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Comic Book Legends Revealed #435

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COMIC LEGEND: Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo put in a proposal for Aquaman.

STATUS: True

Can you imagine a Mark Waid/Mike Wieringo Aquaman?

The pairing who were so amazing on Flash almost had a chance to do the same with Aquaman, as Waid was given the chance to pitch DC on an Aquaman series back in 2003.

Waid helpfully shared the pitch with readers as an example of a pitch at John Rogers’ site a few years back.

Check it out…

AQUAMAN
Mark Waid/Mike Wieringo
Preliminary Pitch for a One-Shot/August 3, 2003

I am so sick of people making fun of Aquaman that I’m beginning to take it personally. For the last ten years or so, the way we’ve been scrambling to combat Aquaman’s “Dork of the Sea” image–and I’ve been guilty of trying this, too–is by making Aquaman increasingly darker, grittier, and tougher, the brooding, angry king beset with trouble. Each incarnation of the character seems grimmer than the last, to the point where all that’s left for us to do is give him two hooks. And a peg-leg.

Yes, the seas can be turbulent and stormy, but y’know what? Far more often, the ocean is a universal symbol for peace and contentment. It’s a calming influence. If it weren’t, Bermuda would be deserted and Hawaii would be an industrial trade port. It is most people’s “happy place.” Yes, the ocean is the set piece for “A Perfect Storm,” but it’s also the world of “Finding Nemo” and “The Little Mermaid.” I have never yet met anyone of any age who didn’t come away from Sea World envying the guides who swim with the whales and porpoises. I propose we turn this “grim Aquaman” paradigm around for a one-shot and see what happens.

Our POV character in this story is a female marine biologist–and since Aquaman’s turf covers the world, there’s no need to make her American. (In fact, Russian is preferable–I’ve been doing a lot of reading about the culture of Russian courtship, and that could really play in nicely.) At any rate, our biologist–let’s call her Yelena for now–may have heard the name “Aquaman” here and there, but to her, he’s about as real and significant as, say, German football stars are to you and me.

Yelena’s work is done with grungy old equipment and spit-and-bailing-wire technology, the best she has to work with. Her whole world has a gritty feel to it– –so when this bright, blond, shining knight of a man pops out of the water and into her life, she’s addled simply by the contrast. Their paths cross, and she’s drawn into an Aquaman adventure that takes us out on (and under) the water.

Yelena’s not reluctant. To Yelena, this “Aquaman” is, yes, mysterious like the sea–but in a warm, enticing way. To Yelena, he is otherworldly, like a fairy tale character come to life. He rarely speaks (though when he does, he’s staggeringly charming), he lives in the water, and he smiles. Constantly. In fact, at first, Yelena has a nearly impossible time taking him seriously. He’s like a walking cartoon.

And yet…the more she gets to know him, the further she’s drawn out of her world and into his, she’ll come to realize that there’s something going on behind those wide eyes of his. Looking in them, she sees peace and confidence; looking through them, she’s gradually introduced to an underwater world of absolute wonder, a place that is far more colorful and in tune with nature than is her own gritty lifestyle. Once she surrenders to the implausibility of it all, she’s rewarded a thousandfold, and so are we. Aquaman’s joy becomes her joy becomes our joy.

There will be no mocking. NO jokes about how “dumb” talking to fish is. Anyone with a keyboard can make cynical jokes. That’s easy. What’s harder is reminding you why, when you were a kid, you thought the idea of living underwater or riding on the backs of whales WAS cool. We can do that. We can remind you, and Yelena’s awed voice will be there to back us up.

Here’s a drawing Wieringo did to go along with the pitch…

ringoaqua

Doesn’t that sound like a great series?

Sadly, the editor Waid was pitching to didn’t think so (I believe Waid later noted that it was Wieringo’s art, oddly enough, that was specifically at issue).

Since Wieringo tragically passed away back in 2007, we’ll sadly never see this series.

Thanks to Mark for sharing the awesome pitch, though!
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Check out the latest edition of my weekly Movie/TV Legends Revealed Column at Spinoff Online: Did the pop song “Dream Weaver” really inspire Wes Craven to create Nightmare on Elm Street?
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Okay, that’s it for this week!

Thanks to the Grand Comics Database for this week’s covers! And thanks to Brandon Hanvey for the Comic Book Legends Revealed logo!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is cronb01@aol.com. And my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/brian_cronin, so you can ask me legends there, as well!

