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Friday, November 16, 2007

Adventure Comics #476 - Oct. 1980

sgSince Aquaman's 1980 Adventure Comics run was so good and (sadly)so short, I've decided to talk about the rest of them in order for next three Comics Fridays!

First off, I love this cover by Ross Andru and Dick Giordano--I've always liked the slightly bifarcated look, with the co-stars on the side. It takes a lot of skill to put this much on a cover and not make it look crowded.

The story is called "The Poseidon Adventure", written by J.M. DeMatteis with pencils and inks by Giordano. Aquaman has returned home, to find Mera gone! As he is wondering what to do, he is met by none other than Poseidon, God of the Oceans!

Aquaman doesn't believe for a second this is the real Poseidon, yet he has the ability to force Aquaman to follow him to his army of sea creatures, who he plans to use to declare war on the Surface World.

As they begin to attack the coastal town of New Venice, Aquaman--who is still under Poseidon's control--does his best, which is protect his finny friends from the human's retaliation. Since they are being forced to attack, he doesn't want them getting killed in the melee.

Aquaman concentrates and decides to focus his mental powers on just one sea creature--a porpoise, who attacks Poseidon and grabs the trident that Aquaman thinks is the true source of his power. The porpoise succeeds, and Aquaman takes out this faux-Poseidon.

But he sees that in the attempt, his friend has been killed, and there's a nice, touching moment where we are reminded how much Aquaman cares for his fellow sea-goers:


...as a sensitive and painfully shy kid, I think it was moments like these that helped me bond to the character in ways I couldn't understand at the time.

Sure, I wanted to be tough and cool and unflappable like Batman, but I knew I was so far from that I couldn't relate. But Aquaman, being a tough-guy superhero yet still having it in him to mourn for the loss of one his friends, left a deep impression on me.

It turns out that the porpoise died from mental and physical stress, trying to serve both its masters. Aquaman sits on a rock, alone, realizing he's as much to blame as Poseidon.

He also realizes what it felt like to be under someone's control and feel helpless, and wonders is that what he's been doing to his finny friends all these years?

Just then, a parade of sea creatures--sharks, octopi, eels, fish, hundreds of them--swim by, in silent testament to their friend. Its at this moment that Aquaman learns that he has not been "controlling" them at all--they follow him out of respect, loyalty, and love:


Its a truly transcendant moment, one of my favorite Aquaman sequences of all time. And again, the fact that all this could be crammed into eight pages is astonishing.
DeMatteis continues the previous issue's story, adds a villain with an evil plot, wraps it up, leaves a thread which he'll pick up in the next issue, and gives Aquaman two fantastic moments. Not to sound like your typical crusty, fusty comics blogger, but how much story do you get in eight pages nowadays? A couple of sentences, maybe the heroes finally leave their headquarters?

And Giordano's art is, as always, clean, simple, and effective. Another excellent installment, plus you get Levitz and Ditko's Starman, Pasko and Staton's Plastic Man, a letters page, and a Hawkman Hostess ad! Great Neptune, this might be the best comic ever!*
*I'm only barely kidding here.


Anonymous said...

Wow, that sounds like a great story Rob. I'd like to track this run down.

Nice of JM to clear up whether or not Arthur forces his subjects to obey. Defiintely something added to the character there.

But I thinkt he cover may be pencilled by Ross Andru. Just look at that Starman's odd body posture.


rob! said...


i jumped the gun--one look at that pose and, OF COURSE, its Ross Andru. duly corrected; thank you sir!

Scurvy said...

I always loved Giordano's work.

Luke said...

Wow, that is a pair of powerfully poignant scenes there. I guess any time you have a character like Aquaman who is assisted by animals or what-have-you there is the potential for accusations of abuse. But scenes like this show that creative was thinking about that potential problem, about making their hero look like a selfish tyrant, and took active steps to avoid it. Something you don't see much of nowadays. Very cool post, rob.

Anonymous said...

I love that parade of sea creatures but I guess I always interpreted it a little differently.

To me, that sequence shows that Aquaman's finny friends understand that at times his will must override their own, that he must take direct control of their actions. But they trust him and they know that when he "uses" them it is for a greater good.

Just me?

rob! said...

"and as he stands proudly, fighting the torrent of tears demanding release, aquaman understands: this is not a question of one life-form manipulating another. far from it, this is a question of a bond that transcends words, of a loyalty that knows no limits...of an enternal enigma called...love."

i really think it could be taken either way, vince. anybody know how to contact JM DeMatteis?

Diabolu Frank said...

It's funny DeMatteis had such an effect on your love for Aquaman, seeing how he and Mark Waid had a similar effect on my affection for J'Onn J'Onzz. Sadly, I once owned and read this exact issue, and even after reading your synopsis the story is still a blank in my mind. No impression whatsoever. Weird.

Anonymous said...

You know, I've never much cared for the idea that the Arthur doesn't COMMAND the sea creatures. Yeah, there are some uncomfortable questions, and this issue seems to address those in an interesting way, but it just seems to weaken him to me, if only because that introduces the possibility of them REFUSING him. I like the idea that Aquaman has complete and utter control over MOST of the life on earth.....man, that's just unbelievable. I rather like Vincent's interpretation of the scene.

rob! said...

for many years, i had always assumed he did control the sea creatures, it wasn't until a few years ago that i went back and re-read these stories that i remembered this angle.(it has since been referenced from time to time in later stories)

and i guess, like anything, it depends on your point of view--would you rather control everyone or be so beloved by them that they'll do anything for you? the whole Superman vs Batman argument...

i wish Dick Giordano had drawn more solo Aquaman stories, the art is so nice in these issues!

Rian Fike said...

Wow, thanks.

I write for Upper Deck, about their Vs. System card game. I have an upcoming article that will be greatly improved by this. I will give you a shout out and link to your blog, it is gorgeous.

The Upper Deck site is www.vssytem.com

My blog is www.fullbodytransplant.wordpress.com

Thanks again.

Rian Fike said...

Oops. I missed an s. The Upper Deck site is www.vssystem.com