Now that Aquaman has arrived in theaters and rescued the DC Cinematic Universe from the depths of obscurity, fans of the aquatic superhero can explore his underwater world with him, the lost Kingdom of Atlantis, and meet all the characters that join him in his comic book adventures. Though he’s been around since the early ‘40s, it would be several decades before he got his own standalone series. From the pages of comic anthologies, to the pages in his own issues, Mera has been by fighting faithfully by his side. Their relationship hasn’t always been an easy one, and the film version has come to differ quite drastically from the comic book version. In the comics, Mera and Aquaman were married quickly and often inseparable. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, their relationship had become stale, so writers concocted elaborate ways for them to fight, leave each other, and then make up. There was no end of coups, invasions, and kidnappings, and with each passing struggle they grew both further apart, and closer together.
But Mera deserved to be more than a plot device, and in 2010, beginning with the New 52 continuity and then the Rebirth storylines, Mera’s backstory was retconned to reveal a lot of devastating facts. The years since have resulted in her and Arthur trying to piece together their lives after each new revelation, addressing some plot holes along the way. The newest incarnation of their relationship is just beginning, and reflects the modern attitudes of its time. Between its version and the comic book version, there are aspects that don’t make sense, but for the sake of hyperbole and the exaggerated dynamics of superheroism, are ignored in favor of the narrative. But one thing’s for sure -- it’s anything but dull!
20 SHE WAS SUPPOSED TO END HIM
When Mera first appears in the film Aquaman, there is established history between them of an uneasy trust and begrudging respect. But they constantly bicker when their stubborn loyalties to the surface and the sea get the better of their judgment. This is a far cry from Mera's appearance in the comics, when her backstory was retconned in 2010 and it was revealed she was supposed to take Arthur out in the New 52 continuity.
Obviously this didn't end up taking place, and from the fires of the original animosity a strong attraction was born, but that piece of her past has strained their relationship, and caused Arthur to question just where Mera's heart belongs; the people of Xebel or with him.
19 A TALKING SHELL TOLD MERA TO GIVE ARTHUR A CHANCE
As in the movie Aquaman, the comic book versions of Mera and Arthur come from two different worlds -- he from the surface and she from the sea. Arthur has has to embrace his aquatic ancestry, and Mera has had to learn to understand the ways of surface dwellers, but it hasn't always been easy.
It helped that both Mera and Arthur grew up without mothers. They could bond over their mutual feelings of loss. But it didn't stop Mera from doubting whether or not their relationship could work. It took hearing her mother's voice in a talking shell to assuage her fears. She told Mera that her mission to leave Xebel and kill Aquaman was all a rouse to get out and see what the world beyond Atlantis had to offer.
18 MERA'S WHOLE LIFE WAS A LIE
Honesty, trust, and communication are the cornerstones of a healthy relationship. Arthur and Mera’s has had its high and low points like any other, but one of the most significant blows came in the comics when Arthur learned that his partner's entire life was a lie.
When Mera first encountered Aquaman in the comics, they had little animosity because he was saving her from being hunted by her own people. This was later retconned in 2010, when Mera's character needed some necessary redesigning as part of the New 52 continuity. Her backstory was changed to be an assassin sent to kill Aquaman from the prison colony of Xebel, something she had managed to keep a secret for decades.
17 THE FILM ISN’T A LOVE STORY
It’s been specifically stated that Aquaman was never going to revolve around Mera and Aquaman relationship as a love story. Director James Wan wanted to do away with old tropes that catered to damsel in distress archetypes. Mera is perfectly capable of handling herself, and when she teams up with Arthur, it’s as his equal.
In the vein of other romantic action movies like Indiana Jones or Romancing the Stone, it centers around a quest-like adventure, with two leads that go from bickering to batting eyelashes at each other despite their own fiercely proud natures. They definitely keep each other on their toes!
16 MERA DOESN’T TEACH ARTHUR HYDROKINESIS
In Aquaman, one of the most impressive Atlantean powers is held by Mera, in which she can manipulate the water around her into swirling vortexes, large bubble-like shields, and forceful blasts. She never tells Arthur how to utilize this ability, even as he has the power to communicate with sea creatures.
Perhaps it’s because her people are from Xebel, and it’s been established as a trait only of their clan (in the film, Atlantis’s social hierarchy is broken up into clans), or perhaps it’s something Arthur’s mentor Vulko didn’t think he needed to know. While it certainly would have been useful for Arthur in certain situations, it helps make Mera a more unique character.
