Friday, June 24, 2016

Aquaman Movie Logo

A bunch of info about next year's Justice League movie dropped earlier this week, including a shot of the various character solo movie logos. This was spotted at a licensing-related event, so while it's not guaranteed that this will be the logo seen in the solo Aquaman movie, it will at least be seen on the inevitable tie-in merch.

It's really happening, Aqua-Fans!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Aquaman Shrine Interview with Brad Walker

The Aquaman Shrine: Do you come to Aquaman with any particular fandom for the character? Did you read Aquaman comics before this?

Brad Walker: Yep. I've been reading pretty consistently since the late-80's, maybe? Early 90's? Beginning of the Peter David/Kirk Jarvinen stuff, or just before. I fell off all my reading in the last couple years, so I'm about half way behind on New 52 Aquaman, but other than that...

TAS: If so, are there any particular Aquaman artists you look to for inspiration?

BWA little bit, but I try not to look too directly at previous artists or contemporaries while I draw, because I don't want to have a run that feels rehashed, visually. Before getting started, when I was sketching the character, I poured over as much of the old Nick Cardy stuff as I could, cause it's so beautiful and distinctive. I love the Jarvinen and Jim Califiore era, but it didn't play into our version too much, visually. He's had a lot of really strong art in recent years, from Pat Gleason, to Butch Guice, to Steve Epting, to Ivan Reis. Those are some big names considering he's a character people feel is under appreciated. And that's not even mentioning the strong list of writers.

TAS: You mention Nick Cardy, who of course was a genius artist and did amazing work on Aquaman. Any particular images of his (covers or otherwise) that you would point to as particularly inspiring (or just a favorite)?

BWHis whole run of covers was pretty epic. I don't have much of his run, just a couple of the black and white Showcase editions. A lot of his stuff isn't available, sadly. But if you google his cover work from Aquaman and Teen Titans, it's some of the most exciting covers you've ever seen. And exactly the kind of covers I love, in the sense that, you look at them, and they make you curious to know what's happening, and open an issue and read them. Hard to say which of them is the best, but Aquaman #s 40, 42, and 45 jump out at me, as well as Teen Titans 14 and 16.

TAS: You’ve gotten a chance to redesign the characters and the world that populates AQUAMAN. Was there a definitive "THIS is the character" look that you used as a starting point, a sort of platonic ideal?

BW: Well, at first, we weren't sure if we were going to have to lean into a Jason Momoa look. I wanted to go very classic, but I also like the hook-hand era (which the Momoa look reminds me of), so it wouldn't have broken my heart to have to do that, either. I did a round of designs that I thought met in the middle between classic and movie, but ultimately, we got the okay to just go more classic comic, like the editors and I really wanted, anyway.

I wanted it to be bright, and open, and positive, in keeping with the thrust of Rebirth, which was why I looked at Nick Cardy stuff. Obviously, we differed to a lot of what Ivan did, because this is directly coming from that era. But we also didn't want it to feel derivative, so I tried to change little things, or create the illusion of change.

The texture of the shirt got a lot of attention, but I didn't even see it as such a big deal. I thought it was more of an approach than a redesign. The idea that they were big, orange fish scales was always confusing to me, as a kid. I thought he liked fish. Why was he wearing the hide of one? Haha! So, I thought of a way to change the texture that would keep the general pattern. Editorial always responds to the idea of armor and functionality, and I like the idea of applying internal logic from the environments, with a character like this. I figured it could be reasoned that it was an Atlantean armor texture, like stones from the ocean floor, smoothed from the current. I didn't even think of it as a costume change, as much as just the way I was interpreting it, in the same way Todd McFarlane drew Spider-Man's eye a little larger, or more webs on the costume, though it was still the same costume. So, I was surprised that it garnered so much response, when they showed it.

