling too much. At the end of issue eight, 12 deceased heroes and villains come back to life. This wasn’t shown in a panel, but on a three page splash that was gate folded into the issue; you can see it here. This gorgeous, and I am sure tedious by Reis, featured almost front and centre the newly revived Aquaman.
Aquaman probably isn’t the most popular of superheroes; a guy whose superpower is that he can talk to fish doesn’t seem to be too useful. I was one of the many who thought he was kind of silly: could talk to fish, swim really fast, wore orange and green. What about this guy was appealing? Though once I saw this huge splash page, I started looking at Aquaman in a whole different light.
My interest was piqued even more when one of Newsarama’s blog Agent of S.T.Y.L.E. had an entry about Aquaman. This blog discusses the history of a superheroes costume, highlighting what works and what doesn’t work for particular heroes, and giving a brief history of the character themselves along the way. If Ivan Reis three page splash made me take notice of how cool Aquaman can look, Alan Kistler’s blog post of the work wear of the King of Atlantis changed my whole perspective on how awesome Aquaman can be.
Aquaman, like many superheroes, especially DC heroes, has a very convoluted history; just check out this great comic by the guys at Let’s be Friends Again. What made me really take a shine to Arthur Curry was his Silver Age origin, which is Arthur being born to lighthouse keeper Tom Curry and Atlantean outcast Atlanna. Aquaman then is half human and half Atlantean; he is a man who is a part of both worlds, and in the comics became King of one.
I took a lot of literary theory in University; I considered it my focus. One of my favourite theorists is Jacques Derrida, who looked at, among many theories, was this notion of Binary Oppositions, and how the western world has a tendency to view the world in one or the other: man/ woman, life/ death, black/ white, etc. These are just simple examples, but they show can’t find a middle ground essentially. A great, and fitting, example of this is the beach. It is a place that occupies both land and water, but we want it to be one or the other. This has to do with Aquaman that he represents a Binary Opposition; he can’t be considered human or atlantean, but again we have this tendency to make him atlantean more than human. He is the King of the seas after all.
What I love about this is that there is the possibility to have such a rich character. Now it is possible that this has been an avenue that has been explored in the comics, but I have just begun my forray into Aquaman comics, so I’ll have to wait and see. What I also love about Aquaman now is his costume. After reading Kistler’s many posts on superhero costumes, I really have started to see how a superhero’s costume is part of the language of superheroes, and at times is the most important part of the superhero as it is a readers/ viewers initial contact with them and can tell what they represent. Looking back at my first part of my Superman article (there will be more, I promise), a lot can be said by the blue and red that Supes established as what a heroes wears/ represents.
Going back to the last paragraph, heroes are in opposition to villains; the middle ground being that anti-hero, who we often place closer to the hero side of the line. Even superhero costumes are in opposition to each others; red and blue versus green and purple, or primary versus secondary colours. Aquaman, a hero, wears secondary colours: orange and green. One could almost label him a villain, but he acts for the good of the people, and has blonde hair instead of black, another colour that is often associated with villainy (the Black Knight, Darth Vader). For me, Aquaman’s orange and green costume is great (he has had a few different costumes), as it not only lets people see him while he is swimming (Kistler), try seeing a hero wear red and blue in the water and be well noticed (though Aquaman’s sidekick Aqualad wore a red shirt and blue shorts, seemingly negating that argument, but a sidekick is supposed to be seen with their mentor, and in the case of Aquaman and Aqualad, Aquaman will be noticeable enough for the both of them), but more importantly allows him to represent a different type of hero, one that accurately reflects a particular dichotomy that he has.
There is a lot of potential in Aquaman, but he is a character that is often seen as second tier, even though he is one of the founding members of the JLA. There aren’t many characters who are similar to him, not like there are a number who are similar to Superman, so he can’t be shadowed by another Aquaman type character. Though his lower popularity may come from the space in which he operates; the sea. If you look at a character like Batman or Spider-Man, they operate within a space that is easily recognizable and is something we can obviously relate to; New York City (or the variation known as Gotham). But how many of us are that relatable to the depths of the ocean? Also, any good hero is surrounded by a great group of villains and supporting class. Again, look at Batman and Spider-Man and their villains and supporting cast; Aquaman just doesn’t have this. I can think of two Aquaman villains off the top of my head: Ocean Master, Arthur’s half, all human brother, and Back Manta, who I also believe is human. Aquaman’s supporting cast is small, mainly consisting of his wife from a water dimension, Mera, his ward Aqualad, and at one point, his baby, who is killed by Ocean Master. So it’s easy to see how Aquaman can be one of the least popular of the Justice League.
