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Friday, February 29, 2008

Action Comics #519 - May 1981

sgThis issue of Action Comics features the penultimate installment of J.M. DeMatteis' too-brief run on Aquaman.

As J.M. mentioned in
our interview, during this time he was offered an exclusive contract with Marvel, so he left the Aquaman strip, but not before handing in the plots for several issues, with his former editor Len Wein taking over the scripting.

Don Heck continued doing the art, after taking over from Dick Giordano who drew the run when it started in Adventure Comics.

Picking up from last issue, the villainous Poseidon (or a facsimile thereof) had just revealed to Aquaman, Mal, and Mera that he is...Aquaman's father!
Poseidon explains how all this came to be, and relates the story of the original Atlantis, which existed thousands of years ago. The two royal sisters, Atlanna and Atlena, don't see eye to eye on what the Oracle told them is Atlantis' future: an upcoming holocaust!

Atlena believes that the disaster is a necessary evil, and ultimately redound to the city's benefit. Atlanna, though, is busy trying to create a serum that will help the Atlanteans survive it(the scene with Atlanna talking to the Atlantean elders reminds me a lot of another doomed scientist from the DCU who ended up siring a member of the Justice League).

Even though the disaster does it Atlantis, Atlanna took her own serum, which transformed her into a water-breather. She was banished to the Surface World, and it's here that she met the lonely lighthouse keeper Tom Curry, and I think you all know the rest
...it's interesting to me that the big heroes of the DCU have origin stories that can be told basically in just five or six iconic panels. With Aquaman, you have Tom Curry saving Atlanna, then these two panels, then Atlanna dies, and then...bang! You've got Aquaman!

Turns out, though,
that Atlanna didn't die, she was just in a catatonic state, and when she awoke years later she had turned quite mad.

Meanwhile her sister Atlena, trapped in an other-worldly limbo, continued to wait for the Oracle's prediction of an ultimate savior for Atlantis, who they now believe to be Aquaman! Mal and Mera are aghast that Aquaman is buying all this, but he seems to be doing just that.

Meanwhile, Atlena and Ocean Master are watching this from afar, and while she is made Poseidon betrayed her by revealing the "truth", no matter...Aquaman will die anyway, To be continued!

This is the first installment of the DeMatteis run that I felt suffered from the brief page count--there's so many new ideas being thrown around here in just eight pages that it's a bit overwhelming.

Fun Fact: According the Statement of Ownership, Action Comics was selling around 300,000 copies per month at this time. I'm sure most of that was because of Aquaman.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Super-Stickers - 1978

sgEverybody loves stickers!

This is a sticker set featuring the stars of the DCU(Batman, Wonder Woman, Robin, and the Joker are on the flip side), using mostly classic stock poses with art by Curt Swan, Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, Carmine Infantino, Mike Sekowsky, Murphy Anderson, and more.

Obviously, they didn't think that was enough, so the makers of the set (Our Way Studios of New York, NY) added some cute catchphrases to some of them.

Superman says "This is a job for Superman!" (makes total sense), Wonder Woman says "Great Hera!" (fine), Batman says "To the Bat-Cave!" (ok), Flash says "Gotta Run!" (er, well...), and of course Aquaman has his famous catch-phrase
...if I was ever going to get an Aquaman tattoo, this would be it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Super Dictionary, Part 8 - 1978

We're way overdue to check in with the 1978 DC Comics Super Dictionary, and see what words Aquaman is helping us define this time.

"Row" is pretty basic; I like how it looks as though that woman is about to whap Arthur(drawn by Jim Aparo, I think) right in the face. As for the "Sail" triumverate, whoever drew this one was really working overtime--that's a Ramona Fradon Aquaman there, looking pensive, while the rest of the piece has been drawn in around him.

"I have not met many good sailors."--?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Aquaman Shrine Interview with Ben Holcomb - 2008

As a lot of you who read this know, Ben is the author of TwoMorrows' Mego 8" Super-Heroes: World's Greatest Toys book, which I reviewed right after it came out, back in December.

Right around that time, I asked Ben for an interview about the book, because Aquaman was one of Mego's initial offerings in the WGSH line, and I genuinely believed having a Mego Aquaman doll out there helped make The Sea King a beloved icon to a generation of kids.

I probably couldn't have picked a worse time to ask, because Ben was right in the middle of doing a massive amount of work promoting the book(going on my pal Javier Hernandez's
Planet Comic Book Radio show being one fine example) and I imagine at a certain point, even he didn't really want to talk about Megos anymore, so we sort of put it aside.

