DC Wants Aquaman To Make A Bigger Splash

DC Wants Aquaman Make Bigger Splash

Superhero long treated like a fish out of water now seen as prize catch

In the comics, Aquaman is, more or less, King of the Seven Seas.  In Hollywood, the veteran superhero is treated like a three-day-old tuna fish sandwich.

Despite his long tenure in the pages of DC Entertainment’s comics, the sea-soaked adventurer has, over the decades, seemed all wet. While Aquaman is recognized as king of the undersea country of Atlantis, writers have had problems dealing with him when he’s asked to take part in land-based adventures with the publisher’s vaunted Justice League of America, of which he’s a charter member. And despite a multitude of page-turning exploits – he’s had part of his arm amputated and, in a family tragedy rarely seen in the four-color pages of the comics, lost a baby son to villainy – Aquaman is still viewed as decidedly second-tier.

Is it his odd orange-and-green wardrobe? A writer’s fear of the water? Telepathic fish-commanding powers that are difficult to depict on the printed page? It’s hard to know. But while other DC heroes like Superman, Batman, and Green Arrow have enjoyed heady success at the movies and on TV, Aquaman has not: In recent years, his attempts at stardom include a failed pilot at The CW (network insiders say it was awful) and status as a long-running gag on HBO’s “Entourage” (where the central character played Aquaman in a fictional blockbuster).

At DC, efforts have been afoot for months to help Aquaman, well, catch a wave. “He’s a priority character for the company,” said Geoff Johns, DC Entertainment’s chief creative officer.

Already, the company has announced plans for an animated Aquaman tale to be issued soon via DVD. Sales on Johns’ “Aquaman” series have remained steady, according to data from Diamond Comic Distributors, and the title routinely places in the top 50 comics sold each month to comic book specialty shops. In October, “Aquaman #25” sold about 42,248 copies, according to Comichron, a web site that tracks comic-book sales. That’s a few thousand more comics sold than Marvel’s cult-favorite archer “Hawkeye” and even more than former Batman sidekick “Nightwing,” but fewer than those notched by Batman, The Avengers or The X-Men.

Johns is about to wrap up about three years of work on reviving the character – strengthening his supporting cast and building an ongoing monthly series. His last issue of “Aquaman,” the series’ 25th, debuts Wednesday. Starting next month, the Sea King’s adventures will be penned by Jeff Parker, a comics scribe best known, perhaps, for his work on “Agents of Atlas,” a Marvel seres that built a group of unaffiliated characters from the 1940s and 1950s into a team. Will he be able to lend the character new depths?

“Aquaman’s root problem is that he’s boring,” said Peter Coogan, author of the 2006 book “Superhero: The Secret Origin of a Genre.” Plotlines that might drum up new interest, he said, come with limitations. Playing up the character’s royal heritage might set him at odds with surface governments, potentially turning him into a villain. Setting him up as an advocate for the oceans could also draw him into conflict. “In many ways, he suffers from the problems that plague King Arthur as a main character,” said Coogan, including being too fraught with responsibility, “which is why most Arthurian stories are not about Arthur but about his knights.”

Aquaman’s voyage is of more importance to DC than one might think. The Time Warner-owned unit is eager to take more of its comic-book celebrities and make them stars of TV, movies and other entertainment properties. In recent months, characters like The Flash and Commissioner Gordon, for example, have been assigned TV projects, while speculation has intensified over the future of DC’s film projects since actor Ben Affleck was named to take over the role of Batman.

If nothing else, Aquaman is durable. Aside from Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Green Arrow, only Aquaman, who debuted in 1941,  has appeared continuously throughout DC’s history, and in the same costume and likeness (characters like The Flash, Green Lantern and the Atom were reworked entirely from their original incarnations as part of a movement in the 1960s). And Johns has quietly worked to shore up cracks in Aquaman’s famous orange tunic.

When penning an earlier DC miniseries, “Blackest Night,” in 2009 and 2010, Johns turned a large spotlight on Mera, Aquaman’s wife, giving her more presence and personality than she’s had in decades. “What I wanted to do was establish Mera alongside Green Lantern and The Flash in a very big way,” Johns explained, noting that he derived inspiration from the Queen Gorgo character in the 2007 Zack Snyder movie, “300.” Rather than playing up Aquaman’s Atlantis connections, Johns said he deliberately focused on developing his personality, supporting cast and enemies like Black Manta and the Ocean Master.

“There is no doubt in my mind that this is one of the most well-known characters among super-heroes, and in popular culture,” said Johns. The ocean setting, he suggested, should work to a writer’s advantage. “We are finding new areas in the ocean every day. It’s as alien as going to outer space,” he said.

For many, Aquaman remains a figure from Saturday-morning cartoons, like ABC’s 1970s and 1980’s “Super Friends” or CBS’ “Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure,” which ran in 1967 and 1968.

Those memories may hurt the character in his current incarnation, said Brad Ricca, author of 2013’s “Super Boys: The Amazing Adventures of Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, The Creators of Superman.” In the 1970s cartoons, he said, “Aquaman smiled and looked perfect while riding a giant seahorse and mentally bossing around happy whales. He was, quite plainly, just not as cool as Batman.”

