Quickly becoming the most popular DC movie to date, Aquaman stands King of Atlantis as well as ruler at the box office. Director James Wan, renowned for genre films like the Saw series and franchises like The Fast and the Furious, brings his own vision to the mythical underwater realm and its citizens. As the titular hero, Jason Momoa brings an edgy toughness combined with undeniable charm to create a memorably refreshing antagonist. Sporting an impressive supporting cast, beautiful locations, and stunning visuals, fans of the aquatic superhero are treated to a new and improved take on his origin legend.
While much of the concept art made for inclusion in the book The Art of Aquaman is featured in the film, many images by conceptual artists Kaichen Yan, Ivan Reis, and Christopher Scheuer have only been featured previously on DC’s Twitter page or their own personal websites. One only has to look at their carefully rendered pieces to acknowledge the scale of painstaking effort that was put into making the mythical world of Atlantis seem like a real place. The aesthetic influence from ancient civilizations around the world was combined to create the architecture, costumes, and weaponry of the Seven Kingdoms. From the world-building of the underwater environments, to the attention to detail when it comes to every aspect of Atlantean life, it’s as visually arresting as any of the Thor movies, and just as adventurous. From the pages of the Art of Aquaman, DC’s social media, and the personal websites of leading conceptual artists for the film, here are the 20 best pieces of Aquaman concept art!
20 MERA IN COURT ATTIRE
Mera is the daughter of King Nereus of Xebel, one of the Kingdoms of the Seven Seas. A fierce warrior, Nereus raised his daughter to be an equally powerful princess, as strong in battle as she is beautiful. Though she may occasionally wear a circlet denoting her noble upbringing in conjunction with battle dress, her daily wear is far less opulent than her position would suggest.
In the robes she wears for the Ring of Fire combat trial of Arthur Curry, her court attire evokes the gentle floating bodies of jellyfish, and the bright colors of coral and other sea creatures. She looks every bit the regal lady, despite her own discomfort in parading around in such ostentatious garb.
19 AQUAMAN RIDING A SEA DRAGON
Whereas previously Aquaman may have been known for riding a seahorse, the new concept art depicting Aquaman's steed is in fact a sea dragon. Based in part off of real sea dragons, the aquatic mounts found in the film are quite a bit larger than their real-name counterparts. Fans of the comic will have to wait until a future date to see his seahorse mount Storm.
This sea dragon, the preferred ride of Xebellian warriors, is impressive in its size, with undulating fins that now more closely resemble wings, and massive webbed feet to propel it aggressively through the water at high speeds.
18 ATLANTIS ABOVE THE SEA
One of the great many revelations in Aquaman is the glimpse of Atlantis above the sea. If the legends of Atlantis we’ve been told is true, beyond Aquaman comics, then Atlantis was one of the most innovative civilizations in the world, and one of the most visually stunning kingdoms to exist thousands of years prior to its descent into the watery depths.
Here we see Atlantis at dusk, looking like an amalgamation of countless Old World metropolises; Rome, Venice, Athens, Thebes, and maybe even a location in Star Wars. It’s dotted with a beautiful skyline of domes and pillars, with massive waterfalls trickling over every part of it.
17 THE MEETING OF ORM AND NEREUS
In a bid to become Ocean Master, Arthur Curry’s half-brother Orm is desperate to unite the Kingdoms of the Seven Seas together. To challenge the throne of Atlantis, he only needs four out of the seven to get the winning vote he needs to begin a full scale attack on the other three. He’s convinced they’ll cave when they realize the military might he has.
One of the most important allies he needs is Mera’s father King Nereus. This piece of art depicts Orm and Nereus meeting with their escorts; Atlanteans mounted on great white sharks, and Xebellians on whales.
16 THE MEETING WITH VULKO
When the presence of Arthur Curry is known to Orm and the rest of Atlantis, he has to find a place to hide. Mera takes him down to the ocean floor, where even Orm “will not go” to meet with Vulko, his friend and mentor. Vulko has guided him throughout his teenage years, helped him hone his powers in mental acuity and combat, and stood by his side as he navigated the treacherous waters of living a double life.
This piece of concept art perfectly captures the mercurial feeling of being underwater; the light that dances across objects and faces, and hides others in shadow. There is a true sense of movement, and a perfect representation of the character water plays in the film.
