Is there another major superhero who’s been the butt of more jokes than Aquaman? Arthur Curry is known for being one of the few iconic superheroes that gets no respect, such that both comic book fans and otherwise think he is a lame superhero. Some people even hate Aquaman. He’s been made fun of on TV shows like “The Big Bang Theory,” “Robot Chicken” and “Family Guy.” Whenever there’s a list of useless superheroes, Aquaman often ends up near the top.
But Aquaman is a major hero with awesome powers and a great setting for unique adventures. With 2017’s “Justice League,” Aquaman is set to become one of the biggest heroes on the silver screen. He’ll also be starring in his own movie in 2018. It’s time for Aquaman to get some respect, and here are 15 reasons why.
15. Yes, He Talks to Fish
When people talk about Aquaman’s powers, the first thing they usually mention is that he can talk to fish. In many comics, Aquaman is seen underwater, sending an army of underwater creatures into battle. That’s also the first thing people usually list when someone talks about not liking Aquaman. The thought of Aquaman sending a school of tuna to attack his enemies has made him the butt of many jokes.
In his original appearances in 1941, Aquaman did indeed speak in the language of fish, and fish had to be close enough to hear him. Over time, it’s been changed to the power of telepathy that Aquaman uses to command sea life, rather than talking to them. In the New 52 reboot, Aquaman no longer “talks” to fish at all. In “Aquaman” #1 (2011), he explained that fish are too primitive to have language, but he pushes motivations that make them do what he wants.
14. He Has No Real Powers
The idea that Aquaman doesn’t have any “real” powers is another big stumbling block for people. Most people think his only powers are swimming, breathing underwater and the aforementioned talking to fish. None of those seem that impressive at first glance.
But true fans know that Aquaman is more than just an underwater Doctor Doolittle. With his ability to swim to the bottom of the ocean, he’s shown to have incredible power. To withstand the pressure of the ocean’s depths, he’s extremely resistant to damage. He also has superhuman strength. He can swim at high speed, can see in the dark and he has sonar.
He also has a trident, which has magic powers capable of moving water, and calling down lightning. His trident is even powerful enough to draw blood from Darkseid, something no one else in the Justice League was said to have ever done when it happened at the start of the New 52.
13. He Sucked on Super Friends
The biggest blow to Aquaman’s image came with the 1970s TV show, “Super Friends.” In that cartoon, the image of Aquaman as a boy scout who rode on a giant seahorse became fixed. While Batman and Superman spent their time on the show fighting evil, Aquaman would stand in the background doing nothing. Occasionally, someone would throw him a bone, and a bad guy would fall into the ocean for Aquaman to attack, but most of the time, he was useless. And now, that’s how most people see him.
It’s important to remember that his weakness on “Super Friends” was more a fault of the writers than the hero. They simply didn’t know what to do with him; so a lot of the time, they just wrote him out. With a little imagination, however, Aquaman could have been a major force.
Besides, a lot of superheroes didn’t turn out too well on “Super Friends.” Batman never used his martial arts skills, for example, and Wonder Woman was all about her magic lasso and invisible plane. It’s time to move on.
12. He Has a Confusing Origin
When you think of great superheroes, their origin is part of their mystique. For example, with Spider-Man, the fact that his uncle died at the hands of a mugger gives him a tragic pain. Unlike Spidey, Bats or Superman, though, Aquaman’s origin isn’t as well-known, but it is just as tragic.
In his first appearance in “More Fun Comics” #73 (1941), Aquaman explained he was the son of a scientist who discovered Atlantis. The scientist used Atlantean technology and training to teach his son to breathe underwater and survive in the ocean. The modern versions have Aquaman as the son of an Atlantean queen and an Atlantean sorcerer who’s abandoned and lives wild in the ocean until he is taken in by a lighthouse keeper. He returns to Atlantis to become the ruler of Atlantis.
11. People Don’t Dream of Being Aquaman
One reason superheroes are popular is wish fulfillment. People dream of being super-strong like the Hulk or being a billionaire one-man army like Batman. Arguably, not as many people dream of living in the ocean. Breathing underwater, swimming to the ocean floor: these may be exciting ideas, but for some reason, they don’t capture the imagination of as many readers as the ability to fly or have adventures in space.
If you really think about it, however, Aquaman lives a life unlike any other superhero. Past a certain point, very few humans have been that deep in the ocean. We literally have no idea what exists in certain depths of the sea. It’s a world ripe for imagination, with the potential of stumbling across lost civilizations and sea monsters.
The best part is that Aquaman rules it all. As the king of Atlantis, he’s not just a billionaire, but a leader of an entire underwater civilization. He’s the only member of the Justice League who’s a member of royalty. That has to count for something!