Here’s my newest book, Why Does Batman Carry Shark Repellent? The cover is by Kevin Hopgood (the fellow who designed War Machine’s armor).

If you want to order a copy, ordering it here gives me a referral fee.

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Also, be sure to check out my website, Urban Legends Revealed, where I look into urban legends about the worlds of entertainment and sports, which you can find here, at urbanlegendsrevealed.com.

Here’s my book of Comic Book Legends (130 legends – half of them are re-worked classic legends I’ve featured on the blog and half of them are legends never published on the blog!).

The cover is by artist Mickey Duzyj. He did a great job on it…(click to enlarge)…

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Was Superman a Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed

See you all next week!

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54 Comments

The Waid Aquaman idea does sound great, and he does nail the problem with so many versions of Arthur.
And while I enjoyed Geoff Johns’ first TPB of Aquaman, I doubt people in the DCU make jokes about him the way people in our world do (a guy who can take down a pirate ship with a giant squid isn’t laughable).

Wouldn’t Cain be the fourth Batgirl if you count Bette Kane?

Did DC Comics Do Something Stupid In 2003? YES.

Wouldn’t Cain be the fourth Batgirl if you count Bette Kane?

She was Bat-Girl. Totally different. ;)

Literally the only version of Aquaman that’s any good is the Hercules-like over the top one from Brave and the Bold.

Any attempt to play the character straight is destined to fail because the character is dull, his powers are dull, and the undersea setting in general is both dull and alienating. That last one goes for Namor too.

And before anyone types out a thesis paper refutation for a character you only like because you grew up with Super Friends, consider that there might just be a reason Aquaman’s comic bounces between cancellation and reinvention and Namor’s only long run of comics came from when John Byrne took him out of the water and made him a CEO.

You’re right. “Bat-Girl” is SOOOOOO far removed from “Batgirl”. “Huntress” is much closer. ;)

Ringo’s art is nice. Waid’s pitch works for an all ages book but not for me.

Byrne also had an Asian Robin in Stan Lee Presents.

Legend 1, under the first picture. Cortez is kidnapping Luna who is Magneto’s Granddaughter not daughter

If DC ever does go try and make an Aquaman movie Waid’s pitch would probably be a pretty great starting point. Not that they’re likely to do anything that smart…

The problem with Weiringo’s drawing of Aquaman is that he made him look like a wimp. That’s the WORST possible way to counteract people’s inability to take the character seriously: By making him a wimp on top of already being a laughing stock.

Another problem is the POV character concept. It’s totally unnecessary and takes away from what makes Aquaman interesting in the first place (the setting), which oddly enough Waid seems to get on at least some level given that he summed it up pretty concisely at the end of the pitch.

gods, that Batgirl costume is awful…

Appreciate the link to my Tumblr. I’ll try and remember to add the back story to more of the images I post.

Is it just me, or does Byrne’s Batgirl look like an amalgam of Black Canary’s original and JLI costumes?

Red Comet, while I wouldn’t waste time on a thesis, Namor ran in his own golden age book for eight years. His Silver Age run lasted 72 issues. Aquaman’s silver age run was 16 years. So I think the stats betray you.

here will be no mocking. NO jokes about how “dumb” talking to fish is. Anyone with a keyboard can make cynical jokes. That’s easy. What’s harder is reminding you why, when you were a kid, you thought the idea of living underwater or riding on the backs of whales WAS cool. We can do that. We can remind you, and Yelena’s awed voice will be there to back us up.

Too bad Geoff Johns, or the people who applaud his take on Aquaman, totally miss this. But I guess the Geoff Johns Aquaman is the one our current fandom deserves, even if it’s not the one they need.

You’re right. “Bat-Girl” is SOOOOOO far removed from “Batgirl”. “Huntress” is much closer. ;)

I think you missed the point of what Brian is saying. For a short spell, the Huntress actually changed superhero identities and was Batgirl for a little while, before Cassandra Cain took the costume.

T., you’re right. I was totally thinking of Earth-2 Huntress, didn’t think about the post-Crisis version.

Apologies for my screw-up and misplaced sarcasm.

Regarding X-Men #26: Captain America, your body does not bend like that!

Fraser, you should also remember that Namor’s 72 issues in the Silver Age came directly out of his series in Tales to Astonish, so that was actually a nine year run.

