Wednesday, March 31, 2010
My Kingdom for a Seahorse ...
Well, it's about time I sat down and gave the King of the Seven Seas his proper write-up. Others have gone written far more focused accounts of exactly why Aquaman hasn't had the run of luck Batman or Superman has had in Rogues (Of which, Aquaman finds a middle ground. Not as great a gallery as Batman or Flash. Not as Bad as Wonder Woman or the rest. About on par with Green Lantern really, he just has yet to have Geoff Johns come along and refresh his whole stockpile of enemies). His setting and why a golden undersea city, possibly the most ancient on Earth, is less iconic than the greasy skyline of Gotham or the cutting spires of Metropolis (In a pinch? Lack of clear artistic flair. The best artist to interpret it is Alex Ross, and JUSTICE isn't in-continuity). His lot in life (Which again, actually falls in the middle. People assume it must be dismal, but actually, Aquaman is in a place much like Green Lantern and Flash were. He peaked early on, then basically got dragged down in the 90's during the time of Knightfall and Death of Superman. Very much like Green Lantern, in fact. Even his "Volumes" almost match up with the volumes of Green Lantern.
So what is it I have to say about Aquaman that hasn't been said? Well ... first and foremost you should know I've put a great deal of thought into how to make Aquaman a great comic. I've got a twenty-five issue run plotted, loaded with pagan myths, threats, and filled to the brim with the strangest mysteries and creatures of the ocean's depths. And the coolest ones, too. And it's basically a Sergio Leone film adapted for the ocean floor.
But just to give people an overall feel for the life of Aquaman, I'm going to put together, here, now, a quick timeline like the one I did a few weeks ago for Batman. This is by no means anywhere near as complicated as the "EVERY CHRONOLOGICAL APPEARANCE EVER, INCLUDING SIDE-CHARACTERS AND LOOSELY AFFILIATED OCEAN ADVENTURERS" file I have on my computer. Rather, like the Batman one, it's purely the "Big Stuff", neatly organized and made clear.
Furthermore, I'll add that I personally subscribe to the Silver Age secret origin - very specifically the updated version revealed when Aquaman was strapped to a lighthouse lamp by the Fisherman and was awaiting death by heat exhaustion from a very hot lamp. I've got nothing against Waid's Year One or David's Atlantis Chronicles or Time & Tide ... I just don't think they make any god damn sense. The parts I like I'd be more than happy to see mined for all they're worth ... but the total retcon of Tom Curry out of Aquaman's life? Insanity. The widower father, who is a teacher to his son, a sailor with a mermaid who lost her, an adventurer and oceanographer, who gives Aquaman his very purpose of protecting the seas from threats to both kingdoms above and below the water level? That's the whole crux of his super-hero career. But anyway, on with mapping the course of his life.
Right away you'll notice that by first appearing as Aquaman in 1941, he falls into the "1940-44" year. Batman and Superman's "Year 2". So they had a head-start on the rest of the super-heroes by a year, and they became the "World's Finest" at that time, while Aquaman was just an urban legend and pirate-hunter for two years prior to becoming famous and eventually teaming up with the other top heroes.
Year One: (1940-44) Pirate Hunter Years
Big Event: THE SUBMARINE STRIKES
(Runner Up: BLACK JACK)
* Black Jack
Year Two: (1945-49) Pirate Hunter Years
Big Event: THE SLEUTH OF THE SEA
(Runner Up: RETURN OF THE SEA SLEUTH)
* Phineas Pike the Sea Sleuth
Year Three: (1950-54) Pirate Hunter Years
Big Event: THE OUTLAW NAVY
(Runner Up: AQUAMAN VS. THE SEA)
Year Four: (1955-59) Slow Reveal of Atlantis
Big Event: AQUAMAN MEETS AQUA-GIRL
(Runner Up: A RIVAL FOR AQUAMAN, HOW AQUAMAN GOT HIS POWERS)
