Four Color Comments: Geoff Johns Did Not Make Aquaman “Cool” Again

If you’re like me, your first exposure to Aquaman was on the Super Friends. And let’s be honest, he was pretty much a joke on that show. His only ability there was to speak to fish. Not very impressive when you’re on a team with Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.

 

And the problem was, this stigma got stuck to Aquaman. He became this laughable character with a useless power. At least to the general public.

Then with the relaunch of the New 52, back in 2011, Geoff John’s new Aquaman book suddenly was a huge hit. With people saying that Aquaman wasn’t a joke anymore. Especially thanks to Geoff Johns.

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Well, I call bullshit on that one!

Once again the ignorance of the average comic reader just rears its ugly head. The uneducated fanboy who “thinks” they know about Aquaman, but don’t know shit!

Well, boys and girls, have a seat. School is now in session.

If you go back and look at his history, you’ll see that Aquaman was never a joke. He really had some hardcore stories.

First off, let’s call a spade a spade. We all know that Aquaman was a Sub-Mariner knockoff back in the Golden Age. But just look how many knockoffs of other characters there were. Anyone say Shazam? Back then, Aquaman’s enemies were mainly German U-boats and pirates. It was a simpler time. And the stories weren’t that heavy in content.

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But like most comic characters of that time, Aquaman’s comic eventually faded away, marking the end of the Golden Age in comics.

Then the Silver Age came and he was brought back. Like most of the stories of the Silver Age, the stories were fun and a lot lighter. But even still, Aquaman became a founding member of the Justice League of America. Not bad for someone who is considered a joke.

It was around this time he was given his own cartoon show. Aquaman was the lead. Not a member of a team. The lead. It was produced by Filmation and while some of the stories were a little campy and animation cells constantly reused, it still wasn’t a bad show. Filmation still had Aquaman talking to fish, but he could also throw “water balls” (think like snowballs but made out of water). This was pretty cool.

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They gave him some villains to fight. Aqualad and Mera were also in the show. He was pretty badass. But alas, all good things must come to an end.

It was after this (1973) when Aquaman was drafted in the cartoon the Super Friends. And thus he was shown to be a joke to a mass audience. There always had to be a body of water for Aquaman to be useful.

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And then, he wasn’t doing the heavy lifting. He’d call in the fish to do all the work.  Just sad.

But the same didn’t hold true in the comics. If anything, the Aquaman stories got darker.

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The stories dealt with drugs, gun running, and royal intrigue.  The main focus was always Aquaman’s battle for the right to be the ruler of Atlantis. He was opposed by his brother, AKA the Ocean Master, and the villainous Shark.

But the story that really set the tone, was the death of Aquaman’s young son at the hands of his enemy, Black Manta. This was a grim story with no happy ending. And no revolving door of death. For years, there was this hatred Aquaman had for Black Manta. Up until this point, Black Manta was just another villain, trying to steal or take over the sea. But in a bold move, we find out why he’s called Black Manta.

 

Race wars

Race wars

He comes across like a militant member of the Black Panthers.

The story went like this. Aquaman’s son and wife, Mera, are captured by Black Manta. Aquaman is forced to fight his sidekick Aqualad for the life of his son. And Aquaman does not hold back. He’s willing to kill Aqualad if it means his son gets to live.

 

To the death

To the death

Unfortunately, in the end, Aquaman was unable to save his son, and he was mercilessly killed by Black Manta.

 

No one can imagine the loss

No one can imagine the loss

The story was written by Paul Levitz and drawn by the late legend, Jim Aparo (this story arc has been compiled into a TPB by DC entitled Aquaman: Death of a Prince)

Aquaman tried to move on, but could any of us really move on after the death of a child. The happy-go-lucky Aquaman was gone. And he became moodier and moodier. Hell, it was during this time he went toe-to-toe with Deathstroke and survived.

 

Taking on Slade

Taking on Slade

And this was pretty much business as usual for Aquaman until writer Peter David got his hands on him. This is where Aquaman became a total badass.

To start things off, David gives Aquaman long hair and beard. Making Aquaman look all shaggy. Then he has his left hand eaten off by a piranha (at the time, his talking to fish ability was being blocked).

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So Aquaman stuck a harpoon on his stump and ditches the famous orange shirt for some armor. And then backs this up is his new “take no shit” attitude. The man came to kick ass and chew gum, and he was all out of gum.

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A lot of people described this new take on Aquaman as Conan under water.

Aquaman once again became a member of the new Justice League, but this time, he wasn’t exactly a team player. Hell, he had more attitude than Batman did, and that’s saying something. And he also had this arrogance about him. This time around everyone truly knew that Aquaman was King of the Seven Seas.

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Then he died.

And then came back to life (revolving door of death in comics). But this time he no longer had the harpoon on his left hand. The Lady of the Lake, of Arthurian legends, came to him and gave him a new hand made out of mystical water. He also shaved his beard, cut his hair, and put back on the orange shirt. Pretty much the traditional Aquaman look, with the exception of the water hand.

 

 

Back to basics

Back to basics

Even with one hand made of water, he was able to take on Superman. Yes! You heard me.

 

BOOM!

BOOM!

He took on Superman.

And then he died…again.

And then came back to life…again (once again, revolving door of death), but this time it was at the hands of Geoff Johns.

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And Johns did his best with him in the piss poor story arc Brightest Day. But this showed Aquaman as a badass, but it still wasn’t that recognized.

Around the same time, he was a featured guest star on the Batman: The Brave and the Bold cartoon. This did not help people’s perception of him. He was once again a joke. A hero who was so full of himself, it wasn’t even funny. There went the serious tone out the window.

 

Not helping

Not helping

Now here’s where it ticks me off.

DC for some reason decides to reboot the entire DC Universe with a campaign known as the New 52. So every character’s history (with the exception of Batman and Green Lantern) is erased and never happened. But it wasn’t all bad. Aquaman got a new book.

Geoff Johns was once again writing Aquaman and for some reason the comics community took notice.

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Now I’m not saying the stories were bad, I’m just saying Geoff Johns didn’t make Aquaman “cool”, because as I pointed out, he was never uncool, to begin with.

So before you go off on how good or how bad a character is, do your damn research and actually read the character’s history. If you don’t, then keep your damn mouth shut, because you’re just showing you don’t know shit.

Brian Isaacs - Executive Editor / Publisher

About Brian Isaacs - Executive Editor / Publisher

An avid comic collector/reader for over 40 years and self-proclaimed professor of comicology, Brian original started up the site Pendragon's Post to share his voice. Well that voice has been shared, and evolved into The Fanboy Factor. Brian is an advocate for remembering comic roots, and that we don't forget what was created in the past, and encourage everyone to read it as well. When not swimming in geek culture, he can be seen corrupting..introducing his young son to comics, much to his wife's chagrin.