Where’s Aquaman now though? Why he is one of many heroes making waves in the bi-weekly Brightest Day, and is currently caught in the middle of the fight for the new Aqualad. He can also be seen is several TV shows, such as the latest episode of Smallville, and the cartoons The Brave and the Bold and Young Justice, where Aqualad is a main character (and who kicks ass by the way). In all these stories though, he is a supporting character, or at the very most, one of many headliners. But what would it take for Aquaman to be a main player in the DC universe? What would have to happen for him to get there?
There are two options here; one, getting Aquaman to be a big player in the regular DC universe, and two starting from scratch in one of DC’s 52 earths. The first option could prove to be harder as Aquaman has an established set of powers, settings and position within the regular DCU, but there are ways to help Arthur Curry out. Looking back at two revivals of DC characters, Green Lantern and Batman, These books started to build in a community within themselves and unleash that community on to the larger DCU. Yes Batman has always had a community that was bigger at times then the rest of the DCU combined, but over the past few years that community has changed to the point of Batman, Inc., which looks at the adventures of a world traveling Batman. Green Lantern however went from one sole GL, Kyle Raynar, to the rebirth of Hal Jordan and the entire Corp, which lead to a new GL ongoing, which produced another ongoing, Green Lantern, Corps, and Geoff Johns brought in a slew of other coloured corps and brought it all ahead to Blackest Night. It got to a point where Green Lantern titles were selling more than Batman titles. This all came down to building a community, a relatable one, that could function within the regular DCU, and matter.
The same could be done with Aquaman, and given that Geoff Johns is also working on Brightest Day, which Aquaman is a big part of, it looks like a building of Aquaman’s community is already in motion. There is a new Aqualad, who is the son of Black Manta, and has an origin that is tied to the dimension that Arthur’s wife is from. Even a number of denizens of that dimension are looking for the boy, and we also learn that Mera was originally sent there to kill Aquaman, but she fell in love. So there is certainly a foundation being laid for a larger community, and with the addition of Aqualad, there may be something relatable here for readers to attach themselves too. I hope that once Brightest Day is done, there is at the very least a mini-series highlighting Aquaman and the new Aqualad that will further build upon this notion of community, and maybe it will play with this idea of a man (Aqualad) being of two worlds and trying to fit in.
The second option however requires a bit more ground work, but would essentially be easier to implement, as this Aquaman would be set in a new/ alternate DCU. With Earth One being DC’s answer to Marvel’s Ultimate line, and Superman Earth One already out and Batman Earth One coming soon, this new DCU could prove to be a great place to bring in an updated version of Aquaman. I think though that the best place to begin with is choosing an origin for Arthur. As my personal favourite origin for Aquaman is being born of half man half atlantean so the son of a lighthouse keeper and altantean outcast. I would even go as far to entwine some of his 80’s origin, being the son of a atlantean wizard and on his birth Orin (Arthur’s Atlantean name) was outcast because he had blonde hair. This would be a nice touch to use because it will keep Arthur an outcast once he meets other atlanteans. The next step is to determine what Atlantis is, and who the atlanteans are. This is probably one of the most important pieces when developing a new Aquaman because Atlantis needs to be different from the rest of the world. Atlanteans can’t just be people who swim and breathe in water and look like regular people. The 80’s mini series I am reading has castles underwater, and this just doesn’t seem right, as Atlantis really needs to be a place of wonder.
If Aquaman is going to be a book of oppositions, then Atlantis will have to be almost opposed to the US; maybe not 100% different, but I see Atlantis being very similar to the Orient. Further to this, it needs to be decided how Atlanteans live in Atlantis; do they solely live under water or is Atlantis going to be what we see now, a bubbled City under the water were atlanteans can walk on land and breathe in water. This too can make all the difference in the world. If Atlanteans do not have a bubbled city, much like they do in the Marvel Universe, they will need to develop skills and abilities that make sense to that setting. For instance, how does one communicate under water? For Aquaman’s Atlantis, the best thing maybe either a sort of telepathy, or they could be empathetic, ala Diana Troy. A communication system that is used by emotions with everything around, including creatures of the sea would give Aquaman his ability to talk to the fish but without really talking. Because Emotions are so important for communication the atlanteans would need keep their emotions at bay to convey the appropriate meaning of any conversation. Imagine someone of that world with unchecked emotions, it could create some tension, which stories love. Also, atlanteans will need a certain look if they live in just water. They will need gills, probably webbed feet and/or hands to swim better. Will they have a “land” skin tone or will they develop tones like other fish, or will they have some scales. One could go all out on the vast differences that Atlantis could provide, and could be. This would also give Aquaman some things, like web feet for example, that will make him slightly different from other humans, but this begs the question, if humans and atlanteans are so different, how can Arthur be boring to a man and an atlantean?