Beyond that, I tried to apply similar internal logic to the different elements and textures that wouldn't change things too much, but would keep the thinking consistent, and satisfy the portion of the audience that expects new designs for any new initiative, like this. I liked the idea of having fins like a manta ray on his legs, rather than the triangle style fins he used to have. They show some visual movement when you pose him and when he swims, which is useful. Editorial wanted some sort of gauntlet, but something less clunky than the most recent version. So, I looked at other elements of sea life their culture might've appropriated style from and thought a jagged shark tooth design was interesting. It's still in the shape of his classic gloves, and looks the same in silhouette, but it's a slight visual difference, and it's useful, in a fight.

Similarly, with Mera, I decided, if I was drawing the scales as a more rock-like texture, that could look odd, stretched over her entire body. Not to mention, she had recently been wearing her Aquaman-derived Aquawoman costume. So, supporting Aquaman's costume is designed for battle, I figured that her green outfit is less battle wear, and more the queen's garb. I looked at her classic design (she's only moved to the scales in recent years. I think she had that squiggle texture as recently as the Pat Gleason era). I felt fairly certain that the squiggly line was always meant to represent seaweed and if you google 'seaweed', you'll see what I mean. So, I treated it as strands of it, wrapped around her, and gave her back the high collar, because I think it makes her look regal, and aristocratic.

Anyway, that's the kind of thinking I applied, and tried to keep consistent, with the characters I worked on. Because several artists are rotating in to meet the double shipping, I won't be designing every character. Scot Eaton did some villains in the Rebirth special, and Phillipe Briones did some others, coming up later in the first arc. But we all bounce them back and forth and give ideas. That part is a lot of fun.

TAS: What is your working process with colorist Gabe Eltaeb? Do you indicate where you’d like to see a certain shade or effect (page 6, behind Sark for instance) or do you leave that up to him?

BWWe go back and forth a lot. And at the start, we discussed the look of the book, in great detail. I wanted a book that would really jump out at people and look welcoming. Get attention. I love the bright, optimistic color palette of Aquaman, historically, and I wanted to start there. And the nice thing about that is, when the stories go dark, or sci fi/horror, you can really load up with shadows and make the palette much darker, and give a great contrast to the bright scenes like Aquaman and Mera on the lighthouse balcony, or them proudly introducing Spindrift Station. So, it helps you manipulate the way the reader is experiencing the story. And I think Gabe really locked onto that thinking and created a beautiful book that will pop on the stands by NOT being dark and murky and full of grays and browns.

And I also have a close, symbiotic (ha!) working relationship with Andrew Hennessy on inks. He's the one that did the pattern behind Sark, on page 6 that you mentioned. I had drawn a hatching pattern, just to put some texture back there, and Drew messaged me and asked if he could play with it. I said sure. He does these really cool patterns that he makes in photoshop, and then prints out on an overlay or sticker, then cuts to fit the pattern, as I've drawn it. We did this all the time on our Green Lantern and Sinestro stuff, in the swirling space backgrounds. So, if you ever see me at a show, flip through my portfolios and run your hands over the pages. You can feel them. It's really cool.

TAS: The final fight scene in Aquaman #1 features no panel borders between the action It stands out in contrast to the rest of the book. Is there a storytelling method behind this choice?

BWYeah, I wanted the pace and the tension to escalate, visually. Dan asked for the art to be as "cinematic" as possible. In other words, to stack rectangular panels to mimic a film screen. Which isn't how my storytelling brain works, but I try to accommodate as much as possible. It was especially tricky on a script like this, where a lot of the pages were working to set up this huge, tall, visual marvel of an environment. So, if I needed to stack four panels on top of each other, the panels were all going to start to get thinner and thinner, and it feels like the roof is closing in. So, I fudged his request a bit, but tried to keep those early scenes pretty static still, with square and rectangular panels. Then, when the action starts and things are getting disorienting, I started turning the panels, to make things feel off kilter. So, by the end, when everything is chaos, and our main characters are fighting, I dropped them completely, and designed the pages like a montage of back and forth choreography between Arthur and Manta. And luckily, Gabe picked right up on it and tied it together.