15 WHENEVER MERA AND AQUAMAN MET THEY ALWAYS GOT ALONG
In the early incarnations of Mera and Aquaman’s relationship, there was very little hostility between them. Aquaman would often be the one to save Mera’s life, especially when she was on the run from the Kingdom of Xebel and an arranged marriage to its military leader.
This approach may have worked early on in Aquaman continuity, but it didn’t emphasize Mera’s agency, nor did it provide her character with much complexity. It also didn’t take much time at all for them to get married, less than 20 issues into his standalone series. Much of how they met was retconned in 2010, and the Aquaman film makes them significantly less congenial with one another.
14 THEY HAVE ENDLESS SECRETS BETWEEN THEM
One would think being a power couple like Aquaman and Mera would be perfect in the world of superheroes because they have no secret identities to conceal and know everything about each other’s heroic lives. In reality, they conceal a great many aspects of each other’s lives from one another, to the detriment of their relationship.
Arthur frequently withheld information about threats to Atlantis from Mera, whether to protect her or to prevent her from getting angry (this included an attack by the Suicide Squad). Mera withheld her history of being an assassin from him until he encountered her half sister Siren, and she was forced to reveal her former mission to end the Atlantean Royal Family.
13 THEY DECIDED TO TAKE LIVES TOGETHER
In Aquaman, while Arthur and Mera are trying to decipher the last message of King Atlan, they encounter the people of The Trench. When King Atlan's arrogance and pursuit of power caused Atlantis to sink into the sea, the kingdoms of Atlantis fractured. Some were able to seek out a prosperous new life -- others did not adapt so well, and devolved into ugly creatures that were half Atlantean and half deep sea monster -- the Trench People.
In the comics, when the Trench People were forced to abduct surface dwellers as a food source, Arthur and Mera had to act quickly. Rather than determine an alternate food source for them, they decided to close the only entrance or exit for the Trench People, effectively killing off an entire civilization.
12 ARTHUR ABANDONED HER WHEN THEIR SON WAS ABDUCTED
The time period when Arthur and Mera's son was abducted was a dark time for them both. Black Manta, seeking revenge against them, abducted Arthur Jr and it caused a divide in their relationship. Mera became self destructive, aggressive, and violent. She was openly hostile with everyone, especially Arthur, when he was around.
But he hardly was. Between endlessly looking for their son and teaming up with the Justice League, he threw himself into his work. Helping others was the only was he felt strong anymore, leaving his wife to rule Atlantis in his stead and crumble under the strain.
11 ARTHUR DIDN’T KNOW MERA WAS IN A MENTAL HOSPITAL
Despite pledging their lives to one another and having a son, Arthur wasn’t always as committed as he should have been to the stability of his relationship with Mera. When their son was taken by Black Manta and Mera was temporarily in charge of Atlantis, Arthur went looking for him. With each passing week, Arthur’s quest took him further away, leaving Mera to become increasingly anxious. Her anxiety turned into hostility, and for a time it was believed she would do harm to herself and others.
Unfortunately, Arthur didn’t consider Mera’s mental health during that time. He was consumed by his own pain, and surprised to learn when he did eventually return that Mera had been committed to a mental health facility.
10 ARTHUR ONCE IMPALED HER DURING AN ARGUMENT
In Aquaman, Mera and Arthur could scarcely agree about anything. Their character’s personalities were built around being stubborn, proud, and obstinate. Over time this changed, and they learned to work together to defeat their common enemies.
In the comics, Arthur and Mera’s fights were legendary, mostly due to Mera’s temper. In one instance, after he’d returned from being gone from Atlantis for months, she took out all her aggression on him and he was forced to defend himself. He accidentally impaled her on a piece of wreckage. Thinking she was dead, Atlantis held a funeral, until she busted out of her coffin to declare she was actually in a sleep-like state, and that the whole thing was messed up.
9 MERA LEFT ANOTHER ATLANTEAN FOR ARTHUR
In the film as in the comics, Mera was promised to someone else when she went on a mission to convince Arthur Curry to help Atlantis. In the film it’s Orm, Arthur’s half-brother, but in the comics it’s Nereus, the leader of Xebel’s armies (in the film her father is called Nereus instead).
In both instances, Mera is betrothed long before she meets Arthur, and it’s her time with him that changes her mind about her impending nuptials. There is never a question about whether or not she loves Arthur, but there is always the worry that by not going through with her arranged marriage, she’s turned her back on her people.
8 MERA HAS A SUPERIORITY COMPLEX
Mera is royalty in her own right, though she may not be the heir to the throne of Atlantis. Her nobility comes from her aristocratic heritage among the noble families of Xebel, where he birthright grants her a certain amount of respect from its people. She is a proud person, often mistrustful of the intentions of surface dwellers, and none too impressed with how they interact with her kind.
