But guess what? Aquaman is a fantastic superhero. You just don’t know it yet.
Let’s start by taking a look at Aquaman’s story. Because of DC Comic’s constant revisions, most of their superheroes have many different origins, and Aquaman is no different. Born Arthur Curry, his father was a human and his mother was an outcast sea dweller from the underwater kingdom of Atlantis.
Because of his Atlantean heritage, Arthur was able to breathe underwater, telepathically control sea life, swim at incredibly high speeds, and have far greater strength than anyone else he knew from a young age. Eventually, Arthur discovered that the strange abilities were due to his long-lost mother’s origins. But it was his father’s kindness that taught him to use these powers for good.
Arthur eventually reconnected with Atlantis, becoming part of their kingdom while also choosing to be a superhero known across the world as Aquaman. He also helped to found the Justice League with heavyhitters like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern. But Arthur’s mother was also royalty, making him heir to the crown of Atlantis. Burdened with kingship and his duties as a protector of everyone on both land and sea, Aquaman now strives to balance his responsibilities as king and his calling to fight evil across the world.
That’s an awesome burden for a superhero. Batman mostly focuses on protecting Gotham. Superman defends Metropolis while also traveling the world. Aquaman watches the seas (70% of the world) and is also called on to defend the globe as part of the Justice League. He splits his focus between his royal calling and heroic duties, leading to a wide variety of challenges.
Those Powers are Actually Cool
Most people think Aquaman just talks to fish. Well, that’s only kinda true.
Aquaman has limited telepathy, allowing him to compel aquatic life to obey his commands. This includes everything from commanding hordes of sharks to attack his enemies to calling up gigantic mythic beasts from the depths of the ocean to follow him into battle. He’s also been known to crush his enemies with a killer whale from time to time.
Arthur also has superhuman strength and durability. He’s strong enough to pick up gigantic vehicles and sea vessels. Maybe not strong enough to go toe-to-toe with Superman, but combined with superhuman speed and agility, he can take on most opponents. Because his Atlantean heritage strengthens his body to withstand the crushing depths of the ocean, his skin and muscles are strong enough to deflect machine gun fire.
Aquaman is, obviously, especially powerful in the water. He can swim at speeds up to 10,000 feet per second, blazing across the oceans in mere moments. He also has extremely enhanced senses, allowing him to see in total darkness and hear from miles away. He also has a limited sonar sense. These all combine to give him complete awareness of his surrounding both in an out of the water.
Evolution Over the Decades
Aquaman was created in 1941 by Paul Norris and Mort Weisinger, and like any character who has stuck around for nearly 75 years, he’s gone through many changes. Not only has his backstory been altered many times, but his personality and powers have gradually shifted.
Aquaman started off as a fun and light character, complete with sidekicks Aqualad and Aquaman, Jr. Not only that, he had an animal helper, the octopus known as Topo. This is the Aquaman that most people poke fun at. The smiling, fish-conversing, Super Friends-adventuring technicolor hero. Pretty campy stuff. But still loads of fun!
After his sillier beginnings and attitude befitting the campy ’60s, Aquaman became and much more warrior-like hero. He is of noble birth and comes from the ancient race of Atlanteans, giving him a far different attitude than most other DC Comics stars. He’s most like Wonder Woman, another hero steeped in ancient myth and raised to be a warrior, while still engaging in heroics.
In the ’80s, Aquaman became a more tortured hero, much like many DC Comics characters in that decade. The deaths of family and friends, along with a universe-wide reboot from Crisis on Infinite Earths, reshaped him into a much more serious character.
In the ’90s, Aquaman was fully cemented in being dark and brooding. He lost his hand to a vicious pool of piranhas, lost the orange shirt, grew out a big bushy beard, and fought with a prosthetic harpoon.
The 2000s brought quite a few changes to the character, even killing him off and replacing him with a new Aquaman. He looked almost exactly the same, had almost all the same powers, and no one cared about him. So that was quickly undone.
Today, Aquaman is back to form, sans beard and now with both hands. He’s back to balancing heroics with royal duties thanks to writer Geoff Johns and he even has to deal with the public seeing him as a joke, much like the real world. But it’s all rough and tumble superhero work mixed with undersea kingdom drama these days.
One Hardcore Fishy Hero
Over the years, Aquaman has shown off how hardcore he is in myriad ways. From throwing a polar bear at his enemies to smashing a foe with a sunken battleship, the watery superhero has shown off in ways that only he can. He’s smashed buildings, destroyed opponents, shrugged off bullets to the face, and even stabbed Darkseid in the face the first time the Justice League fought him in DC Comics’ newly revamped history.
One of the ultimate displays of badassery by our underwater hero? Look no further than the two-part Justice Leagueepisode “The Enemy Below.” Betrayed by his brother Orm in order to usurp the throne, Aquaman is left for dead. But he’s not alone. Orm has left Aquaman’s newborn son to die a fiery death with the hero in order to cut off his bloodline completely.
With time running out and his innocent baby’s life on the line, Aquaman must break free at all costs.
Cutting off his own hand to save the life of his young child. Let’s see any other hero try that one. Aquaman is a noble warrior, willing to give up life and limb to save the people he loves.
A Boatload of Fantastic Weapons
Sure, Aquaman can crush his opponents with his bare hands, but he’s a warrior. And any great warrior needs to be armed to the teeth. He’s used a sword from time to time, especially when he was depicted as more of a swashbuckler. When he lost his hand, it was replaced by a cybernetic harpoon he could fire, complete with an unbreakable wire to slash and ensnare his foes from a distance. Eventually, the hook was replaced with a hand made out of magical water that had a multitude of abilities, including shooting jets of water, freezing, scalding, and dehydrating his opponents. To top it off, it could even create mystical portals.
But Aquaman’s greatest weapon is his deadly Trident of Neptune. Curry’s right to rule Atlantis gives him the right to wield this unstoppable weapon. This unbreakable weapon from ancient myth can skewer enemies and smash anything in the hero’s way. But it can also command the seas to create gigantic tidal waves as well as summon rain and storms. For long range fights, Aquaman can fire lightning bolts from its blades. Now that’s power that no opponent would want to stand against.
The Greatness That is The Brave and the Bold
Arthur Curry hasn’t been adapted to television too many times, but his greatest incarnation must be the one found in Batman: The Brave and The Bold. Voiced by the great John DiMaggio, this version is a boisterous, thick-headed man of action who is always itching for a fight.
This Aquaman isn’t the smartest superhero around, but is brave, a great friend, and equipped with his own strange yet perfectly fitting catchphrase, “Outrageous!” He’s also fond of naming the adventures he goes on and romanticizing acts of heroism and daring do. He’s the perfect foil for the grim and straight-laced Batman and steals every scene that he is in. He’s also a family man, trying to balance his heroics with being a loving husband and father. So he maintains some of Aquaman’s unique characteristics, just in a funnier form.
Here’s an example of all the weirdness and fun that is packed into this version of the hero. In a break from the format of the show, the writers decided to make a short sitcom parody starring Aquaman.
It would be extremely hard to replicate this version of the fishy hero on film or in another television show, but he’s perfect for the colorful fun of The Brave and The Bold.
This version shows that Aquaman can still be funny, even when he’s not being used as a punchline. The Brave and The Bold‘s interpretation of the character is one of my favorite adaptations of a superhero. He’s hilarious, well formed, a true scene stealer, and maintains the essence of the character while still being unique.
So, convinced that Aquaman is awesome?