The following article contains spoilers for recent issues of Aquaman, by Dan Abnett and Stjepan Sejic.
Turn on your local or national news on any given day, and you’re almost guaranteed to find a news anchor quoting President Donald Trump, video of his latest news conference, or reactions to his latest Twitter rant. Life during the Trump administration has been... interesting, to say the least. Of course, this makes it ripe for creators to use as an influence when crafting new stories.
One of the more controversial and, frankly, unintended examples of this happened when Captain America uttered the words “Hail Hydra” and pledged his allegiance to the fascist regime in the lead-up to Marvel’s summer blockbuster Secret Empire. While that shocking development made its way into the larger news cycle, a more subtle -- yet still significant – adaption of Trump’s reign began to take place over the summer in the pages of DC Comics’ Aquaman, from writer Dan Abnett and artist Stjepan Sejic.
The story arc, which began in Aquaman #25, involves King Arthur Curry of Atlantis being betrayed by his people in favor of a new ruler, Corum Rath. Though the way Aquaman was replaced as king was brutal (being stabbed and left for dead by a trusted confidant), it’s not the first time we’ve seen a new ruler of Atlantis. What makes this reign stand apart from previous usurpation are the personality traits Abnett has blessed Rath with, which make him an obvious stand-in for President Trump. Rath, a pretender to the throne, shares Trump’s xenophobic/racist beliefs, and essentially wants to deport out those who he deems unworthy of being Atlantean citizens. Sound familiar?
Trump built his presidential campaign on preserving America’s borders by restricting access to prospective citizens from mostly non-white countries. He and his followers believe these steps are keeping terroristic threats out of the United States, though the language reads as a racial ban rather than an attempt at providing genuine border security. One of King Rath’s first edicts was to purge Atlantis of “undesirables” – Atlanteans born with mutations that make them look physically different from what would be considered a "normal" Atlantean. The white supremacists that marched on Charlottesville, VA a few months ago, who were described as “very nice people” by President Trump, have a similar goal, often calling for the racial genocide of a group of people deemed “undesirable” or “not pure.”
Rulers like Trump and Rath look for any excuse to start a war. Trump and his followers want a culture war, while Rath is looking to start a war with the surface world above Atlantis. Rath's promises of returning Atlantis back to its glory days of being the greatest nation on the planet sound so much like a Trump news conference, it wouldn't be a surprise to learn some of the dialogue is a word-for-word transcript of an actual speech.