To me, this is what comics are all about--a gripping image, superbly rendered (in the penciling and inking by Neal Adams, and also the coloring, which is equally superb), tantalizing the reader, daring you not to pick the book up. "Yeah, kid, go ahead--go buy one of those lousy Marvels. Then you'll never know the awesome story behind this cover!"
When I saw this comic (I think online a few months ago, perhaps over at the fun DC Comics 40 Years Ago blog) I absolutely knew I had to have it. A few short eBay clicks later, I did.
I also knew that no story, but no story, would ever live up to this cover. There could be a heretofore unreleased chapter of Watchmen in between these covers and it still wouldn't be enough.
Have I said enough about the cover?
Anyway, a few weeks ago, the book arrived, and I set down to reading. As good as the cover is (ok, I'll stop) it does have an intriguing splash page, just as crazy, in its own way, as the cover:
The story opens with cub reporter Jimmy Olsen covering the maiden voyage of a new atomic sub, the U.S.S. Mako (named after famed character actor Mako, he of Conan The Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer).
While there, Jimmy meets an old sea captain, named Bane(!), who builds model ships. Jimmy marvels at how good they are, none more so than the ones inside glass cases. Captain Bane tells him those are his masterpieces, and are not for sale.
After Jimmy leaves, a wicked grin comes across Bane's face, and he talks of completing his newest masterpiece. He picks up a wooden replica of a sub, and suddenly, the Mako is caught in a whirpool, spinning madly out of control!
As the sailors try and take control of their sub, Jimmy jumps into the water, signaling Superman in the process. He sees that the sub has sunk to the bottom of the sea, but...suddenly, a school of eels show up, and turn themselves into a quasi "ladder" the sailors use to climb to the surface! Who could've dreamt up this plan?
Why, it's Aquaman, of course:
Aquaman then commands a school of pufferfish to get beneath the sub, inflate, and rise it to the surface!
Captain Bane watches from the shore, mad as all heck. He then hatches a plan to "get rid of that meddling Aquaman", and he'll use Superman to do it!
He goes to the edge of the shore, and waves his arms, seemingly making a giant whale attack Jimmy, who is floating in his rubber raft!
Jimmy does the old Pinocchio bit, and it swallowed whole. While inside, he turns on his lantern and sees a stone with several inscriptions on it. But before Jimmy can read them, the whale shoots him out its mouth.
Jimmy then sees that he can breathe underwater, and swim at tremendous speeds! He's just like Aquaman! On to Mera!
No, wait...Jimmy arrives on shore, and starts using his newfound powers to do some good, like helping an aircraft carrier caught in some sea junk. Superman arrives, and he and Aquaman take notice of Jimmy's powers:
...Superman takes a cheap shot about Aquaman's missing wife, and for some reason Aquaman agrees to compete against Jimmy to test each of their powers.
He takes them to the desert (cue the cover!) and leaves them alone for 55 minutes, seeing which one outlasts the other. Jeez, is this an Imaginary Tale? Why is Superman being such a jerk?
I looked all over, no indication this is an Imaginary Tale. Nope, this is canon.
Anyway, Jimmy ends up drinking the moisture left from Superman's boot prints in the sand to give him enough strength to survive...thereby besting Aquaman!
Aquaman, though, appears to be dead, and he is given a sea-faring funeral, complete with giant sea-shell coffin. Jimmy swears to try and replace Aquaman, and Superman mocks him, calling him a "puny mortal."
Its only this--and not everything leading up to it--that tips Jimmy off, and "Superman" reveals himself to the shape-shifting Captain Bane, who, you have to admit, has some pretty amazing powers.
Turns out Bane is actually Proteus, the Old Man of the Sea, who explains he has been using his magic powers for years to create all kinds of sea-going trouble. When Jimmy tries to use his powers to command the creatures of the sea, Bane removes them!
Then, an ocean liner called the Seagull approaches, and Bane creates a reef for it to smash into! Just then:
The real Superman has finally arrived! Now things are gonna really get interesting!
Wait a minute...what? Is this story continued on later pages, like those maddening articles in Rolling Stone?
Nope--I've just realized my copy of this book is missing the middle four pages--the centerfold--something the eBay seller either forgot to mention, or went out their way to not to (probably the former, they've been really solid other than this).
So...I have no idea how this story ends! Oh, cruel fate! Anyone have their own copy of this book, and can let me know how it ends?
Even with the missing pages, I'm still glad I got this book--its a fun, crazy story, written by Leo Dorfman and drawn by Pete Costanza, totally entertaining and has Aquaman doing lots of Aqua-stuff.
Before we sign off, let's look at the cover again, this time as big as possible: