Saturday, May 7, 2011

Give Aquaman a Chance

Aquaman is essentially the Rodney Dangerfield of the super-hero world. He's a great hero and a great character, but he never gets any measure of respect. Everybody makes fun of Aquaman... even nerds. He gained his reputation as the most useless member of the Super Friends back in the 1960's, and he's never since been able to live it down no matter how hard people try to give him credibility. There's a reason he can swing with the best of them in the Justice League even on a bad day.
He came from the depths of the Ocean
 to deliver the message of "shut up."

The two biggest misconceptions are that his only power is talking to fish and he can't go on land... neither of those are true. He's an Atlantean and he has the strength and physiology to withstand pressure at the deepest depths of the ocean like it was a breezy summer day. In addition to being one of the strongest beings on Earth, he's also the de facto ruler of most of the planet. This is a guy who doesn't take shit from anyone because he doesn't have to, and even if he did he could use mind control on the part of the human brain that evolved from marine ancestors. He doesn't just talk to fish... he controls all sea-life. Since Brightest Day this has included dead creatures. That's right... Aquaman literally has an army of fucking killer zombie sharks at his disposal to ultra-murder people, and his very own private Kraken at his disposal. That's if he doesn't beat the shit out of you with his bare hands. He fights worse than simple criminals or muggers on the mean urban streets... his nemesis is a crazed super-terrorist who murdered his baby because he hates the abstract concept of the Ocean. Add to that tally a sadistic half-brother bent on usurping his throne, and a loving wife from another dimension sent here to kill him.

But beyond being a credible and incredible super-hero, he's also a great and versatile character. Chris Sims has called Batman comics' most versatile character, and the legend of Aquaman is a similarly great story. Half-human and half-Atlantean, he's constantly trapped between two worlds, never completely accepted by either of his people but destined to live as a leader and savior to both. It's the classic story of a noble hero driven hard to protect the world that's forsaken him and prove himself, even though he might hate their guts. Growing up from ostracization in his youth, he becomes a grim hardened warrior driven by anger but with a deep sense of personal morality that transcends his more brutal and aggressive instincts. At his heart he's still a passionate family man who takes care of those closest to him while managing a massive under-sea empire, and struggles with love for multiple beautiful women. The relative unpopularity despite such great potential has made him incredibly under-used. He's at home as a regal diplomat or an animalistic barbarian, knocking alien heads together in space, dueling political assassins, or brawling his way through great monsters of the deep.
I am of course really looking forward to the upcoming new Aquaman series supposed to be written by Geoff Johns, but it's great that we're starting to see him become more popular even in other media. Appearances in Smallville and especially the amazing work being done in Batman: The Brave and the Bold have made great strides towards legitimizing the character the way he deserves to be.

I also want to make it clear that I could read literally nothing else but Kate Beaton's Aquaman comics for the rest of my life and I would be a happy man.

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