If you’re an avid reader of this site (and I mean, who isn’t?!) then you should know by now that I sort of have an unusual, although, not unhealthy, obsession with the DC comics superhero Aquaman. Alright, maybe you didn’t know that, but you do now! The reason I say this obsession is unusual is because, quite frankly, your casual comic fan thinks that Aquaman … well, sucks and it’s because of this that he’s become the butt of countless jokes across the pop culture spectrum. Today, I’m here to discuss the problem people have against the King of Atlantis, why they shouldn’t feel this way and in the process give a few reasons why Aquaman is actually pretty awesome!
So, why exactly do people hate on Aquaman so much? To get to the bottom of this issue I feel we should take a look at Aquaman’s more popular doppelganger over at Marvel Comics, Namor The Sub Mariner. Both character’s general backstories are pretty much parallel, Aquaman being the son of an oceanobiologist and an Atlantean queen and Namor being the offspring of an Atlantean princess and a sea captain. Both are heirs to the throne of Atlantis. Their designs are different yet similar. Both have been known to carry a trident, both are covered in gold and green, both have scales on their outfit but one looks like Spock in a speedo and one is Aquaman. They both share the powers of an average Atlantean (we’ll get to those later) so what exactly makes Namor rank 88th greatest comic book character by Wizard magazine while Aquaman barely cracks the top 150? It’s the fish. Aquaman talks to fish.
Although there are more differences between the characters than I listed above, including Namor’s ability to fly (thanks to ridiculous wings on his feet), the main super power that everyone faults Aquaman for is his telepathic link to marine life. Right off the bat I have to wonder why exactly this is detrimental to the Aquaman character. I mean, Dr. Doolitle is a beloved literature character because he can talk to animals but Aquaman is dubbed useless because he “talks to fish”? I mean, sure, if this was his only super power perhaps I might wonder myself why he’s hanging around the likes of Batman and Superman and the rest of the Justice League but as anyone worth their weight in comic knowledge knows he doesn’t just talk to fish…. he doesn’t even really talk to them at all. So, what does Aquaman do?
As mentioned above, Aquaman has his own set of powers just for being an Atlantean like the ability to breathe underwater, superhuman strength, vision in total darkness, enhanced hearing with limited sonar and superhuman durability high enough to remain unaffected by the immense pressure of the ocean making him invulnerable to freakin machinegun fire! These powers alone make him more powerful than Daredevil (Wizard ranked #21 on their list) but I guess since Daredevil doesn’t command all aquatic life on Earth he is… better? That’s right, Aquaman doesn’t talk to fish at all, he commands them. Aquaman even says that most fish don’t even process enough mental capacity to hold a conversation, instead he influences aquatic life (including sharks, giant squid, killer crocs) to do his will. Not only are all of the oceans’ deadliest creatures under Aquaman’s control but his psychic ability even allows him to speak telepathically with life on land including humans. In other words, he’s kinda like Professor X.
So, why is Aquaman still considered useless when he has a plethora of cool powers? I don’t have an answer for that but I do know that just about every comic character can look/sound dumb if you spin their image around the right way. You can walk into just about any big box retail store and find more than a few pieces of Wonder Woman merchandise but you can deduce her powers down to a lasso of truth, bullet proof bracelets and a ridiculous invisible jet if you wanted to. With that same attitude Spiderman becomes “teen that sticks to stuff”, Batman is “orphan with utility belt”, Professor X is “bald man who talks to brains”, Wolverine’s “hairy man with pointy fists” and Green Arrow becomes “goateed gentleman with bow and arrow”…. Well, I guess that last one is pretty accurate but you get my point. Wait a minute, why is Green Arrow popular (ranking #33 on Wizard’s list)? He’s got his own television series and he’s literally just a guy with a bow and arrow with zero superpowers. He should be battling Sheriff Nottingham not rubbing elbows with the Justice League!
I’m just kidding around about Green Arrow (even though he does completely suck) but I totally understand why people like him. His television show and comic books are pretty good. The creators of both have managed to take a literally powerless character and make he and his world interesting but guess what? Aquaman has consistently had great books over the years too. Most people assume that I only like Aquaman because he’s an underdog and because he’s not very popular but I stand by the fact that Aquaman has consistently had excellent artists (from Craig Hamilton to Ivan Reis) and great stories to back them up. Don’t even get me started on the variety! Okay, get me started on the variety. Unlike most popular comic books that basically give us the same ol’ same ol’ year after year (except for when Superman changed the color of his underwear) the Aquaman character/story has undergone many transformations over the years.
Even if you still think that your distain for Aquaman is justified, do yourself a favor and pick up the first few trade collections of the New 52 Aquaman and give the character and his story a fair shot. You might just have a change of heart. Or not. Who cares? Do what you want!