Hey, remember when people used to tell Aquaman jokes? There’s nothing quite like casting a 6’5″ Hawaiian super hunk in your Justice League movie to silence those, is there? Jason Momoa has helped to create some great PR for the character. He’s helped to ensure that Seth MacFarlane won’t be making any more Aquaman jokes on Family Guy and general audiences will hopefully be looking forward to James Wan’s Aquaman movie next year thanks to his charismatic and compelling screen presence. Those of us who’ve followed his comic book exploits over the years, however, will have known that Aquaman was never a joke.
Even before the character enjoyed a renaissance courtesy of Geoff Johns’ sensational run in the New 52, Aquaman has been a forced to be reckoned with in the world of DC Comics. He’s faced down a fearsome, and often terrifying rogues gallery (or perhaps rogues aquarium would be more appropriate) that would make the most depraved inmates of Arkham Asylum shudder with terror. The underwater kingdom can be a damn scary place, after all. Here we’ll look at 15 of Aquaman’s most menacing villains in his publication history and build up to the most fearsome of all…
15. THE FISHERMAN
Don’t let the silly name fool you, The Fisherman is a deadly and resourceful villain with more gadgets than Batman, and fewer morals than Deathstroke. A tech thief whose real name and background are never revealed, The Fisherman dispatches with his opponents using a razor sharp hook on the end of a titanium steel line.
Although he was a fearsome foe both on is own and with Un-Thing and Karla as the Terrible Trio, he took on a whole new dimension in 2006’s “Sword of Atlantis” arc when his signature helmet is revealed to be an alien parasite (ah, comics!). This development casts The Fisherman in a whole new light, revealing that the helmet is actually a malevolent Lovecraftian entity that uses interchangeable human hosts for its own ends.
14. THE EEL
Mortimer Coolidge first appeared in the pages of Aquaman in the early ’00s. He began his career in Gotham City before moving to San Francisco. His time in the Golden City, however, soon became less than golden when half the city was submerged by water and became Sub Franciso (no, really!). This worked to Coolidge’s advantage as he realized that his mild telekinesis was enhanced underwater and that he was even able to use microscopic plankton to solidify water.
With the aid of a special pressurized suit he began to take over the city’s criminal underworld. His sleek, black power suit allows him to withstand the pressures of the deep as well as affording him protection from powerful metahuman attacks. His hydrokinetic powers and ability to change his density make him a unique challenge for Aquaman.
13. KING NEREUS
There are few things quite so scary as your lady’s ex. Especially when he’s the ruler of a neighboring kingdom who not only has designs on your life, he reveals that bae was intended to be a sleeper assassin whose mission was to bring him your head. Introduced by Johns in the New 52 and based on the ancient Greek demigod of the same name, Nereus is the King of Xebel (a nation of exiled Atlanteans) and is betrothed to fellow Xebellian Mera (Aquaman’s main squeeze).
He has all the Atlantean physiological advantages of Aquaman and is not only Xebel’s King but one of its fiercest and most ruthless warriors. Additionally he has the same hydrokinetic abilities as Mera but none of the sense of decency or restraint. He’ll be played in the film by Dolph Lundgren…which tells you everything you need to know.
One of the most appealing things about the Aquaman mythology is that, like Wonder Woman’s, it interweaves classic comic book storytelling with the ancient mythologies or Greece, Rome, Inuit, Teutonic and Polynesian cultures. Nuliajuk is a great example of a mythical figure re-purposed as a compelling comic book villain. hailing from Inuit mythology, Nuliajuk is a demon Goddess also known as the Mother of Monsters.
Created by the legendary Peter David, her fearsome appearance would earn her a place on this list alone but her ability to summon an army of carnivorous sea creatures has set her at odds not only with the King of Atlantis but with the Maid of Might. She appeared in David’s run on Supergirl in which she was conscripted by Lilith, The Mother of Demons to kill the “Matrix” version of Supergirl who had become fused with Linda Lee Danvers.
