Follow TV Tropes

Following

Comic Book / Aquaman
aka: Aqualad

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/aquaman.jpg

"You have hundreds of champions to defend a few land masses. I protect the other seventy percent of the world... and there is only one of me."
— Aquaman's job description, in his own words, in Kingdom Come
Advertisement:

Aquaman (a.k.a. Arthur Curry a.k.a. Orin) is a DC Comics Superhero with water-based powers. He's probably best known for his Superfriends appearances, the lame nature of that version's powers and the fact that he is in practically every episode, whether this makes sense or not ("What's that? Trouble in the desert? Come on team, we haven't a moment to lose! And let's bring Aquaman with us; his ability to breathe underwater and talk to fish are sure to be useful there!"). In essence, having him take part in anything whatsoever was sort of the super-powered equivalent to pity sex.

Said Superfriends persona also appears in a Latin America-only official parody series called The Aquaman & Friends Action Hour, which resembles Space Ghost Coast to Coast.

Aquaman's powers have varied over the years; in all incarnations, he is mainly known for his ability to breathe underwater, swim at high speeds and communicate with sea life. As of The New '10s, Hydrokinesis is increasingly common as well. He also often has something to do with The DCU's version of Atlantis.

Advertisement:

History

Aquaman originated in The Golden Age of Comic Books. He first appeared in More Fun Comics #73 (November, 1941). He was created by Paul Norris and Mort Weisinger. In his earliest appearances, Aquaman was also strong and durable enough to deflect an artillery shell one-handed and outswim a torpedo. His powers were at first said to be the result of special training, but were later described as the result of his scientist father experimenting on him. Rather than communicating with sea creatures telepathically, he could speak with them "in their own language".

He wasn't the first aquatic superhero (Namor the Sub-Mariner first appeared 2 years earlier), but he eventually came to be the most well-known.

Aquaman continued in More Fun Comics until issue #107 (January, 1946). He was then transferred to Adventure Comics, starting with its 103rd issue (April, 1946). During The Interregnum, Aquaman was one of the few Super Heroes who remained in publication, largely due to his status as the backup feature in Superboy's title.

Advertisement:

In the Silver Age, Aquaman's origins were revamped; now, he was a Half-Human Hybrid of Atlantean and surface human, raised by his father, a lighthouse-keeper, and unaware of his royal heritage until recently. He was super-strong and tough because his body was "adapted to the sea's depths", and he could telepathically control anything that lived on or near the sea. However, he was also given a Kryptonite Factor of sorts; he could only spend one hour out of the water before succumbing to potentially fatal weakness. Aquaman's career was, like Superman's, also retroactively extended back into his childhood as "Aquaboy," Superboy's sole contemporary hero. (This idea of the son of a light-house keeper and a merwoman may be inspired by the old song "My Father Was the Keeper of the Eddystone Light".)

This version of Aquaman turned out to be more popular than the original. He continued appearing in Adventure Comics until issue #284 (April, 1961). He became one of the founding members of the Justice League of America in 1960 and was a regular there. In 1961, Aquaman's strip got transferred to Detective Comics, he starred in a few Showcase issues, and he got several crossovers with Superman. All in preparation of his first solo title, Aquaman vol. 1 #1-63 (February, 1962-March, 1971, revived August, 1977-August, 1978).

In the process, Aquaman picked up a supporting cast, something which he had generally lacked (for a time in the late 40s he had been aided by a Ditzy, Genius sidekick named the Sea-Sleuth but he had vanished without a trace years earlier.) Most notable among them were sidekick Aqualad, and super-powered wife Mera. They even had a kid. The Bronze Age led to his comic being canceled, Un-Cancelled, and re-canceled repeatedly. His child was murdered in an effort to drum up interest and provide angst, and he became the leader of the Dork Age version of the Justice League (often referred to as "Justice League Detroit").

After Crisis on Infinite Earths rolled around, Aquaman, like many DCU denizens, got a new origin. Now, he was Orin, the son of an immortal Atlantean wizard, abandoned to die for his blond hair and raised by dolphins before being found by the lighthouse-keeper. After this, Peter David became his main writer, and revamped him; his hand was eaten by piranhas and replaced with a hook, he grew out his beard, and moved toward epic, Barbarian Hero-style adventures. This led to a successful ongoing series for a time, but it slipped in popularity after David was removed, and was eventually canceled.

This led to yet another revamp. Atlantis was sent back in time thousands of years, its citizens enslaved by their own ancestors, and Aquaman himself was imprisoned as living water. The JLA freed them in "The Obsidian Age" storyline, but Aquaman himself was cast out as a traitor. This led to him finding King Arthur's Lady of the Lake, gaining a magical hand of living water, and going back to his original appearance. This series also involved an underwater San Diego ("Sub Diego"), whose inhabitants had become water-breathers.

This direction, while not wholly unpopular, didn't result in a high-selling series. Thus, during Infinite Crisis The comic, Atlantis was destroyed. After the "One Year Later" Time Skip, Aquaman became Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis, going back to the Barbarian Hero adventures that had done well before. A new Aquaman was introduced, Arthur Joseph Curry, whose origin and powers were similar to the Golden Age Aquaman. He was guided by the "Dweller in the Depths", a tentacled humanoid who was implied to be Aquaman — most prominently, through having the magical water hand. Artie Joe is now considered to be a multiversal equivalent of Aquaman who left Atlantis at the end of Final Crisis.

The Dweller died in the middle of the series, after being revealed as, yes, the original Aquaman, who had made a deal with the sea gods to bring Sub Diego back onto land, after the mutation that allowed them to breathe underwater reverted.