But just recently Ben asked me if I still wanted to run the interview, and I did, because, hey, better late than never! So let's have a chat with Mego expert Ben Holcomb and the company and their pointy-eared Sea King...

Aquaman Shrine: Why a book about Mego's World's Greatest Superheroes line?

Ben Holcomb: Simply put, Mego WGSH changed my life. Mego's magnificent toys provided countless hours of imaginative play, which ultimately guided me toward creative pursuits. For many years of my childhood, my family didn't have a television. I had to find entertainment elsewhere, and Super-Heroes were a constant source of joy.
AMS: Do you remember your first Mego?

BH: I have two older brothers, so technically, my first Mego was a hand-me-down Action Jackson. The first WGSH figures I remember getting were three of the 1st and 2nd Wave figures, which my mom wrapped together for Christmas 1974.

AMS: Any idea why Aquaman was one of the first four Megos? You'd think Wonder Woman would've been ahead of him!
BH: Many collectors question the character's inclusion, but in 1972, Aquaman had recently headlined his own cartoon! Furthermore, even though the line preceded the SuperFriends cartoon, both the WGSH line and the Hanna-Barbera cartoon were conceived by Stan Weston, creator of G.I. Joe and Captain Action. It's likely Aquaman was one of the characters Weston utilized during both concept pitches.

It's also important to consider that Mego didn't know whether or not the line would be successful. Former Mego employees suggested to me that the first four heroes (Superman, Batman, Robin and Aquaman) could be created with minimal investment. The line was 'tested' at E.J. Korvette during Christmas 1972, and Mego vice president Neal Kublan recalled the instant success. That massive popularity allowed Mego to immediately add four new heroes using the same body, as well as re-use the Dinah-mite body to create the Super-Gals. Shortly thereafter, they created a new "fat" body for two of the Super-Foes. As the line grew, Mego was emboldened to diversify the molds (e.g. Lizard and Thing).

AMS: I know that many indivdual characters were discontinued along the WGSH run. How long did Mego make Aquaman?

BH: Mego manufactured Aquaman for the entire ten-year production run (1972-1982), and arguably even longer; Mego formally canceled the line in 1982, but Aquaman was issued on both the Generic 'Red' card as well as re-purposed Superman cards. It seems both of these cards were available after Mego canceled the line, granting Aquaman the distinction of being produced longer than any other character.
AMS:Why did Mego do an Aquaman playset, Aquaman Vs. The Great White Shark? Was it in response to high sales of the figure or where they just trying to ride the post-"Jaws" wave?

BH: Among collectors, speculation abounds regarding the toy's creation. The timing of its release (1978) suggests that Mego was too late to capitalize on the Jaws frenzy, which happened during 1975-76. Some suggest the Shark, which Mego depicts in their 1978 product catalog along with a "Webbed-Hand" Aquaman, could have been developed for a line based on TV's Man from Atlantis. Unfortunately, there is no definitive evidence to support any theories.
AMS: Was Aquaman a consistent seller? He appears in almost every iteration of the WGSH line (8", Pocket, Comic Action).

BH: Yes, but this answer comes with a caveat: Aquaman was consistently 'short-packed,' which is to say Mego generally included just two Aquaman figures with each case of 24 figures. Yes, the character was popular enough to warrant continual production, but that likely would not have been the case if Mego attempted to sell larger quantities of the figure. Aquaman, like Mr. Mxyzptlk, is generally deemed a 'peg-warmer.' I myself adored the Mego Aquaman, and ruined many specimens in the bathtub!
AMS: "Peg-Warmer", that's harsh! What are some of your personal favorite Megos? Which ones do you think they did the best job on?

BH: My two favorites are Batgirl and Riddler. This is because they are beautiful, but more due to the fact that I didn't have either one as a kid. I think collectors tend to glom onto things we don't have, rather than celebrate the things we do have, and I'm certainly guilty of that.

AMS: What was your ultimate goal for doing the book?

BH: Early on in the process, I thought I was creating the book for a handful of collectors. I wanted to make the most ridiculous, thorough examination ever attempted in the collectibles genre. I wanted something akin to a scholarly study. As I got further along, however, I tried to find ways to make it enjoyable and accessible to casual collectors, too. I can't say I was successful in that endeavor, but I do thing the photography helps tremendously. Even if you don't read the words, the pictures are awfully compelling.
Once I finished the book, my hopes and goals changed. I was really happy with the result, and I hoped that people outside the realm of Mego collecting would find the book, enjoy it, and take time to let me know. Surprisingly, that is actually happening. I got a hand-written letter from Stan Weston, and I have been contacted by several famous people who enjoyed it. Just this week, Alex Ross told my publisher that he is a big fan of the book. Things like that are very exciting to a Super-Hero nerd like me.