* Seaman, Topo, Jason Deeter, New Venice, Electric Man, Imitation Aquaman, Tom Curry, Atlanna, Atlantis (Pre-Poseidonis), Lisa Morel (Of Shayeris)
Year Five: (1960-64) Hero of Atlantis
Big Event: THE CREATURES FROM ATLANTIS, THE WEDDING OF AQUAMAN
(Runner Up: THE KID FROM ATLANTIS, STARRO THE CONQUEROR, THE AQUAMAN FROM ATLANTIS)
* Aqualad, Sea Devils, Starro, Aqua-Cave, Human Flying Fish, Trino, Creature King, Quisp, Fire-Trolls, Justice League of America, Pomoxis, Quirk & Quink, Neptune, Mera, Leron, Old Man of the Sea, Poseidon, Zeus, Oceanus
Year Six: (1965-69) King of Atlantis
Big Event: THE BIRTH OF AQUABABY, AQUAMAN; COWARD-KING OF THE SEAS
(Runner Up: FEARFUL FREAK FROM ATLANTIS, BETWEEN TWO DOOMS, DEATH OF AQUAMAN)
* Nikkor, Kaltor & Starene, The Fisherman, Hila & Kandor, Arthur Curry Junior, Sinquo, Karla, Tamerkhan, O.G.R.E., Ocean Master, Captain Forty-Knot Burke, Mongo, Necrus the Black City, Aquagirl (Tula), Black Manta, Doctor Vulko, Torpedo Man, Magneto & Claw, The Scavenger, Liquidator, Lord Ragnar, Aliena, Narkran, The Maarzons, Mupo
Year Seven: (1970-74) King of Atlantis
Big Event: LAST JET TO GOTHAM
(Runner Up: CRIME WAVE, AMAZON ATTACK AGAINST ATLANTIS)
* Thanatos, Crusader, World-Inside-the-Ring
Year Eight: (1975-79) King in Exile
Big Event: DARK DESTINY, DEADLY DREAMS … THE WAR OF THE UNDERSEA CITIES
(Runner Up: AND DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR, CROWN, CRISIS & CATACLYSM, ARMAGEDDON CONSPIRACY)
* Little Mermaid, Captain Demo, General Horgan, Karshon (The Shark), Toxxin, Marine Marauder, Cal Durham, Kobra, Landau, Lori Lemaris & Ronal, Tritonis (First made into a sister city in “War of the Undersea Cities”), Helga, Nazi Geneticists
Year Nine: (1980-84) Super-Hero
Big Event: SIREN OF THE SARGASSO
(Runner Up: FAMILY PLOT, WATER-WAR ONE)
* Atlena (Atlanna’s Sister), Amphitrite, Siggy the Seahorse, V’Lana, the End of the Justice League
Year Ten: (1985-89) Super-Hero
Big Event: AQUAMAN VOLUME 2
(Runner Up: JUSTICE LEAGUE DETROIT, CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS)
* Vibe, Vixen, Steel, Gypsy, Thierna Na Oge, Nuada Silver-Hand, Jellyfish Aliens, Mera’s apparent death
Year Eleven: (1990-94) Ambassador Aquaman
Big Event: TIME & TIDE, HITTING BOTTOM
(Runner Up: A SMALL WORLD INCIDENT, TAILS & LEGS)
* King Thesily (Vulko’s successor), King Firtf (of Tritonis), Lord Iqula & Lady S’ona, Commander Echson Krystal, Rocket Reds, Charybdis, Dolphin, the Hook Hand, Letifos, Porm, Garth’s apparent death
Year Twelve: (1995-99) Atlantis Rising
Big Event: Toughie … OUT COLD, SEA OF GREEN, MARRIAGE VOWS
(Runner Up: THE RISING SUN, SHARK BAIT, FISH TARTARUS, All of Morrison’s JLA appearances, especially STARRO, the ULTRAMARINE stuff and JLA: EARTH 2)
* Koryak, Corona, The Deep Six, Tiamat, Kordax, Atlan, Tempest, Neptune Perkins & Tsunami, Deep Blue, Demon Gate, Nuliajhuk, Black Manta sells his soul to Neron and becomes a Devil Ray, Triton, Swamp Thing, Animal Man, Slizzath, Sea Wolf, the Maritorn, Noble, Lava-Lord, Virtue, Atlanna returns?, Kingfish, Electric Eel, Cerdian, Wedding of Tempest & Dolphin, and every issue over-loaded with cameos from other DCU characters like Superboy and Lobo and Power Girl
Year Thirteen: (2000-04) Atlantis Falling
Big Event: WAR, OBSIDIAN AGE, AMERICAN TIDAL
(Runner Up: WATERBEARER, GREEN LANTERN: REBIRTH, INFINITE CRISIS)
* Captain Rodunn, Cerdian War, Justice League of Atlantis, Obsidian Age, Lady of the Lake (Vivienne), Hagen, Ireland, The Thirst, SUB DIEGO, Aquagirl, The Eel, Esther Maris (Girlfriend), Marauder, Anton Geist, Alonzo, Barracuda of Anti-Earth and the death of most of Aquaman’s supporting cast
Year Fourteen: THE MISSING YEAR
Big Event: WORLD WAR III
(Runner Up: One random appearance in 52)
* Cursed into the hideous Dweller of the Depths by what looks like Poseidon & Triton, and apparently cloned by an Uncle Phil that he never knew he had.