In the Blackest Night Crisis Crossover, Arthur - yes, Arthur again, a version of his Silver Age history as the Half-Human Hybrid son of Tom Curry and Atlanna, cast out due to his blond hair, he eventually earned his people's trust and became King of Atlantis, only to be cast out again and hunted by the Atlanteans - came back as a zombified Black Lantern, determined to show people why you don't mess with the king of the seas. He got off to a hell of a start by ripping out an Atlantean guard's heart and summoning a bunch of zombie sharks to kill people. At the end of the series, he was brought back to life with his classic appearance and no water hand due to his Black Lantern form repairing him. He then went on to play a significant part in Brightest Day, discovering a new Aqualad along the way.

He got a new reboot headed by Geoff Johns (who helmed Blackest Night and Brightest Day) ongoing as part of DC's New 52 relaunch. It really doesn't require knowing any of the above to jump on, and actually tackles the idea of Aquaman being a joke character in its first story arc. It did however, make a few notable changes, including not having yet married Mera, and his rivalry with Black Manta having long ago started over accidentally killing the latter's father. Later on, he got his first ever additional title, the short-lived team book Aquaman and the Others.

His series was resumed as part of DC Rebirth, with Dan Abnett as writer.

Appearances in other media:

Aquaman now has a developing Character sheet.


"This looks like a trope for Aquaman":