Aquaman’s half brother Orm is not only a skilled warrior and devious manipulator, but he also has a colossal grudge against his half human brother. It’s not surprising that Warner Bros. have chosen to use Orm (played by Patrick Wilson) as the film’s antagonist since, in many ways, his dynamic with Aquaman is similar to the dynamic between Thor and Loki in the MCU. Like Marvel’s Norse God of mischief, Orm believes himself rightful heir to the Throne of Atlantis and will stoop to any means to depose his brother.
His webbed helmet/crown and scale armor lend him a fearsome appearance and for all his behind the scenes manipulation he can throw down with the best of them with fierce combat skills. That this iconic character is ranked fairly low on the list speaks to just how menacing the rest of the sub aquatic ne’er do wells are.
Most of us, if asked, would probably like the opportunity to meet our ancestors. Aquaman has, and the experience was neither edifying nor pleasant. Kordax’s origin has echoes of Wicked and Batman Returns. He was born to the Queen of Poseidonis but his grotesque, green-skinned appearance was so disgusting that he was abandoned at birth. It was only his telepathic control over the creatures of the sea that kept him alive.
His understandable hatred and resentment caused him to lead an attack against his homeland but his siege failed. His left hand was severed and he was abandoned once again. Despite his ghastly appearance, Kordax’s age means that he is more evolved than other Atlanteans, surpassing them in strength, speed and telepathy. Although he was eventually bested by his descendant, he chose to fall on his own sword than concede defeat.
9. CREATURE KING / CHIMERA
Jed Coombs, aka Creature King aka Chimera, has undergone a few reinventions throughout the various crises that have shaped and reshaped DC’s comic book continuity but then… What character hasn’t? The post “Flashpoint” version saw Coombs retconned as a regular human who becomes the Chimera after he is attacked by sharks and left in a vegetative state.
The comatose Coombs is used as a test subject in a bizarre gene splicing experiment which not only combines his genetic code with that of marine life, but replaces portions of his damaged brain with brain tissue from the psychic sea monster Karaquan. The result is a menacing hybrid of man and fish with a slew of superhuman abilities from superhuman strength and near invulnerability to shape shifting and telekinesis.
Nobody, even on their best day would like to fight an Atlantean. To cope with the crushing pressure of the deep, they have evolved to exhibit strength and durability to rival Superman. But throw in the ability to raise the dead and project elemental bolts and you have a villain fearsome enough to make even the toughest heroes of the DC Universe think twice.
Slizzath was once a member of the Idylists; Atlantean sorcerers who abhorred violence and lived in self imposed exile from the underwater city led by Slizzath’s brother King Thar. Slizzath resented his brother’s power and thought that it should be his, resolving to take it by force. This effort saw him banished to another dimension but he returned with an army of the dead at his side.
Magic is a great leveler when it comes to superheroes. Whenever a character’s power set makes is difficult for writers to imbue their stories with peril, a magically endowed villain is usually just what they need to create a level playing field. Aquaman, Wonder Woman and even Superman have all been brought to their knees by magic, and Yvel Guichet and Rick Veitch created a memorable and menacing foe in Hagen.
His magical prowess is such that he can more than hold his own against Aquaman, but he’s also a skilled and devious political manipulator. By means of sorcery and mind altering drugs, he was able to manipulate and control Mera into making him Prime Minister of Atlantis. His creepy appearance, shrouded in a hooded cowl, his political machinations and mastery of the dark arts make him akin to an underwater Emperor Palpatine.
6. CHARYBDIS / PIRANHA MAN
How do you create a villain that can pose a threat to a powerful hero, without using magic? Simple, you imbue him with the means to nullify your hero’s powers. Thus, Peter David wrote a storyline in which Charybdis used a machine to rob Aquaman of his ability to control sea creatures. Charybdis was originally a mercenary and freelance terrorist who (along with his wife Scylla) used code names based on monsters of Greek mythology.
