The ocean holds the secrets to many of the hidden mysteries of the world. New species, ruins from lost civilizations, or debris from a forgotten wreck are often discovered beneath the waves. It’s no wonder that it so often serves as the cradle of civilization for many superpowered beings in comic books.
The legend of Atlantis often serves as the background for much of the underwater action; however, many of the heroes and villains from the world’s hidden civilizations have also come to dry land on more than one occasion to fight for what they believe in. Let’s look at the 15 most powerful underwater superheroes ever. Spoiler: they’re not all from Marvel and DC Comics.
Kaldur’ahm was introduced in the “Young Justice” animated series as a replacement for the original Aqualad, Garth. He fought alongside Aquaman before serving as the leader of the Young Justice team. It is later discovered that he is actually the biological son of Black Manta, Aquaman’s mortal enemy. Kaldur’ahm has all the abilities of an Atlantean, but he also possesses magical abilities that allow him to generate electricity and perform hydrokinesis. He is a skilled hand-to-hand combatant and uses sword hilts, known as water-bearers, to manipulate water and concentrate it into sword blades.
He was given a coinciding introduction in comic book continuity by Geoff Johns in “Brightest Day” #4 that established him as Jackson Hyde of Silver City, New Mexico. This iteration is unaware of his heritage or abilities until he comes into contact with Aquaman. Kaldur’ahm made his return to comics as a gay teenager in “DC Universe: Rebirth” #1 and will join the current “Teen Titans” title under the leadership of Damian Wayne.
Doctor Walter Newell has always been a scientist first and a superhero second. First appearing in “Tales to Astonish” #95 in 1967 (from Roy Thomas and Bill Everett), Newell was an oceanographer working for the United States government who came into contact with Namor the Sub-Mariner. He took on the role of Stingray for the first time in “Sub-Mariner” two years later. In the years since, he has served in a supporting role for many in the superhero community. He has even been a member of the Avengers, Defenders and more recently, Deadpool’s Mercs for Money.
Newell is a gifted scientist with a great intellect and the skill necessary to invent many innovative pieces of oceanographic equipment. As a non-powered human, he uses the Stingray exoskeleton to grant him superhuman strength, a measure of flight and durability. The suit stores oxygen for deep sea dives and provides him with the ability to swim at great speeds. Attached wings allow him to glide through the air, and he can fire electrical bolts from his gloves.
13 LAGOON BOY
Introduced by Erik Larsen in “Aquaman” #50 in 1998, Lagoon Boy was offered Atlantis citizenship by Aquaman. Many disagreed with the decision because of his amphibious look, but he became a welcomed member of Atlantean society with a strong interest in the surface world. He eventually teams up with Young Justice on several adventures and assisted the team in “Young Justice: Sins of youth” when adult superheroes are de-aged and teen heroes are aged to adulthood. He has also appeared in several episodes of “Young Justice.”
Lagoon Boy has superhuman strength, durability and can swim at great speeds. His amphibious physiology allows him to breath underwater, gifts him sharp teeth and claws, and gives him the ability to blow his body up like a puffer fish. He has also shown some ability to communicate and control sea creatures. He was a part of Cyborg’s doomed Titans team in the “Titans East Special” by Judd Winick, Ian Churchill and Norm Rapmund. The team is attacked during a training session and Lagoon Boy is left in a coma. He is later seen as a future member of the Teen Titans in “Teen Titans: Future's End” #1 from Will Pfeifer and Andy Smith.
12 AQUAGIRL (TULA)
Originally appearing in “Aquaman” #33 in 1967 and created by Bob Haney and Nick Cardy, Tula was orphaned and raised as the Princess of Poseidonis. She forms a bond with Aqualad when they are kids and the two remain inseparable. When Garth joined the Teen Titans, Aquagirl was not far behind and getting involved in their adventures until she joined the team outright in “The New Teen Titans.” During the event series “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” Tula was killed when the water she was swimming in was poisoned by Chemo.
She has been featured in several episodes of “Young Justice” and was reintroduced during the New 52. In the “Aquaman” Rebirth title, Tula is seen serving Aquaman and even acted as regent for a time. Like all Atlanteans, Tula has the ability to breathe underwater, swim at fast speeds, and has advanced stamina and durability. She possesses super strength, has shown the ability to create water constructs and uses telepathy to talk to sealife.