As I said at the time of the book's release, I do think that Ben achieved in creating something for both the die-hard fan and the more casual toy enthusiast. It was enormously inspiring following along with Ben online as the book went from idea to developmental stage to a work in progress to finally having it arrive on my doorstep. It's a huge achievement--which you can purchase here. Thanks Ben!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Dan Didio on Aquaman II - 2/25/08

This is from a piece on the Wondercon at Newsarama.com about the fate of Aquaman:

"Asked about Aquaman, DiDio asked the fan back who is Aquaman now, to which the fan answered, 'I'm not sure right now.'

DiDio took a poll of the audience to see which Aquaman was the crowd's favorite, which showed the audience to be split among the different versions. DiDio said that it's something they're trying to figure out--which Aquaman should be the Aquaman to bring back.

DiDio said that while the Jim Aparo version is most recognizable, the 'harpoon hand' version is also well recognized in the media. All in all, DiDio said, they're taking their time to bring Aquaman back."

Note to Wondercon Attendees: "Classic Aquaman" is the correct answer.

Mego Ad - 1973

I found this ad in the back of an old Creepy--to this day I don't understand why DC didn't set up a Captain Company-like outfit to sell stuff like this. I mean, how weird is it that you've got DC heroes in the back of a Warren magazine?

"Only $2.49 each"? I'll take nine Aquamans, five Supermans, three Batmans, and two Robins.

By the way--tomorrow we'll be immersing ourselves into more Mego goodness with an interview with Ben Holcomb, author the of the super-cool Mego 8" Super-Heroes: World's Greatest Toys! hardcover book. Be here, it'll be fun!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Ocean Master DC Stars Trading Card - 1996

sgHere's the other card from the 1996 "DC Stars" trading card series that F.O.A.M. member Ilke Hincer sent me, this time of Arthur's arch-foe and half-brother The Ocean Master, riding some sort of underwater Segway. Clear a path, fish!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Aquaman DC Stars Trading Card - 1996

sgThis is the Aquaman card from the 1996 "DC Stars" trading card series. To my eye it looks like it's by Ken Hooper, who drew the brief 1991 Aquaman series.

This card(and one other, to come) was sent to me by F.O.A.M. member Ilke Hincer, who has cost me untold amounts of money. I say that because he's always sending me eBay links for cool Aqua stuff that, once I see it, I feel compelled to end up buying. So I have conflicted feelings about Ilke.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Action Comics #518 - April 1981

sgFor this and the next two Comic Fridays, we're going to finish our examination of the all-too-brief run by writer J.M. DeMatteis on the King of the Seven Seas.

Starting out in Adventure Comics, with art by Dick Giordano, the series moved to the back of Action Comics, this time with art by Don Heck.

This is the second chapter(or sixth, depending on how you look at it), picking up right after last issue, with Aquaman and Mera having discovered that Ocean Master was the one behind the bizarre Black Manta robot duplicate that attacked Aquaman and tried to take over Atlantis with a mob of disenfranchised surface dwellers.

As we find them, the Sea King and his Queen are talking to the local police and explaining to them what just happened
Inside the building, they find a secret room with a robot duplicate Scavenger(who attacked Aquaman in Adventure #475). What the heck is going on around here?

We find Ocean Master talking to a mysterious woman. While Orm is busy beating himself up for failing her, she sends another one of her minions, Posiedon(who attacked Aquaman in Adventure #476), to again try and kill Aquaman!

Aquaman, Mera, and Cal Durham figure out that part of Orm's plan must involve wanting to keep Atlana--the lone survivor of the original Atlantis--trapped in her other-worldly limbo. As they talk, Poseidon arrives(by knocking on the door, no less) and collapses the building on them. That's that, thinks Poseidon, but not so fast:
Poseidon uses his powers to make the denizens of the city attack the three of them, burying Aquaman in a pile of angry sea-life. Cal begs Poseidon to let up, that Aquaman is a good man, a man who took Cal in and made him part of his family.

The word "family" sparks something in Poseidon, who calls off the fish and saves Aquaman, saying how he could he let Aquaman die, since he's...his son! To be continued!