  • Aborted Arc:
    • Peter David initially wanted to expand on AC's connection with The Clear to make him an elemental like Swamp Thing, this was upended by the editor and he left afterwards.
    • The story of Aquaman as the waterbearer of The Lady of the Lake was cut short in its time.
    • A run detailing the corrupt megacorp run by a Gregory Jupiter who'd illicitly acquired Aquaman's DNA which transformed the populace of Subdiego into water breathers was dropped as quickly as it was conceived.
    • Sword of Atlantis fell short of finishing how it should have due to the story taking a turn in a different direction.
  • Animal-Themed Superbeing: Aquaman's archnemesis is Black Manta, a mercenary who wears a large metal helmet that vaguely resembles said fish's shape.
  • Apparently Human Merfolk: All of the Atlanteans, with the exception of small minorities of Fish People and actual Merfolk, are indistinguishable from regular humans.
  • Arch-Enemy: Has two recurring foes with an equal claim to being his nemesis; Black Manta and Arthur's own brother Orm, aka Ocean Master.
  • Artificial Limbs: During his fight against Noble, his Hook Hand was destroyed and he used a mechanical hand for the remainder of the battle.
  • Author Appeal: Peter David loves writing for Aquaman, and the joy practically spills off the page when he penned Aquaman and Namor's battle in DC Vs. Marvel.
  • Bait-and-Switch: In the Rebirth series, one of the Atlanteans who find Mera suffocating due to the magic of the Crown of Thorns says that they should take her to the king. However, rather than taking her to King Rath, they bring her to King Shark.
  • Canon Welding: Before DC started emphasizing Shared Universe elements, both Superman and Wonder Woman introduced their own contradictory versions of Atlantis; later writers on all three titles had to tie it all together.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: In Rick Veitch's early-2000s run, the titular hero confronts his archnemesis (and murderer of his son), Black Manta, and, after defeating him, uses his new magic powers to re-wire his brain and cure him of his autism; the painful and incompetent treatment he received as a child was part of why he'd become such an insane monster. He appears to turn himself around, but the apparent Freudian Excuse and Heel–Face Turn are subverted when, at a critical moment, Manta stabs Aquaman in the back and explains: "Y'see, deep down, in my most secret heart of hearts, I'm still a totally depraved sonuvabitch whose main goal in life is to watch you die. Slowly and painfully. Just like your kid."
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The death of Aquababy marked a permanent shift in tone from the lighthearted early years.
  • The Chew Toy: Aquaman's life, after the Superfriends screwed his reputation, spiraled into a long series of blunders and humiliations. In order: he lost his beloved son, was left by his wife (who, by the way, started to openly loathe and hate him, berating him for A.J.'s death with every breath), was exiled again from Atlantis with no apparent reason, got his left hand eaten by piranhas, pursued a relationship with a Cute Mute aquatic girl who later became noticeably less mute and somewhat less cute (trying to kill him because of a major Mind Screw, leaving him for Tempest), became king again and got back Mera just to be later exiled, cursed and left to die by Atlantean Wizards, became the Champion of the Lady of the Lake and protector of a Sunken City of modern water breathers just to be forced to trade his humanoid looks and sanity to save them when they revert to air breathers, died while grooming his successor, was called back as a soulless corpse, was resurrected to have his hand lopped off (again) and was unwillingly turned into the new Water Elemental. He got better every time, but that's not the point.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: The Golden Age Aquaman had a sidekick called Phineas Pike (aka 'the Sea Sleuth'.) Pike was a brilliant but eccentric detective with a Sherlock Holmes style deerstalker who knew almost everything about the ocean and ocean life except how to swim. After several appearances in 1949 where he was the brains to Aquaman's brawn he abruptly vanished from the storyline and has not been mentioned since.
  • City of Adventure: Later Aquaman's city is changed to Sub Diego, which is just what the name implies: it's San Diego, but underwater.
  • Colony Drop: Atlantis was originally sunk by a massive asteroid. Shalako and his followers believed it to be this, sent by the Goddess of the Sky to punish the Atlanteans for forsaking her. But most assume it was just a natural event. It turns out it was neither; it was a literal Colony Drop by the alien Annunake, who later attempted to destroy another city the same way; fortunately the second attempt was stopped.
  • Combat Pragmatist: "That's your weakness, Namor. You're too noble to cheat." (This battle scene took place during the 90's inter-company crossover).
  • Culture Justifies Anything: How many Atlantean terrorists, usurpers and insurgents justify deposing Arthur every time he comes to the aid of the surface world or just being an inadequate leader. The fact that Arthur is born of the surface is as much a reason as discriminating against his friends because of their connection to him.
  • Depending on the Writer: Whether Aquaman outright controls fish, or if they just do as he says because he's the king of the ocean used to be an inconsistent aspect of the character, until Geoff Johns explicitly states the former to be his real power in the first issue of the New 52 series. Whether said control extends to seagulls or how effective (if at all) his powers are on non-aquatic life is still subject to changes.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?:
    • Constantly. Aquaman throws down with Gods and Lovecraftian Horrors on the reg. Starting in his teenage years, when he messed up Triton's attempts to, um, "claim" Wonder Woman, through Peter David's run where he threw down with Poseidon, Hades, Tiamat and others, all the way up to the more modern stories where he's "only" picking fights with Lovecraftian Horrors at the bottom of the Ocean, or the living embodiment of God's wrath.
    • In "JLA: Midsummer's Nightmare", the powerful villain Knowman has just punched Superman into orbit. He makes a crack along the lines of "You people have no idea the kind of pressure I've been under. Allow me to demonstrate," and increases gravity enough to knock the entire team, including Martian Manhunter and Wonder Woman, to the floor, where they stay as he strides around monologuing. Until he makes the mistake of walking by Aquaman, who mutters "Pressure? Obviously, you've never been to the bottom of the sea!" before snagging him with his hook hand and yanking him to the floor.
  • Doing in the Scientist: In his first appearance, his powers manifested through scientific means.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • His original Golden Age status quo would seem quite jarring to modern readers. Instead of being half-Atlantean, he was a normal human who owed his powers to experiments performed by his scientist father. Atlantis was a dead, sunken kingdom instead of a place where people actually lived. He actually did talk to fish instead of communicating with them telepathically, and even then, these powers had time and range limits. He also had No Name Given, and wouldn't go by "Arthur Curry" until the late '50s. And of course, his iconic supporting characters and villains like Mera, Aqualad and Black Manta wouldn't exist until The Silver Age.
    • Extends to Atlanteans as well in the early eras, who are often treated like a joke by humans and in one issue captured and forced to perform at an aquatic park, or be forced to die in the open air. It isn't until the late pre-Flashpoint era that either they or their Xebellian ilk pose a serious threat to the surface.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Only at the ends of both the pre-Flashpoint and New 52/Rebirth does Aquaman finally have something of a happy ending after being put through the wringer. The former case is understated, with Aquaman Back from the Dead and his relationship with Mera mending throughout Brightest Day, but with the rest of the original Aquafamily still dead. Rebirth #65 may not conclude their story, but we see Arthur and Mera living with their baby Andy at the Curry lighthouse, and them finally getting married.
