Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

So, Aquaman is cool now. I just thought I would tell everyone. Well, okay, believe it or not this might not be “new” news to the few that have been paying attention. Over the last couple of years, I’ve watched DC Comics compensate and overcompensate so that you, the reader, will assuredly stop laughing at all of those “fishman” jokes that you were so fond of and just admit that the guy is pretty freaking hardcore afterall. That doesn’t mean that they don’t throw in a one liner here and there. My two favorites come from Grant Morrison’s (now classic) run on JLA. Besides the bit where, I swear to God, Wonder Woman admits that she FORGOT about Aquaman during a tactical withdraw in which every member of the JLA who could fly or run out of a combat area did so, lending the man no assistance in fleeing from their opponents what so ever, the other gem in the dialogue goes something like this: Aquaman (after telepathically stimulating his opponent’s brain, rendering him unconscious): This one doesn’t want to fight! He’s too tired. (Blank stares from the rest of the league). Aquaman: I’m sorry…I really have no idea why I just said that. Flash: (Awkward) Yeah, uhm…those one-liners…they can really get by you sometimes, you know? Oh, Arthur Curry. We haven’t been good to you, have we? Making fun of Aquaman is like…well, forgive the expression, shooting fish in a barrel. And I get it, really- I mean, of all the superpowers you would ever choose, who would go with “can swim really fast and talk to fish?” See, I just made fun of him myself. I didn’t even mean too. You see how easy that is? But if you stop and think about it- I mean, really think about- don’t you think asking a humpback whale to smash into your opponent is actually a pretty handy skill to have? Unorthodox, useless outside of water, sure…but still. Not nearly as pathetic as we make it out to be, really. But it wasn’t enough for DC to start writing comics that emphasized that his powers don’t actually suck, after all. What’s really noticeable is that Aquaman is the most impetuous, gutsy, gritty…well, grizzled superhero in the DC universe. I’m a big fan of him sporting the beard, for example, because it gives him that “crazy, uncivilized sailor” look. But the hook for a hand thing? Bad-ass, yes, although what most people don’t know is that Piranha-Man (really bizarre member of the small Aquaman rogue gallery) actually stole his powers and had a school of piranhas chew off Curry’s left hand. Brutal, right? But see, that’s what life in the ocean is- nasty, brutish, and short. There’s no civilization around for miles and miles. Just the ocean, animals fit to survive, and animals that end up being the meal for the animals that are fit to survive. Being a sailor during the Renaissance- or god forbid, the Dark Ages- was something akin to being an astronaut. Hell, I think being an astronaut is probably safer, really- you’ve got a whole team of people on the ground giving you instructions about what to do next. Most stories from those eras depict the sea as a savage, terrible place in which people sometimes did terrible, inhumane things to survive. Aqua-hook-for-hand-man seems, to me, to invoke that kind of atmosphere a little better than past depictions. Of course, DC has taken it up a notch lately. The current depiction of Curry actually has him walking around with a left hand that’s mystically composed of water itself. This is a nice touch, because all too often, when you hear the guy’s name, it’s kind of synonymous in your head with “swimming-man.” You don’t stop and think of his name as meaning “Water-man,” the connotation of which would suggest a mastery over the substance itself. Interesting twist, right? So okay, the character isn’t quite so lame these days. But of course, the biggest obstacle standing in the way of the creation of an Aquaman fanbase is probably just this- who cares what the hell is going on in the middle of the ocean, anyway? I mean, when you’re reading about Batman tackling the mob, or even Green Lantern traveling to other planets, do you really care what the hell is going on 50,000 leagues under the sea? Doesn’t seem quite as pertinent, does it? One of the latest series came up with an interesting compromise on this front, and I kind of dug it. Essentially, a huge chunk of San Diego ends up buried under water…and instead of drowning, the residents all end up breathing H2O. Renamed Sub Diego, Aquaman and company end up fighting crime and corruption in a city kind of the same way most DC super-heroes do, for once. I know they put this arc to rest recently. It has to be among the strangest arcs I’ve ever read in DC comics…but interesting. Of course, those aren’t the only people Aquaman gets a chance to interact with. I lied when I said there was no civilization around for miles and miles out there- there is, of course, the obligatory comic book depiction of Atlantis. Somehow, every incarnation of Atlantis I have ever read about in comic books has managed to bore me to tears. The advanced-sorcery-and-technology-people who live in the sea, shun all outsiders, have political problems, and sometimes go to war with those “big, mean, surface dwellers” might have been high opera back when Marvel comics first got started and the Sub-Mariner was whisking Sue Storm away from Reed Richards. But it’s kind of old hat these days, isn’t it? At least, that’s what I thought until I read The Obsidian Age from JLA. I really love that arc- the short story is that the whole league travels back in time and, for a nice change of pace, we actually get to see Atlantis at it’s peak rather than buried at the bottom of the ocean. What was it like? Well…BIZARRE is the only word I can think of. Alien. Creepy, even. Fascinating. That series also features a sort of “back-up” JLA getting formed while the main team is absent, lead by Dick Grayson and featuring a pretty cool, surprising assortment (Jason Blood, A.K.A. Etrigan the Demon, for example). My favorite bit has to be them all assembling in front of a video screen to watch a recording of Batman explaining that they are the new JLA. When Green Arrow starts to complain, the actual recording of Batman includes a bit of him saying (precisely timed) “Oliver- shut up and listen!”. It kills me every time. But I digress. The sum total of everything I’ve talked about here is probably best represented in the latest incarnation of the series. Currently, the present Aquaman is actually the reincarnated son of the original (I think?), who had met his end at the hands of Black Manta (who is my new favorite villain and I could, and probably will, write a whole other column on). The details are a little sketchy- but I love the art in most of those books, and I swear it has all of the best elements of what I’ve written about here. It’s sort of “The Lord of the Rings”- or probably a better analogy, the “Arthurian legend”- of DC comics (Short of Etrigan. Who knew Arthur and Merlin and…oh, you get the point). Mostly, I just dig that the whole thing is taking place underwater- it’s like this entire, epic fantasy landscape that the younger Arthur has to learn to navigate, and possibly even unite and rule one day. King Shark, a former Aquaman villain turned quasi-ally, and basically a big walking, talking shark, is my new favorite addition to the cast as well. Right now, I think this series is only collected in a single edition, Once and Future, although I think there’s more of it that deserves to be reprinted. So I thought I’d try to spread the word and generate some interest. And no more Aquaman jokes. God kills a kitten whenever you tell an Aquaman joke.


  1. For the perfect example of aquaman jokes just check out an episode of robot chicken off the first season perfect example of how useless he really is


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