@John- What are you, the wimpy Aquaman of the Internet? You’re SUPPOSED to be an unconscionable jerk in the comments section! That’s quite enough being apologetic, young man. This is no place for being reasonable. Hit the showers!

Just as well Yelena never made it to the page. She’d only be later murdered to kick off another grim storyline.

That was a difficult one. You have applause from me. I know I would make a mistake with this legends (especially magneto’s one)

I thought of that It’s Me, but as he shared space with the Hulk, I thought focusing on Namor’s solo book made a better case that he can hold his own in sales.

ParanoidObsessive

September 6, 2013 at 3:12 pm

The problem with Weiringo’s drawing of Aquaman is that he made him look like a wimp. That’s the WORST possible way to counteract people’s inability to take the character seriously: By making him a wimp on top of already being a laughing stock.

Funnily enough, I kind of agree and disagree with you at the same time.

For me, the art didn’t make him look like a wimp, per se, but it definitely makes him look YOUNG. Like what I would expect from a reboot where we’re seeing Arthur’s earliest adventures on land when he was still a teenager, or maybe a reboot version of Aqualad.

If he showed up in a one-shot looking like that after I’d already gotten used to him being all manly (or since this was post-90′s, looking all grimdark), I think the contrast would have been way too much for me to take him seriously.

Especially when Waid’s summary of the character makes me think of “Buddhist Sea Hippie” as a tagline.

Does anyone know which editor turned down that Aquaman pitch and, given the timing, presumably went with Rick Veitch’s instead? I want to make sure I never read their books again.

mrclam, oops, what I meant to type was “#@$&! off, don’t ruin my jokes and sarcasm with logic!”

My basic theory is that anything that ran for five straight years “worked” and that anything that has worked in the past could work now. The problem is updating it for the sensibility of the modern audience. By that standard, Aquaman has worked twice (vol. 1 & 5), failed twice and has a current series that is a good bet to pass the 60 issue mark. That is a pretty decent batting average. By way of comparison, The Hulk has only broken broken the 60 issue barrier on 50% of his launches. No female Marvel character has ever done it.

So, Aquaman is plainly a character that can work. He is just moderately tricky.

The problem is that Aquaman was badly miscast as an A-Lister on a cartoon show that the aging comic fan base watched as children. Aquaman is totally lame … when compared with Superman, Batman & Robin and Wonder Woman. Those are only some of the most broadly popular superheroes ever. Almost no one DC could’ve thrown in that group wouldn’t have looked bad in contrast. Aquaman plainly isn’t on that tier and comparing him to those characters made him an easy scapegoat for whatever retroactive embarrassment one might have over having once been a child.

That isn’t to say that Aquaman doesn’t have dated aspects. The whole undersea lost world thing is harder to buy for 21st century adults than it was for 20th century children. His rogue’s gallery isn’t pretty weak. Gloves seem like an odd choice for someone that swims all the time.

Geoff Johns has gone a hyper-serious route, which obviously works for the current market. It is still interesting to wonder about the “lighten up and have fun” take.

Sorry, but anyone who says Aquaman can’t be done straight has never seen the stories from Adventure Comics, in the mid-70s, with Jim Aparo on art. There is a long storyline of Aquaman being forced from the throne of Atlantis, at odds with a new power in Atlantis, Karshon (whose true identity is a major element of the story). I think Scott Shaw was the writer, but I’m not entirely sure. Good, solid, mature storytelling and fantastic art!

I think one thing that tends to get lost among his more overtly sea-based powers is that as part of his ability to withstand the depths, Aquaman has superhuman strength. Not at Superman’s level, but still very strong. I think if you did a movie and put in the trailer a scene of him ripping open a ship with his bare hands, you’d find yourself with a public ready for a serious take on him.

It must be lots of fun having a conversation with Red Comet. Not only does he present erroneous opinions as fact, he brooks no contrasting opinions whatsoever.

Fun guy. I’m glad he doesn’t like Aquaman. I’d hate to have something in common.

It does seem that pretty much every new iteration of Aquaman finds ways to make him more like Namor. There’s the revision of his 1940s origin as a super-powered human to a more Namor-like “half-Atlantean hybrid” backstory, the tendency to play up “he’s a king,” and more recently playing up the idea that he’s not an American and might have his own political agenda or ideas.

Johns gets a few points for basically turning Ocean Master, rather than Aquman, into “Namor at DC.” “Throne of Atlantis” wasn’t so different, in the end, from all those stories where Namor attacks the surface world.