  • Eldritch Abomination: One Brave and the Bold story reveals that there is an ancient Lovecraftian demon which emerges at the bottom of the sea to destroy the Earth once a year. Aquaman and Etrigan have a standing pact to team up each year to drive it back to its own dimension. Yes, Aquaman not only punches out Cthulhu, he beats the ever loving crap out of him on an annual basis.
  • Empowered Badass Normal:
    • Villainous example with Black Manta, who originally depended on his equipment to fight Aquaman, but Neron transformed him into a manta-man in Underworld Unleashed. This would be undone some time later.
    • Orm was a simple Pirate who relied upon tools and gadgets to stand on equal footing with Orin in his early career. In Both continuities he'd acquire magical abilities through either an Ancient Artifact or by making a Devil's Deal for power.
  • Enemy Without: This is the role which "The Thirst" plays to the Waterbearer. If a bearer uses their power to harm rather then heal then he will revive to drink life itself. His strength is based on the bearer's negative emotions and if they should wield their power against him as well, then the two will merge, leading to a particularly unusual Battle in the Center of the Mind. Giving in is the only way to truly defeat him.
  • Enigmatic Empowering Entity: In the early 2000s Aquaman underwent yet another retooling, which involved him being named 'The Waterbearer' by The Lady of the Lake herself. Rather than a magic sword, he was given a magic hand made of water.
  • Ethnicity Monarch: Arthur is the king of "All Marine Life", according to some interpretations of the character. His ability to talk to sea creatures is sometimes limited to how dependent said creatures are on water. So fish will heed his commands almost instantly while aquatic fowl may take a bit more coaxing. Some interpretations also say that the animals have the choice of refusing his commands if they're not happy with them, but most respect Aquaman as their champion.
  • Everything's Deader with Zombies: Aquaman was one of the most prominent Black Lanterns. In Brightest Day, it turned out that he still had some of the Black Lantern taint - he summoned undead sea life just like when he was a zombie.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • As a child, Aquaman was exiled from his home due to people with blonde hair being discriminated against in Atlantis, and later, for being half-human.
    • DC Atlanteans in general have proven themselves to be superstitious, racist jerks, sometimes with humanoid Atlanteans even targeting non human, more fish-like Atlanteans for being impure.
    • Aqualad's origin involves being discriminated against for his purple eyes.
    • Frequently, Atlanteans are borderline genocidal against people living on the surface.
  • Foreshadowing: A story from 1959 titled "Aquaman meets Aquagirl" featured Aquaman meeting the titular Aquagirl, a purple-eyed Atlantean who was jettisoned from Atlantis as a baby because purple eyes indicate an Atlantean who is a throw-back to the time before the oceans drank Atlantis. Not long after, Aqualad made his debut but rather from not being able to survive underwater he was afraid of fish.
  • Funny Animal: "Aquaduck," a Funny Animal duck counterpart who lives on the parallel world of "Earth-C-Minus" (a Funny Animal version of the mainstream DCU), and is part of his world's "JLA" (the "Just'a Lotta Animals").
  • Genre Shift: The Sword Of Atlantis storyline was an attempt at this; dropping most of the superhero Tropes and instead framing the book as a sword-and-fantasy tale, with the new Aquaman facing mystical threats and themes.
  • The Good King: No matter his people, his advisory, his wife & kids think of him. Arthur is and will always be this and more.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Arthur's brother, Prince Orm (aka the Ocean Master), despises him for taking the throne. This was also the motivation for the traitorous Captain Rodunn in Rick Veitch's 2003 run, but he repented after Aquaman saved his life.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Aquaman's father is a regular human, but his mother is Atlantean.
  • Happily Married: Aquaman and Mera, until the death of Aquababy. Finally once again at the end of Blackest Night when he comes back to life. Post Flashpoint, their relationship is retconned into being engaged. By the end of the Rebirth run (issue #65), they are finally married once again.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: Aquaman's ability to summon sea creatures may sound unimpressive at first, but since all life on Earth (and several other planets) evolved from the sea, he can use his powers to tap into certain parts of their brain and exert control over them (though only one writer has allowed Aquaman to control humans with the same finesse as fish). Some incarnations of the character are shown to be able to telepathically manipulate even Cthulhu.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: The New 52 series established Arthur as this: the superhero everyone laughed at. That all changed after Atlantis invaded and flooded the east coast, but now the bad publicity exists because many fear Aquaman.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: If Sword of Atlantis had not been canceled, Arthur Joseph would have given up the part of Orin's soul that had kept him alive in order to revive him so that the original Aquaman could save the world from an evil sea god.
  • Important Haircut: Most of the different interpretations of the character can be distinguished by their combination of beard and hairstyles. Classic Aquaman (short hair and no beard), stoic Aquaman who was a frequent guest star without a series of his own (long hair and no beard), Badass Barbarian Aquaman (long hair and long beard), Boisterous Bruiser Aquaman (short hair, short beard), and Joseph Curry (long hair and no beard). The "real name" being used by Aquaman at the time also tends to reveal the orientation of the character. Classic Aquaman tends to be called Arthur, Barbarian Aquaman tends to be called Orin, and Joseph is... well, Joseph, the only one of the four different interpretations to literally be a totally different character.
  • In-Series Nickname: While Mera found the nicknames "Aquawife" and "Aquawoman" to be amusing during the '60s run, and a slight annoyance in the '90s, the New 52 marked the point she's shown to be completely fed up whenever people call her by anything but her real name.
  • Ironic Fear: In his earliest appearances, Aquaman's sidekick Aqualad suffered from a crippling fear of fish.
  • Lord of the Ocean: Aquaman is the monarch of a race of Superior Species in Atlantis and has telepathic control over all aquatic-life.
  • Love Redeems: Mera, as revealed during Brightest Day. Raised as little more than an assassin, her only purpose in life enacting her people's revenge towards Atlantis, she was meant to get close to the then-current king of Atlantis and start tearing apart the undersea kingdom from behind. However, she found Aquaman noble, gentle and likable, becoming an affectionate wife and a heroine on her own.
  • Making a Splash:
    • The 1960s Aquaman cartoons showed him hurling "hard water balls" at his enemies underwater.
    • Mera, Garth and Kaldur can naturally manipulate water as if it was an extension of themselves.
  • Manly Facial Hair: Aquaman has a beard in nearly every incarnation in which he's an elderly King of Atlantis. Not only does he have a white beard to rival Poseidon's, but it makes him sufficiently Darker and Edgier to make the reader know that no one screws with him. Ever. Even Superman in Kingdom Come treats him with kid gloves.
  • Masked Villains, Unmasked Heroes: Two of the unmasked Aquaman's most prominent enemies are Black Manta and Orm aka Ocean Master. Manta wears a helmet modeled after a manta ray while Orm wears a mask that covers the upper half of his face. Aquaman's face is always uncovered.
  • Meaningful Name: His name is Arthur Curry. As in, KING ARTHUR Curry.
  • Mobile Fishbowl: Aquaman has a special suit filled with water for missions on land. It ends up saving the life of Martian Manhunter in Tower of Babel.
  • Never Heard That One Before: In the first Justice League team-up episode on Smallville, Green Arrow and Cyborg relate to Clark Kent how Green Arrow first met Aquaman when GA rescued him from a whaling vessel. GA snarks "I saved him from being canned," and Cyborg chimes in "At least he would have been dolphin safe!" An irritated Arthur rolls his eyes and says to Clark:
