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10 Things Everyone Always Gets Wrong About Aquaman

When it comes to DC Comics, no character is more misunderstood, misrepresented, and misinterpreted than the King of Atlantis, Aquaman. A staple of DC Comics since his inception in 1941, Arthur Curry is a veteran superhero, who has taken part in almost every major story arc in DC’s lore. He is a founding member of the Justice League, a skilled fighter in his own right, and holds dominion over the seven seas, which make up over 70% of the Earth.

That’s why it’s so shocking to see how far the character’s stock has fallen in the eyes of the most casual of comic book fans. These days, anyone defending the deep-diving do-gooder is sure to be met with fish-related jokes and puns about the ocean. Most of these jokes come from a place of ignorance, not malice. People know very little about Arthur, his adventures, and his journey as a character.

All it would take is a little re-education for Aquaman to be placed on the pedestal he deserves. To do so, first we must dispel the misconceptions that have formed over the years. It’s time to clear the air, so here are 10 things everyone always gets wrong about Aquaman.

10. In The Grand Scheme, Aquaman Isn’t Important

DC Comics

Hold your sea horses! For those who think Aquaman doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of DC’s mythology, you are sadly mistaken. Not only is he one of the first superheroes to ever exist, but his inclusion in most of DC’s stories show how important Arthur is to the brand in general.

The Justice League, for example, would never be the same without Aquaman. Not only was Arthur a founding member of its first incarnation back in Brave and the Bold #28, but for a short stint he managed to lead the team. He even went so far as to create his own Justice League, under the rule that all members put the league’s problems before their own. He enlisted newcomers like Gypsy, Vibe, Steel, and Vixen for his league, ushering a new wave of ethnic superheroes for DC.

This was a groundbreaking moment for the character, who was so popular that he was the co-star of his own animated show, “The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure”. This led to the character being a mainstay on the Superfriends cartoon and Justice League Unlimited years later.

Since the New 52, Aquaman has been taken more seriously than ever. That could be thanks to writer Geoff Johns who is credited with bringing the character back to prominence when he wrote for him in 2011. Regardless, DC has always tried to keep the Atlantean afloat in their media, showcasing his importance to the comic medium as a whole.

9. His Stories Are Campy

DC Comics

One look at Golden Age Arthur Curry riding a seahorse can be all it takes to assume his stories are as campy as his outward appearance is. Does Aquaman have his share of silly stories? Of course, but so does Batman, Superman and almost every hero you could think of.

What makes Aquaman stories fascinating is his constant battle of identity between surface dweller and underwater royalty. Walking that fine line proves to be a never ending struggle for the character, and many villains have tried to exploit this as weakness, usually with devasting results.

In Death of a Prince, the unrelenting Black Manta captures, and murders Aquaman’s infant son. There’s nothing silly about that. In Aquaman #2, written in 1994, Arthur’s ability to command fish is stolen by the villain Charybdis, and used against him. Charybdis plunges Aquaman’s hand in piranha infested waters, and with no ability to call the fish off, they rip meat from tendon, and completely chew his hand off. This hand is later replaced with a harpoon. How’s that for hardcore?

In Throne of Atlantis, Arthur’s brother Oceanmaster tries to drown the surface world, and succeeds in flooding Gotham City, killing thousands of its citizens. And how can we forget his role in Flashpoint, which saw a more militaristic Arthur Curry wage war against the fearsome Amazons after their Queen, Wonder Woman, beheads his wife? These tales are definitely nothing like those Saturday morning cartoons you remember.

8. His Bearded Look Is New

DC Comics

Jason Momoa’s cameo as Aquaman in Batman V Superman gave us a glimpse at the character we would be seeing in both the Justice League and Aquaman movies. Gone was his shortly cropped blonde look, as it was replaced by a dark mane of sun-kissed hair. His signature cleanly shaven face was no more, giving way to an unkempt beard.

He was given an assortment of tribal tattoos that mimicked the scales of his traditional armor, but spent most of his time shirtless, choosing to only wear pants. It would seem as if Warner Bros created the look out of nowhere, but that isn’t the case.

In an attempt to broaden Aquaman’s fan base in the ’90s, writer Peter David chose to steer clear of the cliché Golden Age character design for Arthur Curry in his comic. Instead he gave the character long blonde hair and a matching beard. Along with the make-over came an attitude adjustment, as the character became decidedly more brooding, preferring isolation to human contact.

