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Friday, August 10, 2007

Aquaman (Vol.1) #53 - Oct. 1970

sgIt's Comic Friday again, and I thought we'd talk about one of the best issues of the Skeates/Aparo/Giordano run of Aquaman(and that's saying something!), #53's "Is California Sinking?"

I've always thought, of all of DC's characters, Aquaman was the hero most naturally suited to environmentally-themed stories. DC was still behind Marvel in getting its heroes to confront real-world problems, but Steve Skeates was ahead of the pack with this self-contained issue.

After this great cover by Nick Cardy(he was always good at these bifarcated images; amazing how much he could cram onto a cover and still not make it seem crowded), we open with a real grabber of an opening page:
...now that's a splash page!(sorry)

It opens in the home of big-mouthed millionaire Eliot Harlanson(hmmm....), who is being told that Atlantis will soon rise out of the ocean, causing massive flooding in California and destroying his million-dollar luxury home. He doesn't take the news too well, so when this "scientist"(who wears a slick suit and shades indoors) tells Harlanson he could buy an A-Bomb(!) and destroy Atlantis, he actually considers it!

We find out that the "scientist" is in fact a member of O.G.R.E., a criminal organization who wants to take over the ocean, and figures bombing Atlantis is the best way to do it! We learn that they have a plan to keep Aquaman in Atlantis when the bomb is dropped...

Cut to: Aquaman being tempted into a fight by Black Manta, who has some new ray that can repel Aquaman's finny friends. While the Sea King knows he's being suckered, he goes out anyway and Manta realizes to his regret Aquaman is able to withstand the ray's effects by concentrating his mental powers. Manta calls his goons to kill Aquaman, but Arthur threatens: "Call your men off, or you'll be minus one arm!", as he begins to bend Manta's arm back. The SAG version of Aquaman doesn't mess around!

Aquaman slaps Manta around til he confesses that he was hired by O.G.R.E. as part of a bigger plan, so Aquaman goes a-hunting. He spies a mysterious sub, and commands a giant squid to grab the sub. It does, and Harlanson, who is on the sub(he's hands on), gets furious and releases the bomb. The captain of the sub tells Harlanson that they are so close to the bottom of the ocean that if the bomb does go off, they'll be caught in the blast! D'oh!

The bomb lands, but doesn't go off--a dud! Harlanson is furious for being double-crossed by O.G.R.E., and after that two-page "Reader's Survey" DC was running in its comics at the time(Superman: "Let's Rap!"), we find Aquaman talking to a government agency, having just arrested the members of O.G.R.E. involved in this cockamamie scheme. It turns out that the bomb was a dud, but that's because O.G.R.E. had been infiltrated by an insider--the beautiful Honey James(!), who was Harlanson's seemingly dim-witted girlfriend during this time.

Aquaman and Aqualad take off, talking about what will happen if, as the prophecies say, Atlantis does rise to the surface one day. Arthur relieves his young friend by saying it's not supposed to happen for 2,000 more years, so they have plenty of time to worry about it.

But of course, the question still stands...Is California Sinking?

Of course, once you've read this story, you realize that at no point does California sink, and the opening page of the story(repeated at the end) never actually takes place. The environmental hook is mostly a red-herring, since the whole thing is contingent on Atlantis rising, something, you know, we probably don't have to really worry about.

Doesn't matter, though, since the story is still a lot of fun and moves at a breakneck pace(as most of these SAG Aquaman stories did) and keeps you hooked until the very end. Nice job, Steve, Jim, and Dick!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

>...now that's a splash page!<

Rob, yer all wet!

Seriously though - great art, both cover and interior!

There really WAS - on the part of most artists - a stronger ethos then of "the picture must tell a story", rather than just "how much can I show off?"

Or, "how buff can I make this character look, in how tiny a thong?" Aparo's women are always alluring as heck, but never whorish.

Great weekend, all!
-Craig W.