“You have hundreds of champions to defend a few land masses. I protect the other seventy percent of the world… and there is only one of me.” Aquaman, “Kingdom Come”
A pirate crew has captured a ship. They are holding the passengers for ransom and threatening to kill one. Someone jumps onto the deck. The pirates aim their weapons. Then they laugh when they recognize the lamest superhero ever. Their laughter stops when the hero’s trident impales one of them. The pirates panic as the hero demolishes them, saving the leader for last. He throws the leader into the sea. The pirate thinks he can escape until he sees fins circling him. No one hears his screams as Aquaman goes below to free the hostages.
As we’ve discussed before, Aquaman is friggin’ terrifying. He’s a founder of the Justice League and has been fighting evil since WWII. So why do people thinks he’s useless? Why is the king of Atlantis fighting crime? Who even is this guy? Time to find out.
Scion of the Seas: Aquaman’s Backstory
Arthur: “Fish jokes. ‘S’all I ever get are fish jokes.”- Aquaman, Smallville
Aquaman first debuted in 1941 in the pages of More Fun Comics #73.* Arthur Curry is the son of an Atlantean woman, fittingly named Atlanna, and a lighthouse keeper named Tom Curry. Arthur’s body began adapting to the sea as he grew older. He gained strength and durability, the ability to breathe underwater, and his infamous ability to communicate with sea life.
On her deathbed, Atlanna revealed that she was the Queen of Atlantis. She had been exiled due to superstitions about blonde Atlanteans and the machinations of a sorcerer. Arthur journeyed to Atlantis and overthrew the sorcerer. He was then recognized as Atlanna’s son and crowned King of Atlantis. And they all lived happily ever aft… oops, wrong story.
As King of the Seven Seas, Arthur opposed all who would harm the oceans. He eventually encountered The Flash (Grant Gustin in The Flash) and assisted him in a fight, gaining the nickname Aquaman. He fought crime and supervillains, but soon realized there were some threats even he couldn’t handle alone. During the invasion of Starro the Conquerer, Aquaman teamed up with Flash, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern (Ryan Reynolds in a forgettable movie), and Martian Manhunter (David Harewood in television’s Supergirl), to create the Justice League.
Death, Rebirth, and Reboots Aplenty: Aquaman’s History
“I am not some pathetic self-appointed leader of an insignificant country who can be bullied into submission. Every port. Every ship. Everything that flies over the ocean does so with my blessing. Your world would grind to a halt if I willed it. Every landmass borders the sea. Your entire world is inside mine. Consider this a show of strength. Now get the hell out of my ocean.” – Aquaman, Injustice: Gods Among Us Vol. 1
Aquaman married a woman named Mera and had a child who was eventually murdered by his archenemy Black Manta (Khary Payton in Young Justice). Sound tragic? Trust me, this is about to get nuts. During a fight with Aquaman, the villain Charybdis forced a school of piranha to devour Aquaman’s hand. Aquaman replaced his hand with a harpoon just in time for a relaunch that basically turned him into Aqua-Conan the Barbarian.
This was the first of several attempts to relaunch or reboot Aquaman, who was seen as a joke thanks to Super Friends. Eventually the writers said “@#$& this” and killed Aquaman. Years later, Aquaman was reanimated as a Black Lantern**. He was eventually resurrected, but with tainted powers that only commanded dead sea creatures. Yes, Aquaman could summon zombie sharks.
With the New 52 Reboot, Aquaman has become one of DC’s top sellers. While he is still a founding member of the Justice League, he’s mocked for seemingly being weaker than Superman or Green Lantern. Aquaman frequently debunks the myths and jokes about him.
Warrior King: Aquaman’s Powers and Personality
Dr. Fate:”Solomon Grundy’s grave is empty.”
Aquaman: “Tell me where to find those responsible, then dig more graves.” Justice League: Wake The Dead
Let’s get this out of the way, Aquaman can talk to fish. What he actually does is compel sea life to do whatever he wants. He can even use his powers to make people have strokes.*** Aquaman also has a body adapted to survive the ocean’s crushing depths, and may be weaker than Superman, but is stronger than almost anyone else. He had a harpoon mounted on his arm after he lost his hand, but eventually had his hand regenerated by a Black Lantern ring.
While Aquaman is a fair and reasonable king, he’s not someone to screw with. He is willing to kill if he deems his opponent evil enough or if there is no other way to stop them. He is a cunning warrior and equal in skill to Wonder Woman, an Amazon with decades of experience.
The Actors Who Played Aquaman
“Batman made a movie deal though you know he doesn’t need the cash
And all the second-rate superheroes get TV shows
even the pre-Crisis Flash
But not me, I guess that I don’t rate
My comic book’s been cancelled more than Doctor Fate.” Arthur Curry, Ookla the Mok
Aquaman’s TV debut was in the Superman and Aquaman Hour of Adventure, where he was voiced by Marvin Miller (Robbie the Robot in Forbidden Planet). He infamously was a main character in the Super Friends although he was basically useless there. This tainted Aquaman’s image so horribly that it’s only now starting to fade.
Aquaman next appeared in Superman: The Animated Series voiced by Miguel Ferrer. The “Conan underwater” version of Aquaman appeared in Justice League voiced by Scott Rummel. This version helped erase a lot of the “Aquaman is useless” image, even having a scene where he cut off his own hand to save his infant son. Yeah, you read that right.
He was a fan-favorite in Batman: the Brave and the Bold, where he was voiced by John Demaggio. In the series finale, Bat-Mite (Paul Reubens) attempted to make the show ‘jump the shark’ since he was bored by it. He used his powers to change Aquaman’s voice actor to Ted McGinley, although this was reversed by the end of the episode.
Aquaman appeared in Smallville for a few episodes and was played by Alan Ritchson. He had a short cameo in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice where he was played by Jason Momoa of Game of Thrones fame. He will appear in the movie Justice League and star in his own movie in 2018.
Didja Get All That?
Not the joke you thought he was, eh?
* Also the first appearance of Green Arrow and Speedy.
** Think zombie Green Lanterns.
*** To be fair, it was a Martian invader disguised as a superhero.
Jared Bounacos has written for Movie Rewind since 2017.