Yes, I Am An Anti-Aquaman Bigot

It is axiomatic that any statement prefaced with "I don't have a prejudiced bone in my body," is said by someone with a completely prejudiced skeleton, plus teeth. So I won't hide from it. I'm prejudiced as f**k against Aquaman. I can't even say some of my best friends are Atlantean. Because I don't have any.

Last week's trailer for Injustice: Gods Among Us trotted out the usual affirmative action for Aquaman — no, really! He's powerful! — and my first thought was "Nereid, please." DC has been wallowing in primary-color guilt over Aquaman for generations now. Every mainstream presentation of him takes great pains to show him as mighty, volatile, arrogant, bearing the uneasy-lies-the-head conflict of being the monarch of the sea. Shut the fuck up. This is a guy who breathes water and talks to squid. He's one of the few fighting game characters who should be lockable. As in, win five matches and never see him again.

I bought some shitty comics when I was a kid. I have all the No. 1s of Marvel's New Universe — Kickers, Inc. included. I've got a full run of Speedball. I have a lot of Walt Simonson X-Factor. But I never, not once, bought a copy of Aquaman or anything with him in it and I never will. Like all great prejudices, mine is borne of abject ignorance and based on stereotype and caricature. Even better, it was indoctrinated by a textbook.

"Water Breathing — This is a wimp power. Face it. When the great super hero parties happen and Ulterior Motive Man asks you what you do and you say 'I breathe water,' you end up wearing a full fishbowl." — Marvel Super Heroes Advanced Set (TSR, 1986).

I remember reading that when I was 13. It stripped away the kindly notions of full equality that Super Friends sought to portray and presented me with the reality of a world in which things like bench-pressing a skyscraper or running at the speed of sound had actual crimefighting merit, and communicating with a Chilean sea bass did not.

Let's face it. Comic books are representative of those who create them. Most mortals wish they can repel bullets, burst into flame unharmed, or project devastating lazer beams from their eyeballs. They don't wish to be able to swim at 100 miles per hour, because that's not fighting crime, that's exercising, really really hard.

Aquaman rates my scorn because he is one of the few DC Universe characters — let alone one of its oldest, ostensibly primary heroes — who is derivative of a Marvel character: The Sub-Mariner. This further legitimises the idea that Aquaman is not so much the king of the sea but the family embarrassment of DC's royalty. Namor debuted in 1939. Aquaman's first appearance came in 1941. Both are human-Atlantean hybrids. Both have a royal claim to their undersea realms. Only one, to my knowledge, talks to fish.

But when Bill Everett created Namor, he got it right the first time: That guy was a haughty, brooding badass with a chip on his shoulder for the surface world from the get-go. Sub-Mariner was one of the first antiheroes, if not an outright villain, to have a dedicated comic book appearance. When World War II delivered Hitler as the ultimate comic book baddie, Namor allied with the surface dwellers.

Moreover, Everett had the foresight to give Namor the power of flight, realising that underwater made for a very, very limiting theatre of combat. Namor also was imbued with super-strength that was as usable underwater as on land and in air. Namor was made greater, more threatening by his incursions into the surface world, where Aquaman is, traditionally, limited by them.

DC has tried so hard to make Aquaman into a tough guy it's almost a trope. Look, he's stabbing Darkseid in the face. Oh here, he's got a barbecue fork for a hand. Now he's got Thor's hair. Yet no matter how much they give him a scaly, armoured exterior, this is still a guy wearing a green-and-orange costume — for 70 years. I am colorblind and I can tell you that is jacked up.

None of this addresses his depiction in Super Friends, in which he rode around on a jetski, or had to hitch a ride in Wonder Woman's invisible jet plane, and was even less important to the story than the Osmond Twins from Outer Space and their idiot blue monkey. Super Friends, let's be blunt, was notorious for hamfisted inclusions of ethnic minorities, Asian to Latino to Native American. But they all got better treatment than Aquaman. That show debuted in 1973. I was born in 1973, which means I have never known a world in which Aquaman was not a Sea-Doo riding eunuch.