When his wife was killed in a bomb blast he became insane with grief and pursued a personal vendetta against Aquaman. It was in the subsequent battle that Aquaman famously lost his left hand. After (Charybdis put it in a tank of piranhas which ate it off-ouch!). The hand was replaced by a harpoon and then later with a magical hand made of sentient water.
5. THE THIRST
Imagine a water dwelling warlock who looks like Nosferatu and has not only a command of the dark arts but the ability to drain the life force of even the strongest of heroes and turn them into a zombie-like husk under his command. The Thirst is one of the most powerful and fearsome creatures ever to do battle with Aquaman.
Created by Rick Veitch and Rob Leigh, The Thirst is actually a golem, a mystical creature made of mud and sand who has spent thousands of years absorbing the power of the mystic realm known as The Secret Sea. He’s immune to all magic attacks and as well as absorbing the life force of other beings, he can also remove every drop of moisture from their bodied, feeding his powers and making him grow.
4. ATLAN – THE DEAD KING
The King is dead…and has been for quite some time. Atlan was the first King of Atlantis but his throne was usurped by his brother Orin, ancestor of Aquaman. His betrayal didn’t stop there. Orin ordered the murder of Atlan’s wife and children and hunted the King and his loyal followers, driving them into exile. In his banishment, Atlan forged six mystical artifacts (including what would become Aquaman’s signature trident) and returned to Atlantis with them years later to wreak a bloody revenge that plunged Atlantis beneath the sea.
He awakened thousands of years later in present day Antarctica and engaged in a brutal battle with his usurper brother’s descendant. He has all of Aquaman’s powers combined with the magical ability to create and manipulate ice. He is one of Aquaman’s most powerful and terrifying foes.
There are plenty of powerful heroes in DC’s pantheon, but Aquaman is one of the few heroes in any canon to have defeated a God in physical combat. Triton (lifted lock, stock and barrel from Greek mythology) is the son of Poseidon and the worst kind of God…the kind with a whole lot of power and a very fragile ego.
Triton was furious that the people of Atlantis (and Earth at large) didn’t fear and respect him enough, so he descended to challenge a first year Aquaman, attempting to kidnap and enslave Wonder Woman. When Aquaman foiled this plan he returned to challenge him to a dual to the death. Against all odds, Triton was “killed” by Aquaman and Poseidon was so impressed that even shared some of his power with Aquaman (though the power was so great that it rendered him temporarily blind).
2. THE TRENCH
The Trench were one of Geoff Johns’ first and greatest contributions to the Aquaman mythology when his run began in 2011. These terrifying creatures are a hive mind with a relentless hunger for human flesh (though they will happily resort to cannibalism to sustain themselves). They kidnap surface dwellers, and even their household pets, and take them deep underwater to be be delicacies for the ravenous masses.
Reminiscent of H R Gieger’s Xenomorph, the nightmarish creatures are beholden to their Queen and King and their bio-luminescence enables them to see and be seen in the infinite blackness of the deep. Given James Wan’s background in horror movies, many fans hope that we will see these Hellish creatures play some part in the Aquaman movie next year.
1. BLACK MANTA
As if the top spot could possibly belong to anyone else. Black Manta is widely believed to be one of the most menacing villains in the whole DC canon with a battle suit that makes him resemble an aquatic Darth Vader and the combination of military tactics and animal savagery. His tactical genius is matched only by his unmitigated sadism and in addition to his suit which gives him superhuman strength and durability he has his own fighting style that enables him to be a proficient killer both over and under water.
While at some points in the comics, he has dabbled in magic (even becoming a man/manta hybrid for a time) he has mostly used technology and martial prowess to get the upper hand over his Atlantean nemesis. He will be played in the upcoming movie by The Get Down‘s Yahya Abdul-Mateen II.
Which of Aquaman’s villains do you find the most terrifying? Let us know in the comments!
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