    Arthur: Fish jokes. 'S'all I ever get are fish jokes.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Topo the Octopus in the comics and Fluke the Dolphin in Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
  • One Hero, Hold the Weaksauce: Not early on. He was certainly a tough fighter who could live indefinitely underwater and swim incredibly fast, but his ability to communicate with sealife and inability to spend extended amounts of time on the surface made him a laughingstock. Enter Geoff Johns, who did away with the latter limitation and also established that Arthur and other Atlanteans also had super durability and strength on land as well due to deep ocean pressure adaptation.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: There are three different distinct varieties of Atlantean in Aquaman's oceans. Poseidonians (the Apparently Human Merfolk like Aquaman and most of the other Atlanteans), Tritonaians (mermaids and mermen like Lori Lemaris) and an unnamed race of Fish People like Lagoon Boy, the animated version of Triton, or the revamped Topo. In Superman #129, it was established that when scientists learned that Atlantis was sinking, they built a giant dome over the city, then later found a way to convert the populace into merfolk. As to why this has anything to do with Aquaman, Adventure Comics #280 tells that not everyone became merfolk successfully, thus a domed city remained necessary. This origin was later retconned in The Atlantis Chronicles, where is clearly stated that the aquatic serum was never meant to convert Atlanteans into merfolks, but rather to merely give them the ability to breathe water and thrive in the ocean. The merfolk came to be much later as an accident, when Shalako, a villainous wizard-prince of Atlantis, just to spite his scientist brother, tampered with the special serum used to achieve the transformation, turning his denizens into frog-legged humans, who later gave birth to the current merfolk. So, while every Atlantean city was originally domed, some of them got the domes dismantled for the benefit of the merfolks. Curiously, the Fish People of Atlantis have yet to be given either an official name or origin story in the entirety of the franchise's history.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: For all the grief that pop culture gives him, Aquaman is by no means a lightweight - command over all sea-life, de-facto leader of the oceans and super-strength among other qualities. Problem is, he regularly hangs out with powerhouses like Superman and Wonder Woman. Back in his natural element he is king.
  • Princeling Rivalry: Aquaman is the strong first born who, in most incarnations, is betrayed by his younger half brother Orm/Ocean Master. But this being a classic comic book character he escapes the peril and puts Orm behind aquatic bars. In the Justice League version, Orm chains Aquaman and his newborn son to the side of a cliff that's falling into magma. Aquaman gets one arm free and uses it to chop off his other hand so he can get out in time, and then goes to attack Orm directly. See Papa Wolf above.
  • Psychic Nosebleed: Arthur gives himself one trying to control Topo, the monstrously giant squid-like creature near Atlantis, when he needs him to fight off an attack by the Scavenger. Topo is more intelligent than most sea life, meaning Aquaman finds him nearly impossible to control, and in fact puts himself in a coma for months when he attempts it.
  • Psychic Powers:
    • Usually only works on fish and other marine life... but since all life on Earth came from the ocean, Aquaman can telepathically stun even humans (though this takes a lot out of him).
    • One Silver Age story had him defeat a villain who used land-based animals... because the enemy had brought along a water buffalo, which Aquaman could control.
    • Aquaman gave an enemy a seizure through tapping into their basal ganglia, remarking that he can do worse than just incapacitate.
  • Sliding Scale of Realistic vs. Fantastic: Aquaman writers basically have three modes. Typical superhero adventures, underwater palace intrigue or Heroic Fantasy. Every time a new writer takes over there’s a roughly 50% chance that Arthur will meet a never before mentioned ancient magical being and either gain new powers or some supernatural mission.
  • Starter Villain: An unnamed Nazi commander who sent U-boats after civilians, and is killed via grenade at the end of the issue.
  • Sunken City: For a time, Aquaman was based in Sub Diego, a portion of San Diego that was submerged in an attempt to convert humans into subaquatic beings. The population consisted of a mix of these altered humans and Atlantean refugees.
  • Super Strength:
    • His super-strength is often underestimated. The Geoff Johns run even draws this visual parallel with his massive In a Single Bound jumps. Just as a warming up, Aquaman lifts with ease an armored truck over his head after impaling it on his snazzy trident.
    • Mera grabs a would-to-be abuser's arm and gives him just a light squeeze. That's enough to cripple him for life.
  • Super Swimming Skills: Aquaman can swim at 150 knots, or 175 mph. Other comics show him reaching 10,000 feet per second, which is nearly mach 10.
  • Thematic Rogues Gallery: Most of Aquaman's enemies are involved with water and the ocean in one form or another.
  • To Hell and Back: Near the end of PAD's run, Triton has killed Poseidon and is kicking the crap out of Aquaman and friends. Aquaman lets Triton kill him, so he can get to the afterlife. Once there, he decks Charon, rallies the souls who didn't have boatfare, jacks Charon's boat, runs Charon over with his own boat, storms the literal Gates of Hell, cuts off one of Cerberus' heads, marches right up to Pluto and demands Poseidon back, ultimately convincing Hades with a very solid Batman Gambit. On his way out, Cerberus is back, and Aquaman has just one word for the titanic guardian of the underworld: Stay.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: After The Spectre razed Atlantis, robbing it of all its magic, the survivors blame any and all former conjurers who also lost their powers and vindictively assail them in lynch mobs.
  • Under City: There were originally seven lost cities that were once a part of the original continent of Atlantis. The five fragmented environments eventually expanded and became cultures of their own, having remained secret from the rest of the world for many many centuries. Even Atlantis was in the dark about this sordid history, either believing it to be myths or just plain not knowing they existed.
    • Tlapallan: Under sea metropolis with a Mayanesque culture featuring yellow skinned atlanteans.
    • Hy-Brasil: Deep trench dwelling society which was the nucleus of Atlantis's defense cathedral and science wing.
    • Thierna na Oge: Oceanic coven city deeply tied to the mystic forces of the world, home to an onclave of atlantean sorcery.
    • Dreaming City: A once thriving hidden mountain colony where individuals unlocked higher conciousness through science and sorcery. Destroyed by Ocean Master when he took control and lost it under Neron's influence.
    • Sharaia: An unknown city inhabited by manta ray like atlanteans discovered by Arthur Joseph Curry during his stint as Aquaman.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Aquaman used to die if he wasn't in contact with water after an hour. This weakness has been removed.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • In Dan Jurgens' underappreciated run on the book, the tyrannical surface nation of Cerdia went to war with Atlantis. Arthur appealed to the U.N. for help, to no avail. So Arthur and his people fought back and won, conquering Cerdia—all nice and legal because it was a defensive war, and Arthur had gone to the United Nations first. Arthur swears to the Cerdians that he will be a better ruler than the tyrants he has deposed, and is optimistic that having territory on dry land will make Atlantis more of a "real country" in the eyes of the world. A Flash Forward story even confirms that that will happen. Then the book was canceled, and we never heard anything about Cerdia ever again.
    • The Sub Diego arc involved an evil organization having stolen Aquaman's DNA for sinister reasons. Then Day of Vengeance happened and it was pretty much forgotten.


