For what seems like forever, Aquaman has been viewed as a joke. Many TV shows, from Family Guy to The Fairly Odd Parents, have either parodied the character or directly poked fun at him. Even Spongebob Squarepants introduced the world to Mermaid Man, a clear Aquaman parody. These jokes in mainstream media about how Aquaman is useless or lame have made him a popular character to rip on. It certainly didn’t help that Bruce Wayne was given the line “Arthur Curry, I heard you can talk to fish,” and called his trident a “pitch fork” in 2017’s Justice League movie. I’m here to let you know that everything you’ve been led to believe about the king of the seas could not be more wrong. Aquaman is actually a total bad ass.
The idea of him being lame came fairly early on. The 1960s cartoon, simply titled Aquaman, was extraordinarily cheesy. He was depicted as a generic-looking guy with weirdly perfect blonde hair, wearing a skin-tight orange shirt and green pants. The dialogue was corny, with him shouting things like “great gastropod” in a time of crisis. There were some especially wacky enemies, such as an anthropomorphic, underwater elephant. “Holy haddock” he was given a rather obnoxious sidekick, Aqualad. However, doesn’t that sound pretty on par with The Adventures of Batman, Scooby Doo, Where Are You!, Jabberjaw, and other animated series from that era? Most cartoons from the 60’s and 70’s were lovably cheesy, but why is it that Aquaman still gets dumped on while others are beloved?
The primary reason why Aquaman is belittled while some things like Batman aren’t is that those properties got a chance to evolve in mainstream media while Aquaman didn’t. Batman had an animated series just as cheesy as Aquaman with its corny dialogue, bizarre bad guys, and an annoying sidekick. However, Batman also had a live-action television series starring Adam West that received its own movie. Later, starting in 1989, there were darker live-action Batman movies directed by Tim Burton and then Joel Schumacher. Of course, there was also Batman the Animated Series that aired between 1992 and 1995, which is widely believed to be one of the best superhero cartoons ever and the definitive version of Batman. Outside of the comic books and making cameo appearances in other characters’ shows and movies, Aquaman only really had that 60’s cartoon. People who don’t read comic books got to see what made Batman so cool, but not Aquaman. This allowed Aquaman to keep his “easy target” status.
Let’s take a look at this DC Comics character starting with his awesome backstory. Arthur Curry is the son of the former queen of Atlantis and a lighthouse keeper. His father raised him on land while his mother left to continue ruling over Atlantis. As he grew up, he developed Atlantean abilities, making him feel disconnected with everyone else on land. In adulthood, after learning how to use his powers, he discovers that his half brother, Orm (aka the Ocean Master), is now ruling over Atlantis, blames the surface world for sinking Atlantis centuries ago, and is planning an invasion on the surface for revenge. Even though he feels as though he does not belong in either world, he must make the decision to fulfill his role as the true heir to Atlantis’s throne or to remain a part of the world he was raised in. He overthrows his brother to prevent the invasion and ultimately upholds the peace between the ocean and the surface world. Not only does this mean he is a king of an entire people, but he is also protecting the land and sea, the entirety of Earth. Plus, this story of brothers with opposing views fighting over the rule of a kingdom is rather Shakespearean.
Now, let’s looks at his powers. He can breathe underwater, swim at super speed, and can telepathically communicate with undersea life. When I say “communicate,” I don’t mean that he simply “talks to fish.” Aquaman is actually telepathically changing the brainwaves of aquatic life. He forces them to do his bidding. He also has superhuman strength, superhuman hearing (to hear underwater, but it gives a clear advantage on land), and nearly impenetrable skin. Aquaman has also been trained in Atlantean fighting techniques that are not known to any surface-dweller.
Remember that outfit he wore that looked so corny in the old cartoon? Well, his actual attire consists of nearly indestructible scale armor. He also carries one of the coolest and most powerful weapons in comics (other than Batman’s bat shark repellent from the Adam West era); The Trident of Neptune. It’s unbreakable, can manipulate water, and can conjure energy in the form of lightning bolts and force fields. Aquaman is especially skillful with it in battle.
If you are still unsure about Aquaman, I highly suggest you read the first few volumes of the New 52 Aquaman run. DC Comics writes an excellent story while depicting some epic action and addressing the “Aquaman is useless” stigma. I don’t want to spoil too much, but there is a hilarious scene in which Aquaman eats at a seafood restaurant to the surprise of every other customer who thought he “talks to fish.” In this seafood establishment, there is a little boy playing with a Superman action figure as another customer asks Aquaman how it feels to be “nobody’s favorite superhero?” to which Arthur pulls out his trident to demand silence as he eats. An added payoff to this is the little boy telling Aquaman that he is his favorite superhero after he saves the day. Between this and casting the fan favorite Game of Thrones bad ass to play him in the upcoming Aquaman movie, it is clear that DC Comics wants to show the world that he isn’t a big joke.
Aquaman really isn’t useless or the big joke that mainstream media has made him seem. He’s actually one of the coolest superheroes out there. If you don’t believe me, or even if you do, I highly suggest you give Aquaman’s comic books a chance.