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Saturday, October 25, 2008

DC Comics Presents #5 - Jan. 1979

sgComics Weekend Superman and Aquaman vs. Ocean Master!

After years of Batman headlining a team-up title in Brave and the Bold, DC finally decided to give Superman the same honor by making him the star of its newest team-up book, DC Comics Presents.

In the first few issues of DC Comics Presents, Superman met with either fellow "A" list heroes (Flash, Green Lantern) or solid "B" level ones (Adam Strange, The Metal Men), and it made total sense for Aquaman to be one of the first heroes given the nod to co-headline with the Man of Steel.

Behind this solid cover by Ross Andru and Dick Giordano, is the story "The War of the Undersea Cities!" by Len Wein, Paul Levitz, and art (pencils and inks, fairly unusual) by Murphy Anderson:
We start out on a beach in Metropolis, as a fisherman catches something pretty strange...an unconscious Lori Lemaris!

There's a really funny sequence here, when the fisherman thinks he's found a mermaid (which he has), and starts dreaming up ways to make money from it, like in a carnival sideshow.

But then Lori, just starting to wake up, murmurs "Must...find...Superman" in a weak voice. The erstwhile entrepreneur, guessing she's friends with Superman, decides "The only thing I'll get out of this deal is trouble!", and forgets the whole idea.

Later, Superman gets a message from S.T.A.R. Labs that Lori Lemaris is there. He arrives, and Lori, now awake, tells her old flame that her city of Tritonis recently came under attack from their sister city of Poseidonis. And seeming to be leading the invaders was...Aquaman!

Superman resolves to get to the bottom of this, and he and Lori head for Tritonis:

...this is a great little moment, between Superman and Lori. Lori is being sort of passive-aggressive here, and I like how Superman puts an end to all of it with a simple "Lori." It's a nice character moment, and I think it shows a side of Superman we rarely got to see.

They arrive at Tritonis, and meet up, with Lori's husband Ronal, who is at a loss to explain Poseidonis' sudden attack. Superman goes looking for Aquaman, and while doing so he is attacked by a giant squid!

He easily dispatches it, but is then attacked by sharks, turtles, and other creatures of the sea. Superman creates a whirlpool to dizzy them long enough for him to take off, but his thoughts are interrupted by the man he is seeking:
Aquaman explains that, after experiencing a sea quake, he headed for Atlantis, only to see it--and its protective domed--nearly destroyed from some sort of attack. He then took a patrol to Tritonis to see if the same thing has happened to them, when they were attacked without warning by Tritonis!

Clearly, something's going on here, so they both head for Tritonis. Upon seeing Aquaman, some of the city's royal guards attack, to no avail:
...I love all those guys, breaking their hands on Superman's abs.

Superman and Aquaman "surrender", so they can be taken to the city's elders. But when they arrive they are shocked to see...Ocean Master!

Turns out the elders of Tritonis turned over the reigns of power to Orm--bad idea--in exchange for protection from Poseidonis. Since this was done officially, there's no legal way Aquaman or Superman can do anything to Ocean Master, so they walk out, as Orm laughs.

Talking amongst themselves, Aquaman says he sensed something wasn't quite right with Lori and the others, being dominated by something in the royal chamber. Supes and Aquaman decide to sneak back in, but when they do, Ocean Master is waiting for them, and he zaps Aquaman, who mutters something to Superman about the model globe in the middle of the room being the source of the disturbance.

Orm himself smashes the globe open, releasing a giant, monstrous jellyfish, which seems to be a physical match for Superman!

This distraction gives Aquaman a chance to recover, and he goes after Orm. Meanwhile, Superman realizes this creature is using his own aggression and anger against him, using it as energy. The angrier Superman gets, the more powerful it gets.

Superman then goes limp, and the creature calmly releases him. This severs the mental connection with its master, giving Aquaman the chance to end the discussion:
Later, with the creature now gone (Superman having dumped it down the Marianas Trench), Lori and the others wake up from their imposes stupor, and peace between the two cities is restored.

This is really a great little story, and I love the little character moments, like with the fisherman and Superman with Lori. Also, it was a nice touch that Aquaman can mentally "listen in" on Superman's thoughts, as he does when he shows up in the story.

Writers didn't usually show Aquaman's mental powers so explicitly--in terms of being able to use them on humans (or Kryptonians, in this case)--so it was a pleasant surprise here.

Aquaman only made one more appearance as Superman's guest-star, in DC Comics Presents #48, which was another good tale. Considering their creative success, it's too bad Arthur didn't show up more in the title.


Diabolu Frank said...

At first blush, I thought the art was by Jim Starlin. Anderson was usually more of a Lou Fine devotee, as evidenced by his gorgeous full art on some Secret Origins stories.

Unknown said...

If memory serves, this story was quite a big deal. It was the first time -outside of a lettercol- that the differences and even acknowledgment of Superman's Atlantis and Aquaman's Atlantis existing in the same continuity.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I really love this comic. One of my first, in an early spanish edition. The scene with the breaking hands is one of my favorites too. But all the book is full with great moments, like the superman's underwater turbulence to avoid the sea animals with no danger for them.

Thanks for make me look back on my memory and remember this.

(and sorry for my writing)

Anonymous said...

It was the first time -outside of a lettercol- that the differences and even acknowledgment of Superman's Atlantis and Aquaman's Atlantis existing in the same continuity.

Actually, the subject was first addressed in Super Friends #9: "Three Ways to Kill A World" by E. Nelson Bridwell in 1977. Bridwell even called the cities Tritonis and Poseidonis.

Bridwell was the editor for the DC Comics story two years later.

It was a good explanation for the contadiction since Aquaman and Lori had already appeared together in several stories.

Anonymous said...

I recently won DC Comics Presents #5 off ebay, and it is indeed an excellent comic. DC Comics Presents is one of my all time favourite series, and it's a shame Aquaman only ever showed up there twice. It would be great to see another top notch Superman/Aquaman crossover, World's Finest #202 by Steve Skeates and Dick Dillin no less, covered on the shrine.