New 52/Rebirth Version

  • 0% Approval Rating: To start with, not many among the Atlantean populace were all that happy to have a half-breed surface born king on the throne. Even after taking back his birthright, he still wrestles with their superstition and hate-fueled paranoia towards the land above. Ultimately Inverted by Rebirth, wherein Aquaman now has a recognizable fanbase with scores of people across America cheering his name.
  • Aborted Arc: Geoff Johns' run ended with setting up another crossover between Justice League and Aquaman about Nereus trying to unite the Seven Seas. The crossover never came during Johns' tenure as writer of Justice League, though it would resurface after DC Rebirth was announced, wherein Johns has said it's one of his planned projects.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: The Dead King is given a sympathetic backstory, in which his descent into madness is revealed to be a result of his xenophobic brother Orin simultaneously stealing his throne and ordering the murder of his family..
  • Altar Diplomacy: Many of the under sea kingdom elopements are done out of political arrangements. largely to better tie political powers with its military.
  • Another Dimension: Just as popular in the reboot as it was in previous run. The new take on Aquaman's story is rife with Alternate Universes, Eldritch Locations and Lost Worlds adjacent to Atlantis and the mainstream DC Comics Continuum.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning:
    • Arthur deposed his half-brother Orm in order to retake his title as King of Atlantis. Beating him in the middle of a war no less, singlehandedly halting the advance of Atlantean forces with four simple words.
    • Black Manta singlehandedly took the reigns of a Nebulous Evil Organization from its previous C.E.O. for his own, all for the sake of escalating his war on Aquaman and any dreams of peaceful coexistence with the surface world he had.
  • Balance of Power: Aquaman does his best to maintain this and establish a peaceful cohabitation between both worlds, for if it were ever to fall apart a world war would break out threatening the destruction of the Surface and the Seas.
  • Belief Makes You Stupid: It does with the people of Atlantis. Years of hatred, arrogance, bigotry and paranoid delusions have made them believe just about anything and everything horrible about the surface world and its people. A mystic cabal from a separate dimension used this in their attempt to overtake the main DC universe by turning the people and the Atlantean army against their king.
  • Break Them by Talking: One of the rare heroic examples in the new Rebirth titles, Aquaman actually managed to debase his greatest enemy Black Manta by stating how he wastes his life on pointless anger while Arthur is constantly reinventing himself.
  • The Chew Toy: During Geoff Johns' run, it's revealed that everyone in the DC Universe feels entitled to openly berate the "guy who speaks with fishes", married "Aquawoman/Aquawife" (whom they believe to be a mermaid that turns into a woman when dry), broke because of a lack of employment, wearing a ridiculous shirt and useless if compared with the rest of the League.
  • Class Reunion: Arthur attends his in the N52 Aquaman #28. He's reluctant about it, having bad memories of his time at school (like Power Incontinence, his father dying, and getting publicly outed), but all-in-all it turns out better than expected.
  • Continuity Snarl: In 2019, Aquaman died and came back to life. Nothing weird about that, but DC told two parallel stories at the same time about how it happened. In the pages of Justice League, during the Drowned Earth event, Arthur and Black Manta both die when Aquaman makes a kamikaze attack on the Death Kraken, and Aquaman is subsequently brought back to life by the Anti-Monitor to serve as his agent, reuniting with the rest of the League during a time travel mission to Pearl Harbor. Meanwhile, in his own comic, Aquaman was killed by Mera in a fit of rage when he reacts badly to her telling him she’s pregnant, he wakes up amnesiac on a mystical island full of ancient sea gods and has to go on a quest to restore his memories and come back to life, and returns by boat to Amnesty Bay. Also, in Aquaman #50, Manta shows up with no explanation how he survived or even any mention that he was ever dead. Both comics showed Arthur reuniting with Mera under completely different circumstances and with neither referencing the other. And just when you think that maybe Drowned Earth is supposed to be non-canon, Orm’s Year of the Villain special explicitly references it, which it has to, because if Drowned Earth didn’t happen, then Orm would still be in prison.

