Arthur Curry/Aquaman, who debuted in More Fun Comics in 1941, is about as old as any of the other mainstay DC characters; often times, his age shows, too. In many respects, the character hasn’t aged as well as others. Aquaman has a habit of feeling campy, silly even, and it isn’t always an aspect of the character that audiences, mainstream or niche, are drawn to. However, over the last couple of decades, the stigma on Aquaman has gradually begun to wane. He’s no longer the fish guy with seemingly useless water abilities; compelling stories have been written with the King of Atlantis at the fore and there are certainly many more on the way -- Aquaman is finally getting an Earth One comic of his own, after all.
Apart from the stories in which he either features or is a lead character, Aquaman’s steady rise to awesomeness is due in large part to alterations made to his appearance. It doesn’t seem too difficult to make Batman or Wonder Woman appealing on the eyes of readers or viewers. The Atlantean King is a different case, though. With Jason Momoa giving the hero a redefined look, we want to examine Aquaman appearances that have come before and rank them from worst to best.
15 SUPER FRIENDS
If any iteration of Aquaman has made the character more susceptible to being a popular culture laughing stock, it’s his presence on the Hanna-Barbera produced Super Friends. The ABC series had an incredibly long run, lasting from 1973 to 1986 with over 100 episodes having aired by the time cancellation hit. Series leads also included Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Robin and more. None, however, are referenced as often as Aquaman; it isn’t an honor the character would be proud of either.
As far as appearances are concerned, the garb Aquaman wears on Super Friends is simple, classic Aquaman. The bright orange top matches well with his dark green gloves and bottoms. And no one could forget the black trunks. Honestly, it’s not a bad suit, but when coupled with his ridiculousness and compared to the looks of other League members, there’s a lot to be desired.
Aquaman spent much of the Golden and Silver Ages of comics donning blond hair, an orange top, green pants and gloves with a yellow belt tying it all together. The Pre-Crisis continuity painted the superhero rather simply, but every so often minor changes were made to the overall design of the Atlantean King’s attire. However, the color scheme that so famously decorates his clothing remained largely intact.
Similar to his garb during the run of Super Friends, which was heavily inspired by his comic adventures, the Pre-Crisis look isn’t particularly bad. When comparing it to other DC characters who were prominent during the same period of time, and the redesigns he would garner in the following decades, Aquaman’s Silver/Golden Age appearances denote a plainness if nothing else.
Smallville’s iteration of Aquaman took the simplicity on display in DC’s Pre-Crisis continuity and translated it to the modern age with a practicality that can only be described as athletic in design. If ever there was a retro Nike windbreaker meant to be inspired by the King of Atlantis, this is it. Admittedly, the tracksuit look works well within the context of his origins on The CW’s Smallville, though.
The wetsuit often appears in two minimally different ways. One version is short-sleeved, while the other has the King of the Seven Seas sporting the same wetsuit with long-sleeves attached. For some reason, Arthur Curry’s superhero get-up also comes fully equipped with hood. Interestingly, unlike several other iterations before it, the Smallville costume does not feature a belt identifying the hero with an “A.”
12 SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES
With how the character was being revitalized in the '90s, it’s a wonder Aquaman’s introduction on Superman: The Animated Series didn’t follow a similar design scheme. Of course, this would later be alleviated with his appearances in the Justice League series, but STAS returning the Atlantean’s overall look to a level of plainness would be an understatement.
When recalling the character’s placement in the series, however, the lack of innovation isn’t too surprising. Only featuring in one episode, “A Fish Story,” Aquaman didn’t necessarily need to be explored in a manner of complexity rivaling his comic book counterpart’s ventures at the time. As with past iterations that do little to drive the character’s design forward, STAS’ version wears his blond hair short, equipped with an orange shirt, green bottoms, and golden belt as expected.
11 BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD
Batman: The Brave and the Bold had a tall order to fill -- team Batman with a number of DC characters each episode in a manner that pays homage to their Silver and Golden Age iterations. Many would agree the Cartoon Network series succeeded, and even exceeded, fans’ wildest expectations. Therefore, as far as appearances are concerned, all Aquaman needed to do was return to his Pre-Crisis roots. This look is featured higher on the list because of the show’s art style alone.