So there will have to be a combination of the bubbled city and the underwater breathing, and that could be accomplished as to why there are human like creatures who live in the water. The best way this might be accomplished is through the Myth of Atlantis falling into the ocean. This could be accomplished in any number of ways. Something that may be neat through is to see that Atlantis was very technically driven and that technology caused them to sink or be destroyed into the ocean, and only those who were connected spiritually/ magically were saved, which seems very rapturesque. But this could really let Atlantis be a cautionary tale for the rest of the world, while also giving another example of opposition. Even this mysticism could be a way for explaining the abilities that atlanteans have, like their connection to sea life, ability to breathe underwater; it could even give them the ability to manipulate water just as Mera does, or the Aquaman in the Brave and the Bold.
Finally, what would Arthur Curry be like as Aquaman. I think it be best to take the Spider-Man route and start Arthur off as a teenager and take the hero’s journey to becoming King of Atlantis. He’d start as a hero on land and move to being a hero of both sea and land to finally being the King, highlighting the different ends of the oppositions that his half and half heritage gives him. In regard to powers, this Aquaman would benefit from superhuman durability, strength and speed that being a creature of the vast depths of the sea would give him. He wouldn’t have durability or strength on par of Superman, or the speed of the Flash, but he would be bullet proof (he’d have to survive the enormous amounts of pressure the deeper in the ocean he goes) and his strength would allow him to pick up heavier objects and run quite fast, and would obviously give him great speed in water (just as superman can fly faster than he run). This wouldn’t be much different from the powers he has now, but they should highlighted more while he is on land.
As mentioned earlier, Aquaman’s power to talk to fish is one that does receive much ridicule, but it does offer a great premises, one I offered earlier; give him the ability to detect empathy in sea creatures and at some point, the ability to at some point direct his feelings towards them. If Arthur needed help from his underwater friends, he could use an emotion of fear, which could have his anything in his vicinity come to his aid. The last power I would give him is one that the Aquaman of the Brave and the Bold has, and the new Aqualad has, and that is the ability to control water; much like the water benders do in the Nick show Avatar: The Last Airbender. If we create the Atlanteans as a shamanistic type race, they will have control over nature to some degree, and controlling water would be a natural progression of that. Much like the Aqualad of the Young Justice cartoon, and Katara from the Last Airbender, Aquaman could carry water on him to use as a weapon. because Water is too such an important aspect of Aquaman’s powers, much like Superman and the yellow sun, the longer Aquaman is out of water the weaker his powers get, but this needs to be a substantile time, not like an hour, more like days. Aquaman needs to be a creature of both land and sea with a slight push towards the later.
Arthur’s costume would remain largely unchanged. The combo of orange and green is too iconic for him to change, but there could be some changes to his current DCU costume to change. I Love Aquaman’s costume in Young Justice. It’s a combination of a lot of different looks he has had (see photo), but the beard from his one-handed days and the gold gauntlets really emphasises that he is the King of the seas. I also like that he has no gloves and that his feet are mostly bare; it makes sense for a man who swims a lot to have these much-needed swimming “tools” exposed. But I wouldn’t give this look to Arthur quite yet, maybe for when he becomes king. for his initial look, give him the orange tunic with 3/4 sleeves, and green pants, but no gloves or boots. At some point he may learn to keep water on him and may need some kind of pack to keep it in. He just needs a simple costume that one can add to as the character grows into king. And since Arthur will be a superhero he may need a secret identity, at least for a while. He may have to go the Superman route, but this is one thing I still need to think about.
So there is my take(s) on Aquaman, one of my increasingly favourite superheroes. If you’ve read this whole post, thanks, if you just read why I have become a fan of him, thanks too. I doubt many will see the post, and I doubt anyone at DC will and take my ideas seriously, but it’s always fun to re invent characters, and with Aquaman I really see him as a character that could be both parts Harry Potter and Star Wars that a community could be built around. Even if never get to see an idea like mine come to fruition, I hope that DC makes Aquaman a bigger player in the DCU.