Anyone see the arc on Entourage when Vince was cast as Aquaman? Must see for any fan. I personally like the 52 version of Aquaman. Also, I’ve always preferred Aquaman to Namor.

“Too bad Geoff Johns, or the people who applaud his take on Aquaman, totally miss this. But I guess the Geoff Johns Aquaman is the one our current fandom deserves, even if it’s not the one they need.”

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is my favorite comment in this thread.

@ Omar Karridu:

Good call.

Honestly, I don’t get the impulse to turn Aquaman into Namor. The Sub-Mariner is a perfectly good character, but he is strictly B-list. Aquaman has become more like his Marvel counterpart, the less successful he has become. Neither character is unsuccessful, but short tempered King of Atlantis is clearly less appealing version.

Aquaman Vol. 1 & 5 ruled. Cassandra Cain ruled. Or Connor Hawke, too. Starman with his cheesy outfit. No character or topic is difficult, shallow or ridiculous if you’re a good writer. No spandex superhero looks stupid if the artist doesn’t draw him that way. But, like in music or movies, it’s not about art or quality, but about the quick buck.

ITT: People taking shots at Geoff’s Aquaman really just want to take shots at Geoff.

For what its worth, PAD’s Aquaman was incredible even if it was what Waid was talking about, and while I would’ve read Waid’s Aquaman, Geoff has made me realize how incredibly cool Mera is, and that she has no business being outside of an Aquaman comic book.

My only hope is that before the guy leaves the book he introduces the other concepts that are missing from the Aqua-mythos while creating more new stuff that works.

Maybe I’ve been warped growing up in the grim and gritty era of capes, but that Waid proposal sounds amazingly boring.

For those who enjoyed Waid’s pitch on Aquaman should check out Tom Taylor’s The Deep, which conveys a palpable sense of wonder of the ocean and those things that dwell within. It’s available through Gestalt Comics, here: http://www.gestaltcomics.com

To be fair, there was considerable effort put at making Namor more like Aquaman as well. From a half-hero or even full villain he became more of a team player and standard adventurer, by joining the Avengers and later the Illuminati. During Byrne’s run he also became more of a family man, making closer ties with Namorita.

The editor had a problem with Wieringo’s art? Just goes to show how smart people can sometimes make stupid assessments.

I’m dating myself here, but my definite Aquaman will always be the Neil Pozner/Craig Hamilton version.

Jeff, I like those seventies issues too–I believe a lot of them were by Paul Levitz or David Michelinie. And yes, the political aspects to Aquaman’s kingship were a good touch.
Sage no, the things I dislike about Johns’ Aquaman are … things I dislike about Johns’ Aquaman, not a veiled shot at Johns. And I agree with you about Mera: reading the Silver Age issues, they have a whole lot more energy when she’s around. And she’s very much an equal partner on a lot of his adventures, probably reflecting that there’s no overlap in their powers.

I remember seeing Paul Kupperberg’s name on at least part of the run of the Aparo Aquaman issues. AAnd did anyone read Ian Churchill’s Marineman miniseries a few years ago? Interesting take on the whole Aquaman concept.
An interesting, embarrassing aside about Paul Kupperberg: about 20 years ago, I was appearing at the Kansas City comic con to promote my book and Paul was also a guest there. I had been kidding him over the weekend (can’t recall what I had said), but on Sunday I was perusing the quarter boxes (remember those?) looking for deals. I kept finding a lot of 70s books written by Paul and I was amazed at his output, having forgotten how many great books he’d written that I enjoyed as a kid. When I found Paul, I jokingly said I found a lot of his books in the quarter boxes, and before I could explain that was a compliment, he really let me have it, cursed me out and stormed off. I never got to apologize to Paul and tell him it was in no way an insult. Live and learn, I guess.

I had been kidding him over the weekend (can’t recall what I had said), but on Sunday I was perusing the quarter boxes (remember those?) looking for deals. I kept finding a lot of 70s books written by Paul and I was amazed at his output, having forgotten how many great books he’d written that I enjoyed as a kid. When I found Paul, I jokingly said I found a lot of his books in the quarter boxes, and before I could explain that was a compliment, he really let me have it, cursed me out and stormed off. I never got to apologize to Paul and tell him it was in no way an insult. Live and learn, I guess.

Yikes, I wonder what you had been saying to him to get him so mad over that last comment!

@Dean Hacker: Marvel has had a female character last longer than 60 issues.

