Saving Arthur: How Aquaman Went From a Joke to a Badass
No matter what era you live in, there will always be people who think of Aquaman as the “guy who talks to fish”, and frankly, it is getting so old. Yes, yes, we get it: he’s not as powerful as Supes, as fast as the Flash, or as smart and brooding as Batman. But to dismiss the King of the Seven Seas as mere comic relief for the justice league, like the slow one in the family, only shows how unfamiliar you are with Arthur Curry’s fictional biography.
Arguably, all this flak thrown right at Aquaman stems from the popular 60’s animated series Super Friends – it’s that one with the Super Twins, if you don’t remember. Given the TV program’s target demographic, the character’s portrayal on the show was that of a non-threatening and even effeminate crusader from the sea who rides a smiling seahorse. And that particular stigma, to the disservice of the character, stuck decades after the show ended. So much so that even the exorbitantly dark and gritty revamps done to the character in the 90’s didn’t help lift the joke, harpoon hands and all.
It wasn’t until Geoff Johns wrote the character in the Blackest Night event from the early 2010’s that Aquaman was finally able to step away from both the campy stereotype some fans attached to him and the overcompensation of his 90’s reimagining. And perhaps one panel sums up all the badass potential the king of Atlantis has: the one where he summoned (yes, summoned. He didn’t have a friendly chat with them as so many fans would mockingly say) undead sharks from the deep. A quick Google search will enlighten you with what we’re talking about.
Still, showing Arthur Curry in those kinds of scenarios could still lead to the character falling into that 90’s stigma. But that’s the thing, the stories he’s appeared in recently – especially Johns’ early run during the New 52 reboot – are able to avoid this pitfall; it’s not all about being serious for seriousness’ sake that can make the lord of the seas appealing.
If you look at it, there is great potential in writing a character like Aquaman, mainly because there’s just so much stuff going against him. See, you know Superman always wins in the end even if there’s Kryptonite around; Green Lantern has one of the most powerful weapons in the universe that, despite running the risk of having low batteries, can level a whole city; and Batman? Well, that guy wins so much that he has at times become a parody of himself (remember All-Star Batman and Robin?). Aquaman, on the other hand, has the odds always more or less stacked against him. For one, he’s the strongest underwater, so removing that instantly provides an interesting predicament. Second, without marine life, he won’t have anything to put under his thrall. Again, it opens another great storytelling angle.In short, Aquaman has so much hurdles to overcome that he becomes all the more believable. So, stop pushing that idea about seahorses; the guy might drown you.