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The Short-Lived Origin of Aquaman’s Costume (and the Name ‘Aquaman’)

by  in CBR Exclusives, Comics, Comic News Comment
The Short-Lived Origin of Aquaman’s Costume (and the Name ‘Aquaman’)

In every installment of “If I Pass This Way Again,” we look at odd comic book plot points that were rarely (sometimes NEVER!) mentioned again after they were first introduced. Today, we look at the short-lived origin of Aquaman’s costume and the name “Aquaman!”

The late 1980s were a strange time at DC Comics. Following Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC completely rebooted Wonder Woman and made a fairly dramatic reboot to Superman (although since Superman’s reboot took place in the past, at least his current comics weren’t drastically changed from his previous series, just with Ma and Pa Kent now being alive). They also did a slight reboot to Batman. Also, of course, with no more Earth-2, they also had to make dramatic changes to the histories of the Justice Society of America and Earth-2 heroes Power Girl and Huntress (I still don’t think that they ever quite settled in on an origin for Power Girl). However, as dramatic as some of these changes were, by 1987 or so, it seemed like the DC Universe was at last settled. Unless you were directly affected by a major change (like if you were a Justice Society of America character or if you were tied into Wonder Woman’s history, like how the Justice League of America now had to have had Black Canary as a founding member instead of Wonder Woman), your history remained pretty much the same as it had existed before Crisis.

The problem was that these rebooted characters did REALLY well. Therefore, DC writers kept at it, with Hawkman getting a reboot in Hawkworld that caused problems because it erased Hawkman’s entire history, which had stayed the same up until Hawkworld’s debut. Similarly, in 1989’s Legend of Aquaman (also know as simply Aquaman Special #1), Keith Giffen dramatically re-invented Aquaman’s back story while keeping the gist of his current set-up the same.

The story was plotted (with breakdowns, as well) by Giffen, with a script by Robert Loren Fleming, pencils by Curt Swan and inks by Eric Shanower.

The comic opens with infant Aquaman being abandoned on a shallow reef, left for dead. However, he manages to survive due to his superpowers, which were present even at a young age. He commands the sharks to leave him alone. He then grows up living off of the ocean, swimming around without any clothes on. He eventually befriends a lighthouse keeper, who essentially adopts him and ultimately gives him his name, Arthur Curry. The lighthouse keeper is eventually killed by Atlantean thugs.

So Arthur goes off on his own and eventually comes across the kingdom of Atlantis, where he is arrested and thrown into prison. The prison uniform? Yep, you guesses it!

He then goes off to become a superhero and joins the Justice League. He returns and discovers that his mother was queen and he then becomes the new king and everything else happens as it did Pre-Crisis.

So the costume was a prison uniform and the name “Aquaman” originated as a taunt that he decided to own.

Both of those revelations were effectively ignored following Giffen and Fleming’s follow-up miniseries from 1989.

They’re inventive enough explanations, really, but I guess the “prion uniform” idea just never caught on.

Okay, that’s it for this installment! If someone else has a suggestion for an interesting plot point that was introduced and then almost instantaneously ignored, drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com!

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