11 AQUAGIRL (LORENA MARQUEZ)
Lorena Marquez was created by Will Pfeifer and Patrick Gleason in “Aquaman” #16, where she is introduced as a citizen of San Diego. A massive earthquake submerges part of the city into the ocean, killing thousands, but gifting the survivors with the ability to live under water. Lorena loses her entire family in the incident and meets up with Aquaman to help protect the citizens of what is then called "Sub Diego." Over the course of their adventures, she takes on the identity of Aquagirl, a name that hadn’t been used since the death of Tula many years before.
She gains the ability to breathe underwater and is durable against the pressures of the deep ocean. Lorena possesses enhanced strength, hand-to-hand combat skills, and even shows a solid acumen for detective work. Aquagirl was seen as a member of the Teen Titans in “52” and would rejoin the team a few years later under the leadership of Wonder Girl.
Triton is a member of the Inhuman Royal Family, having been exposed to the Terrigen Mist when he was a child. The exposure led to his mutation, taking away his ability to breathe air and giving him incredible abilities underwater. He was created by the great Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, debuting in “Fantastic Four” #45, along with many other members of the Royals. He is the brother of fellow Inhuman Karnak, has worked with the Fantastic Four and Namor, and has also fought against the Kree on more than one occasion.
He may not be one of the most prominent members of the Inhuman Royal Family, but his unique power set makes him an indispensable member of the team. Aside from being able to breathe underwater, Triton has been gifted with super strength, stamina and heightened reflexes. The only drawback he has is his inability to breathe on dry land without the aid of a breathing apparatus.
A female counterpart to Aquaman was introduced by Tom Taylor and Nicola Scott in “Earth 2” #18. The Wonders (a name given to superpowered people) of Earth 2 discover that the former queen of Atlantis was being held by the World Army in the Arkham Command Center. Batman -- Thomas Wayne in this continuity -- breaks Marella out of containment and recruits her to fight the army of New Gods attacking their world. She also helps them locate the Kryptonian Val-Zod.
As an Atlantean, she was gifted with super strength and durability. She is able to swim at superhuman speeds and endure the pressure of the deep ocean.She also has displayed strong hydrokinesis abilities, enabling her to do practically anything she wants with any small amount of water available to her. Marella can control tidal waves, the moisture in the air, and even the water inside the human body. The woman they call Aquawoman is not someone to be trifled with.
8 ABE SAPIEN
Any fan of Hellboy is familiar with Abe Sapien, the aquatic sidekick to the demonic paranormal investigator. Abe first appeared in “Hellboy: Seed of Destruction,” Mike Mignola’s first Hellboy miniseries, which was published in 1994. He was introduced as a mysterious fish creature found in a tank of water underneath a hospital in Washington, DC. The only clues to his origins are the date of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination and the words “Icthyo Sapien” being attached to his tank. In the time since he was rescued, Abe has become one of the top field agents in the B.P.R.D., appearing in many publications over the last two decades.
Abe Sapien’s amphibious physiology allows him to breathe underwater and swim at great speeds. He has increased strength, stamina and durability, and appears to be at least somewhat immortal, considering he is over 200 years old. His training as an agent has also provided him with hand-to-hand combat skills and impressive marksmanship. In the "Hellboy" movie franchise, he is depicted as possessing limited telepathic abilities.
Aquaman’s long-time sidekick, Garth had been known as Aqualad since his teenage years before taking up the name Tempest when he grew older. He was created by Robert Bernstein and Ramona Fradon and first appeared in “Adventure Comics” #269 in 1960. Garth was the outcast prince of an Atlantean colony before being taken in by Aquaman. Living in Atlantis, he met and fell in love with Tula and has even served as heir to the throne and regent at times.
He was a founding member of the Teen Titans and has been associated with them throughout the years. On many occasions he has fought his undead uncle Slizzath and has been instrumental in the preservation of Atlantis. As Aqualad, he possessed all the abilities of Aquaman -- able to swim at incredible speeds, heightened strength, durability and the ability to communicate with sealife. As Tempest, he gains the magical abilities to project energy blasts, manipulate water currents, telekinesis and can even travel through dimensions.
Namora is the cousin of Namor the Sub-Mariner. She first appeared in “Marvel Mystery Comics” #82 in 1947 and was created by Ken Bald and Syd Shores. After many Golden Age adventures alongside her cousin, she was shown to have been killed off in “Sub-Mariner” #50. It was some time before she made her return to comics, appearing in the “Exiles” comic series, where she is an alternate reality version of Namor.
