Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Another character today that I’ve been meaning to write about since day one. He’s the world’s most unappreciated superhero, and it’s time for his ship to come in. (Archive!)
I love Aquaman. I do. I once even offered to write Aquaman for free, here on Comics Should Be Good. DC never called. Shame, that. The offer still stands, by the way. I know the title’s just been cancelled, but I’m available for any and all future retoolings. Have your people call my people, Mr. DiDio.
Created in 1941 by Paul Norris and Mort Weisinger, Aquaman was an underwater superhero with the ability to command all sea life. After years of adventures, Arthur Curry became the literal King of the Sea, and of Atlantis. He found himself a sidekick in Aqualad. He settled down with a gal named Mera and started a family, having a son named Arthur Jr. All was well. And then, he got cancelled. Thus began the constant cycle of revamps that eventually caused the character and his world to be run into the ground. His son was killed, his wife left him, his origin changed a few times, he got a harpoon hand, he got a metal hand, he got a magic water hand, he turned into a squidbearded guy– it never seems to end.
What went wrong? Aquaman has an amazing premise– he’s the king of most of the planet and he goes on adventures in a gigantic, mysterious land and battles weird creatures. It’s a terrific concoction– part sci-fi, part Arthurian fantasy. And the rogues gallery…! Black Manta, Ocean Master, heck, even guys like the Fisherman, King Shark, and the Un-Thing are cool.
So, the big question: why doesn’t Aquaman sell? Plenty of fantastic creators have worked on Aquaman stories: writers like Jack Miller, Bob Haney, Steve Skeates, and Peter David, and brilliant artists that include Ramona Fradon, Nick Cardy, Jim Aparo, Steve Epting, and Patrick Gleason, among others. Almost every creator out there seems to want a shot at Aquaman (unfortunately, we’ll never see the Mark Waid/Mike Wieringo version). They understand the potential.
Why hasn’t it been realized? I’ll tell you why: the Superfriends Factor. Because of that cartoon, everyone thinks Aquaman is a doofus who talks to fish and does nothing worthwhile. And most people seem to hate the orange shirt, something I just don’t get. I love the orange shirt– but I digress. The general audience can’t seem to warm up to Aquaman, their minds clouded by Aqua-stereotypes perpetuated by a thirty year old cartoon. Aquaman’s appeared in loads of other cartoons and TV shows– heck, he almost had his own show there for a second. So what gives?
It’s not like Aquaman can’t be badass. Case in point:
(I was not a big fan of the beard-and-harpoon phase, though; the surliness felt far too Namor-esque to me. Aquaman is not Namor– he’s more optimistic than that.)
Alas, Aquaman is cancelled– again. Tad Williams never had a chance. It’s a damn shame, really; I’d say Tad Williams wrote the best Aqua-run since Shaun McLaughlin. From that sentence, you can tell I’m an Aquaman fan. I loved McLaughlin’s short-lived run in the early 90s– it was a modern Aquaman I could get behind– but it didn’t last. Same thing happened with Williams. He was moving in a great direction, and the rug was pulled out from under him.
Like I said earlier– I’d write Aquaman for free. With my lack of salary, the book could stay afloat (no pun) for a little while. I hope, however, that people would finally come around to my way of thinking and stick with the comic. I want people to overcome their Aqua-prejudice and buy the world’s best pop sci-fantasy. Were Aquaman real, he’d be awesome. The ladies would swoon, and the dudes would be jealous. He’d be a celebrity, an ambassador, a king, and a superhero. He’d live in a weird, wild world. It’d be a book filled with mad ideas, embracing the wonderful silliness of the Silver Age and updating it for the hip, modern audience. Basically, it’d be a back-too-basics, classic approach– All Star Aquaman without the star. It’d be cool if Mike Allred drew it, but I’d also love to see Jim Rugg take the book on– I know he understands the inherent brilliance of Aquaman, and he’d draw it in a gorgeous storybook style. After all, it is an Arthurian fantasy with a sci-fi superhero sheen. Honestly, the book writes itself, so why hasn’t it, y’know, done it yet? There are loads of great approaches to take.
I’d hate for this to turn into a rant and/or a pitch, but, heck, I want to write Aquaman more than any other character out there, except maybe Jimmy Olsen. Who wouldn’t want to read about the new Fishermen, or the Aquamarines, or the Crime of the Ancient Mariner? And you better believe he’d be wearing some version of the orange shirt. Yeah!
Maybe they killed him off, but he won’t stay dead for long. He’ll be back, and I hope he’ll be done right. The king is dead. Long live the king! And keep watching the seas…
There are two fans out there on the internet who love Aquaman more than I do, and know how to show it. Laura “Tegan” Gjovaag’s Aquaman website is the definitive Aquaman page and always has been. She’s an Aquaman fan and a Doctor Who fan, which makes her the smartest woman alive. But let’s not count out the man known as Rob!, who runs the astonishingly awesome Aquaman Shrine.
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