I finally picked up Showcase Presents: Aquaman, Volume 1 last week. Decided it was time to stop speculating about the Aquaman Problem and start looking into it myself.
I'm only three stories into it, but so far so good. Left to his own devices, Aquaman has some pretty cool adventures.
My favorite so far is "Aquaman Duels the Animal-Master" from Adventure Comics #261. In it, Aquaman foils a robbery attempt by a circus animal-trainer, so the trainer vows revenge. He lures Aquaman onto an island where he's spent the last year training the local wildlife to obey his commands. The gimmick is that Aquaman controls all sea animals and Gustave the Great controls all land animals. Who will win?
Gustave rigs things to put the sea animals at a disadvantage, but of course Aquaman and his friends overcome every obstacle. We get to see electric eels take out a gorilla, luminous fish blind a charging elephant, an octopus wrestle a lion, and Gustave himself lose a fencing match with a swordfish. It's beautiful, I tells ya.
As a last resort, Gustave has a buffalo bring in a cart full of homemade bombs, but before Gustave can get his hands on them, the buffalo tips over the cart. Aquaman claims that the animal was obeying his commands, not Gustave's. Unbelieving, the animal trainer protests, "He's a land animal!"
"That's where you made your mistake, Gustave! My authority over that buffalo overrides yours!"
That's even more awesome than the next panel in which a flock of flying fish carry Gustave off to jail in a net.