Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Dork of the Sea

Aquaman illustration by Billy Fowler.

The Comic Treadmill is creating an index of the various aquatic animals that Aquaman has recruited in his efforts over the years. It's very snazzy, but the reason I'm talking about it is an observation TCT made while collecting the data.
I caught a change in tone of the series that slipped by me when I indexed the original Aquaman run. Specifically, for most of the Silver Age stories, Aquaman (and Aqualad) patrolled the seas on the surface atop dolphins or porpoises. In 23 instances from stories between Adventure Comics 268 (1960) and Aquaman 18 (1964), dolphins or porpoises were the mount of choice.

However, beginning with Aquaman 20 (1965), the Aqua-duo (along with Mera) began patrolling on Giant Sea Horses under the seas. Accordingly, Aquaman went from being an ocean surface adventurer to an undersea adventurer, a big change in the tone of the adventures.
TCT doesn't cast any judgment on that and neither will I, but it's another piece of the puzzle in trying to figure out if Aquaman makes a better Undersea Fantasy character than an Aquatic Superhero one.

Mark Waid on Fixing Aquaman

This is apparently Mark Waid's pitch for an Aquaman comic that never came to be. He doesn't go into a lot of detail about plot, but I think he's dead-on in terms of the character's feel:

For the last ten years or so, the way we've been scrambling to combat Aquaman's "Dork of the Sea" image--and I've been guilty of trying this, too--is by making Aquaman increasingly darker, grittier, and tougher, the brooding, angry king beset with trouble. Each incarnation of the character seems grimmer than the last, to the point where all that's left for us to do is give him two hooks. And a peg-leg.

OR--here's ANOTHER thought. Yes, the seas can be turbulent and stormy, but y'know what? Far more often, the ocean is a universal symbol for peace and contentment. It's a calming influence. If it weren't, Bermuda would be deserted and Hawaii would be an industrial trade port. It is most people's "happy place." Yes, the ocean is the set piece for A Perfect Storm, but it's also the world of Finding Nemo and The Little Mermaid. I have never yet met anyone of any age who didn't come away from Sea World envying the guides who swim with the whales and porpoises.

The Cast of the Angler

Here's an Aquaman fan film. From the '80s it looks like. It starts off really slow, but I peeked ahead and it picks up later on. I haven't had 20 minutes to watch the whole thing yet, so I'm not vouching for it. Just throwing it out there. Casting it, even.

Aquaman papercraft

Maybe while you're watching the movie, you can work on making this cool Aquaman out of paper.


The Aquaman Shrine has reminded me lately about a couple of Aquaman's supporting characters that I've been neglecting saying much about. And considering that they're women and I spend a lot of time talking about women here, it's a bit odd.

Or maybe not so odd. I talk about Marvel's Namora a fair bit, but she's part of a team that Marvel's actively generating a lot of buzz around. These two characters haven't been seen for a while.

I just talked about Mera the other day. I know next to nothing about her, but I've always liked her, mostly due - I'm sure - to the long, red hair and fish-skin catsuit. My memory of most of the comics I've read with her in them though is that she was often arguing with Aquaman about where his allegiances lie. This is another problem with the Aquaman as Superhero paradigm. If Aquaman's the King of Atlantis, there should be plenty of adventures he can get into in defense of his kingdom, rather than in neglect of it. If he's always off with the JLA fighting aliens, you're always going to have Mera at home resenting him for it. No fun.

Dolphin I'd completely forgotten about. I know less about her than I do Mera. I briefly read Aquaman in the '90s and she was in some of those issues, but I never got who she was or what her relationship was with the Aqua Family. Another one to learn more about.

And while I was doing a little research on those two, I was also reminded that there have been four different Aquagirls, though a couple of them were throwaway characters only appearing once each.

Lagoon Boy gets points for looking like the Creature from the Black Lagoon, so I'll probably look into him as well.

I don't care at all about Aqualad for some reason. Maybe he'll get interesting as I dig into these comics more, but right now he's a Robin rip-off in my head.


Christian Zamora said...

Aqualad is certainly the most interesting of the bunch. Don't leave him out, you might be surprised :)

Menshevik said...

Re. Mark Waid's comments about the ocean as a symbol of peace and contentment:
Well, maybe from the POV of someone who lives safely inland and only visit the sea or a touristy mock-up (Sea World) during their vacation. People who actually live on the sea, e.g. the inhabitants of "tropical paradises" like Bermuda who are there not just during tourist season but also during hurricane season would have a different perspective. It is a bit like the difference between the way 18th century aristocrats would play at being shepherds and shepherdesses in the summer (such pastoral idyls being idyls of peace and contentment to an even greater universal extent than the ocean) and what it actually is like to be a shepherd in autumn, winter and spring.
Also, even in movies Mark Waid cites the sea is not exactly a safe place. Even in the bowdlerized Disney version the Little Mermaid has to save the prince's life during a shipping calamity in a storm...

Michael May said...

You're absolutely right of course about the deadliness and anger of the sea. I'm trying not to put words in Waid's mouth, but based on his mentioning PERFECT STORM, I'm guessing he wouldn't disagree with you.

Regardless of where Waid's coming from though, the reason I like his take is that it even acknowledges that tranquil side of the ocean.

In the '90s, all we got from Aquaman was turbulence and anger. I'm glad it was introduced to his personality, but it took over. If Aquaman's personality is a metaphor for the sea, both sides of it should be represented as appropriate.

Not that I'm TOTALLY sold that there should be a metaphor at work in his characterization, but it's an interesting idea. Either way though, I'm for anything that moves Aquaman from being solely grim and explosive.

Michael May said...


I'm sure I'll get to see lots of Aqualad as I check out the others. I'll keep an open mind. :)


Related Posts with Thumbnails