TAS: You’re drawing the stony scales of Aquaman’s costume full out, every panel. Is the Brad Walker who has to draw that every single time now mad at the Brad Walker who designed it?

BWWell, by the time half the fans were outraged by the look, I figured I owed it to them to at least not punk out on drawing it! Haha! Actually, part of my reasoning was, for me, this is faster/easier. The difficult thing about the classic scales is how uniform they are. If you screw up a row, or if it doesn't curve around the form right, it looks all kinds of messed up. These, you can't really mess up. Plus, I always felt like lots of people were cheating on the classic scales, anyway. They would only draw a few, and then fill it in with heavy shadows or highlights. I've got a pretty good system down now on the shirt, as I draw it, and it's kinda fun to do. Takes a few minutes, but I save it for the end of the page or panel. It's therapeutic. Hahaha!

TAS: Do you have a favorite character to draw so far?

BW: So far, I'm still into Aquaman, the most. Though, Mera's hair is fun (so is Aquaman's, all the hair), and the two of them together is great. I'd been on Sinestro for a year or so, and it's been fun drawing heroes. People doing things they feel principled in doing. As odd as that may sound, it's a change, and it's enjoyable.

TAS: Your Aquaman, while still being heroic and muscular of course, is a bit leaner than a lot of recent interpretations. It reminds me a little of how the great Jim Aparo drew the character, who tended to draw an Aquaman one would consider skinny. Was this a conscious approach?

BWWell, Aparo had a very Neal Adams-esque look to his work, and I've gotten comparisons to Adams too, so that doesn't seem that far fetched. But, like I mentioned, I don't really reference other artists while I draw, and certainly not ones from the series I'm working on. I try to look at life, and let the art be as authentic as I can. I'll pose for figure work and reference myself, and I'm leaner than some artists have drawn Aquaman, so maybe it has to do with that. Ha!

But more than that, I think of most of the DC characters as a whole and try to give some visual diversity between them. For example, if I had Aquaman on panel with Superman or Batman, I would probably portray Aquaman a little leaner than either of them. Giving him a swimmer's build makes sense, to me. Without making him look skinny, hopefully.

TAS: Aquaman and Mera have a lot of very distinctive facial reactions in the first issue. As any comic book fan knows, this is especially hard to pull off. Do you have models to help get it right? Often times that kind of thing came off looking very cartoony but I thought it was a highlight.

BWI definitely try to express the emotion I pick up in the scripts and have the characters "acting". I don't know that cartoony is the goal, or how I would describe it, but there's a fine line for me between realism and expressiveness, and I would prefer to lean into the expressiveness, even if it means sacrificing some realism. I don't like a static looking comic book. I'll model facial expressions in a mirror, or my laptop camera and try to adapt them to the features I've given the characters. It's tricky to do, since different features move and articulate differently, but that's one of the fun parts of drawing, to me. And I like when the way I draw a scene or a conversation gives the writer an idea, and they adapt the dialogue to it, after the art is finished.

TAS: Any particular Aquaman villain you’re really itching to draw?

BWI think we're all itching to get to do something with Ocean Master. I'd love to get to use some others like Kordax (not sure if he even showed up in the New 52, since I fell off in my reading?), and I'd love to draw and/or create some creature type villains. King Shark and that kind of thing. I love drawing animals, and animal people, so that's right up my alley.

A big thanks to Brad and DC Comics for this interview. Check out Brad's work in Aquaman #1, on sale now!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Aquaman (Vol.9) #1

"The Drowning Part One: The End of Fear" by Dan Abnett, Brad Walker, Andrew Hennessey, and Gabe Eltaeb.

Since I had the good fortune to read Aquaman #1 ahead of its release, this post is coming much sooner than the Shrine's issue reviews normally do. To that end, I decided to change things up a bit by skipping a detailed plot synopsis (and the accompanying spoilers) and just going right to what I thought of it.