Patsy Walker had 124 issues, but admittedly you could argue it was a holdover from Timely and thus doesn’t count.

And then there was Spider-Girl, who made it to 100.

To me, Aquaman is the soccer of comics. Everyone is telling me how great it is, but when I finally sit down to pay attention to it, I am bored out of my skull. It seems like everyone wants it to be good, but it never is. I am told that I just don’t understand the intricacies of it. Last time I remember buying something starring Aquaman and enjoying it was in the 70′s when I bought an Aquaman comic with Jim Aparo art. I was 12, and Aquaman seemed cool back at that time, but that soon wore off.

Ed, I imagine most of us have some character like that. I find the Hulk largely uninteresting (though some writers make him work) for instance. For others it’s Superman, DD, GL, etc.

After Lee, Liefeld and Portacio bolted to form Image, did Marvel have an edict in place that anyone who took over the X books had to mimic their style(s)? Looking at those X-Men covers above and at the books from that era, Brandon Peterson, Art Thibert, Dan Panosian and the Kubert brothers (although Andy FAR MORE than Adam) all looked like they were doing their best (or worst, depending on your POV) Lee impressions, while Mark Pacella woefully drew like the poor man’s Liefeld.

Having seen some of their more current work, Thibert, Panosian and Pacella have moved away from their Lee/Liefeld infatuation; I’m guessing that after branching out from comics it became a necessity for them to refine their artwork, but still, I’d love to know if that came down from the higher-ups at Marvel.

There’s already been enough talk above about this, so I won’t type an essay, but one of my pet peeves as a comics fan has always been non-fans or casual fans talking shit on Aquaman. Most of them seem to just default to the old joke of “har har har, he’s useless out of water, he talks to fish, har har har”. As far as I can tell, a lot of people know him as the weiner from “Superfriends” and nothing else.

If you’ve actually given him a chance and just kind of find him boring (as many above say they have), then fair enough. As fraser said, everyone has their characters like that. But saying Aquaman sucks because “Superfriends”-Aquaman was goofy is like saying Batman sucks because ’60s-TV-show Batman is goofy.

After Lee, Liefeld and Portacio bolted to form Image, did Marvel have an edict in place that anyone who took over the X books had to mimic their style(s)? Looking at those X-Men covers above and at the books from that era, Brandon Peterson, Art Thibert, Dan Panosian and the Kubert brothers (although Andy FAR MORE than Adam) all looked like they were doing their best (or worst, depending on your POV) Lee impressions, while Mark Pacella woefully drew like the poor man’s Liefeld.

Having seen some of their more current work, Thibert, Panosian and Pacella have moved away from their Lee/Liefeld infatuation; I’m guessing that after branching out from comics it became a necessity for them to refine their artwork, but still, I’d love to know if that came down from the higher-ups at Marvel.

No edict. Just common sense on the part of the artists. If you know they just lost Jim Lee, you try to draw like Jim Lee, ya know?

Brian, this was twenty years ago, so I don’t recall what I said prior to his meltdown. I was young and stupid (about 25), but I think it was just playful jabs. I surely wasn’t disrespectful, but my experiences as the KC conventions was that we (the local guests) spent a lot of time with the pros over the Fri/Sat/Sun weekend so we just kind of acted like guys. You kind of banter and maybe he felt that this kid who he didn’t know from Adam hadn’t earned the right to do so. I’ll never know, and I’ll probably never know if Paul himself remembers the incident.

Why is Aquaman so skinny in that Wieringo sketch? Seriously. If someone showed me that pic prior to me reading this article, I would think it was drawn by one of those Anime fangirls from Deviantart.

Aquaman totally fits into Superfriends. I’m always pointing out to people that he + Wonder Woman have pretty similar powers (super strength/speed/toughness, one talks to animals, one to marine life), and their characters are even sort of similar (both outsiders, both monarchs). But Wondy doesn’t cop anywhere near as much shit.
As was alluded to by TJCoolguy, ‘Aquaman sux’ is just a meme that people repeat without ever having read an Aquaman comic (with allowances, as also mentioned by TJ, for people who honestly just aren’t into the character. I just believe they are the minority in this instance).

I feel about the same way about Star Wars prequel haters, while I’m at it.

On the one hand, my jaw dropped (not figuratively) when I read that pitch by Waid. Great job.
On the other hand, the constant re-boots, re-imaginings is exactly why I don’t like and can’t understand DC.

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