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Friday, March 30, 2007

DC Comics Presents #48 - 1982

sgSince we featured an interview with Dan Mishkin earlier this week, I thought this week's Comic Friday would be the perfect time to talk about one of the two Aquaman stories co-written by Dan!

The first was this, DC Comics Presents #48, which was of course the Superman team-up title. The story is called "Eight Arms of Conquest", written by Mishkin and his writing partner Gary Cohn, and drawn by Irv Novick and Frank McLaughlin.

Aquaman runs afoul of some very hostile octopi, and is taken control of by them! He later smashes into the lab of a Dr. Marche, who works at (of course) S.T.A.R. Labs (didn't every scientist in the DCU work at S.T.A.R.?), but luckily Superman is there and manages to put Arthur in his place.

Supes and Aquaman decide to investigate these weird octopi, where after a pitched battle they discover that these are no ordinary hostile octopi--they are space aliens that crashed into the ocean that, over time, devolved into octopi (they'll do that sometimes), still bent on world conquest! Superman of course has a problem with this, and just as the whole thing starts to heat up that troublesome Dr. Marche shows up (yes, underwater, piloting some weird deep-sea craft--you know, S.T.A.R. shouldn't leave those things lying around with the keys inside).

The battle is a bit of a stand-still after Superman gets knocked out. As I mentioned in the interview with Dan, it's at this moment that writers Mishkin and Cohn really broke some new ground for Aquaman, albeit unheralded. Aquaman realizes that he can "tap into" the ancestral part of a human's brain that comes from sea-dwellers! With that, he can take control of another person:
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...Grant Morrison came up with this in an early issue of JLA, and I remember reading it and thinking what an imaginative, well-thought-out execution of Aquaman's powers. What a shock it was to see that Mishkin and Cohn did it first almost fifteen years earlier! It's a shame that more writers have not thought to explore this angle--it would certainly make Aquaman even more of a powerful, interesting figure in the DCU. The next time someone says "All he can do is talk to fish!", Aquaman can give the guy a seizure or make him go see Norbit.

But I digress.

Anyway, Aquaman pulls this trick, and it works, "using" Superman to do the heavy-lifting that Arthur can't. They defeat the octopi, and Superman finishes the the job by transporting the aliens to a "habitable water world where they can thrive in peace." Dr. Marche vows to "stay in my lab from now on", and Aquaman cheerfully seconds that, resisting the urge to take over Dr. Marche's brain and make him drown himself. Don't piss off Aquaman.

There was also a back-up feature, the ongoing "Whatever Happened To..." that was always one of my favorites. This issue features the Black Pirate, in a tale written by Roy Thomas and superbly drawn by Alfredo Alcala. This feature, exploring some of the forgotten characters of the DCU, was always one of my favorites; I'd love to see them collected in some trade paperback.

All in all, a very fun issue, with Aquaman well handled by Mishkin and Cohn. It's too bad they didn't get a chance to write the character a lot more!

5 comments:

ollie2o1 said...

Don't forget the writing team of Mishkin & Cohn also wrote Teen Titans Spotlight #18 (featuring Aquaman & Aqualad).

This story took place during Millenium and also featured a look at telepathic abilities (more Aqualad than Aquaman though).

russell said...

During the time Aquaman didn't have his own series, I literally DEVOURED these appearances of his. That Teen Titans Spotlight story is an excellent example of the affection shared by the two guys. Great story!

Dixon said...

"Don't piss off Aquaman!" Words to live by, my friend. Truly, these are words to live by.

Vincent P Bartilucci said...

Gerry Conway explored Aquaman’s telepathic control of humans in my beloved Justice League Detroit. I recall one scene in particular where Arthur telepathically calmed a belligerent Steel, albeit with great difficulty.

And Tony Isabella did that REALLY neat thing in Shadow War of Hawkman where Aquaman used his telepathy to track an intruder in JLA headquarters.

As for DCR #48, oh how I would love to find a piece of original art from this story. It's the only time I can think of that the late, great Irv Novick pencilled our fav' the Sea King.

Anyone out there know of another Novick Aquaman story?

rob! said...

vincent-

i wanted to mention Conway's take on Aquaman's powers in JLA, since i was pretty startled at the time. but the review got so long that i felt like i needed to move on.

i'll be profiling those JLA issues down the line, tho!

as for Hawkman--you shame me, sir. you are right, my pal Tony Isabella did indeed do that, way back when. i need to re-read that series soon!