For decades, Aquaman has been the butt of all superhero jokes. From mocking television characters to well-abused stereotypes, Aquaman has garnered one of the worst reputations in all of comics. In his own New 52 Aquaman series, a disgruntled “fan” asks Aquaman how it feels to be “no one’s favorite superhero.” Aquaman’s reply is silence. Why so many people consider Aquaman to be the “lamest” superhero is obvious: very few TV shows and comic series know how to show off Aquaman’s extensive powers. His ability to telepathically communicate with aquatic life appeared useless to writers when compared to Superman’s heat vision or Batman’s tech. So, instead of exploring the character more thoroughly, they tossed him aside and he became the guy in the orange suit who can talk to fish.
Slowly but surely, things are turning around for Aquaman. The DCEU’s adaptation of the character throws daggers at the public’s negative opinions on Aquaman. On-screen, Jason Mamoa’s Aquaman challenges even the Dark Knight in terms of general coolness, which is an undeniable feat. For the first time, superhero fans actually have some respect for the King of Atlantis. Comic book Aquaman doesn’t have the same “cool factor” as DCEU Aquaman, but the on-page version is insanely powerful. With years of solo series under his waterproof belt, Aquaman has gathered an impressive array of powers that most fans probably don’t even know about. We’re going over just a few of those powers in order to prove that the “lame” Aquaman of old never actually existed -- he’s always been a lot more powerful than people think.
20 SUPER STRENGTH
Since Aquaman is frequently surrounded by the likes of Wonder Woman and Superman, writers rarely emphasize his level of strength. In Justice League comics, Arthur Curry’s strength isn’t astounding but in comparison to a lot of other heroes, Aquaman can throw some serious punches. His Atlantean royal heritage allows him to complete amazing feats of strength, like lifting an entire city block or a massive cruise ship in Justice League #9.
Since Aquaman’s typical underwater adventures don’t require a lot of heavy lifting, readers rarely get to see this brawny side of him, but that definitely doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. If Aquaman’s other powers ever fail him in battle, he always has an impressive amount of brute strength to back him up.
19 NIGHT VISION
Similar to other Atlanteans, Arthur has heightened senses that enable him to live in a completely aquatic world. Perhaps the most important sense for underwater living is sight, since sunlight is restricted at low oceanic depths. To rectify this, Atlanteans have night vision, allowing them to see even in the murkiest abyss.
Aquaman typically uses this ability to fight sea monsters who make their homes on the ocean floor. However, as seen in past Aquaman issues, it can be used in surface situations as well. For Aquaman’s land-dwelling villains, the darkness that usually offers some concealment doesn’t create an easy means of escape. Whether it’s light or dark doesn’t matter to the King of Atlantis -- he’ll find his enemies regardless.
18 INSTANT ICE
Like a lot of heroes, some of Aquaman’s most impressive powers aren’t exactly permanent. Gods have given Aquaman an array of weapons that have granted him some amazing abilities. Unfortunately, these powers rarely last more than a few arcs. For a short while, Aquaman wielded the Trident of Poseidon, which temporarily acted as an extension of the god’s powers. When holding it, Aquaman could cause earthquakes, creates tidal waves, and conjure instantaneous ice.
Within his watery environment, Aquaman’s ice abilities were incredibly useful. At any moment, he could freeze an opponent in a solid block of ice. Using the trident, he could’ve frozen the entire ocean if he had wanted to.
17 COMBAT MASTER
Aquaman is rarely thought of as a capable fighter, but as a member of the Justice League and the King of Atlantis, Arthur Curry definitely knows how to exchange a few blows -- with and without weapons. Stereotypes commonly make Aquaman out as lame and weak, but his fighting skills are some of the best in all of DC Comics.
Even though he’s not as strong as DC’s top heroes, he’s shown he’s plenty capable of taking on superheroes like Superman and Wonder Woman in close combat while on land. While in water, Aquaman’s heightened senses and superhuman durability make him nearly unstoppable in combat.
16 SONAR SENSE
As an ocean-dweller with an affinity for marine life, one of Aquaman’s most important powers is echolocation. This biological sonar uses high-pitched frequencies and their responding echoes to locate objects in the vicinity. Dolphins also have sonar, which is presumably why Aquaman can use it.
When underwater, Aquaman’s sonar creates a mental map of the oceanic landscape, which gives him the upper hand against land-dwellers. This unique ability also means nothing -- or no one -- can hide from Aquaman while in the water. His advanced sonar can lead him straight to the desired target within seconds. Aquaman’s sonar may look a little cheesy in cartoons (we all remember Super Friends) but in practice, it’s extremely practical.