He was also mostly shirtless, and is seen wearing pants and not much else. He was given a harpoon for a hand when he lost his in battle, and wore armor over one side of his upper body. So we all have Peter David to thank for the aptly named “AquaBro” look Momoa sports in the film. The look was so iconic the comics reference it from time to time. With a new Aquaman series in the works, time will tell if the look is here to stay.

7. He Has One Sidekick

DC Comics

Being a superhero means leaving your mark, and inspiring others to join your cause. Batman has Robin, Flash has his Flash Family, and even Wonder Woman has Wonder Girl. For Aquaman, he inspired not one but two sidekicks, both named Aqualad.

The first Aqualad, Garth, debuted in 1960, in the pages of Adventure Comics #269. Born into underwater royalty, Garth was abandoned and left to die due to his purple eyes, which were thought to be a birth defect. Surviving his death sentence, Garth scavenged his way through the sea, eventually meeting and saving Aquaman.

Garth took on the name Aqualad, showing allegiance to his partner in crime. Just like his mentor, Garth went on to create a super-team when he eventually founded the Teen Titans. As years passed he was quickly overshadowed by the birth of Aquaman’s son Arthur Curry Jr, and eventually chose the name Tempest as his new moniker, deciding to step out of Arthur’s shadow.

The second Aqualad is Jackson Hyde, son of infamous villain Black Manta, and he made his debut in Brightest Day #4 in 2010. After realizing he has the power of aquakinesis, Jackson was informed of his parentage, and later chooses to save Aquaman instead of his own father, cementing their partnership. As Aqualad, Jackson was a member of the Teen Titans and is also a major part of the Young Justice television show.

There also was an octopus sidekick, but we don’t like to talk about that.

6. Lack Of Water Is His Weakness

DC Comics

Where do we start with this one? This isn’t a misconception, but more a trait of the character that was done away with. In an era where every super-powered being needed a weakness to counter their immense strengths, Aquaman was given a pretty devastating one: He was required to come into contact with water at least once an hour. If he refused, or was unable to find water in the area, Aquaman would die of dehydration.

Aqualad was affected in the same way, and the weakness was used to creation tension and drama for the duo. What’s weird is when he debuted in 1941, Aquaman had no distinct weaknesses. This Achilles’ heel was added in the late ’50s, in order to level out the character, just like how yellow was added as a weakness for Green Lantern.

Handcuffed by his need for hydration, this weakness further weakened the characterization of Arthur, almost making him more fish than man. Fortunately for the character, the weakness was removed from future iterations of Aquaman after a while. Now the King of Atlantis can be on land for days at a time with no worry, as he did in the Golden Era. Removing this weakness makes Arthur even more of a threat, both on land and sea.

5. He Is Useless On Land

DC Comics

Aquaman rules the sea from his underwater kingdom Atlantis. This must mean that on land he is virtually useless right? Wrong. Not only has Arthur Curry joined his teammates in battle regardless of the terrain, but has been shown to be an incredibly important asset to the team, even outside of water.

While most get hung up over his telepathic abilities, Aquaman’s ability to survive the crushing depths of the sea, is just as important. While the average person’s body couldn’t possibly endure the massive amounts of pressure at the deepest depths of the ocean, Arthur’s can, an attribute that proves to be even more useful on land.

His super durability and super density make his skin virtually bulletproof. He can also withstand what would otherwise be bone-crushing blows, from the likes of Despero, Darkseid, and even Superman on occasion. Arthur has tremendous striking power, and has used this ability to pierce Darkseid’s eye with his trident, go toe to toe with Wonder Woman, and battle the hordes of vicious Atlantean creatures of The Trench. Aquaman also was able to subdue Hercules, the demigod of myth, pretty quickly.

He has super quick reflexes, moving at extreme pace underwater, and is even faster on land, giving him the perfect combination of speed and strength. His rapid reflexes and quick thinking have won him his share of battles as well. With all that in mind, Arthur is not afraid to use these skills and neutralize the threat by any means necessary. No more fish jokes, please.

4. His Villains Are Lame

DC Comics

The next misconception is a bit of a lazy one. It is one thing to disregard Aquaman as a serious character, but to assume he is lacking a proper rogue’s gallery is unfair. As king of Atlantis, Arthur has faced off against countless threats, with danger coming from both the surface world and the sea.