I already said my piece about the change in art style--Don Heck compared to Dick Giordano--last week, so I won't get into it again here. DeMatteis still finds time for another nice Aquaman moment, something he clearly set out to do with each story.

Next week: "Family Plot!"

sgThere's other exciting Aqua-Comic News this week, as Aquaman, Mera, and Aqualad all appear in this week's issue of DC's super-fun Brave and the Bold book.

The story takes place in the past(just as Arthur and Mera are about to wed), so we don't have a "current" classic Aquaman sighting, but Waid and Perez do such a nice job it was still a blast to read. I suggest any AquaFan pick it up!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

DC Comics Ruler

sgThis super-keen 8" ruler is courtesy newest F.O.A.M. member Andy Luckett, who sent along some other cool Aqua-related items(one of which is a genuine JLA short story, written by him, which I'll put up here sometime as well).

Aquaman didn't always get included on stuff like this(I'm a little surprised he's there instead of, say, Green Lantern), and I love the old-school tagline. It's a way cool piece.

Thanks Andy, and welcome to F.O.A.M!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Justice League: The New Frontier DVD Ad

This stirring ad for the Justice League: The New Frontier DVD appears on the inside back cover of the promo book the San Diego Comic Con sent out this year--I've never seen it before, but whoo boy is it sweet.

I'm heading over to a friend's house the night it comes out--F.O.A.M. member George Rears is having a viewing party--and I'm eager to see how well Cooke's brilliant vision has been translated into animated form.

Aquaman had a very brief yet memorable appearance in the series, so I all hope is that scene is retained for the movie. Flippers crossed.

sgThere's some other exciting New Frontier-related news today on my
JLA Satellite blog (including my first ever contest!) so please go check it out!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Aquaman #34 Ad - 1967

This is one of the finest examples I can think of what a good graphic designer can do for you--just look at the giant chunk of text DC tried to force into this small space, and yet the design(by Ira Schnapp) is pitch-perfect.

The way he divides up the text using different colors and different backgrounds keeps everything readable and it never looks crowded. From one graphic artist to another--Ira, wherever you are, you were the tops!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Aquaman Model Sheet by Alex Toth

This nifty model sheet is of course by The Master, Alex Toth, from his book of animated character designs, By Design!

I can't be exactly sure, but the Toth/H-B version of the Sea King might well have been the first time I ever saw the character--I can't remember not watching The Super Friends, so Toth's simple, heroic take on the character most likely set the template for Aquaman in my mind for life, just as it probably did for an entire generation.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Batman Daily Newspaper Strip II, Post Script, Part 2 - 1968

sgThe last of our Batman newspaper strip-related posts is another color Sunday, courtesy F.O.A.M. Colin Smith.

This Sunday, though, is from the first set of Aquaman guest-appearances that was a much shorter sequence than the one we just wrapped up last weekend. This first storyline also guest-starred Superman, who of course hogged most of the action for himself, the big bully.

This Sunday features the Dynamic Duo plus their two guest-stars, making for quite a colorful strip.
Click here to see it, and thanks Colin!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Batman Daily Newspaper Strip II, Post Script, Part 1 - 1968

sgAs promised, this weekend I'm running two Batman daily newspaper strip-related items, both submitted from the hallowed ranks of F.O.A.M.!

Today's post features the original art by Al Plastino for three of strips, courtesy newest F.O.A.Mer Cindy Healy. Cindy owns the originals (lucky gal!), and she was kind enough to send scans of them so we can see how crisp and clean Plastino's work was.

Click here to see the strips, and thanks Cindy!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Action Comics #517 - March 1981

sgSince we talked with J.M. DeMatteis earlier in the week, I thought for this week's Comic Friday we'd focus on the issues of his run that ran in the back of Action Comics immediately following the four issues in Adventure.
The cover is by Ross Andru and Dick Giordano, and of course Superman is main focus--duh. But it was nice to have a little corner of it highlighting the Sea King's debut in the book.

The story is titled "Brother Rat!", written by DeMatteis and replacing Dick Giordano on art is Don Heck. This picks up directly after Adventure Comics #478, where Aquaman and Cal Durham find that the Black Manta they've been facing was in fact a decoy, and an exploding one at that
(the worst kind!):
As if he didn't have enough problems, Vulko tells Aquaman that the mysterious malady affecting Mera is slowly killing her, with the only way to save her is to have her return to her home dimension.

Aquaman and Mera ride off, and talk about how they've faced enormous difficulties before, and Mera tries to reassure her husband they'll somehow find their way out of this.