Aquaman’s classic design, which could once be considered pure simplicity, was allowed to stand out. The belt enlarged and his form far more muscular, he finally looked like a hero who could stand tall alongside the likes of a Superman or Batman. Plus, the beard he wore could make any suit appealing to the eyes.
10 YOUNG JUSTICE
Young Justice’s Aquaman is yet another case of reuniting the Atlantean King with his classic and well known attire. But this iteration makes a few appreciable changes. First, gone are the stark green tights. In the Young Justice version, they appear black almost; additionally, green accents seem peppered throughout depending on the lighting of a scene. These minor alterations make a big difference, as what would normally be his boots appear toeless. Green fins wrap around his calves to complete the bottom half of the design.
Aquaman’s upper body garb is also reminiscent of past appearances, specifically the orange used for his top. However, instead of green gloves, the King of Atlantis in this cartoon series wears golden bracers to stylistically match the golden color and design of his belt.
9 INJUSTICE: GODS AMONG US
As expected, when the creative team behind Mortal Kombat (NetherRealm Studios) were given the keys to the DC kingdom once more, they redesigned each of the characters in use. Many heroes and villains were heavily armored, all, however, were still very much in line with their quintessential attire. NetherRealm’s overhaul of Aquaman is no exception. In fact, his new look, compared to other Injustice characters, is probably the one that most adheres to this sentiment.
The orange and gold still adorn his body, but armor adds to the familiarity of his appearance. Specifically of note are the purple and gold accents that decorate the King of Atlantis’ bracers, shoulder guard and greaves. Even his trident looks more menacing than usual. Undoubtedly, Injustice: Gods Among Us has contributed to DC’s continued effort to prove Aquaman is more formidable than he’s typically given credit.
8 JUSTICE LEAGUE (2001 - 2004)
The Justice League’s original animated series didn’t offer the first step in revamping Aquaman into a powerhouse of a character, visibly or otherwise. However, it certainly represents one of the most profound modifications to the hero. If folks spent the '70s and '80s satirizing the Atlantean’s behavior and character design, then his early '00s cartoon appearance could reasonably unsettle them a bit.
After an accident culminating in the loss of his left hand, Aquaman has a hook attached to replace the missing limb. That’s not the only major alteration either; for attire, he still dons the green pants, but gone is the orange top as he’s repeatedly seen shirtless. Furthermore, the character brings with him to the DCAU the long flowing hair he’d acquired in the 1990s. This Aquaman quite simply isn’t one to be messed with.
DC Rebirth didn’t do too much to disrupt the Aquaman formula in terms of character design. Some would even argue his appearance bears more commonality with the days in which the character could have been described as campy. Gone is the regality of the New 52 look. However, given the context of Rebirth being DC’s attempt to return a semblance of light and heart to their ongoing books, this iteration of Aquaman is fitting beyond measure.
Overall, Aquaman’s Rebirth design is somewhat simple. Orange and green are the focus, and the straightforward construction of the “A”-emblazoned belt ties the familiar suit together effortlessly. Admittedly, there’s nothing too special about it. What’s worth appreciating, though, is that the return to such simplicity works without compromise. Aquaman himself doesn’t appear less than; if anything, the once campy design only adds to the character’s being redefined in other ways.
6 NEW 52
DC’s New 52 continuity managed to accomplish something with Aquaman that few other iterations had previously achieved, making the classic bright orange and green attire look reasonably intimidating. Suddenly, the King of Atlantis didn’t need a harpoon hand or a penchant for traveling shirtless to look as though he meant business.
The scaled, orange top meshes perfectly with New 52 Aquaman’s green gauntlets and bottoms. His hulking golden belt only adds to the overall design of the character, appearing as though it was intricately crafted -- sure, it’s a small detail, but sometimes such minute components count the most. Considering the way he’s treated by background characters in the comics, it can be argued whether he’s as imposing a figure as he appeared in the '90s and certain cartoon series. Regardless, the New 52 marked yet another step in the right direction for the hero.