15 SEVEN KINGDOMS OF ATLANTIS
Before Atlantis was lost to the depths of the sea, destroyed by the arrogance of King Atlaan and his pursuit of more power, it was known as one of the most enlightened civilizations on Earth. After that day, Atlantis broke into seven different kingdoms: the kingdom of the Trench, the kingdom of the Brine, the kingdom of Xebel, the Fisherman kingdom, the kingdom of Atlantis, and finally a missing kingdom.
It was believed that the ruler of Atlantis had the propensity to become Ocean Master, a being who could “Unite the Seven” with the help of Atlan’s sacred trident. This piece of concept art depicts the seven rulers of the seven kingdoms, when they were united and not divided by fear-mongering and self-preservation.
14 ATLANTIS BENEATH THE WAVES
When the pursuit of more energy and more power caused King Atlan to plunge Atlantis into chaos, the city seemed to crack down the middle and become engulfed by waves overnight. Once it sunk beneath the depths, its once great spires and domes began to reflect the watery world around it.
Naturally, creating a light source would be one of the top priorities for the Atlanteans, and this concept art depicting a submerged Atlantis shows all sorts of beacons of it. It conveys the breadth of its size, an Atlantis now covered in moss, surrounded by herds of whales, and glowing with jellyfish. A steady stream of visitors and citizens alike flow through its main gates.
13 ATLANTIS ENTRANCE
Though Atlantis is underwater and technically accessible from various points due it not being enclosed, there is still a large parameter patrol around the kingdom. As Mera points out to Arthur when they are in the long line of traffic to reach the kingdom’s entrance, there is only one way in or out to maximize the kingdom’s defenses. Even a vehicle hoping to drop down over the top of the wall would face plasma cannon fire.
This piece of concept art shows that the gateway into Atlantis is not unlike the entrance into Asgard, and it is reached by way of a long bridge flanked by towering stone statues of centuries-old Atlantean guards.
12 AQUAMAN AND ORM IN THE RING OF FIRE
Arthur Curry never asked to be the ruler of Atlantis; in fact, he actively avoided it. Though his mother, Atlanna, was once its queen, he preferred life on the surface world. But when his half-brother Orm, a full Atlantean, decided to call himself Ocean Master and bring his quarrel with the surface dwellers to Arthur’s little fishing town, he had to fight back.
In this gorgeous piece of concept art released by DC, Arthur and Orm prepare for battle in the Ring of Fire, surrounded by an audience of Atlanteans. The trial by combat is a fight to the end, and resembles the gladiatorial rings of Rome.
11 AQUAMAN AND MERA FIGHT BLACK MANTA
One of the highlights of Aquaman isn’t just its stunning visuals, but also its globe-trotting sense of adventure. The surface world Arthur shows Mera isn’t just the small fishing town he’s grown up in, but also several exotic destinations they travel to in hopes of finding out the location of King Atlan’s sacred trident.
Arthur hasn’t seen Black Manta since he killed his father, and when he appears again seeking revenge, their reunion becomes a fight across the rooftops of a Mediterranean village. In the film, neither Arthur nor Mera were wearing their Atlantean garb, but it looks eye-catching in this piece of concept art by Ivan Reis.
10 THE BATTLE FOR OCEAN MASTER
Whomever can unite the seven kingdoms of Atlantis can claim the title of Ocean Master. They would have mastery over the seven seas and all the creatures contained therein. It’s a title that Orm, Aquaman's half-brother wants, and Aquaman begrudgingly fights for, armed with the sacred trident of King Atlan, former ruler of Atlantis.
The battle to become Ocean Master took place at the conclusion of the Aquaman film, after Orm had already directed the armies of Atlantis and those that supported him against those that opposed. This is a piece of concept art from that battle, though the armor on Arthur Curry would later be swapped out for his Aquaman attire and used in the Ring of Fire fight.
9 BRINE KINGDOM
Like the People of the Trench, the Brine Kingdom’s citizens had become warped and regressed in their behavior. They dwelled in a harsher environment than the other kingdoms of Atlantis, and were therefore forced to adapt to it if they hoped to survive. They became a hard people, with shells not unlike the creatures that surrounded them.
Conceptual artist Kaichen Yan developed a beautiful concept for the Brine Kingdom, especially where it meets other portions of Atlantis. Its rivers of fire and cascading lava falls make it a beautiful, but deadly place to call home. The Brine Kingdom is one of the last kingdoms Orm hopes to convert to his campaign for Ocean Master.
8 LAVA LAKES
The kingdoms of Atlantis are as varied as the people that reside in them. Each one reflects a different aspect of oceanic life. The lava that flows beneath the Earth’s surface, found beneath volcanic islands out in the middle of the sea, takes on a new aesthetic in this concept art by Kaichen Yan.