But in the meantime, Aquaman and Mera head to New York City, on the trail of the financial backers Black Manta used to corral the army he used to try and take over Atlantis. New York in 1981 was a rougher town than it is now, an example of which is seen here, where within minutes of coming ashore, Aquaman and Mera are accosted by some toughs. With the limited page count, Heck decides to use this scene more for comedy than for, er, action
Anyway, they find the building, home of The Kingdom of Hope organization, and Aquaman barges his way in, only to find the guy in charge is...Ocean Master!

This of course means a fight, and the two brothers knock each other around for a page or two, ending up on the roof of the building. Orm then gives up--saying he didn't just fail himself, but he also failed his mother!

This startles Aquaman for a moment, long enough for Orm to jump off the roof, seemingly in act of suicide! But when Aquaman and Mera look for him...he has disappeared. To be continued!

As J.M. mentioned on Monday, he feels that Dick Giordano and Don Heck did a superb job illustrating his stories. And while Heck was a fine artist, I personally could never quite embrace his Aquaman, whose face always seemed to be contorted into a scowl, so I feel this part of DeMatteis' Aquaman run is maybe a half-step behind the one by Giordano.

But the story is still solid, and, again, DeMatteis gave Aquaman a little cool moment--the scene with the would-be muggers--that underscores how impressive Aquaman could be, even if this time it was played more for laughs. After all the tough moments in Adventure, it's a nice change to lighten things up a touch.

I have the other Aquaman issues of Action written by DeMatteis in this run(#'s 517-520), so if you want to see how this all wrapped up, let me know!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

AquaSketch by Richard Howell - 2007

I got this sketch from one of my favorite comic artists growing up, Richard Howell(All-Star Squadron, Hawkman, Portia Prinz), at the 2007 NY Comic Con. As soon as I saw him in the Artist's Alley I made a beeline for him, handing him my book.

I like this simple, gentle portrait of Aquaman wading through the water, and bonus points to Howell for including Tusky the Walrus!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Aquaman JLA Action Figure by DC Direct - 2002

sgThis Aquaman action figure from DC Direct was part of a boxed set commemorating the JLA as it appeared in Brave and the Bold #28--consisting of Arthur here, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, and the Martian Manhunter.

To that end, and to be almost fetishistically accurate, Aquaman was colored the way he was in that issue, with the original yellow gloves. This is the exact same figure that was in the Aquaman/Aqualad boxed set, so all it took was a new layer of yellow paint, and bang! You've got a new collectible.

While I did want the figure, the set was pretty pricey, so I passed. I had kept an eye out for it on eBay, but never found one.

Luckily, now I don't need to because F.O.A.M. member Mark Campbell sent this to me, gratis--what a pal! Arthur is now sitting on the top of my iMac, watching me as I type this. Thanks Mark!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Inside DC Spotlight - 1986

sgTwo weeks ago, during our informal Martian Manhunter Week, I posted the cover to the 1986 promo comic DC Spotlight. Not owning a copy, I wondered aloud(?) what Aquaman-centric material was inside.

Luckily, longtime Shrine reader and mastermind behind the Manhunter blog,
The Idol-Head of Diabolu, Frank Lee Delano, posted the insides of the book for me to see soon after.

That bit of kindness is not only very much appreciated, but it makes Frank the newest member of F.O.A.M.!

Sadly, the feature on the 1986 Aquaman mini-series does not feature any exclusive-to-the-book material by Craig Hamilton, as I fervently hoped it did. Nevertheless, it's still neat to see Arthur get some promo love, so click
here to see the full spread.

Thanks Frank, and welcome to F.O.A.M.!


sgAquaSighting: Over at my pal(and F.O.A.M. member) Charles Howell's swell blog
Eclectorama, he's doing an entire week of Aquaman-related posts, in honor of the year(and change) anniversary of the two of us first crossing paths--virtually, at least.

Charles has been enormously generous to me and the Shrine, and a good friend. I enjoy his blog immensely, and it'll be even more fun this week with all the orange and green stuff.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Aquaman Shrine Interview with J.M. DeMatteis - 2008

Wow, was this a thrill!

I've been a fan of J.M. DeMatteis' work for a long time, having read his work on, among others, Superman, Spider-Man, The Defenders, Moonshadow, and the Justice League.

sgBut, as I've mentioned many times before, he was also the writer on one of my all-time favorite Aquaman runs, one that started off with a bang in Adventure Comics #475, featuring art by Dick Giordano, and gave Aquaman some of his most dynamic and exciting adventures, filled with slam-bang superhero action but also tender moments that exemplified what made Aquaman so special.