Year Fifteen: (2005-09) Refugee Era
Big Event: BLACKEST NIGHT
(Runner Up: SWORD OF ATLANTIS (Which on top of killing Arthur killed his series as well, but at least made King Shark neat and put a new spin on Fisherman))
* Neo-Aquaman Clone Kid, Philip Curry, King Shark, Atsiul, Red Torpedo, Elsa Magnussen, Windward Home, Nenomi, the Cult of Dyss, Narwhal (AKA Zombie Koryak), Kyesha Salton, Clown Fish, Krusivax, Unknown Aquaman of Final Crisis, King Tempest (for five minutes)
Year Sixteen: (2010-14) Brightest Day
Big Event: BRIGHTEST DAY, a 27-part biweekly series that promises to fix the DCU characters that various writers have fucked up over the years. Aquaman is the main character with Mera right beside him. Other amazing DC heroes who have been fucked by editors and bad writers like Hawkman, Hawkwoman, Deadman, Firestorm and Martian Manhunter.
(Runner Up: Fuck new characters … it’s about time the A-List talent got some stories worth telling. AQUAMAN. MERA. BLACK MANTA. OCEAN MASTER. FISHERMAN. Maybe a new SCAVENGER. A unified ATLANTIS. Basic stories. Anti-Piracy, revenge and heroics on the high seas)
I’m thankful Johns has Tomasi with him on this – they should balance each other’s faults and have good, punchy storylines. I also hope Patrick Gleason, who had an excellent run on Aquaman Volume 6 with few fill-ins, is the primary Aquaman artist during Brightest Day. But I won’t cry if it ends up being Reis.
So what are the main things to know about Aquaman? He started making a name for himself as a pirate smasher. (And Nazi basher). A few years into it, in the 60's, his life became permanently linked to Atlantis. After a year of saving the place from its own superstitious moron population, they voted him in as king, only to proceed through the 60's by either being helpless pansies, or far-right-wing fanatics bent on usurping his throne (THREE, count 'em, THREE attempted revolutions - not even counting the multiple attempts by Ocean Master). Clearly the 1960's are Aquaman's glorious golden age.
The 1970's however, things slowed down a little, but ended stronger than any thing to date. Infanticide. A super-villain who wins. Aquaman goes bounty hunter. Atlantis finally gets turned into two cities (Poseidonis & Tritonis) and a bunch of "lost tribes".
The 1980's basically have Aquaman's marriage fall apart as he dedicates himself toward JLA: Detroit. The 1990's are basically Aquaman hitting rock bottom after Superman's death and finally undergoing his "GRIM & GRITTY" makeover.
The 2000's had a valiant effort to try something new and awesome with Sub Diego, but some moron had the idea to approve Kurt Busiek's insane One Year Later plans and they finally put the nail in Aquaman's coffin. First they'd destroyed his family (Harsh, but ripe with potential) then he fell prey to the GRIM & GRITTY worse than even Batman, and then saddled with 90's lame-ass cameos and barring one shining moment mid-2000's, he finally died at the hands of some nobody after Busiek's insane experiment failed and some non-entity was handed the title.
And that "broad-strokes" history of Aquaman's main hits & misses out of the way ... I'll say he's still my absolute favorite DC Comics super-hero (Batman is my third, although he's clearly got the best stories). I'm glad to have him back. About bloody time. Long live the King. And I'll get a lot more in-depth next time around, discussing what kind of guy Aquaman should be in this resurrected stage of his life, with 17 years of all that experience, all that lost family, and EVERY LAST ONE of his villains still running amok unchecked.
In two words? A COWBOY.
(Family killed. Wife divorced but still down for booty calls and being a help/hindrance. Dozens of enemies roaming the ocean frontiers. Never much of a talker. Rides a sea-horse into town. Apprehends an Atlantean rogue. Rides a pack of Killer Whales after a menace from the surface. Uses ingenuity to win. Hauls villains crying to the authorities, then rides off into the sunset.)
I'm willing to give Geoff "Tendency to cut right to the coolest characters and take what's cool about them and amplify it" Johns and Peter "You'll actually care about their personalities" Tomasi and see if they can't work some magick here.