Building upon what he laid down in the last few issues of the last Aquaman series and Rebirth #1, this newest Aquaman title features Dan Abnett giving us a Sea King and Queen who are playing host--both to the Surface Dwellers who are visiting Spindrift Station for the first time and any potential new readers who are giving a Aquaman comic a try for the first time.

Aquaman's #1 foe, Black Manta is on hand again. But instead of just trying to kill the Sea King, he has a more long game plan in mind--destroying Aquaman's image to the world, just as he is trying to rebuild it after the events in "Throne of Atlantis." The Surface World has always been iffy on Aquaman (shown here, from multiple POVs), so Manta figures he'll let that distrust do the work for him. After so many failed attempts at killing his arch foe, I'm happy to see Manta trying something new!

I think I've said it every month since its introduction, but I really like the addition of Spindrift Station. It helps cement Aquaman in one location, something his fellow JLAers have taken advantage of for decades. It doesn't mean Arthur has to be stuck to it, but I think it's an ideal way to set up stories, add in supporting characters, and give Aquaman and Mera a consistent place to engage in superheroics without being bogged down with Atlantean politics (those damn Plankton Farmers!). I was happy to see this whole issue taking place there, though I think they need to work on their internal security a bit more.

Art wise, I thought Brad Walker and Andrew Hennessey made a solid team (assisted on the colors by Gabe Eltaeb). Walker's Aquaman is a bit leaner than some previous Aquamen, almost Aparo-esque, fitting for someone who swims as much as he does (Aquaman, not Aparo). Mera is, of course, stunningly beautiful, but they stay away from the Lady Death-esque proportions that I think got out of hand in the last couple issues of the previous series. With Aquaman shipping twice a month, it will be interesting to see how the book holds up visually, from issue to issue, with the different art teams. Walker is pretty good at giving his characters distinct facial reactions, something other than the gritted teeth thing that is most superheroes' stock in trade. 

Overall, I liked this new Aquaman #1 very much. Abnett isn't trying to reinvent the wheel here (thank Neptune), but from his other comic work we all know he is quite capable of finding new and interesting ways of using the toys the DC and Marvel superhero universes offer, and I fully expect that combo of realizing what worked before/finding new things to do to continue.

Now let's see if we can get this Aquaman series to issue #76!

Aquaman #1 is on sale now.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Friday, June 17, 2016

Imaginext DC Super Heroes & Villains

It started out humbly, but over the years Fisher Price's Imaginext line has really grown into something remarkable, when it comes to translating some of the more fun parts of the DCU into plastic form.

Case in point, this set, which could easily be called "Brave and the Bold"--Batman and Aquaman teaming-up against two of their most fearsome foes, Killer Croc and Black Manta, complete with mechanical shark!

DC may have given up the ghost when it comes to the Super Friends brand, but Fisher Price just keeps chugging along.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Aquaman (Vol.9) #1 Variant by Joshua Middleton

Check out this beautiful variant cover to Aquaman #1 by Joshua Middleton. The newest era of the Sea King begins June 22!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Mego Web Hand Aquaman

Courtesy the awesome comes this shot of the uber-rare, never-produced web-handed Aquaman doll. Apparently this version was shown in a 1978 catalog but never put into production. This sole example resides in the (presumably non-webbed) hands of a Mego collector.

If you haven't ever checked out the Mego Museum, make sure you do--but only if you've got many, many hours to kill! It's like visiting the Met, but a lot more fun.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Super Heroes Vitamins Health Tips

I found this via a Google search the other day, and I'm confused because I can't figure out exactly where it came from.

There was a DC-specific World's Greatest Super Heroes Health Tips book, which the Shrine talked about way back in 2007. I have that book, and it doesn't feature this image at all--so what is it? The same book with a different cover? That seems unlikely, so where did this thing run? It's clearly the work of Neal Adams and Dick Giordano, which means it's gorgeous--and Aquaman is dead center!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Aquaman: Rebirth #1

"The Drowning" by Dan Abnett, Scot Eaton, Oscar Jimenez, Mark Morales, and Gabe Eltaeb.

