Gone Swimming: Tad Williams talks "Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis"

The Sword of Atlantis has changed hands.

With Kurt Busiek's final issue of Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis shipping in February from DC Comics, the next time Arthur Joseph Curry comes up for air the book will feature Tad Williams penning the script. The New York Times bestselling fantasy novelist makes his debut on the series March 21 with Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis#50, with eight extra pages. And his second book in his acclaimed Shadowmarchseries, entitled Shadowplay, is due to hit shelves in March, as well. We spoke with Williams about what he brings to the title and to learn about some of his plans.

Williams says in the wake of World War Three, he hopes to breathe new life into the gills of arguably one of the most vilified superheroes in comic book history.

"If I'm given enough time, I'd like to deal with some of that muddled recent history and simplify, Williams told CBR News. I'd like to make him cool not by giving him some 'new direction,' but rather consolidating what is best about the character, giving him some scary new villains and resurrecting the best of the old ones, and most importantly of all, create storylines that people care about. That means a well-established cast of characters and a main character that people feel they know and care about.

"Anything else would just be gimmickry. Oh, but I am going to give him a magic golden snorkel that allows him to turn into a frickin' laser-shooting Aquadolphin. That will impress people," quips the long-time resident of the Silicon Valley.

Williams is looking to more greatly explore Aquaman's human/Atlantean dichotomy. He really is one of a kind and I'd like to see some of the other storylines resolved or just put to bed, said Williams. His classic qualities have been his heroism, mostly of the go-it-alone variety. In fact, after Batman, he is the most private and the most likely to try to do something himself of the JLA mob. I'd like to see that really used and discussed as a character trait and a focus for events in the comic."

When Aquamanadded the Sword of Atlantistag beginning with issue ##40 (also the start of Busiek's run on the series and the launch of the One Year Later events), the main character of the series shifted to Arthur Joseph Curry. DC Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Dan Didio has announced that the fate of Orin will be revealed on April 18 in World War III Part 2: The Valiant.

One character who will definitely be returning to the series that week will be Aquaman's archrival Black Manta, who has shown up in solicits for #51.

Long-time followers of the Atlantean mythos will be pleased to know that Williams plans to bring back a number of familiar faces to the seas as quickly as he can.

"[There will be] more original characters than you can shake several sticks at, and tons of old ones, as well. Just in the first couple of issues we see Mera, Lorena, Rodunn, Tempest, Cal Durham and Manta. Plus new characters including the Pardoner and Narwhal, who's actually someone who's been in Aquaman's life in another guise, and Baron Gorgos and the Punishment Shoal and ... and ... Well, you get the idea - a ton. And that's just the first few issues. I'm going to bring back the Human Flying Fish in about #54. And I have my own Topo."

Williams says Tempest will become a series regular, too.

"In fact, I think he needs some rebuilding. I have big plans for him. He'll have his own arc, but it will be intimately connected to the events in the main Aquaman plotline," explained Williams.

Williams hopes his retooling of Aquaman will lead him back to where he belongs, playing with the big guns in the DCU.

"I want to make Aquaman so cool that whoever's writing the JLA really wants him in the book. That's the only way it will work that I'll feel good about," said Williams, who has loved comics since he was a kid.

"I collected comics until I was well into adulthood. Then I started again about ten years ago. I thought I would draw them when I was younger, but I never kept up with that side of things. I'm really thrilled to be able to sneak into the field sideways and I'm going to do my damnedest to be worthy of that privilege.

This will be the writer's first foray into an ongoing comic book series as his prior work for DC was the six-issue miniseries The Nextthat featured a team of dimension-jumping superheroes and the Man of Steel himself. However, Williams says it wasn't Superman who originally brought him to the offices of DC Comics, but another super-powered newsboy currently enjoying the spotlight right now - Captain Marvel Jr.

"I had what I would call a metafictional idea, something in the Alan Moore/Grant Morrison sort of arena, which might still make a good Elseworlds story, but at the time DC had too much going on with the Marvel Family," said Williams.

"The basic premise was that that Captain Marvel (Sr.) and the Marvel Family have been kept alive but unconscious for decades. Captain Marvel is locked by scientists into perpetual mid-change with his Shazam-energy giving a corrupt government a nearly unlimited supply of power. Captain Marvel Jr., who is also a prisoner, realizes that the Marvel Family have all been living in a 'comic book world' that existed only in their minds, while in reality he and Mary Marvel have been doing dirty work for this same government, brainwashed into thinking that they were beating up super-foes and fighting villains. He frees Captain Marvel, who is dying, and who as a final act brings down the infrastructure of the corrupt government. Captain Marvel Jr. goes out into the bleak future world, most of his powers gone with Captain Marvel's demise, into something very little like what he had thought 'reality' was, to try to find Mary and make a new life."

Williams jokes it was "a secret cabal of Aquaman-haters" who led him to his writing gig, but it was his editor Joey Cavalieri who actually offered him the chance.

The former shoe salesman and radio host has also been tagged to write another miniseries for DC, The Factory, which will focus on the training camps of DC's future villains.

Beyond that, Williams says he would love to get his hands on a few other DC icons during his tenure: "I've wanted to do something with Martian Manhunter for a long time. And I actually proposed a new Atom very much like Ryan Choi, with an emphasis on quantum science and how weird things would be, and how cool, at that level of reality, but someone else beat me to it. I'd like to rehab Azrael. And there are a few others I've got my eye on for someday."

Williams said juggling regular writing duties on a comic book as well as cranking out pages for his upcoming novels is all part of his life as a successful, albeit exhausted, writer.

"I'm working on three or four different books, actually, two young-adult novels with my wife, my new 'Shadowmarch' book and a project based on the 'Ring of the Nibelungs.' I just work until I fall asleep, then get up and work some more. Every now and then I eat something, or pat my dogs, or kiss my kids, and try not to forget which one's which. It's no problem," laughed Williams.

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