15 THE CLEAR
If you’re a fan of Swamp Thing, you’ve probably heard of something called “The Green”, a force that connects all plant life. Swamp Thing and Poison Ivy have a sort of direct link to the force. The lesser known force that's known as “The Clear” acts as a link between all oceans and aquatic life in the universe.
Aquaman’s deep connection to the ocean and its creatures gives him the ability to tap into The Clear -- a power bestowed on very few. When connected to The Clear, Arthur has strong hydrokinetic abilities similar to his wife, Mera. This mysterious force also heightens his communication with aquatic life, granting him the capability to talk to thousands of marine animals at once.
14 LAND DWELLER
You would think, with all of Arthur’s amazing aquatic abilities, that he’d be a bit of a slouch once he takes a step onto the surface. In some ways, that’s true -- he can’t use a few of his specifically aquatic abilities on land. However, unlike a lot of other underwater heroes, Aquaman is still a powerful character when outside of water.
Thanks to his mixed human-Atlantean heritage, Arthur can live, and fight, both on land and in the sea. And fight on land he does -- recent comics have seen some of Aquaman’s best fights occur on land, including his successful confrontation with Superman. He can’t talk to fish while on land, but he can still throw a trident pretty far.
A lot of Aquaman’s powers remain hidden to most readers because he rarely shows them. Any of his land abilities, for example, are frequently cut by writers in order to make room for his aquatic powers. This list of land abilities includes, surprisingly enough, the gift of flight.
On Prime Earth in the DC Universe, Aquaman’s connection to Poseidon allows him to fly. With a home in Atlantis, Aquaman seldom needs this power, but it does come in handy when hanging out with some of his flying Justice League companions like Wonder Woman. Since DC has only shown Aquaman flying when he’s holding Poseidon’s trident, it can be assumed that the trident gives him flight.
Atlanteans’ have to be durable to withstand the immense pressure that comes with deep waters. Aquaman takes that durability to a new level thanks to his royal blood, which allows him to swim even deeper than the average Atlantean without harm. He’s been shown swimming as deep as six miles, though his limit is still unknown.
In his New 52 series, Aquaman showed his thick, Atlantean skin cannot be punctured by most firearms. While it’s not impossible to make Aquaman bleed, it is a pretty difficult task. In the Aquaman Rebirth series, Arthur’s enemies have to specially make weapons that can pierce his abnormally thick skin. That’s how far they have to go to take down someone of Royal Atlantean heritage.
11 SUPERHUMAN JUMPING
Before DC gave Aquaman flight, they gave him a sort of pseudo-flight: jumping. That may not sound like much but for Arthur, jumping involves four-story leaps. To the average person, this impressive jump looks a lot like flying. Numerous comics show Aquaman using a few jumps to cross entire cities, but why DC decided to give Aquaman this unique (and somewhat random) ability is unknown.
Perhaps they wanted to give Aquaman something that resembles flight but is a little more distinctive. Although not many casual DC fans probably know about Aquaman’s affinity for jumping, Arthur Curry fans consider the ability an important part of the king’s character.
In the world of DC Comics, Arthur’s wife Mera is usually the one known for her impressive hydrokinesis. However, Aquaman has also wielded the power in the past. Aquaman first gained some hydrokinetic abilities when the mysterious Lady of the Lake gave him a “water hand” to replace the hand he lost in battle.
The hand was capable of many things including some low-level hydrokinetic actions. With the Lady of the Lake’s magic, Aquaman could easily change the shape and density of his hand. During this time, he also had the ability to split huge waves in half. Since losing his water hand, Aquaman hasn’t shown any hydrokinetic prowess. Thankfully, his wife is still the most powerful water-manipulator in DC.
9 HEAT RESISTANCE
Along with Aquaman’s natural durability comes a unique resistance to heat. This ability is useful during dives near clashing tectonic plates and underwater volcanoes. People usually think of the ocean as being pretty chilly, but there are quite a few aquatic hotspots tucked away. For Atlanteans, being able to swim in those areas is an important ability.
In some of his most exciting adventures, Aquaman finds himself going up against the villain known as “Volcanic Monster.” The only reason Aquaman can even attempt to fight the dull-witted oceanic lava is because of his heat-resistant Atlantean skin. Without it, he’d be soggy toast.
We all know Aquaman is a fast swimmer, but I doubt most readers know just how fast he really is. With his enhanced strength and affinity for water, Aquaman can swim up to 150 mph for an extended period of time. For short sprints, he can practically double that speed. Although he’s never participated in a competition, chances are Aquaman is the fastest swimmer on DC’s earth.