Aquaman from "Flashpoint" couldn’t look any more different from his regular continuity counterpart. In fact, there’s hardly a semblance of the hero’s typical appearance beyond the blond hair and trident. The alterations to his design work in the character’s favor as Flashpoint Aquaman is cast in a villainous role, one that sees him and his fellow Atlanteans waging a war against the Amazons.
As opposed to his usual bright orange and green attire, this alternate timeline iteration of Aquaman dons a red top with black bottoms and gloves. Gold accents fill out the suit and a belt of the same color is cleverly constructed into the shape of what appears to be an upside-down “A.” The redesign fits him well, and the military-style crew cut isn’t too shabby either. If it wasn’t a representation of evil, Aquaman adopting this look wouldn’t be a bad idea.
4 THE '90S
The '90s marked a new day for the King of the Seven Seas. After decades of essentially being considered a superhero parody, Aquaman underwent an extensive overhaul that redesigned the hero for the modern age. With writer Peter David’s run on the character came the introduction of the Atlantean’s unpleasant attitude and form-fitting harpoon for a hand. Make no mistake, the fun factor still prevailed; however, it was suddenly backed by a darker tone and a character who wasn’t as willing to directly partake in it all.
In addition to changes such as the harpoon, Aquaman mostly appears shirtless with a full beard and long, flowing hair to round out the design. The scaled green and black pants are worthy of mention, too. In truth, they probably contribute little to the overall look, as it’s hard to imagine this version wearing the solid green color he usually dons.
3 INJUSTICE 2
The changes NetherRealm makes to the Injustice 2 version of Aquaman when compared to the the King of Atlantis’ Gods Among Us design are immense. Honestly, he looks like a combination of '90s Aquaman and Jason Momoa’s suit-less version. His being shirtless in Injustice 2 reveals a tattoo he bears across his left pectoral and shoulder area, which is seemingly one of the key influences from Momoa’s depiction in the films.
Aquaman’s pant-design is clearly an homage to the 90s iteration. Meanwhile, the look of his belt seems relatively new. Additionally, the shoulder guard and greave he wears on his right arm appear to have been constructed out of seashells. With this design, Injustice, again, pushes the envelop in ensuring the King of Atlantis is no longer made a fool of by the masses; unsurprisingly, this is only elevated by his jaw-dropping special moves and character-specific abilities.
2 CRIME SYNDICATE
No design of Aquaman is half as imposing as the character’s Crime Syndicate doppelgänger on Earth-3, Sea King. This evil version of Aquaman debuts in the "Forever Evil" storyline; as with other awesome iterations of the character, he has a missing limb that’s been replaced by a harpoon-esque implant. Another aspect harkening back to past versions is the long hair and heavy beard, both of which suit the Crime Syndicate’s Sea King well.
Instead of orange and green, this version of Aquaman dons a purple and blue aesthetic that is particularly appealing because of the suit’s scaled-decoration. In addition, Sea King is equipped with armor in places that correlates with the rest of his garb. One such armor piece appears to be a large seashell of sorts, evidently acting as a shoulder guard. Even the trident gets a redesign worthy of commendation.
1 THE DCEU
Barring the Crime Syndicate’s Sea King design, Aquaman has never looked more different from the classic appearance than he does with Jason Momoa’s version in Justice League’s live action debut. The superhero, who is depicted as an Atlantean outcast in the film, is covered from head to toe in armor that is primarily green and bronze in color. Making the suit he attains in Justice League especially fascinating is its unique utilization of the scale pattern. Instead of scales being solely applied to either the suit’s top or bottom, the pattern decorates every facet of the armor set.
Another smaller but notable change is Aquaman’s hair color. The blond remains present, yet appears as highlights to accent Momoa’s darker hair. This, too, meshes brilliantly with the suit to make Aquaman’s appearance more aesthetically pleasing. Truthfully, the water-based hero has never looked better.
What other designs of Aquaman are worthy of mention? Sound off in the comments!