She didn’t return to Marvel’s 616 Universe until 2006, in the pages of “Agent of Atlas.” The group discovered her coffin and learned that Namora never actually died but was being held in hibernation for years. She was released and offered a place on the team. Like her cousin, she is a human/mutant hybrid and has all the powers you would expect: superhuman strength and durability, superhuman swimming, and, like Namor, the ability to fly with the wing-like appendages on her ankles.
Created by Bill Everett, Namorita is the clone of Namora, first appearing in the same issue where her “mother” dies. She possesses all the same abilities as Namora and Namor, but also gains the power to secrete corrosive acid and paralyzing toxins from her skin. She also has a camouflage ability that can render her practically invisible.
Namorita was a founding member of the New Warriors superhero team, even serving as leader for a time. She played a pivotal role in the events of “Civil War,” where the team fought the villain Nitro before he unleashed his power, killing her and 612 people in Stamford, Connecticut. The incident sets off a chain of events that starts a war between different sides of the superhero community. She is saved from her fate several years later during the “Realm of Kings” crossover. Her ex-boyfriend, Nova, saves her when both become displaced in time. Namorita then rejoins him in the present.
4 ASPEN MATTHEWS
Created by the late Michael Turner for Image’s Top Cow imprint, Aspen Matthews is the star of the “Fathom” comic book series. Aspen is the biological daughter of two underwater races, the Blue and the Black, who are at odds with each other. She is raised on the surface world, where she competes as an Olympic swimmer and later a marine biologist. It isn’t until adulthood that she comes into contact with her people and learns who she really is and where she came from. Caught between three different worlds, Aspen must navigate the difficult political climate of two cultures while also ensuring that neither side takes over the surface world.
As the offspring of both groups, she possesses more power than any of them have ever seen. She can swim at superhuman speeds and has the ability to control water, creating tidal waves and tsunamis with her mind. Aspen can manipulate energy and release powerful blasts, she has an advanced healing factor, and has shown the ability to communicate telepathically. She can also transform into water and reconstitute her body at will.
Jack Miller and Nick Cardy introduced Mera as the love interest of Aquaman in 1963’s “Aquaman” #11. She accompanied Aquaman and Aqualad on many adventures and eventually married her longtime lover. After the death of their child in “Adventure Comics” #452, their relationship fell apart and Mera dealt with mental instability for years, going from enemy to ally many times over.
Mera’s origin was updated by Geoff Johns in the pages of “Brightest Day,” when it is revealed that she is from Xebel, a forgotten Atlantean penal colony sealed away inside the Bermuda Triangle. She was sent to Atlantis in order to seduce and kill Aquaman; however, she fell in love with him and decided to abandon the plot. In the last few years, Mera has once again become a prominent character in “Aquaman,” and has served as co-star in the current series. Like Aquaman, she possesses super strength and can swim at super speeds. At the same time, she has the ability to control water and create hard water constructs.
One of DC Comics’ most prominent superheroes, Aquaman was created by Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris for “More Fun Comics” #73 in 1941. He is traditionally presented as the son of lighthouse keeper Tom Curry and Atlanna of Atlantis. Arthur Curry was raised by his father before returning to the sea and embracing his true identity as Orin and becoming the king of his kingdom. Arthur went on to become a founding member of the Justice League of America.
Over the years he has lost his throne and gained it back. His relationship with Mera became constantly more unstable in the modern age. He became far more serious and ruthless in the 1990s, when he grew a beard and long hair. He also lost his hand in battle and used a robotic hand for awhile before acquiring a hand made of magical water. He has died and been reborn and become a far more nuanced leader in the New 52 and Rebirth era, embracing his role as king. He has superhuman strength, durability and can swim at super speeds. He also has a strong telepathic ability to converse with and control aquatic life.
Namor the Sub-Mariner has the distinction of being one of the first superheroes published by the company that would one day become Marvel Comics. Bill Everett, the creator of two others on this list, created Namor for “Marvel Comics” #1 in 1939. The half-human/half-Atlantean mutant was born with pink skin to a population of blue-skinned citizens. He ascended to the throne of his kingdom and is often seen doing whatever he must to ensure the safety and respect of his people. He has superhuman strength, durability, speed, agility and reflexes. He can also fly with the use of wing-like appendages on his ankles.
Namor is seen to be extremely volatile and violent against outsiders who threaten Atlantis; however, he has also worked with surface dwellers when it has proven to be beneficial to him and his people. Namor has been a member of the Avengers, Defenders and even the X-Men. He also joined the Illuminati to watch over the Marvel Universe from behind the scenes, as well as Norman Osborn’s Cabal in order to maintain alliances.
Who is your favorite underwater hero? Let us know in the comments!