Where the character of Aquaman is concerned, he’s certainly one who draws a mixed reaction from people. Some see this hulking King of Atlantis as a true major player in the comic book world and fully the equal of fellow Justice League cohorts such as Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman. Others, however, can’t ever see Aquaman as anything more than a joke figure amongst these legendary comic book figures.
As a character, Aquaman’s roots can be traced back as far as 1941. Throughout the decades, we’ve seen several different takes on his origins, and he’s also regularly gone by the names of both Arthur Curry and Orin. In terms of powers, the Marine Marvel has ridiculous levels of strength and durability, which are amplified even more so when under water. Famously, of course, he can also speak to aquatic life due to his unique bond to the sea giving him telepathic powers to contact such creatures.
These days, it seems as if Aquaman could finally be on the verge of getting the recognition he deserves, as Jason Momoa gets set to headline the first cinematic solo adventure for the King of the Seven Seas next year. With James Wan on board to direct, it could well be that Aquaman gives fans the most visually impressive superhero picture to date.
Before that, obviously, is Momoa’s role in this November’s Justice League, and so what better time to look at 15 Aquaman facts that DC would rather you forget.
15 The Obvious Weakness
For some of comic books’ greatest heroes, it takes something huge to bring them down -- well, bar Green Lantern being ridiculously neutralized by the color yellow. But for Aquaman, the Marine Marvel is sadly alongside the Emerald Knight when it comes to having a stupid weakness.
You see, the King of Atlantis’s main weakness is the elephant in the room, the obvious problem: the fact that he’s useless on land.
For the longest period of time, the world of DC Comics regularly had it set up so that Aquaman would become weak and lose his strength if he spent too much time on land. Essentially, the logic was that he would become, err, dried out if too much time was spent away from the depths of the ocean.
Thankfully, this matter was finally addressed in more recent years when Batman decided to put a stop to this issue by developing a special sort of wetsuit to keep the Marine Marvel moist whilst away from Atlantis.
14 Bland Villains
Bar Black Manta and, at times, Ocean Master, Aquaman’s rogues gallery is absolutely nothing to write home about.
Whereas someone like the King of Atlantis’s fellow Justice League member Batman has the likes of The Joker, Riddler, Penguin, Catwoman, Scarecrow, Hush, Ra’s al Ghul, Two-Face, Mister Freeze, Poison Ivy, Black Mask, and the greater element of the mob and Gotham’s criminal underground to all test him in a variety of interesting ways, Aquaman is left scraping the depths of the ocean for a bunch of bland, boring bad guys who are often just lesser, evil versions of himself.
Names such as Devilfish, The Fisherman, Aquabeast, The Eel, Captain Rader, The Human Flying Fish, Octopus Man, and The Sea Thief don’t exactly inspire fear amongst heroes or interest amongst readers, sadly.
When searching for background information on a character closely associated with the King of Atlantis, just be careful when typing “Aquaman Porm” into Google. You never really realize how important that final M is until you mistype it.
Who is Porm, you ask? Why, this is the dolphin who, at least in some continuity, was responsible for raising Aquaman. Yes, as in DC essentially pulled a page from The Jungle Book where Mowgli is raised by Raksha, the wolf. Seeing the Marine Marvel raised by a dolphin was something that many longtime DC fans didn’t take too kindly to, with dolphins, in general, being an element that many have used to mock Aquaman over the decades.
Granted, Porm raising the King of the Seven Seas isn’t quite as bad as the classic, cheesy images of Aquaman riding dolphins across the ocean top, but it was yet another moment that caused casual fans to ridicule the character.
12 His Murdered Son
Yep, this one certainly won’t be brought up by DC in a hurry at any point in the future.
Back in 1965, the decision was made to have Aquaman and Mera have a child! Dubbed Aquababy – or officially Arthur Curry Jr. – the infant didn’t really do all that much in terms of progress. In fact, Aquababy didn’t really grow much or have any real point up until 1977. It was there, in Adventure Comics #452, that he was shockingly killed off. As in, DC made the call to kill an infant.
Responsible for this death was the nefarious Black Manta, who kidnapped the youngster and eventually suffocated him in a tank full of poisoned water. Considering that was a time when comics were largely all happiness and light, this whole event shocked the comic book world and is something that’s rarely been referenced since by DC Comics.