In the film, she complains of the trash surface dwellers dump into the oceans every year, as well as the toxins that their land industries create. In Smallville Season 10, when she was first on-screen, she complained about ordinary people (like Lois Lane) attaching themselves to superheroes when they were not of equal significance.
7 THEY ONLY EVER HAVE SONS
Atlantis is full of strong women: mothers, warriors, and partners to strong men. Yet Arthur and Mera ever only have sons. In each storyline where they bear children, sons are part of the main continuity, whereas any daughters are part of an alternate universe, or due to a temporal anomaly.
Mera has already ruled Atlantis before, as did Arthur’s mother Atlanna. Yet for some reason, no daughter of Arthur and Mera’s does (at least not in a real way). While in many ancient societies only first born sons inherit titles and kingdoms from their fathers, it doesn’t seem that Aquaman and Mera would concede to something so archaic.
6 ARTHUR CHEATED ON HER WITH DOLPHIN
Whereas initially their relationship was full of love and compassion, over the years Mera and Aquaman’s union became strained. Her temper, combined with his sense of duty to Atlantis and the Justice League, and bouts of personal tragedy made them decide the only thing that could preserve their feelings was a break.
During their separation, Mera left Atlantis, leaving Arthur to strike up a romance with a friend (a woman really named Dolphin). Mera eventually returned, thinking Arthur had remained faithful to her, only to find he had since moved on. Needless to say she was not pleased about the turn of events and called for a divorce immediately under Atlantean Law.
5 AQUAMAN SPENDS TOO MUCH TIME WITH THE LEAGUE
Like most superheroes, Aquaman has always placed his duty to protect people above anything else in his life. Whether he’s protecting Atlanteans or surface dwellers, he’s sacrificing himself for their safety, and at the expense of his relationship with Mera. In recent years, he’s spent more time away from Atlantis on missions for the Justice League, leaving its people to turn to Mera in their time of need.
Mera is more than willing to protect the people of Atlantis, but it doesn’t stop her from resenting Arthur’s absence. She respects his sense of selflessness and compassion, but she longs for a time when they spent more time fighting side by side.
4 AQUAMAN MADE MERA AN AMBASSADOR DESPITE HER TEMPER
Despite being from the prison colony of Xebel and at one point on track to eliminate the Atlantean Royal Family, Aquaman decided that the best way to improve relations between Atlantis and the people of Xebel was to make Mera an Atlantean Ambassador. She would represent Atlantis wherever she went, including to the surface world.
Mera had the right pedigree; she had been a princess, and she was an accomplished warrior, but she had a fiery temper, felt herself superior to humans, and took offense when ignorant citizens of the surface referred to her as “Aquawoman”.
3 ARTHUR DIDN’T ATTEND MERA’S CORONATION
You’d have to have a pretty legendary excuse not to be present for a big promotion in your partner’s job title, like say ambassador to Ruler of Atlantis. Rather than have Arthur continue to rule Atlantis, the people decided on a ruler of their choice: Mera. But Arthur wasn’t present at her coronation, instead keeping an eye on Atlantean borders so that her big day wouldn’t be disturbed.
He’d gotten word that the Suicide Squad might make an appearance, hoping to sink Atlantis back beneath the depths of the sea after it had risen to the surface. He was able to apprehend them before they ruined the ceremony, and Mera forgave him for being absent.
2 MERA EXPECTS ARTHUR TO CHOOSE ATLANTIS
Coming from Xebel, a prison colony for Atlantean Separatists, one could concede Mera’s struggle to fit into Atlantean society. Once trained to eliminate the Atlantean Royal Family, she walked freely among them when Arthur made her an honorary citizen, and would go on to make her an ambassador, before finally ruling over all Atlantis.
Finally coming to see Atlantis as her home, and its people as her own, she could never fully understand why Arthur had a continuous pull to the surface world. Mera often tried to integrate herself into its customs, however, and the film Aquaman shows her being intrigued by it for Arthur’s sake.
1 MERA QUESTIONS HER LIFE WITH ARTHUR CONSTANTLY
At many different moments, Mera has questioned her relationship with Arthur. They come from different worlds, they have different senses of duty to the people they serve, and their lives often run as divergent paths more often than convergent ones. When Mera got a vision from the Widowhood, a group of Atlantean women bonded by powers of sight and prophecy, it preyed upon her worst fears.
They predicted the Atlantean queen would rule the seven seas with an iron fist if she ever lost her husband, such would be the depths of her grief. Arthur ends up doing a lot to dissuade her from taking the prophecy seriously.