Of course, that doesn’t make him the fastest runner. That’s the Flash’s title. However, he isn’t exactly slow while on the surface. In land battles, Aquaman’s shown quick reflexes and inhuman speed that only a founding member of the Justice League could exhibit.
7 WATER WRAITH
During a long and weird storyline called "JLA: The Obsidian Age", magician Zatanna was forced to use her magic to transform Aquaman. Aquaman became a living body of water in order to save Atlantis. His newfound form, known as “Water Wraith,” gave him control over all of the oceans. This extreme form of hydrokinesis made him almost god-like, with the power to grow to an unfathomable size and decimate anything in his path with giant tidal waves.
Since "JLA: The Obsidian Age", we haven’t seen Water Wraith again, which might be for the better. Though this form was incredibly powerful, it also mentally changed Aquaman. He acted much more like a vengeful god and less like the sweet Arthur we all know and love.
Remember that mystical water hand we mentioned? As it turns out, the Lady of the Lake’s gift has a lot wilder powers than just hydrokinesis -- it can also heal sick and injured people with a simple touch.
During the 2003 Aquaman series, Arthur uses his healing hand in nearly every issue. From saving his own attacker from certain death to rescuing a dying old man, Aquaman doesn’t withhold his healing powers very often. This is good since he only had them for a brief time. The eventual loss of his water hand meant the loss of his healing powers as well. But, who knows, maybe the healing hand will make an appearance in upcoming Aquaman comics (or, even better, in the DCEU).
The ice-making Trident of Poseidon that we mentioned earlier also has a few more hidden powers that most readers aren't familiar with. In Aquaman #40, we find out that the mystical trident can teleport its user across vast stretches. At first, it appears as though the trident only works on earth, but in Aquaman #44, Arthur accidentally teleports himself to an alien planet, light years away.
Unfortunately, we don’t get to see Aquaman’s teleportation powers for very long. By his Rebirth series, Aquaman is back to jumping everywhere. Like a lot of Aquaman’s powers, it was cool while it lasted.
4 STORM CONTROL
Aquaman is no Thor, Storm, or any other weather-wielding superhero. But, for a little while, he did have the power to manipulate weather via the Trident of Poseidon. With the power of a Greek god backing him, Aquaman could control the wind, rain and lighting of a storm. Typically, he used the lighting portion of his power to defeat his surface enemies, with his trident acting as a guiding rod.
It’s important to note that during the arc where Aquaman has these powers, he’s doing a lot of on-land fighting. This makes his lighting ability really useful. But a mile under water, where he’s most at home, we doubt he’d be reaching for it. So much for becoming the next Odinson.
We know what you’re all thinking. Diplomacy as a superpower? It may seem like a ridiculous thing to include on our list, but Aquaman’s position as an Atlantean diplomat colors almost every modern series about the character. Frequently, it’s the thing that keeps him, and Atlantis metaphorically afloat.
For a long time, Atlantis was distant from the surface. This meant Aquaman only had to deal with his own people. Recent comics have introduced the world to Atlantis and, in the Rebirth Aquaman series, it’s up to Arthur to create lasting ties between the underwater city and land nations. Compared to most DC heroes, Aquaman’s ability to lead a country and act as a capable diplomat is uniquely his own.
We’ve already covered some of Aquaman’s magical abilities, but we haven’t really talked about Atlantean magic in general. Since its creation, Atlantis has had magic of some sort. Although things have changed over the years, the aquatic city is still connected to mystical powers.
Thanks to his royal Atlantean blood, Arthur has his own close bond with Atlantean magic. The only reason Aquaman can use Poseidon's Trident is because the god personally gave him his blessing. Similarly, the Lady of the Lake saw something magical in Aquaman which is why she gave him the water hand. Aquaman isn’t trained in magic like DC’s Zatanna, but he clearly has a somewhat unconscious affinity for it.
When you think of powerful comic book telepaths, Aquaman probably isn’t the first person on your list. While he’s no Jean Grey or Charles Xavier, Aquaman is a telepath with the ability to psychically communicate with aquatic animals. In contradiction to common lore, Aquaman doesn’t “talk to fish.” Rather, he implants suggestions which they tend to heed.
Of course, Aquaman doesn’t have to use suggestion if he doesn’t want to. He has a full range of telepathic abilities, including mental attacks, mind probes, and mental domination. While his powers are at their highest when dealing with aquatic life, Aquaman has been shown using telepathy on non-aquatic minds as well, displaying success against Doctor Polaris and the White Martians.