Since Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis reinvented the King of the Seas for the New 52, “Aquaman” has become a top-tier title for the publisher, and while the superstar writer recently left the series due to other commitments, Jeff Parker’s current run has been well received by fans.
Now, Dan Jurgens, the man who killed Superman in the 1990s, and Lan Medina, the artist that penciled the first arc of Bill Willingham’s “Fables” for Vertigo, have joined to deliver a brand-new series starring Arthur Curry titled “Aquaman and the Others.”
Featuring the group of do-gooders Aquaman ran with prior to joining the world’s greatest heroes, the Others are not tied by a common goal or even a common threat. Each of the Others — Ya’Wara, Prisoner of War, the Operative and Skye Alchesay — possess an Atlantean artifact that gives each of the holders a unique power or gift. Or as Jurgens told CBR News, in one case, an affliction.
Set to debut on April 2, “Aquaman and the Others” is teased as a prelude to DC Comics’ upcoming weekly series “Futures End,” which Jurgens is writing with Keith Giffen, Brian Azzarello and Jeff Lemire. While Jurgens couldn’t get into too much detail about how the two series interconnect, he was more than happy to share his personal history with the character and his appreciation for the art of Nick Cardy and Jim Aparo while revealing some of the inner workings of the DCU’s newest big superhero “team.”
CBR News: Are you surprised that Aquaman has risen from the butt of all superhero jokes to the status where he can headline not one but two ongoing series for DC?
Dan Jurgens: I think Geoff Johns did a great job of reinventing, reintroducing, reshaping and remolding Aquaman as part of the New 52. From his very first appearance, Geoff and Ivan [Reis] made it very clear that this is a different Aquaman than what we’ve seen before. There is an attitude there. There is a capability there that we might not have seen in the past. Not only that but in their very first issue, they took on that joke and that you just alluded to and met it straight on and dealt with it. From that point on, the character was off and running.
You mean swimming.
You have written and/or drawn major, major storylines with most of DC’s biggest characters, including Superman, the Justice League and even Aquaman in 2000-01. But on a personal level, what’s your connection or affinity to the King of the Seven Seas?
I certainly remember reading “Aquaman” as a kid, and for me, it was first being attracted to Nick Cardy’s stunning work on the book and later Jim Aparo’s. Beyond that, I think what I’ve always responded to is this idea that at various times, Aquaman was a regal character. That potential of being King of Atlantis, whether it be a simple underwater realm or something far more expansive than that, was always very appealing to me. That’s really what has set him apart from other DC superheroes.
Geoff and Ivan introduced the Others in the second arc of the series, and John Ostrander recently added to their mythos in “Aquaman” #20 and “Aquaman Annual” #1. For readers that don’t know them and are diving into this first issue headfirst, what do we need to know?
The Others are a group of disparate people who each have an Atlantean relic. Each relic is a talisman that gives them power or enhances their power. As an example, one of those relics is Aquaman’s trident; in another case, Ya’Wara has the Globe of Transportation. All of these relics were fashioned by Atlan, long, long ago in Atlantis, and these people, these Others, each have one of these weapons.
What’s different about this team is that, when we read about the Justice League of America, for example, we see a group of people who are gathered together with a common cause and goal. The Others are different people from very different backgrounds. What binds them together is the weapon they have. It isn’t that they are there for some common goal or anything else. They are there because they each have an Atlantean artifact.
With all of that, what this group of disparate people from very diverse backgrounds is all about is coming together to find that common cause and finding that common goal. Aquaman is very much the glue that holds them together.
Why doesn’t Aquaman just take all of these artifacts and use them himself or give them to the members of the Justice League? Why does he trust the Others with these Atlantean artifacts?
Because Aquaman actually met these people before there was a Justice League. One of the great things Geoff did when he first exposed us to the Others is, he made it clear that Aquaman and this team were together long before there even was a Justice League. That is where and when he formed these bonds with these characters. I do think that he sees that worth in them as individuals, and that worth allows them to have and hold these relics.
In the seven or eight appearances that we’ve seen the Others, they’ve been on an Indiana Jones-like quest searching for more Atlantean relics and the people that hold them. Will that quest continue in “Aquaman and the Others”?
In parts, it will. We want to be a little bit bigger and more expansive than that. Our very first arc delves more into the nature of the artifacts themselves. We’ll also add to the backstory of these characters that has been obviously built into them.We also have to find out why they got together in the first place. How did they each come to have these relics in the first place? I think there is even more backstory there, from their very early days of the DCU.
Is this series set on dry land or Atlantis?
For now, it’s set in the present on Earth because in terms of setting it in Atlantis, it’s going to be pretty tough for the Operative or the Prisoner of War or Ya’Wara to have an effective story in Atlantis. Obviously, Geoff played a very big role in developing Aquaman as a surface character. So many of his stories have already gone beyond the limit of being set under the sea that I think that’s something that we’re absolutely going to continue.
You’ve mentioned the team members by name — the Operative, Prisoner of War and Ya’Wara — but can we go a little deeper into who each of these players are and what makes them tick?
The Operative is a mysterious character in that he’s obviously on the older side. He has a past shrouded in mystery and intrigue and is very much a spy sort of character. His grandson Aaron is also part of the team.
