Comic books have a tragic hero to rival the heart wrenching figures of classic literature, such as Quasimodo, Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Dobby the magical house elf. Often disreguarded and certainly underrated, this comic book icon has been the butt of jokes almost since his inception. We speak, of course, of Aquaman, the aquatic Pagliacci, the Rodney Dangerfield of the Sea.
Aquaman is the perpetual bridesmaid of comic book cool. When Superman reinvented the game Aquaman tagged along, a human living underwater thanks to the wonders of science. Aquaman had backup adventures in the pages of Superboy’s comic title. His powers included swimming, breathing and verbally talking to fish.
It’s hard to respect a man dressed in orange, it’s even harder when he’s sitting second chair to a boy who can fly to the sun and shoot lasers out of his eyes. What did Aquaman bring to the Golden Age? An octopus sidekick named Topo.
Making fun of Aquaman is SO easy it’s passé’. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel….whoa, sorry Aquaman, I didn’t mean to be so insensitive to your friends. My Bad.
IT GETS WORSE
Silver Age Aquaman was shackled with a new origin, being a half human half merman, and given two teenage prodigies. Renewed with the ability to telepathically communicate with sea creatures, he was also hampered by the need to get wet every hour or die. “Superman has a weakness in Kryptonite,” went the thought process. “Kids like weakness, don’t they?”
Regardless of what was happening in comic books during the time, 80’s kids remember Aquaman as the respected member of the Super Friends that NO ONE wanted to be during recess. Young boys would rather be Marvin the Wondermutt before they’d be Aquaman.
When the one/two punch of Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns hit the scene in 1986, EVERYBODY had to be grim and gritty. It took Aquaman a while to horn in on that act, but by the 1990’s Aquaman was looking like a disheveled drunk and had his hands chewed off by his own piranhas. How’s THAT for dark?! Is that dark enough for you? How about if he stopped wearing a shirt, too?! NOW you’re talking! Aquaman is so F’ing core! Aquaman is darker than Gothday at Disneyworld.
Aquaman was so dark that he freakin’ DIED! Yeah, now he’s back as a black lantern, and he can still summon up creatures of the deep but now they’re all ZOMBIES! Zombie killer whales, zombie giant squids wreckin’ up the place, chu’ know what I’m sayin?
So let’s review: When Superman was flying in the air, Aquaman was swimming underwater. When Batman was punching crime, Aquaman was wearing orange and green tights. When everything had to be as dark as pitch, Aquaman looked more like Aqualung from Jethro Tull.
Aquaman is first and foremost a trend follower. Aqu’s is ALWAYS wearing yesterday’s fashion and trying to turn a buck by aping his betters. His alternative?
Aquaman is a distinctively interesting character because he’s the king of sea…but who of us cares or understands the water anymore? Superman works because we all want to be able to fly. Batman works because we all want to punish those who wrong us. Aquaman is awesome because he can explore shipwrecks, discover new forms of phytoplankton and survive the Bends…but that isn’t what kids fantasize about.
They’ve hit the nail on the head once or twice. Aquaman as he appears in Kingdome Come and subsequently in the JLA as the all powerful, experienced naysayer, always two seconds away from finding something better to punch underwater is a good characterization. It implies what we suspect: that life as an undersea monarch must be fascinating, though hard to picture.
I like the recent “Batman the Brave and the Bold” Aquaman, too. Stripped of all his darkness, this Aquaman is a pompous version of his Super Friends forebearer, eagerly having a freakin’ blast being an all wet super hero and constantly outliving everyone around him. Herculese of the Sea is he, arg!
TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE
But t’is naught but the shiny side of a darker coin. Aquaman in popular culture is a flat joke. The first “Aquaman is a worthless dope” joke I can remember was done on the seminal MTV show “The State,” but since then it’s been a quick go-to for lazy humorists. Aquaman’s q-rating is so low that they used an Aquaman movie on the TV show “Entourage” as the big budget project that NOBODY would ever want to be a part of. Even Spongebob, that spineless sea sponge gets to kick Aquy when he’s down by parodying him as the geriatric Mermaid man.
AQUAMAN: THE FUTURE
Aquaman can thrive if he stays true to himself, the much-harangued king of the oceans, discoverer of lost scientific discoveries and the all around macho muchacho of the briny blue. Page 1, Aquaman punches a submarine onto land yelling “Get off my lawn, ya’ dang kids!” Page 2 he goes back to flirting with Mermaids until he has to fight a sea monster!
Just keep him away from DC marketing, because they’re only happy when Aquaman is a dog fetching back the trends of yesterday they’ve tossed into a busy street. GO AQUAMAN, GO!