10. He Has a Silly Costume
Another perceived problem with Aquaman is his costume. Lots of superhero costumes inspire people to want to be the hero. Wonder Woman’s star-spangled getup and Iron Man’s red and gold armor are always popular, but Aquaman’s style choices have been deemed “less-than.” The stereotypical orange shirt and green shorts combo lack the drama and impact of other costume iconography. Some people even think it looks kind of — dare we say it — dorky.
In fact, Aquaman’s look has changed a lot over the years. His orange shirt became more like gilded chainmail. In the 1990s, Aquaman went through a drastic change to look tougher, his costume changing to something more like a gladiator, with armor on one arm and shoulder (called a manica). In “Aquaman” #2 in 1994, Aquaman even had his hand cut clean off and replaced it with a spearhead, which we can all agree is pretty hardcore.
Jason Momoa’s role as Aquaman will apparently be inspired by the gladiator version, and should push all thoughts of an orange shirt and green shorts from the public mind.
9. He Has Lousy Villains
It’s been said that a hero is only as good as his villains. There’s no better example of that than Batman’s archenemy, the Joker. He’s a figure of endless fascination and horror. The same can be said for Superman’s nemesis, Lex Luthor, who’s as smart as Superman is strong. A good collection of villains makes a superhero even better.
When it comes to Aquaman’s Rogues Gallery, well, let’s be honest… most of Aquaman’s villains are not top tier names. Black Manta is his most well-known enemy, mainly from his role on “Super Friends,” but people just think of him as a guy in a submarine with an over-sized helmet.
However, when you look at Aquaman’s villains, there are some heavy hitters. Black Manta is one of the most prominent and unique African-American villains, equipped with a battle suit that gives him enhanced strength, truly deadly power beams from his eyes and the ability to survive at the ocean’s depths indefinitely.
But Aquaman’s nemesis is really Ocean Master. He’s Aquaman’s half-brother, who wields a mystical trident that can cause tsunamis. While most casual readers couldn’t pick Ocean Master out of a line-up, we’re hoping Aquaman’s future movies will showcase him and other great Aquaman villains.
8. He’s Useless on Land
There’s a persistent idea that Aquaman’s abilities only work underwater. “Family Guy” did an infamous sketch where a woman is being attacked on a beach while Aquaman can only watch helplessly from the ocean, throwing starfish at the attacker.
That’s far from the truth. While Aquaman is well-suited for fighting in the ocean, he is also a powerful force on land. Being able to survive in the deep sea means Aquaman’s body is durable enough to repel bullets, and the tensile strength of his muscles are peaked enough that he can lift heavy objects, like cars.
In his early comics, Aquaman was given a weakness where he had to come in contact with water on a daily basis or he would die. Thankfully, that was taken away with his subsequent reboots, and he can now survive on land pretty much indefinitely.
7. Other Heroes Seem Better than Aquaman
As we’ve already gone over, Aquaman is strong and highly resistant, and enjoys a host of cool powers, but another reason he doesn’t get much attention is that he shares those abilities with a lot of other superheroes. Putting Aquaman on land and eliminating his environment just makes him one of many heroes. His uniqueness only exists in water, right?
Aquaman should be given his due as more than just a sum of his powers. He carries a nobility that comes with the royalty of ruling Atlantis. With the exception of perhaps Green Lantern, no other hero in the Justice League can summon an entire army to fight for them at will.
Perhaps more importantly, Aquaman has been fighting all his life, giving him a determination and willpower all his own, not to mention a mastery of aquatic martial arts. Plus, he has a tragedy as someone who’s trapped between the surface world and the underwater world, and not at home in either — literally a character torn apart by different worlds and ideals.
6. He Rides on Fish
When people think of Ghost Rider, he’s riding a motorcycle. When people think of Aquaman, he’s riding a grouper.
In his early comics, Aquaman had a domesticated giant seahorse he called Storm, which he also rode in the “Super Friends” TV show. Over the years, Arthur’s been seen riding whales, dolphins, octopi and other sea creatures. That’s his signature pose, and it doesn’t hold up too well. It’s hard to look tough when you’re riding on a dolphin, most people think. (Although, have you ever tried riding a dolphin? It’s difficult! And majestic.)
In reality, Aquaman can swim at incredible speeds, so he doesn’t need to ride on other sea life. He can swim faster than a jet, so he can get anywhere he needs to be just fine, thanks very much. At the same time, riding sea animals is more about dominance than need. Sure, he could swim on his own, but he looks way cooler on the back of a shark or a killer whale. He’s showing his command of the oceans, which is part of who he is. Don’t hate, respect!