    Justice League did try to reconcile the two plot lines by claiming that when Anti-Monitor sent Aquaman back to Earth from his headquarters, he crashed on the island and lost his memories, but that just raised further questions and didn’t change the fact that he still died in two completely different ways in two different books.
  • Cosmic Deadline: The Rebirth series was one of the many books hit by the infamous DC Bloodbath of November 2020, where DC cancelled swathes of series and fired dozens of staffers with very short notice. That gave Kelly Sue DeConnick only a few issues to wrap up what was likely intended to be months worth of storylines, resulting in a happy ending that seemed very rushed and a more than a little forced.
  • Create Your Own Villain: Since the New 52, Black Manta pursues his vendetta against Aquaman because Arthur killed his father.
  • Culture Justifies Anything: How many in Atlantis view the surface world's transgressions and intrusions into their domain, the fact that Aquaman is surfaceborn and their roundabout belief in prophecies provides yet another excuse for their isolationist, bordering genocidal views.
  • Cycle of Revenge: Aquaman and Black Manta had been locked in this since the death of each others' fathers. Complicating matters is that Aquaman meant to kill Black Manta instead over the death of the former's father from an attack. Not only that, it turned out that Arthur's father died from a heart attack, meaning the whole thing could have been avoided. To his credit, Arthur tries to bury the hatchet and convince Manta to abandon his vendetta, knowing that revenge is meaningless. Unfortunately Manta won't give up his grudge, even when his own father in the form of a ship AI tries to as well.
  • Diplomatic Impunity: Since Rebirth titles focus on the political side of Aquaman comics. The title character strives to improve relations between his kingdom and the surface world. To say that it was an incredibly rocky effort is an oversimplification that doesn't do it justice.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: In the first few issues of the New 52 run, it's stated outright that the population of the DC Universe consider him a joke just as much as comic book fandom does. Meaning he's had to build up his reputation pretty much from scratch.
  • Easy Evangelism: Shows up three times at the end of the Rebirth series as a consequence of the writers having to rush to complete the story after being cancelled at very short notice. First, Orm’s previously fanatically loyal followers are convinced to desert him entirely offscreen by a mute woman; meanwhile Vulko is able to show the ruling class the error of their ways in a single panel; finally the ultraconservative and authoritarian society of Atlantis accepts democracy after a single speech from Mera.
  • The Exile: The assassins and conspirators who were supposed to be put to death for trying to kill Mera were instead exiled to a place near the antarctic to start a new colony.
  • Faking the Dead: Atlanna faked her own death.
  • Fallen Hero:
    • Atlan, the Dead King in the New 52 run. He wanted to unite various races and welcome them into Atlantis, prompting his treacherous, xenophobic brother to kill his family and attempt to murder him. He sank Atlantis in response.
    • Hercules shows up in the same can as an evil threatening Atlantis was sealed in. He performed a Heroic Sacrifice to ensure the evil was sealed away but spent the interim centuries fighting for his life with monstrous beings eventually becoming Brainwashed and Crazy by a monstrous siren who convinced him he was deliberately used and sacrifice to suffer. Arthur manages to seal him in a labyrinth dimension hoping to help him one day.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • Mostly due to fear cultivated over the centuries, Atlanteans hate the surface world. Note that most people didn't even know there was an Atlantis until it went to war. Orm himself actually pities them and only has a mild dislike until then. Though he reconsiders his prejudices somewhat after escaping Belle Reve and taking residence with a human woman and her son during Forever Evil, protecting them.
    • Many Atlanteans weren't too happy with the fact that their newest king was a half-born who descends from surface world heritage. A lot of them still aren't by Arthur's own words. Orm on the other hand, while still somewhat fearful of the surface and yet tolerant of them nonetheless, was elated to have a brother despite his mixed background, openly admitting to have wept out of fear and sorrow over having found out he was trapped on the surface world and opting to save him from it.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: In-universe, Aquaman was a laughing stock among the general populace, who saw him as a weakling with the very unflattering power of "talking to fish". This changes after the Atlantean invasion, which exposes the world to his people's technology and cunning, turning him into one of the world's most feared meta-humans.
  • The Fundamentalist: Atlantis is built upon the notions of fear, bigotry and Misanthrope Supreme ideals since before its sinking by King Atlan. About three thousand years later its people have reverted back to its surface hating ways with Corum Rath on the throne, a terrorist human hater who venomously detested Arthur for his land born background.
  • Genius Loci:
    • The spirits and memories of the dead become part of Atlantis, so when they don't accept him as a ruler, the land itself quakes.
    • In Rebirth, Aquaman and Mera find a crevice leading to an Alien Sea planet dominated by sapient water. The same waterworld is also the Monster Progenitor turning those consumed by fear or rage into the rampaging sea beast Dead Water.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: Ocean Master has Arthur pinned down in the cliffhanger of Rebirth #64, with the rest of Arthur's allies restrained by Orm's forces. He uses his telepathy to send out a distress call. Turns out this isn't one of his usual sealife summons, though. The rest of the Justice League comes to his aid instead. This also shows how far he's come since the Throne of Atlantis arc.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Black Manta's status as an evil mercenary is highlighted by the scars he has running across his face.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: A sentiment shared by most if not all Atlantean people. In particular, Murk of The Drift bears much more than simple racism towards the surface dwellers. Something happened to him in the deeply rooted past which he'd rather not disclose as of late.
  • In a Single Bound: Being fully adapted to live in the pressure of the deepest sea trenches, Aquaman and Mera, while on the surface, are both able to leap miles at times through the air, with Hulk-like jumps.
  • Interplanetary Voyage: Arthur has ventured to a planet afflicted by the Thule's incursion, and visited another world by accidentally stumbling upon the mystery of Dead Water.
  • It Runs in the Family:
