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Saturday, December 06, 2008

Aquaman (Vol.1) #42 - Dec. 1968

sgComics Weekend Aquaman faces his most deadly foe, The Black Manta!

I can't believe it took me this long to get this issue, featuring this cover by Nick Cardy, which to my mind is one the classic images of 60s superhero comics.

Sure, like a lot of covers around this time that broke the established rules, its gummed up a lot by adding all kinds of other stuff to remind people what they were buying (like those annoying "Aquaman"s going both horizontally and vertically in the corner there), but overall the design and execution is impeccable. An issue of Aquaman never looked so exciting.

This issue's story is just two issues into the run of the classic team of writer Steve Skeates, artist Jim Aparo, and editor Dick Giordano, who hit the ground running and were picking up speed. The story is titled "Is This My Foe?":
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Aquaman manages to get himself free and knock out his two of his attackers, and demands answers from the third. But he doesn't speak the same language as Arthur, so he cannot answer. He takes off, running scared.

Aquaman wonders if they are involved with those who kidnapped Mera (which happened in a previous issue), so he decides to investigate further. He reaches a more populated area, when he sees a group of these people, named Maarzons, fighting each other!

He goes looking for the Maarzon king, and sees some dwellings built on a high cliff. But that's not all he sees:
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...Black Manta!

The Maarzons bow and kneel to Manta, as if he was a god. Aquaman thinks it had to have been Manta who kidnapped Mera, and he grows red with rage.

He surprises Manta with his presence, and Manta sicks a gang of angry Maarzons on him. Aquaman fights with such fury that it scares even Manta that he calls them off.

Manta is not involved with Mera's kidnapping, but he pretends to have been, and tells Aquaman he will tell him the truth, but only by fighting in the Maarzons' fighting arena. Aquaman thinks something is suspicious, but goes along with the plan.

Aquaman and Black Manta go at it, with Manta going on the offensive. He blinds Aquaman with force beams from his eyes, knocking him over. He prepares for the killing blow:
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But Aquaman, still blinded, does the unexpected, and hurls himself right at Manta, not giving him enough space to use the spear Manta is carrying.

With his blindness wearing off, Aquaman starts knocking Manta around, demanding to know where Mera is.

As it looks as though Manta will lose, one of the Maarzons pulls a switch on a machine inside a cave, transporting Manta away into his Manta ship! As Manta's ship starts to pull away, he tells Aquaman the truth--that he knows nothing of Mera's disappearance, but he knows who was! His ship then also transports away.

Aquaman takes on one last group of Maarzons, wondering what to believe. Not wanting to fight anymore, he uses less direct tactics to end the fight:
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To be continued!

Aquaman has a full mad-on all throughout this issue, making for weird reading. You want to take Arthur aside and just try and get him to calm down a bit, think it all through, then continue searching for Mera. Jim Aparo excelled at fight scenes, and this issue is chock full of them.



Before we go, let's take one last look at this issue's amazing cover, but with a few changes to better let the design breathe a little bit, the way it should have been:
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3 comments:

Wings said...

I wonder how many writers took this issue's "angry Aquaman" to heart in later years.

As for the cover, without all the excess stuff, just the art with the "Aquaman rocks" Manta is standing on, this would have made an awesome poster! I would have had it up.

BentonGrey said...

Yeah, that is SUCH an iconic image. So awesome. Cool story, but at least Aquaman had something legitimate to be angry about.

Mike Hoffman said...

Had this comic in '68, my folks were actually impressed with the artwork, even though they hated comics. They recanted a bit when I grew up to draw them. I think the cover logos were designed to be readable on different kinds of display racks, spinners or magazine shelves. I hadn't seen this comic since then, suddenly got curious here almost 50 years later...