Today’s guide for Patrons of Crushing Krisis gets me one step closer to covering DC’s pantheon of most well-established heroes, although this hero in particular has suffered many indignities over the years both in comics and in the court of public opinion…
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’ve been carefully dancing around addressing DC’s Golden Age in guides for a while now. Honestly, wrestling with Earth 2 and Earth 1 versions of Wonder Woman and Flash took the fight out of me, as did tracking all of the many anthology appearances of Green Arrow. It has been a relief to work on DC guides with titles set almost entirely in the Post-Crisis era, like Nightwing and Catwoman.
(Yes, I know I could just choose to skip the Golden Age portion of characters’ histories, but then I wouldn’t be creating the most-definitive character guides on the internet, would I?)
Despite the looming Golden Age challenge, I knew it was time to knock out the next of DC’s major Justice League heroes, and with Aquaman’s movie out next month he was the obvious choice over Green Lantern (oof, so many of them) or Superman (it’s still too scary to think about how I’ll organize that one).
As it turns out, Aquaman was the perfect DC character to ease me back into tracking Golden and Silver Age appearances.
Maybe that’s because he’s never been all that popular? That has always come as a shock to me, as a child of the 80s who knew Aquaman as an A-List cast member in DC Super Friends.
Ironically, he was only published in his own solo title for six months out of the eight seasons of DC Super Friends and Super Powers. In the Silver and Bronze Ages, he couldn’t seem to hold down a title or even a single run of back-up stories. There are several gaps in his Pre-Crisis bibliography where he has no solo stories and appears only as a member of the Justice League.
That didn’t change after Crisis on Infinity Earths. Despite being one of the first characters to receive a new origin reworking in 1986, it took five years for Aquaman to merit his own short-lived ongoing title in 1991, and another two before he was relaunched to his biggest career success to date under the pen of Peter David in the infamous harpoon-hand series of 1994.
Then, Aquaman went unpublished again when that series ended in 2001 until a revival in 2003, and he was largely MIA from the end of Infinite Crisis in 2006 until Blackest Night in 2010 (a legacy character briefly took up the name in 2006-07).
That’s a pretty spotty publishing history for one of DC’s most-recognizable heroes! And, in working on this guide, I discovered that very little of it had ever been collected prior to the past 12 months.
Perhaps both the lack of stories in general and the lack of evergreen stories in specific helps explain how Aquaman is so often the butt of jokes everywhere from SNL to Entourage. He often comes off as the weaker Superman or the undersea male version of Wonder Woman, which makes his sole market differentiation as a hero that he talks to fish. Sort of.
This was all surprising information to me, but it helped to contextualize why I knew so little of Aquaman aside from his Peter David era prior to Geoff John’s taking his reigns for a solid relaunch in DC’s New 52 in 2011. I’ve read a lot of that run, and a lot of the following Rebirth run by Dan Abnett, and they’re good comics. Sometimes great comics. They match the cool, A-list version of Aquaman I’ve always had in my head.
As crazy as this is to think about, between those two series and their current >90 consecutive issues in seven years, Aquaman has just broken his own record for the longest streak of continuous publication without falling into a hiatus!
I think it’s pretty cool that they’re celebrating this milestone with a multi-hundred-million-dollar film 😉
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Marvel Guides: Alpha Flight, Ant-Man & Giant-Man, Champions, Darkhawk, Dazzler, Domino, Gwenpool, Legion, Marvel Era: Marvel Legacy, Moon Boy / Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur, Ms. Marvel: Kamala Khan, Power Pack, Scarlet Witch, Sentry, Silk, Spider-Gwen, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Venom, Vision