5. Aqualad is Lame
Aqualad is another aspect of Aquaman’s history that tends to get a lot of jokes. People make fun of the idea of a young boy following him around in the ocean. If you think Aquaman is useless, you can only imagine how well-received a younger, smaller, “weaker” version of him is.
In actuality, Aqualad is more interesting than just a kid tagging along with Aquaman. There have actually been two people with the name Aqualad. The first appeared in “Adventure Comics” #269 in 1960, who most people are familiar with. The second, Jackson Hyde, first appeared on the TV show “Young Justice,” and in “Brightest Day” #4 (2010) in the comics. Hyde is the son of Black Manta, and is more his own person than just a sidekick.
Besides, lots of superheroes have kid sidekicks, and they usually have duplicate powers. Does Batman really need Robin to get the job done? How often does Wonder Woman bring along Wondergirl? And let’s be honest, Superman’s pet dog Krypto is way more ridiculous.
4. Atlantis is Mythical
Where does Aquaman live? That’s something almost everyone knows: he lives in the underwater city of Atlantis. That may sound cool to some, but to others, it’s like saying he’s from Santa’s workshop at the North Pole.
And yet, that’s another reason why Aquaman’s adventures are so unique. He can explore a world most of us have never seen, but that conjures incredible images within our collective imagination. In 1990’s “The Atlantis Chronicles,” Atlantis went from a vaguely defined underwater city to a nation with a deep and complex history. Lots of his stories are about the surprisingly complex political world of Atlantis.
In modern stories, Aquaman has had to fight for his given role as the ruler of Atlantis. He’s constantly fighting his half-brother Ocean Master, Black Manta and others for control of the kingdom. It’s like a waterlogged “Game of Thrones” down there And it’s awesome!
3. He Lives in the Ocean
A lot of people put down Aquaman because his beat is the ocean. People don’t think a lot happens in the sea (despite its mystery being surpassed only by its sheer power). Most crime doesn’t happen in the deep sea, right? Very few mad scientists like Brainiac who try to take over the world will start in the ocean (although maybe they should). Still, his environment remains a big reason why people think Aquaman is useless.
Again, the planet is 70% water, so there’s a lot of ground to cover… so to speak. Aquaman has more territory to defend than any one other superhero (again, not counting Green Lantern). The ocean is also rich with crimes to deal with, like piracy, for example, which is becoming an epidemic in certain parts of the world. Terrorists often attack ships at sea, so Aquaman could definitely be part of the war on terror. Aquaman also deals with environmental issues, and with sea levels rising the way they are, he may have a bigger kingdom than he once though even possible!
2. Aquaman is a Wimp
Another persistent image from “Super Friends” is that Aquaman is a wimp. While Superman was moving the Earth out of orbit, Aquaman was staying behind riding a seahorse. While Batman was punching out bank robbers, Aquaman was sending schools of fish to knock people over. He was never shown as one of the heavy hitters on the team.
Several versions of Aquaman have tried to change that, especially Peter David‘s run in the ’90s. In his stories, Aquaman’s clean-shaven appearance was replaced by a long beard and long hair. In the 2000s and the New 52 reboot, Aquaman went back to his more clean-cut look, but is much stronger. He’s seen picking up a cruise ship and ripping open a submarine with his trident.
The scene from “Batman v Superman,” and photos from the set of the new “Justice League” movie show that Jason Momoa’s Aquaman won’t be a skinny wimp, but rippling with muscles and a bad, whiskey-soaked attitude. Hopefully, his hunky rogue Aquaman will erase all doubt about the character’s true strength.
1. He’s a Nobody
While many stories follow Wonder Woman’s history as an Amazon or Batman’s conflicts with his villains or Superman’s struggles against space gods, Aquaman was often relegated to the background on both “Super Friends” and in his comics. He was rarely featured in major storylines, other than as a side note.
In the first issue of his New 52 reboot, however, writer Geoff Johns has Aquaman dealing with indifference from the people he meets on land. Surface dwellers in the DC universe think Aquaman is useless, which he finds… amusing.
Under the ocean, he’s the ruler of the lost world of Atlantis. He commands all manner of oceanic beast — the kind horror movies have been based on and childhood fears are built around. He has steel-hard skin, impossible strength, an army of followers and one of the most devastatingly powerful, intelligent and beautiful women above the ocean or below it on his golden-armored arm. What more could you want in a hero?
Directed by James Wan, and starring Amber Heard, Jason Momoa and Willem Dafoe, “Aquaman” is scheduled to premiere in July 2018.
What do you think of Aquaman? Should he get more respect or is his reputation deserved? Let us know in the comments!
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