11 His Awful Sidekick
Batman has had various Robins, Green Arrow has had the likes of Arsenal, Speedy, and Red Arrow, and pretty much any superhero worth their salt has had a sidekick at some point in time. And Aquaman is no different. The only problem, though, is that the King of Atlantis’s sidekick was absolutely ridiculous. No, we’re not talking about Aqualad, but instead, we mean Tusky.
Who’s Tusky, you ask? Well, if you’re not familiar with this character or have purposely tried to forget about him, Tusky was a quick-witted, wisecracking seal that accompanied the Marine Marvel for a batch of time.
When it comes to those who like to poke fun at the Aquaman character, it’s elements such as Tusky that make it far too easy to mock DC’s King of the Seven Seas.
10 The Failed Attempt At His Own Show
Back in 2006, it was decided that the King of Atlantis was worthy of his own series. Due to Alan Ritchson appearing as the character in a Season 5 episode of Smallville, the impressive ratings for that episode saw Smallville creators Miles Millar and Alfred Gough begin work on an Aquaman-headlined series.
With Justin Hartley cast in the lead role, the series was at times called both Tempest Keys and Mercy Reef before ultimately just being known as Aquaman. The likes of Lou Diamond Phillips, Ving Rhames, and Adrianne Palicki were part of the cast, and hopes were high for the pilot episode to lead to a full series.
Unfortunately, the pilot would be as far as things would get, with The CW deciding against optioning a full season order. Said pilot is available to view online on iTunes and is actually pretty good. With Aquaman canned, The CW actually then moved to bring in Hartley as Smallville’s Green Arrow.
9 The Abuse Of Black Manta
The mysterious Black Manta is one of Aquaman’s most infamous and notable villains, although DC would rather you forget this rogue’s initial origin story.
You see, originally Manta had a grudge against Aquaman due to being abused by a group of creepy sailors. The young future villain was held hostage by a batch of seafarers and abused in a whole variety of sinister ways. With this giving Black Manta a grudge against the very sea itself, he set his rage on Aquaman as a symbol of the ocean.
Taking some of the more twisted elements away, DC would later rejig Black Manta’s origins to be that he instead blames Aquaman for the death of his father… which is far, far less controversial than one of the King of Atlantis’s greatest foes being abused by sailors.
8 A Namor Rip-Off
A fishy comic book hero who calls the depths of Atlantis his home? That’s something that could be said about Marvel’s Namor and DC’s Aquaman. The only problem for DC’s Marine Marvel is that Namor kinda got there first, meaning that many longtime comic book fans have seen Aquaman as nothing more than a Namor rip-off.
Where the Sub-Mariner is concerned, Namor debuted back in 1939, whilst Aquaman wouldn’t arrive until 1941. As mentioned, both called Atlantis home and both had similar powers. The way that both characters have developed over the decades, though, it’s undoubtedly Namor who has come to be viewed as an infinitely cooler character than his DC rival, with the brooding, genius underwater hero shtick of the ever-grouchy Sub-Mariner winning him plenty of fans.
Sure, in recent years DC has tried to rehabilitate Aquaman as a character, but the honest truth is that Namor is viewed as a far superior version of the King of Atlantis by most readers.
7 Black Manta Is Cooler
It’s never a good sign for a hero when casual fans are cheering on your great rival because he’s simply a far cooler character than you. Unfortunately for Aquaman, that’s the case amongst many fans where the villainous Black Manta is concerned.
Just from his ‘look’ alone, Manta is nothing if not cool and a total, total badass. Add in the mystique that surrounds him – even to this day, all we know about his name and identity is that his first name is David – and the sleek, smooth outfit that he wears, and what you have right here is somebody who instantly catches the eye and interest.
We might all be supposed to be rooting for Aquaman when it comes to his battles against the bad guys, but even the higher-ups at DC have to admit that Black Manta just is a much more appealing, interesting character than the King of Atlantis.
6 Without His Own Title
Another bad sign is when one of your supposed biggest heroes doesn’t even have his own comic book title to call his own.
As bizarre as it may seem for one of the major Justice League players, there have actually been several occasions over the decades when DC completely canceled any and all Aquaman titles, with the character instead just making sporadic appearances in other heroes’ titles or in ensemble efforts.