Ya’Wara is from the jungles of Brazil. As I said, she has the Globe of Transportation and she is also a telepath and draws her power from the Amazon rainforest and Forest Mother.
Prisoner of the War is a soldier by the name of Dominick Torrez. He has a very interesting power — it’s actually not so much a power, but an affliction. He’s an ex-military soldier who carries the ghosts of those that died in battle along with him. That leads to some interesting aspects to his personality.
Skye Alchesay, who is a Native American from Arizona, can access the Ghost Lands and moves around that way.
And there were previous members in Vostok and Kahina the Seer whom happened to die in the first story we saw with the Others. It’s a good, wide, diverse cast.
Will this series tie into what’s happening in the rest of the DCU, or do you need an arc or two under your belt before The Flash or Constantine makes a cameo?
Our very first arc really needs to be contained within the team. It is incumbent upon us to make sure that we start to define these characters and really show the readers what their potential truly is. The best way to do that is to focus on them, their own interactions with the group and how they manage to function and get along.
In their “Aquaman” arc, the Others were up against Black Manta. Will Aquaman’s archenemy play a role in this series?
Maybe down the road, but we’re going to start with a group of new villains that harkens back to the very creation of the Atlantean relics themselves. It’s a bit of a long-standing grudge that’s finally going to come to fruition.
You’ve worked on numerous solo books and team books over the years. What is it about a team dynamic that’s fun to explore as a creator?
I think it’s because you always carry them with you. If you think of the traditional aspect of a solo character, he or she has a supporting cast and often, you’re going to have a situation where the hero puts on his mask and goes off into battle and he leaves that supporting cast behind. You get bits of them here and bits of them there. With a team book, it’s very much a situation where, for the most part, they’re always together. It is much more about the interaction within the team itself and about how Character A might be friends with Character B but not necessarily like Character C, and how does that all work out? And who is the leader? And who is the one with the sardonic sense of humor? And who is the one that tends to be a pessimist?
What’s fun about it, like I said, is that they tend to be on screen together all of the time as opposed to a supporting cast, which we don’t see nearly as much.
During your career, you’ve worked as both a writer and artist. For this series, you’re writing, but not illustrating it. The art will be done by Lan Medina, which admittedly, was not a name that I would have come up with. What does he bring to the project?
We went through a lot of different samples and considered a lot of different artists, and what we were really drawn to with Lan is that he has what I call a ‘lush’ pencil style. As soon as I saw it, I was talking to Brian Cunningham, our editor, and I said, “Wow. Can you imagine this guy drawing Ya’Wara in the Amazon jungle?” He also has really nice faces, and with a team book, the emotion that has to be conveyed on the page is so important. Each character is different and having that expression come through is vital. He’s great at all of those things and that’s why we chose him. He’s absolutely delivering on that score.
You mentioned new villains — is the roster going to expand so that we see some new Others as well? Are there other Others?
Yes, there are. You’re not necessarily going to see them in the first or second issue, but I do believe that we have the potential to bring different characters into the book, and maybe losing some of the characters currently in the book, too. We don’t have an absolute, hard-fixed roster as to how this is going to work going forward.
But as we’ve discussed, the Operative, Ya’Wara, Prisoner of War — these are basically new characters, too. They’ve only had eight appearances. As a creator, does writing characters that don’t have a 70-year comic book history allow for a special kind of freedom?
It is, because the slate is clean. One of the things that I have been saying all along is that I think the industry needs to do more creating, anyway. I sometimes wonder how well we’re being served if Popsicle Man is getting his ninth book of the month added to the list — that continual retelling of Popsicle Man stories that we might be exposed to. I think with a new group of characters, we get a clean slate. That has something to offer readers, too. You’re starting to cut from whole cloth a little more and I think there are benefits to that.
And it means that we have more of a wide open potential in terms of where we take the story, so, yes, I am very much looking forward to it and having fun with it.
Can you set up the first issue for us? Does it pick up where “Aquaman Annual” #1 closed?
The first issue takes place a couple of months after the Annual. At this point, this is not a team in the conventional sense in that they don’t have a clubhouse. They don’t have a satellite. They don’t have a cave. They are a group of individuals. We have one in New York, one is in Brazil, they are all over and we start with a story of them coming together once again. Because, again, one of the things that does make them different is not having that cave, that satellite, whatever. They are not together all of the time. That’s part of the question going forward, which is, should they be? Do they have that greater purpose that demands that they do it? Do they have affection for one another? Or a commitment towards one another? And that’s certainly going to be part of the dialogue of this book.
Does writing this series allow for Aquaman to spread his fins and maybe get out from under the shadow of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman and the rest of the Justice Leaguers?
Yeah, I think so. As I mentioned earlier, he is the glue that binds the group together. We have already seen that, for the most part, in the story of the Others, anyway. Without Aquaman, they kind of come apart a little bit. Not only is he that glue, he’s the leader of that group. There’s no question about it. I think readers will enjoy seeing him in that role.
This series is teased as a prelude to “Futures End,” the new weekly series you’re writing with Keith Giffen, Brian Azzarello and Jeff Lemire. Can you give us a tease of the connection between the two titles?
I really can’t say much! [Laughs] Other than there will definitely be a link between the two concepts as we move forward. Readers will have to wait and see exactly what that is.
“Aquaman and the Others” #1 by Dan Jurgens and featuring art by Lan Medina debuts April 2.