Here we see the breadth of the lava lakes that flow between the Trench Kingdom, the Brine Kingdom, and the rest of the Atlantean realms. There are oceans of lava, canyons of fire, and volcanoes that erupt in purple and blue smoke that bubbles violently to the surface. Outside the realm of reality but breathtaking visuals nonetheless.
7 AQUAMAN FROM COMICS TO FILM
Aquaman was once one of the most derided superheroes of the last several decades. With his boyish lifeguard looks, lame scaley costume, and powers that restricted him to the ocean, he couldn’t compare with the gritty coolness of Batman or the robust heroism of Superman. Warner Bros. sought to change all that by making him something of a modern King Triton lumberjack mashup; a mixture of brooding good looks, muscles, tattoos, and a lot of hair.
In contrast to the Aquaman played by Jason Momoa, the comic book version (even of today) looks bizarrely clean cut, and downright boring. The new and improved Aquaman is mysterious, dangerous, and will beat anyone down.
6 ARTHUR AT THE AQUARIUM
Growing up on the surface, Arthur has no contact with Atlantis as a young child. Though his mother was once its queen, she was forced to return to her people following her time with Arthur’s father, because humans and Atlanteans aren’t meant to be together.
To keep Arthur safe from those that might harm him for being a half-breed, he was told nothing of his heritage or his powers. That is, until one day at the aquarium while on a field trip with his school, he is able to communicate with the creatures in the tanks. This piece of concept art shows the scene that is featured in the film, but depicts Arthur as much older than the scene suggests.
Topo has been a loyal sidekick of Aquaman's for decades, and the concept art for him in the film makes his debut on-screen seem like a momentous occasion given its level of detail. Unfortunately, the amount of screen time he gets during the final battle sequence doesn’t do this rendering justice.
In the comics, Aquaman trained Topo to play various instruments with his various appendages, but we’re sure he never thought Topo would go on to tackle these giant drums! Conceptual artist Kaichen Yan worked on 70 versions of Topo, giving him Polynesian tattoos, and his own drum kit inside the skeleton of a giant viperfish.
4 THE KARATHEN
In order to retrieve the sacred trident of King Atlan and declare himself King of Atlantis, Arthur Curry must first face the Karathen, a giant sea monster who guards it with her life. No one has been able to defeat her for thousands of years, and she believes Arthur to be of no threat to her.
With a name like Karathen, most people would assume it would resemble that other tentacled sea monster, the Kraken, of Pirates of the Caribbean fame. But this creature has a unique look all its own, with elements of a giant squid, crab, scorpion, and demon. Arthur is able to communicate with it directly, something it never believed humans could do, and so it agrees to give him the trident.
3 SEAFLOOR SHIPWRECKS
Like the Bermuda Triangle, the sea floor below Atlantis seems to be the destination for lost shipwrecks. Though Atlanteans get around on the backs of giant sea creatures or in submersibles of their own engineering, it’s interesting to think that at one time, they sailed in ships, and even flew in aerial crafts far beyond the imagination of their civilized peers.
These all now reside at the bottom of the sea, in a graveyard of ingenuity. Arthur visits it as a means to conceal himself from Orm and his guards, due to the fact that no high-born Atlanteans bother with it any longer.
2 THE SECRET CHAMBER OF THE TRIDENT
While Orm waged battle with the seven kingdoms of Atlantis, Arthur and Mera went on a globetrotting quest to find King Atlan’s sacred trident. In order to determine where it was, they needed to decode an ancient message the king had made shortly before he passed on and his the trident.
The chamber they do so in, though filled with sand, was once submerged underwater. It has a distinctly Atlantean aesthetic, especially since Atlantis resembles several civilizations of the Ancient World. This piece of concept art has a very Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom or Lara Croft: Tomb Raider vibe to perfectly reflect the spirit of adventure this portion of the film has.
1 FINAL BATTLE
By the time that Arthur Curry faced Orm, he had the sacred trident and was wearing the Atlantean armor befitting the King of Atlantis. He had to stop Orm’s relentless pursuit of the Ocean Master title, a campaign that was hurting more Atlanteans than it helped, as well as surface dwellers.
In this beautiful piece of concept art by Christian Scheurer, we see Orm waiting to face Aquaman in a final confrontation. This fight became the Ring of Fire trial by combat we see in the film, and the actual final battle between them lasted very little time at all.