Tuesday, January 11, 2005


If you aren't reading the comments on my blog, in the last entry Bill brought up some good points related to Aquaman. What it all comes down to is the problem with Aquaman, as it's been bandied about in Aquaman fan circles.

Aquaman has a decent core of fans. He's got visibility in the DC Universe, and a lot of people who aren't comic book fans recognize him. The problem is that most people recognize him because of the Super Friends cartoon, in which Aquaman was poorly utilized. His real abilities never came through, because the writers had to shoehorn him in. So he's recognizable, but too many people think he's a lame character.

I don't think he's lame, obviously. He's the monarch of an undersea culture, can live equally well under water and above it ("...let's see you get by under water as well as I do on the ground..."), on dry land he's faster and stronger than any human, he's one of the first superheroes to have been married and had a son, and he has a fascinating history in the culture of comic books outside of the storyline. And, oh yeah, he can talk to fish.

It's that last, and somewhat insignificant ability that people peg as Aquaman's only talent. As if that was the whole character. And it's pretty much the fault of Super Friends, which treated him as though talking to fish was it for his abilities. Never mind that he's been shown to have detective skills nearly as strong as Batman. Never mind that his domain covers the majority of the Earth's surface. Never mind that, due to being used to the pressure underwater, he's fast on land. He can talk to fish *snicker* so he must be lame.

Sadly, when you combine talking to fish with the ill-conceived "one-hour limit", which was a testament to writers' lack of originality, you've got a character that people glance at and fail to understand. The one hour limit was apparently created when a writer decided to use a space story, in which the protagonist only had one hour's worth of air, as a quick rewrite into an Aquaman story. I'm still hunting down the origins of the concept. A writer's shortcut devolved into an unrealistic limitation, which comic book fans later use to call the character lame. *sigh*

As Bill points out, lots of writers and artists at DC would love to get a shot at Aquaman. Virtually every writer I've talked with likes the character and thinks he would be fun to write. And yet the series, even when a fantastic writer like Pfeifer is on it, fails to sell. And so we get a writer like Arcudi, who seems to be hitting the old standards rather than looking for a new angle. Gleason is a great, if unconventional, artist who's work deserves more attention. But sales continue to fall and we're headed once again for cancellation if DC doesn't find a way to boost it.

I don't know of any solution. All I ask from DC is a good book with strong stories. Pfeifer delivered on that... I'm not sure of Arcudi yet. I've only read one issue by him and was not impressed. Aquaman's currency with the current generation of TV viewers is being much better served by Justice League, which has a stronger Aquaman than Super Friends ever dreamed of. But that won't bear fruit for a long time, I suspect. Is there any way to save Aquaman? Should the character have an ongoing book? Why in heck hasn't DC collected Pfeifer's run yet? I don't know the answers. I just have more questions.