This long-awaited "rebirth" starts with an unknown narrator explaining the vastness of the planet's oceans and how one person, compared to that, seems insignificant. Unless, of course, that one person is the King of the Seven Seas, Aquaman!

In the Western Atlantic, Aquaman is on the trail of rogue group of Atlantean terrorists known as The Deluge. The leader of this xenophobic group of undersea fundamentalists accuses Aquaman of caring more for the Surface World than Atlantis, so when the Aquatic Ace demands Corum Rath, the leader, stand down, his only response is to have his men attack. Meanwhile, Mera is back at Spindrift Station, monitoring the fight:

We see just what the Surface World thinks of Aquaman, and of course it's a mixed bag--some regard him as a hero like his fellow Justice Leaguers, while others only remember the events of a few months(?) ago, when Arthur's brother Orm attacked a number of American cities, almost wiping them off the face of the planet. 

Back at the battle, Aquaman takes another route, trying to talk to the giant sea beast that Rath has enslaved into service. The fight spills onto a nearby beach, which Rath is perfectly happy to blow up instead of his original target, Boston. Having now turned the fight into a one-on-one scrap, Aquaman makes quick work of his foe, then asks Mera to send reinforcements to round up the group.

Later, Aquaman stops for a bite at a nearby restaurant, where Mera joins him. 

Aquaman wonders aloud why The Deluge chose this day to attack. Mera suggests the creation of Spindrift Station has aggravated the xenophobic bottom-feeders of his kingdom, and the issue remains unresolved. The two discuss their relationship, how important it is for Arthur to remain connected to the Surface World, and how Mera will continue to try and do the same, for his sake. She also tries chowder.

We then find out who our narrator is, and how his plan to take down Aquaman starts with Mera. His belief is you destroy her, you destroy Aquaman, and that's the only thing on the mind of...Black Manta!

Definitely to be continued!

Writer Dan Abnett (who we interviewed here) has put a lot of things in motion with this Rebirth special, building upon some of the things he established over the last few issues of Aquaman's New 52 solo series. There's the basic plot elements of The Deluge attacking and Black Manta, back for another round, but also of course larger themes about, just how does Aquaman fit into this world? 

Over the many decades of comic book adventures, the Sea King was often his own worst enemy, lashing out and refusing to explain why he was doing just what he was doing. Of course, we as readers understood how hard it was for our hero to balance all the various forces pulling at him, but often as not an Aquaman comic would end with some version of him telling some Surface Dweller to kiss off, and diving back into the water.

Geoff Johns walked a lot of that back in the New 52, to almost universal praise from Aqua-Fans. Abnett is taking those elements and putting them front and center again, just in time for the new series. For any potential new readers, this truly is a good "jumping on" point, since it explains quickly and deftly just who Aquaman is, who Mera is, why they're so connected, and setting up the tough world they live in.

The art in this issue varied in look and style from section to section, most of which I liked quite a bit. The opening, er, splash page is a truly great shot, again recalling the beginning of the New 52, when the all-star team of Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, and Rod Reis were handling the visuals. I very much enjoyed Gabe Elteab's colors, with Aquaman's bright green and oranges popping off the pages.

Short version: we're off to a good start. Join us in a few weeks for Aquaman #1!

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Aquaman and Mera by Tiago Da Trinti

A very beautiful, simple illustration of the Jason Momoa Aquaman and Mera, by artist Tiago Da Trinti. Great piece!

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Aquaman @ 2016 Phoenix Comic Con

More than one Aquaman spotted at the 2016 Phoenix Comic Con!

(h/t: Gautam Sheoran)

Monday, June 06, 2016

Aquaman Shrine Interview with Dan Abnett

My interview with Aquaman writer Dan Abnett is now live on the newest episode of The Fire and Water Podcast, available at, as well as iTunes and Stitcher!

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