Look, I'm not intolerant, it's just how I was raised.


Comments

    I liked Aquaman in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold cartoon. One of the best recurring characters in the show.

      Yeah - in the last few years of cartoons he's been pretty great. They seemed to have realised he's a bit crap and really hammed it up. I kind of like the character now.

        Shame that thought hasn't occured to the comic writers. They're doing it as straight faced as possible.

          I like Aquaman for the same reason I like Thor from Marvel in a world full of superheroes with family problems or relationship problems it is refreshing for a character to have a pretty good life. Sure they both have evil brothers but they are royalty, have usually had pretty nice families and enjoy themselves. That is why Aquaman from Batman Brave and the Bold is one of my favorite animated characters now.

      Agreed. I especially like the bit where the good guys are surrounded by a hoard of aqua ninjas, and they're looking pretty boned, and then Aquaman calls upon an army of sharks. An army of sharks, hells yeah.

    You need to read New 52 Aquaman. He made it abundantly clear that he does not, in fact, talk to fish.

      Y'know, I never thought I'd find a change that came about due to New 52 that I'd like. I am now happy to be wrong. Thank you, Mr McMuttonchops.

    Brave and the Bold, New 52 & the first 20 issues (ish) of Morrison's JLA. And no I didnt enjoy Aquaman that much until the new 52 which made him part of my monthly grab pile.

    Is funny how Namor is pretty damn awesome, but Aquaman is such a dork.

      Thats because namor is a prick :P

      Aquaman has had no relevence in years, the direction of him in brave and bold using john dimaggio is incredibly good, he has that feeling of sinbad mixed with superman almost, he's this massive adventurer or the 7 sea's with super powers.

    The only reason Aquaman 'sucks' is by the general consensus of a bunch of people whose only exposure to him is through throwaway gags on Family Guy made by a bunch of people whose only exposure to him was SuperFriends. And Namor having itty bitty wings on his ankles for some reason that allow him to fly somehow is not even close to the reason why he's cooler than Aquaman. Plus a character being a blatant clone of a competitor pretty much makes most superheros 'suck' if that's the standard to go by.

    Namor sucks just as much as Aquaman. In fact, given the recent direction they have been taking Aquaman, Namor sucks even more. If you're going to be an arrogant and hostile asshole you need to have some semblance of power, like Magneto or Wolverine. The worst part is that Marvel insists on shoving him into freaking everything. He was a part of the illuminati? Are you freaking kidding me? Argh I hate him so god damned much.

    Back on the topic of Aquaman, this article reminded me of Seanbaby's old Superfriends page - http://www.seanbaby.com/superfriends/aquaman.htm

      Just curiously have you ever read any stories with namor in them? the dude is an arsehole, and incredibly hostile, but physically more powerful than thor, almost as strong as the HULK and he is in comand of an entire civilization who happen to be super human, he is basically underwater hitler just waiting for another war where he can take over teh world.

      the reason Namor is part of the illiminati us because he has so much political and physical power, none on the council would be able to stand against him, its better to keep him in the loop than get destroyed

      Last edited 21/02/13 9:34 am

    What a stupid fanboy article. Seriously. I'm disappointed.

    I agree Namor was only slightly badder than Aquaman because he could fly...but I think they missed an opportunity for Aquaman. The very nature of the Universe is fluid so he could ride water to some superpositional state and emerge anywhere water exists - the equivalent of hyperspace teleportation.

    I hate to tell you this...

    Aquaman kicked Namors ass.

    http://ifanboy.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Marvel-Versus-DC-2-1996-2.jpg

    I remember collecting these when they first came out :) Namor got totally smashed :D

    http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m635srmRkA1r0ka4qo1_500.png

    Say Aquaman sucks to his face.

    Why did you even write this?

    This is not worthy of an article it should be a discussion you have with your friends, face to face, where they can you know give you their opinion and disagree with you. Kotaku really needs to be separated into News, Editorial and Bullshit sections. Can you guess where I would file this.

      Don't get your panties in a bunch, article was funny and interesting.

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