One of his greatest enemies on land is the seriously sadistic Black Manta. Manta and Arthur have been locked in a blood feud for decades, as it was Manta who killed Aquaman’s father, and in return Aquaman took the life of Manta’s father.

These deaths have sent these two characters spiraling in a tsunami of blood, vengeance, and violence, with Manta always choosing to up his depravity. Being a skilled mercenary in his own right, the Devil of The Deep is highly trained in all sorts of military weaponry and chooses to do battle on Arthur’s turf using his trademark high-tech diver’s suit and oblong helmet. Other villains like The Scavenger, steal Atlantean tech and sell it on the black market.

When it comes to the ocean, many have tried to remove Aquaman from his throne by force. Whether it be Atlan, The Dead King, hell bent on taking his seat back from his descendant, or Aquaman’s half-brother Ocean Master, who believes he is truly built for the task of leading Atlantis, his villains bring a level of nuance to DC’s lore and are not to be trifled with.

3. He Refuses To Kill

DC Comics

Choosing to be both a hero and king means that Arthur Curry has a lot on his plate. Not only does he have thousands of Atlanteans that he must lead and protect, but he is also considered an ambassador for his kingdom, meaning he is a representation of Atlantis at all times.

All of that responsibility rests on Aquaman’s shoulders, so he doesn’t have the convenience to weigh options during wartime. When things get messy, Aquaman isn’t afraid to take the fight to the enemy. While most heroes shy away from killing, Aquaman does when absolutely necessary, often not batting an eye doing so.

He has sent legions of sharks after Darkseid’s army, murdered fleets of soldiers from the Trench, and has even fought the Atlanteans to defend the surface world. Flashpoint Aquaman was practically a killing machine, and was responsible for a world-ending conflict. There is no room for error when you are royalty.

Some death’s occur by accident, like when Arthur accidently murdered Black Manta’s father while searching for his own father’s killer. Some deaths are more of a choice like when he took Gorilla Grood’s life in the Injustice series. EIther way you slice it, Aquaman isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.

2. He Is The First Atlantean Hero In Comics

Marvel Comics

DC Comics (then known as National Publications) was founded in 1934, and by the 1940s had introduced such mainstays as Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. Mort Weisnger joined the company in 1941, and worked as editor before being tasked to create brand new heroes for the company.

Weisnger was up for the task and with artist Paul Norris introduced a slew of new characters, but it was in More Fun Comics #73 that we get our first look at the Aquaman. The character stood out because of he could breath underwater, and knew various aquatic languages, using them to communicate with sea life. We were told he was from the fictional underwater city of Atlantis, and later that he was born to rule it.

Unfortunately it seems like they were beaten to the punch when it comes to Atlantean superheroes, as Namor the Submariner debuted for Timely comics (later known as Marvel) in 1939, in the pages of Marvel Comics #1. Namor is widely considered the first anti-hero in comics and was taken seriously as a character. He was given tons of character development and is a celebrated part of Marvel’s history.

He ruled over Marvel’s version of Atlantis, and joined such star-studded teams as The Defenders, X-Men and The Illuminati. The two characters have many similarities, right down to the use of a trident, but it’s the wings on the feet of Namor that give the mutant away. Good thing there is plenty of room for them both.

1. He “Talks” To Fish

DC Comics

Many of the jokes that have plagued Aquaman come from a common misunderstanding when it comes to his most famous superpower. Aquaman can telepathically communicate with all sea life, using creatures from the deep as backup in tight situations.

This ability has caused many to write him off as the hero who “talks” to fish, which is an oversimplification of the ability. It was explained in his New 52 run that Aquaman is able to alter the cerebellum of sea life with his telepathy, effectively compelling or “commanding” them to come to his aid when needed.

The key difference is the sea life in question doesn’t “talk” back in the way a normal conversation would go. Seeing the powers is always a spectacle, like when Aquaman commanded a legion of sharks to attack parademons in Justice League: Origins, or when he threatened Cheetah with a school of vicious piranha.

His abilities even affect species which have evolved from sea life, as shown when he uses them on the villain Zum whose physiology had remnants of his aquatic ancestors. In an instant, Aquaman is able to use Zum’s basal ganglia (the part of the brain that controls motor functions) against him to give him a seizure, a simple demonstration of an utterly complex ability.

 

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