Warner Bros.’ “Aquaman” movie has found its villain in Ocean Master, who’ll be played by “Watchmen” actor Patrick Wilson. Neither should comes of a surprise, as Ocean Master is a longtime foe of DC Comics’ Sea King, and Wilson has a history with director James Wan (“Insidious,” “The Conjuring”). But who is Ocean Master?
As with most anything related to comic book continuity, and family, the answer gets a little complicated.
Created by writer Bob Haney and artist Nick Cardy, Ocean Master was introduced in 1966’s “Aquaman” #29, an era in which the Sea King’s supporting cast expanded significantly with the addition of Aqualad, Mera, Tula, Vulko and the villainous Black Manta. Ocean Master’s connection to the hero ran deeper, however, as he was Aquaman’s fully human half-brother. The initial casting report characterized him as the Loki to Aquaman’s Thor, which is true enough, but only the tip of the trident.
The son of Aquaman’s father Tom Curry and May O’Sullivan Curry (at least in the original continuity), Orm Curry was the product of a cold marriage, and grew up in the shadow of his superhuman half-brother. His childhood resentment grew as Arthur gained renown as an undersea hero and ruler of Atlantis. A petty criminal, Orm eventually lost his memory and fell off the map, during which time he changed his last name to Marius, only to reemerge as the high-tech pirate known as Ocean Master.
Although Orm, again originally, didn’t possess any superhuman abilities, he did have an arsenal of stolen weapons and technology at his disposal. He also had one of the all-time great supervillain costumes. Seriously, just look at that mask.
Orm and Arthur first fought in their new identities over Ocean Master’s illegal whaling, which was only the beginning of his criminal activities. He looted Atlantean cities and technology, and attacked surface vessels, often with an eye toward carving out his own undersea kingdom to rival Aquaman’s — or else unseat Arthur from his own throne. The amnesiac Orm was unaware of his relationship to Aquaman in their initial encounters, but the restoration of his memory only intensified the antipathy.
Ocean Master eventually discovered the ancient Atlantean mystical artifacts known as the Zodiac Crystals, and all but abandoned his high-tech arsenal in favor of sorcery, with which he possessed superhuman strength and the ability to fire bolts of energy, create illusions and summon magical sea creatures. But the powers that served him so well ultimately led to his undoing, leaving Orm buried beneath tons of rubble during a battle with Aquaman.
However, like the ocean currents, the shifting waves of continuity soon washed Orm ashore again, during writer Peter David’s reinvention of Aquaman. Orm was still Arthur’s — or rather, Orin’s — half-brother, but this time their father was the Atlantean wizard Atlan. His rivalry with Aquaman, and his desire for the throne of Atlantis, remained, as did his use of sorcery: He sold his soul to the demon Neron in exchange for a mystical trident the granted him immense power but caused him excruciating pain when not in his possession.
Ocean Master continued to plague Aquaman, and occasionally clashed with the Justice League — and although he may not seem as much of a joiner, he’s even served as a member of Lex Luthor’s Injustice Gang and, more recently, the Secret Society of Supervillains.
With DC’s New 52 reboot in 2011, Orm’s origins changed once again, this time making him Aquaman’s half-brother through his mother Atlanna, the queen of Atlantis. Following her death, the adult Orm ascends to the throne amid suspicions about his role in the queen’s murder. Vulko voiced his suspicions and was forced to flee Atlantis and go into exile, where years later he met a young Arthur, who was coming to terms with his Atlantean heritage.
Orm welcomed his newfound older brother, and stepped down from the throne in accordance with Atlantean law, only to be reinstated amid dissension over Arthur’s half-human heritage. Orm’s reign continued uneventfully enough, until he launched an all-out war on the surface world using attack plans he’d written with Aquaman. In this continuity, Ocean Master isn’t a envious high-tech pirate/sorcerer but instead a head of state who’s fiercely protective of his kingdom and incredibly distrustful of his surface-dwelling neighbors. He has a short fuse, a large arsenal and an “Atlantis first” attitude. (“Make Atlantis Great Again”?) He’s more than a little confused, too, as a believed his half-brother had returned to the surface to serve as its ruler, adding another layer to his war.
However, Orm is also (arguably) easily manipulated, as it’s revealed the ever-faithful Vulko was behind the missile attack on Atlantis that precipitated the war, all in attempt to seat Aquaman on the throne once more.
Defeated by Aquaman and the Justice League, Orm is remanded to Belle Reve, only to escape in a prison break orchestrated during the “Forever Evil” storyline. Although initially determined to return to Atlantis, Orm abruptly changed his mind and opted instead to remain on the surface with a woman and her son. His new life in Louisiana was interrupted at the end of the “Death of a King” arc — the conclusion of Geoff Johns’ run — by the appearance of Nereus, King of the Second Sea, who offered Orm his loyalty and his knowledge to help ensure the Seven Kings “rule this planet once more.”
Clearly Ocean Master was meant to play a key role in a planned Aquaman/Justice League crossover, “Rise of the Seven Seas,” which would reunite Johns with artist Ivan Reis and Joe Prado, but that storyline has yet to materialize.
Directed by James Wan, “Aquaman” stars Jason Momoa, reprising his “Batman v Superman” and “Justice League” as the Sea King, Willem Dafoe as Vulko, Amber Heard as Mera and Patrick Wilson as Ocean Master. The film opens Oct. 5, 2018.
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