This, of course, beggars the question of how DC expect fans to take the character seriously and as a legitimate top-tier player if they themselves didn’t even deem him worthy of his own comic book series. Luckily, this has been something that’s been rectified in the past decade or so, but comic book fans are famed for having long memories and don’t forget the sins of the past so easily.
5 Sink Or Swim
When you think of ways to be a great parent, being prepared to see your offspring drown isn’t exactly a staple of parenthood for most people. Crazily, that’s what happened during Aquaman’s original origin story.
In this initial 1941 depiction of the King of Atlantis’s origin tale, Arthur Curry had a slightly odd childhood. Most bizarrely, his father was a deep-sea explorer who actually happened across Atlantis. This, in itself, isn’t all that bizarre, but the fact that his pops made Arthur grow up under water is the insane part, for his dad didn’t actually know for sure that Arthur was able to survive down at the depths of the ocean. Thus, Aquaman's father was perfectly happy to risk his son drowning.
4 He’s Actually A Bit Of A D--k
The most ardent of Aquaman fans – and DC, for that matter - may not like to admit it, but the King of the Seven Seas has largely been a bit of a d*ck over the years.
Arrogant and with a chip on his shoulder, certain depictions of Aquaman have done the character no favors in terms of winning him new fans. In fact, his behavior and attitude have often instantly put casual fans off when it comes to getting behind the Marine Marvel.
One of the biggest issues behind this is that certain incarnations of Aquaman have had him constantly looking down on and belittling any non-Atlanteans, particularly if they happened to be human -- because that’s a great way to win over your readers and have them championing this hero…
3 The Flashpoint Element
Geoff Johns’ Flashpoint comic book arc is one of the greatest stories in modern comic book history. A completely alternative present day was established due to Barry Allen traveling back in time to save his mother. Some of the most noticeable differences are that Bruce Wayne died that night in Crime Alley, Thomas Wayne became Batman, Martha Wayne became The Joker, Superman has spent his life locked up as a test subject, Green Arrow is a billionaire arms dealer in the mould of Tony Stark, and Cyborg is Earth’s greatest hero (hard to believe, I know).
Also, Flashpoint sees a brutal and tormented take on the King of Atlantis. When Wonder Woman kills Mera, the King of Atlantis and his kingdom go to war with Diana and her Amazons. What follows is bloodshed, carnage, and total brutality, with decapitations and murder being the order of the day.
Whilst Flashpoint is a fantastic story – and also a stunning animated movie as Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox – there’s no way DC wants you to remember this tale when they’re trying to get kids to cheer their heroes.
2 The Orin Origin
Whilst the original Aquaman origin idea was to have Arthur Curry’s father risk drowning his son to prove a point, the rest of the origin and the family tree developed in a fairly logical and rational way. When Aquaman’s origin was rebooted years later, things weren’t quite as smoothly done, though.
It was this rebooting of his continuity that saw Aquaman named Orin and born directly into Atlantean royalty. Whilst Atlanna was largely regarded to be his mother, this telling of Aquaman’s story saw a mystery play out regarding the identity of his real father. Even worse, the youngster was cast out of Atlantis due to simply having blond hair.
From there, he was raised by a dolphin before lighthouse keeper Tom Curry took him under his wing. Multiple children would follow, not to mention near-incestuous goings-on with his half-brother’s cousin. Convoluted, nonsensical, and kinda creepy? Yeah, DC would prefer you do your best to forget certain elements of this origin tale.
1 He’s The Long-Running Joke
Unfortunately for DC and for fans of the comic book character himself, Aquaman has managed to become the long-running joke of the comic book industry.
Sure, work has been done to rehabilitate the Marine Marvel over the past decade or more, but by then, it had already gotten to the point where Aquaman was the butt of jokes and seen as nothing more than a figure of mockery amongst comics.
Whether it was the famed Super-Friends cartoon, the camp and cheesy images of him riding dolphins across the waves in the comic books, or the fact that he was essentially useless when on land, somehow, the regal and all-powerful King of Atlantis was seen as nothing more than a laughing stock, particularly to those casual readers who weren’t well-versed in just how impressive a character Aquaman could be.
And so, as the years rolled on, more and more was this major player viewed as a joke by so many – which is a stigma he’s struggled to shift.
Sources: DC Comics, Wikipedia