WB dives into ‘Aquaman’

Frog turns DC Comics hero into primetime star

The WB is taking the “Aquaman” plunge, teaming with Warner Bros. TV and the team behind “Smallville” for a primetime take on the DC Comics superhero.

Scribe-producers Al Gough and Miles Millar (“Spider-Man 2”) have signed on to create and exec produce an as-yet-untitled action drama revolving around a twentysomething Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman. Frog has made a put pilot commitment to the project, which has already begun casting. “Smallville” vet Greg Beeman is aboard to direct the pilot.

As with “Smallville,” their successful reinvention of the “Superman” saga, Gough and Millar plan to focus on character rather than cheese. Skein won’t be called “Aquaman” — indeed, the “A” word won’t even be mentioned — and Curry “won’t be talking to fish or riding a seahorse,” Gough said.

And while “Smallville” recently generated great ratings with an episode featuring an appearance by Aquaman, the new project won’t be a spinoff. To underline that point, Alan Ritchson, the actor who played Curry on “Smallville,” isn’t under consideration for the role in the pilot.

“He did a wonderful job on the show, but this is going to be a different version of the ‘Aquaman’ legend,” Gough said. The pilot “will be different than what you saw on ‘Smallville.’ That was our out-of-town trial version.”

News of an Aquaman skein makes for a case of art imitating art: HBO’s “Entourage” spent its most recent season exploring the idea of an Aquaman feature directed by James Cameron and starring fictional thesp Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier).

“We talked about seeing if we could get Adrian to play our Aquaman and really mix realities,” said WB Entertainment prexy David Janollari.

Spinoffs and satires aside, Millar said he and Gough are hoping to create “a grounded version of the Aquaman mythology,” focusing on an Arthur Curry who “knows what he wants to do with his life, which is protect the oceans.”

Unlike Clark Kent, Curry is a more extroverted character, even a bit cocky and hotheaded at times, the two producers said.

As for plots, “The stories will come from the environment: ocean polluters, evil oil companies and other (threats to the) environment,” Gough said. Skein will be set — and possibly lensed — in the Florida Keys, not far from the Bermuda Triangle, which will be another major story engine.

“There’s a mystery surrounding the disappearance of (Curry’s) mother and the Bermuda Triangle,” Gough said, adding that other freaky occurrences related to the Triangle will provide plot points.

Curry will have some superpowers, though he’s just beginning to understand them. He’ll be able to breathe underwater and have superstrength in water; even a little bit of water will boost his power, allowing producers to explore some plots on land.

Character’s adopted father will be an officer in the Coast Guard, and he’ll also have a mentor who’ll help train him, the producers said.

Janollari, himself an avid diver, said that when Gough and Millar first pitched the idea of an Aquaman episode of a “Smallville” episode, he took to it like a fish to water. “I always thought he was one of the coolest heroes in the DC Comics library,” he told Daily Variety.

As work on the episode progressed, he said, “It became clear there was a WB series in Aquaman … potentially the next-generation hit for us in the vein of ‘Smallville.’ ”

Millar said he and Gough “have been reluctant to dive into television again,” since they’re enjoying a feature career working on pics such as “Spider-Man 2” and “Herbie: Fully Loaded.”

And while they considered a possible Lois Lane skein, “This was the first idea where we really thought we had a franchise, where we could see 100 episodes,” Millar added.

Unlike Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, Hollywood’s been relatively cool toward Aquaman until recently.

He had his own animated skein in the early 1960s and was a regular presence on the long-running “Super Friends” Saturday ayem skein in the 1970s and ’80s. By contrast, the other three superheroes have all had live-action TV series and, after Joss Whedon’s “Wonder Woman” is released next year, all will have had their own feature franchises as well.