  • King Incognito: Arthur Crown of Atlantis now makes his home within the ninth tride after Corum takes the throne.
  • Love Before First Sight: Mera meeting with Arthur in the secret origin comics. While initially poisoned by Xebelian propaganda, she came to adore Aquaman intently eventually becoming his loyal bride.
  • Memetic Loser: Discussed In-Universe at the start of Geoff Johns' run, where everyone treats Aquaman as a complete joke despite his valiant efforts in repelling Darkseid's invasion. An insensitive blogger even directly asks him how it feels to be nobody's favourite hero.
  • Misanthrope Supreme: Most Atlanteans vehemently fear and hate the surface world as a whole. The few who truly detest humanity are part of a terrorist sect called The Deluge, a fiercely xenophobic movement which thinks war with the surface world is for the good of Atlantis.
  • Missing Mom: Atlanna, Orm and Arthur's mother, died before Arthur got to meet her. And then he finds out her body was removed from its grave later on.
  • Mordor: The mystically conceived alternate dimension of Thule erected by a cabal of mystics was equivalent to this until its destruction.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Manta states Mera is the linchpin in Arthur's dark world, and if he ever lost her, the weight of being sea king would crush him indefinitely. This is an accurate description of Flashpoint Aquaman's Start of Darkness.
    • The New 52's Aquaman #10 features Black Manta's collection of nautical memorabilia, including Arthur's Hook Hand and the original Black Manta helmet. What makes it this is that as far as can be seen, Arthur never lost his hand in current continuity, and never met Manta before he wore his current helmet.
    • Hook Hand Arthur, complete with beard, shows up in an Imagine Spot of one of Arthur's classmates in Aquaman #28.
    • Aquaman #29 has Arthur borrowing his Batman: The Brave and the Bold's counterpart's catchphrase while berating himself for letting his trident be stolen: "Outrageous!"
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: Black Manta. As some Belle Reve guards learned in the New 52's Aquaman #14, "the guy who loses to Aquaman" can kill you with his hands tied.
  • Of the People: A clear and glaring problem about the people of Atlantis and other undersea nations is their strict isolationism and surface-hating culture. Many of them chose mainly to steer clear of the humans and the world above, other less enlightened minds have a tendency to think cleansing the surface is the only way to protect themselves.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: At the end of the Throne of Atlantis arc, Aquaman has become ruler of Atlantis and stopped the war against the surface. Unfortunately, he's now looked at with fear and mistrust both by humans and his own kingdom.
  • Prongs of Poseidon: Takes much more prominence in this comic run than it did in the last. Usually those who hold a trident, scepter or some form of polearm carry an entitlement to superintendency, for possession of which regularly stands as a symbol of leadership in these instances. In rarer cases, they're the prerequisite of royal blood largely within Atlantean based cultures.
  • Rescue Romance: Atlanna saved Tom Curry from drowning when his lifeboat capsized. They fell in love, begetting Arthur Curry as a result.
  • Samaritan Relationship Starter: Mera falls for Arthur after seeing what a good person he is.
  • Sanity Slippage: Atlan has a mental breakdown after his wife and kids are killed by his treacherous brother. Upon returning to Atlantis, he murders the traitor without saying a single word and, in a fit of rage, sinks the nation he spent his entire life building. His mental state continues to degenerate throughout the "Death of a King" arc: Witnessing the Xebelians abandon him, the Atlanteans refuse to acknowledge him as their ruler, and the Trench fight alongside Arthur, Atlan tries to destroy Atlantis with his scepter, while madly rambling that he has been betrayed by everyone again.
  • Series Continuity Error: In Geoff Johns' run:
    • In issue 6, an ancient Atlantean log recounts how a group of soldiers was killed by the Trench while pursuing the man who wanted to sink the continent. This contradicts Atlantis' backstory as revealed in issue 24, since it's stated that the Trench are the degenerated form of one of the Atlantean races, meaning they could only have come into existence after Atlan sank the kingdom.
    • In issue 25, Aquaman retrieves the Atlantean Scepter from a treasure trove and states he had hidden it there since the events of Throne of Atlantis. This contradicts previous events from the same arc, since the Dead King is clearly seen wielding said weapon during his first appearance up until his first confrontation with the protagonist at Xebel.
  • Sinister Stingrays: Black Manta carries a manta theme is very ruthless.
  • Strawman Political: Aquaman's ruling council becomes this during later stints in Rebirth. Growing increasingly tired of all the conflicts drawn upon Atlantis with Aquaman as king, they elect to put a terrorist on the throne after having the old guard executed. When Mera takes over, they’re shown to be open elitists who don’t care about the common people and seem surprised she would.
  • Time Skip: A six-month one from the start of Forever Evil at issue #23.
  • Under City: The seven hidden kingdoms of Atlantis thrived under King Atlan's rule, but following the coup d'etat and subsequent sinking of the continent, they've been forgotten to history.
    • The Trench: a ravenous cavern dwelling race of subhuman water breathers who adapted to living in the sea floor.
    • Xebel: Secessionist clan of criminals exiled from Atlantis to a cosmic Alcatraz within the Bermuda Triangle, occupied by water bending merefolk.
    • Ninth Tride: The slums on the ocean floor, home to the dregs of Atlantean society.
  • Ungrateful Townsfolk: Aquaman is openly bashed on by the Atlanteans for being a surface-born, and by regular humans for being associated with the race that conducted a series of terrorist attacks on Boston, Gotham and Metropolis.
  • We Would Have Told You, But...: Nereus, the king of Xebel, was dispatched by the Dead King Atlan to discover the whereabouts of the other four out of seven kingdoms of Atlantis. He returns, stating he could not find any of them. Turns out he was purposefully withholding his findings, though he tries to make a deal with Orm to seek out their locations together.
  • Wham Line:
    • The reader is made to believe that Aquaman is seeking revenge on Black Manta for the death of his father. The twist, as revealed by Dr. Shin, is that it's actually the other way around: "In a fit of rage, seeking revenge, Aquaman killed Black Manta's father."
    • The connection between the Dead King Atlan and Arthur changes the protagonist's entire perception of his own heritage. Vulko tells Aquaman that "Atlan was once a great hero of the world... and your ancestors were the villains".

Alternative Title(s): Aqualad

Top