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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Two Simple Twists of Fate

sgForgive me for interrupting the weekend Batman daily strips, but I wanted to run this post specifically today.

I want to talk about two separate instances, forty + years apart, and about how even the smallest choices can have major repercussions, the kind no one would ever expect. The two instances even have something in common, but I'll get to that in a moment.

First, at top are the opening paragraphs from Julius Schwartz's intro to the JLA/Avengers hardcover book published back in 2000. I've read Schwartz's comments regarding the Hows and Whys of who got to be included in the Justice League before, but the choice to include Aquaman--and not Green Arrow--never seemed as random as when he mentions it here.

Aquaman and Green Arrow had been filling up the backs of DC's anthology books all during the fifties; and even though they never headlined a book, they earned a special place in DC/superhero comics history simply by being, along with Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, the only superhero characters to have been continually published since their creation in the Golden Age.

sgSo Aquaman definitely deserved a slot in the JLA. But so did Green Arrow, and it's just because that Aquaman was on tap for Showcase around this time that he got slotted in instead of Ollie.

That relatively random choice by Schwartz placed Aquaman squarely in the center of a major event in the DC Comics firmament--the debut of the Justice League of America.

Sure, Green Arrow joined the team a mere four issues later, but it was Aquaman's place as a founding member that gave him just that little extra edge of legendary status--Gerry Conway used it as the way to disband the old League and create a new one in JLA Annual #2 in 1984, and when Grant Morrison was handed the assignment of returning the team to Iconic Status in JLA, it was initially done by returning the original seven to the book they founded back in 1960.

And to think, it so easily could've not happened...

sgThe second instance of random happenstance is that,
a year ago today, I did a Comic Friday post--my first--reviewing Aquaman(first series) #63, written by our pal Paul Kupperberg. The next morning, I found the first comment left on the post was by the author himself! I could not have been more excited.

Turns out that Paul's son, Max, googled his Dad's name the night before, saw my post, and alerted him to it. That led to Paul leaving a comment, which led to me to beg Paul for an interview--the first one I had ever done for the Shrine(I had done a couple of interviews previously for
TreasuryComics.com, but they seemed like something I could only do occasionally, because of the lack of a strong connecting theme).

But after I had talked to Paul, and it had gone so well and I was so happy with the final result, that it gave me the confidence to try and track down more of the writers and artists who worked on Aquaman.

And that led me down a whole new path that I have enjoyed immensely--not only on a personal level, but also as a way to turn the Shrine from "just" a gushing fan's ramblings to an honest, thorough attempt at documenting a long-running character's publishing history. (Take a look at the names listed under the "Aquaman Interviews" graphic at right and know that all of that sprang from that tiny little moment when my review happened to be in the right place at the right time.)

So I'm issuing my first ever Honorary F.O.A.M. membership to Max Kupperberg, for his random google search and how it led to all this. Thanks Max!
At the beginning of this post I mentioned what the above two stories have in common--well, Aquaman of course, but something else. I read Aquaman #63 when it came out in 1978 and I was seven years old. I read it on one of our long car rides to the Poconos for vacation and it became one of my most beloved comics(I still have the same copy I had then).

Getting to talk to the guy who wrote it so many years later as an adult is kind of unbelievable, and I tried to convey that to Paul when I got a chance to meet him at DC's offices a few months ago. I wanted to get across that sense of amazement, but at the same time not sound like a total feeb. I'm not sure how well I did, but Paul related to me how he grew up reading comics worked on the great Julius Schwartz, and then getting to become friends with "Julie" was a similar experience. It all felt very connected.

I've always looked at my career as a professional illustrator as one tiny, tiny link in a very long chain of hardworking craftsmen and women who used their artistic abilities the best way they knew how, and I've had a number of art students contact me to tell me they like my work and are inspired by it, which is very rewarding. So who knows? Maybe someday someone will tell me they grew up with Aquaman as their hero because of the Shrine...


Rick L. Phillips said...

I came across this site from a link at This is Pop Culture. I had always just thought of Aquaman as a hero who just talked to fish. Sure he was a fast swimmer, could breathe underwater, was stronger then your average man and on the cartoons he could throw balls of hard water but for some reason no writer from TV or comic books seemed to know how to use him. Seeing your site devoted to him got me more interested. When Showcase Presents:Aquaman came out I bought it to see what he was like before I was born. These stories made me see Aquaman's true potential and why people have loved him for so long. I now understand why you like him so much and I want the Aquaman from the 50's brought into the 21st century. Thanks for getting me intereseted.

Anonymous said...

Yay, Rob.

Your sites overall are just so well-written, well-Mod-ed, etc., that even a non-Arthur obsessive like me (oops, I said it!)checks 'em all regularly.

-Craig "honored to be FOAMy" W.

Anonymous said...

Well Rob, your site hasn't caused me to 'grow up' as an Aquaman fan, but because of the Shrine, my love for the character reignited. I hadn't thought much of him, although I did think he had some potential, but your site transformed that mild interest into an abiding love of the character.

Anonymous said...


I'm a tried and true Aqua-fan and your site (and Laura's, of course) let me know that I'm not completely mental for my Aqua-love. I wouldn't be surprized if your great affection for the Sea King inspired a new generation of Aqua-fans.


Hatter J said...

I have to agree with bentongrey's post. Your site has reignited my love of Aquaman, and while searching your archives I found that I wasn't the only non-fan of his bedraggled appearance--the look which led me to "forget" about the king of the seas. I too read Aquaman comics on various vacations, the most notable of which was a tale involving Batman and their hunt for Kobra.

Thanks for keeping the spirit alive, and I must say that I am truly addicted to your daily posts.

Damian said...

Ah, well done Rob. You've given hope and a reason to be for many B-list fans. For years, fans of Arthur hid, squirreling away aquaman comics. Reading them under the covers with a flashlight and then quickly disposing of them so as not to be caught.

But no longer!

When I first stumbled upon your site, which was the result of a random aquaman google search (although I don't remember what I was looking for) I couldn't believe it. I mean, I'd heard tell of comic-related blogs (there's one or two out there) but this was my kind of place.
Post after post of merchandise/memorabilia. An aquaman aquarium! (you know I love that) Of course!
You of course inspired and encouraged me to begin the T3, and now the fine people of the internet can see, each day, why instead of living on easy street or in a sprawling mansion, I live surrounded by The Atom.

The shrine will be here long after the tiny titan runs out of steam. Long live the shrine!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, well, I like Aquaman 'cause he swims and talks to fishies!

Thanks for the kind words as always, Rob. Max says thanks, too...and he wants a full-sized certificate for his wall!


Anonymous said...

You are definitely an internet highlight for a lot of us. Keep up the good work, Rob!