DC’s Johns believes a better structure is now in place. “He became a little bit of a joke,” the comics executive said. “Suddenly, he was nobody’s favorite super hero.” Now, DC has set up major storylines in coming months that will cross his comic with its “Justice League” and has given the character prominent placement in videogames. And his comics contain jokey references to the hero’s past portrayals. “He’s a character that we talk quite a bit about.”

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  1. Domicius says:

    This article is Outrageous! Aquaman works fine!

  2. Dave says:

    Rumor has it Matt Damon is a contender for Aquaman.

  3. Jean Morel says:

    “network insiders” say the CW pilot was awful???? What? The pilot was so good Warner still went ahead and released and let it have rave reviews and chart-topping sales.

  4. Delsin Rowe says:

    Let’s do it. Aquaman deserves more attention.

  5. C thomas says:

    If they were brave and bold (pun.) they would all watch Blackfish and then go from that launch point. Aquaman could be quite a powerful hero were he to take on the ocean as his country! There’s a huge issue for Hollywood to tackle, not only environmental, but his own kingdom will be threatened by mans arrogant use of the planet.

  6. isnt he just bascically the sub-mariner? they even are both atlantean royalty

    • Namor came first, but he wasn’t Altantean royalty. Namor became Atlantean Royalty afterwards. I assume in response to Aquaman. The fact that he is royalty is part of Aquaman’s origin, but it was a trait added to Namor afterwards.

    • Piffles Taylor says:

      Aquaman is older than Sub-Mariner and he doesn’t wear green speedos that make him look super gay.

      • Old Time Collector says:

        Sorry, Mr. Jones. Sub-Mariner did debut in 1939 but Aquaman’s debut was `1941.

      • Mariner says:

        Don’t believe Brandon Jones – for he cannot either read or count! It is not clear where he would get that 1962 from, but obviously he missed the part in the article that reminded one and all that Aquaman actually first appeared in 1941, thanks to Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris.

      • Namor was created in 1939. Aquaman 1962.

  7. “Suddenly, he was nobody’s favorite super hero.” Of course, that is not literally true. He has always been one of my (and many others) favorites because I grew up on an island. When I post things about him I always get positive feedback.The coolest thing about him is his powers.

    Also, in Miami, it’s all about the green and orange.

  8. JOE S HILL says:

    “AQUAMAN” will certainly be an intresting challenge,if DC and Warner Bros. decides to head for Atlantis!
    and to my recollection,the closest thing ever done here,was NBC’s 1977 TV series “THE MAN FROM ATLANTIS” with Patrick Duffy-or the late Burr DeBenning,who played an “Aquanoid” in Irwin Allen’s “CITY BEANETH THE SEA” TV Pilot in 1971 for NBC. but all this asside,should the plans be made to do an
    “AQUAMAN” movie,i hope it stays within reasonable areas,and that they don’t deviate from any of the main established areas! durring its run,Cartoon Network’s “JUSTICE LEAGUE” animated series (2001-2005) featured appearences by The Sea King,which made him look more like a Viking,with that ugly hook
    to replace his chopped-off hand,and the borderline arrogant attitude he had,protective of his undersea kingdom-it was an intresting version of the super hero,but not really something i liked very much! my
    version of “AQUAMAN” will always be the CBS Saturday morning cartoon series that Filmation Associates produced in 1967,under “THE SUPERMAN-AQUAMAN HOUR OF ADVENTURE” format-that
    was actually a well made cartoon series,as well as a milestone to the late great Lou Scheimer-may he
    seriously Rest In Peace!

  9. I thought the Aquaman TV pilot was great. Way better than I expected. I think they made a huge mistake not going forward with that.

  10. Ste7en says:

    They should definitely get Ryan Reynolds. ;)

  11. Todd Polt says:

    GRAVITY starring a woman in a space thriller makes half a billion.
    HUNGER GAMES movies tarring a heroine is making a fortune.

    So WB wants the next breakout superhero movie star to be friggin AQUAMAN?!!? By Neptune’s Beard!

  12. They need to adapt the AMAZING Throne of Atlantis crossover from earlier this year as the Justice League movie. Instant cred for Aquaman, guaranteed.

  13. David says:

    I heard they landed James Cameron to direct

  14. Paul Lane says:

    I swear in a Meta Comedy Method, make the film version with the Entourage gang. And have James Cameron direct it! It would be instantly cool and funny and smart, which could go a long way to “Legit” this DC Dorky hero.

  15. Brad Ricca says:

    I do hope Aquaman gets more respect. I for one will read any media incarnation of Aquaman by Geoff Johns ever — I think he has made the character really cool. Arthur’s return as a zombie in Blackest Night literally gave me nightmares. That hasn’t happened with a comic book for me since “Trouble.”

  16. Kyle smith says:

    They need to portray Aquaman as they did in the injustice game. In that game Aquaman was a badass that changed my view about the character.

  17. I really really really hope he finally gets his own movie. With today’s technology, an Aquaman movie would blow everything else out of the water. Pun intended.

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