Aquaman, AKA Arthur Curry AKA Orin of Atlantis, is a DC comics character. He rules the underwater kingdom of Atlantis. He was a founding member of the Justice League of America. And for some reason, most people, comic book fans or not, consider him a joke.
I would be hard-pressed to name a superhero who has received more undeserved ridicule than Aquaman. Yes, I said “undeserved.” Because Aquaman is awesome. In fact, Aquaman is one of the most consistently entertaining comic book characters in existence. If you agree with what I just said, bless you. Congratulations, you’re one of the enlightened few. You don’t have to keep reading this. Go have a celebratory Filet-O-Fish and know that I love you. But, if you don’t agree, or more likely you don’t have an opinion one way or the other, allow me to attempt to change your mind. I’m like 98.7% sure I can. So, let’s dive in (heh):
Why People Think Aquaman is Lame:
Short answer? Super Friends. See, the Super Friends cartoon did NOT treat Aquaman right. Unless the adventures of the team involved a water situation, he didn’t get to do anything. Virtually the only power we ever got to see him use was his power to communicate with fish, which he didn’t use very creatively. Often we’d see him riding a giant seahorse when travelling underwater, which is pretty difficult to do while retaining your dignity. So yeah, Aquaman as he appeared in Super Friends was kind of lame. Since that was the only exposure to the character that most non-comic book readers had, that was how they remembered him: as a grinning idiot on a giant seahorse who was completely useless on land.
Of course there are some who haven’t watched a single episode of Super Friends and still don’t think very highly of Aquaman. That’s probably because the value of his powers isn’t visible on the surface. Superman can fly, has heat vision, and he’s invulnerable. Batman is a brilliant detective and a master combatant. Wonder Woman is an Amazon! Aquaman…can talk to fish and he lives underwater? Um…no contest, right? It looks that way, to be sure, but let’s take a closer look at what being able to talk to fish and living underwater really means.
Telepathic communication with fish might not seem like the coolest of metahuman abilities, but it isn’t just fish that Aquaman can communicate with: IT’S ALL SEA LIFE. That includes everything from microscopic bacteria to sharks to whales to prehistoric monsters unseen by human eyes. And, contrary to some of the parodies of him that you may have seen, Aquaman doesn’t just politely ask sea creatures to do his bidding, he commands them to. It’s a very powerful telepathic skill. And it doesn’t just work on sea creatures from EARTH, either. In one issue of The Justice League of America, he is able to communicate with and influence an enormous telepathic space parasite that bore some resemblance to a giant starfish. Any creature that came from a marine environment is vulnerable to his telepathy (and hey, if humans evolved from creatures that once lived in the sea…well…).
Now, let’s turn a critical eye to the rest of Aquaman’s powers as well. What kind of advantages would a person whose body has adapted to living underwater possess? First, you’ve got the constant crushing pressure from the ocean. Therefore, his body has adapted to these pressures. He can also swim over 10,000 feet per second. Combine that with the fact that he needs to be able to resist strong currents and extremes in temperature and you have one very tough man. On land, he’s invulnerable to machine gun fire, he can lift several tons at once, and he basically doesn’t ever need a jacket. Let’s not forget that his vision is adapted to underwater conditions, which essentially means that he can see perfectly in total darkness. Oh, and he’s been known to wield the trident of Poseidon, a magical weapon he won in a battle with Triton. So you tell me: does that sound like the kind of person you’d want to piss off?
Aquaman’s had a pretty rough life, even by superhero standards. Now, I know that Super Friends and some of the older comics depicted him as a happy-go-lucky moron, but times have changed since then. Don’t believe me? Here’s a summary of the problems he’s had to deal with over the years:
1. His mom died (I think that’s canon again).
2. His dad died (I think that’s also canon again).
3. His half-brother is a supervillain who wants to kill him and/or steal his throne.
4. His arch-nemesis killed his infant son.
5. The death of his infant son caused his marriage to crumble and his wife left him.
6. His subjects are fickle and have overthrown him more than once.
7. Surface dwellers pollute his territory and steal its resources.
8. His hand got bitten off by piranhas when another supervillain stole his powers and turned them against him.
9. He once had to unite all five cities from the lost continent of Atlantis to withstand an invasion by the alien race that colonized them eons ago (admittedly it’s a long story).
10. He’s half human and half Atlantean (usually) and neither world fully accepts him.
Given all of that stuff, it’s not hard to see why Aquaman has been called “Conan the Barbarian underwater.” He was a serious-minded brooding hero long before it was in fashion. He doesn’t put up with disrespect, he doesn’t play around when his friends and family are threatened, and he doesn’t care if you like him or not. Not only that, but he’s the king of a sovereign country. Sure, he has lost the throne before, but he’s never lost it for long. Atlantis is an ancient society where magic and science have developed side-by-side; they have powerful armies with powerful weapons. Aquaman has no qualms about calling on his army when he needs it; he doesn’t have anything to prove by trying to face enemies alone. Oh, and his kingdom is recognized by the UN, which means diplomatic immunity wherever he goes. Yeah, it’s good to be the king.
So there you have it: Aquaman’s awesome. He’s got great powers, a unique personality, and a lot of other cool stuff going for him that you’ll have to discover for yourself. That’s it for me. Thanks for reading. Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment and let me know.
P.S. If you would like to read some of the best comics starring Aquaman, I’d recommend The Atlantis Chronicles, Aquaman: Time and Tide, and Aquaman vol. 5 by Peter David. They are some of my favorite comics, despite some 90’s silliness. Most of them I believe are available digitally on comixology. Additionally, Geoff Johns is doing some great stuff in the Aquaman title for DC’s New 52. Highly recommended. You can also read JLA: Year One, by Mark Waid and Justice by Alex Ross and Jim Krueger. Finally, Aquaman makes some excellent guest appearances in the Warner Bros. Justice League and Justice League Unlimited cartoons.