75 Years of AQUAMAN in DC Comics
In the midst of a benchmark year for Wonder Woman, one of DC Comics most admired characters and part of the mighty trinity of heroes that are credited with inspiring the entiret of the pantheon, it is also a celebratory year for another DC Comics great. Perhaps the most underrated of heroes, Arthur Curry, the King of the Seven Seas, Aquaman the creation of Paul Norris and Mort Weisinger was first introduced 75 years ago in More Fun Comics #73 (November 1941).
Where one is an alien orphan — the last of his kind, the other an avenger striking fear in the hearts of his enemy from the shadows, and the third is the living embodiment of myths and legends, Aquaman is an interesting combination of man and myth. The son of a lighthouse keeper and beautiful Atlantean princess that emerges from the sea, falls in love, but must return to depths of the ocean to serve as the Queen of her people, Arthur Curry’s life was always bound to the sea.
As fate would have it, and without knowing the nature of his origins, young Arthur slips and falls into the sea and learns that he can naturally breathe underwater, swim as easily as he can run, and can commune with the ocean’s animal life. When the time would come Arthur Curry would ascend — or more accurately, descend — to assume his rightful place on the throne of Atlantis, but not before proclaiming himself a hero as Aquaman, the defender of the Seven Seas.
With most of the planet Earth covered in water that easily insists Atlantis is among the world's greatest Super Powers, and its monarch happens to have superpowers. While serving as the ocean’s advocate Aquaman has taken on the comparable might of a rogue’s gallery of villains that would challenge his rule, like the Ocean Master, or plunder its treasures like the deadly Black Manta.
Amongst one of the founding members of the Justice League, in all its iteration the character is often unfairly judged by his stint as chairman during the “Detroit Era” (mid 1980s) of the league which inducted relatively unknown heroes including Vibe and Vixen among its ranks. Their tenure ended badly with several of these unexperienced heroes killed in the line of duty. Aquaman would abandon the group all-together to work on his relationship with his paramour Mera.
The Reboot and Rebirth
The character experienced several different renaissances in the Modern Era of comics. After the earth-shattering events chronicled during the epic Crisis on Infinite Earths the origins of Atlantis were far more elaborated upon. With the multiverse consolidated into a singular chronology, magic played heavily into the mythology of Atlantis and thus influenced the evolution of Aquaman. The hero would return to Atlantis and dramatically altered his classic suit for a darker blue camouflage.
Aquaman’s origin would be revisited many times during the course of the Modern Era, and often met with tragedy. Aquaman’s son with Mera is murdered, his hand is violently cut off (though restored by magic) and although he returns to active duty as a member of the reformed JLA, he is a much more hardened warrior. His ultimate fate becomes unknown and for a time, Aquaman is thought to have been killed in battle, and his body lost to the sea, until the events of Brightest Day.
During the threat of Blackest Night Arthur Curry is among the “undead” that are restored to existence, but it isn’t until the FlashPoint paradox where Aquaman and Wonder Woman are locked in a world war agains one another that destroys most of the planet! The Flash attempts to fix the timeline, but when reality reasserts itself, the new “Prime Earth” continuity is altered (again). Aquaman reemerges a hero and answers a call to repel the invading forces of Darkseid.
Arthur Curry, Aquaman is once again restored as a founding member of the Justice League, and one of the world’s most formidable forces for good in “The New 52” multiverse of the DC Comics universe. At the hands of DC’s creative director and writer Geoff Johns the character was reinterpreted and made more contemporary; a far more complex personality, valiant hero and fearsome opponent, a majestic leader and equal among his teammates in the league.
Entering into the current “Rebirth” era of the publishing imprint’s current rebrand, Aquaman’s legacy is being much more closely examined. He’s taking a more active role as ruler of Atlantis and is a constant presence rounding out the roster of the Justice League, but the mysteries of his heritage are playing a deeper role in his mythology. Most recently the JL was called upon to stop an alien entity invading the Earth. Aquaman used the magic crystals of the Zodiac to repel the foe.
75 years later Aquaman continues to astonish, and irrefutably the one-time least likable “super friend” has become in modern mythology one of the greatest, among the “super seven” that are carving a new legend for themselves in the indomitable DC Universe! Long may he reign!
You can catch the continuing adventures of Arthur Curry every two-weeks in Aquaman written by Dan Abnett and illustrated by Wayne Faucher with Scot Eaton. Aquaman is also appearing in continuing issues of Justice League also on sale every two-weeks published by DC Comics.