But after a mere four issues, the series was yanked out of Adventure and then put in the back of Action Comics, where DeMatteis continued to write it(this time with Don Heck doing the art) for a few more issues.

I've been wanting to talk to J.M. for a long time, and thanks to mutual friend(and Back Issue! editor) Michael Eury, I got the chance to do just that:

Aquaman Shrine: Did you read lots of comics growing up? Did you set out to write them?

J.M. DeMatteis: As I've often said, I don't remember a time when I didn't read comics. They've been a part of my life since I was very, very young. I was hooked on that heady mixture of words and pictures from the first time I saw one.

Did I set out to write comics? Actually, when I was a kid art was my passion, soon followed by rock and roll (both as a musician and a professional reviewer); but writing was always part of my life, as well. From the time I was a teenager, I was pretty passionate about wanting to write comics.

But I have to add I never saw myself as "just" a comic book writer: over the years, I've written for comics, TV, film, journalism and the book world. And, even within comics, I've tried to keep things diverse, writing superheroes, children's comics like Abadazad and Stardust Kid, the funny stuff with Keith Giffen, and more personal projects like Moonshadow and Brooklyn Dreams.

AMS: How did you end up with the Aquaman assignment?

sgJMD: As I recall, Len Wein, a wonderful editor who was my mentor in my early days in the business, just called me up one day and said, "You're the new writer of Aquaman."

To which I said: "Great!" That early in a career, you don't say, "Let me think about it." Someone offers you a gig, you scream "Yes!" at the top of your lungs and start writing.

AMS: How familiar were you with the character before you started writing him? The stories--as short as they are--reveal depths to the character would have seem to have come only from being pretty familiar with him.

JMD: I was certainly familiar with Aquaman from his own series and, even moreso, from Justice League. But I wasn't really immersed in his background and mythology. As soon as I got the assignment I went out and bought a stack of back issues--stories by Steve Skeates and David Micheline, as I recall--and wolfed them down. I enjoyed them all but felt a real connection to Micheline's work. He had a great run and I found it very inspiring.

AMS: You mentioned that the Aquaman run was the first superhero feature you wrote. Did working with an old pro like Dick Giordano make it easier to, er, get your feet wet with the process?

JMD: I was honored to have Dick do the art for those stories. There I was, a newbie, and this amazing artist was illustrating my stories? He did such a wonderful job. (As did Don Heck, who drew the stories in Action Comics.) Dick's major contribution was making the stories look so darn good. If someone else had drawn that run, you might not be talking to me about the stories now.

Any idea why it ran so briefly? It ran just four issues as the lead in Adventure Comics and then it got moved to the back of Action Comics.

JMD: As I recall they were just changing formats--and so the feature was booted over to Action. For some reason, Dick couldn't continue with the series, so Don Heck stepped in. I think I full-scripted the first couple of Heck stories, then I was offered an exclusive contract at Marvel and left DC--but not before I wrote the final plots, which Len Wein dialogued.

AMS: Was it a fun assignment?

JMD: Hey, I was just starting out in the business, I was working with an iconic character, Len Wein was my editor, Dick Giordano and Don Heck were drawing the stories: it was Heaven!

Were you overall happy with the results? It's always been one of my all-time favorite Aquaman runs, and when I talked about them on the Shrine it became clear I wasn't the only one who felt that way!

JMD: What's so funny to me is that I really haven't thought about those stories much over the years. Looking back, though, I think they were pretty solid, especially considering what a neophyte I was. (Having an inspirational editor like Len no doubt contributed to that.) Those Aquaman stories were probably better than some of the stuff I wrote in my first year or two at Marvel.

AMS: Any interest in writing Aquaman again?

JMD: Well, I did get to use Aquaman a little bit when I was writing for the Justice League Unlimited animated series a couple of years back. As for the comics--I don't really know what the character's about these days, so I can't really say!

AMS: What projects are you working on now?

JMD: I've got a bunch of projects--books, comics, TV, film--in the works right now, most of which I can't talk about on the record. But I'm busy and happy!

I was absolutely thrilled to get to talk to J.M. DeMatteis. Not only did he write some of my favorite Aquamans, but he was enormously friendly and a total pleasure to interview, and it's way cool of him to give us some of the back story behind Aquaman's all-too-brief final run in Adventure Comics. Thanks J.M.!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Batman Daily Newspaper Strip II, Part 15 - 1968

sgToday's batch of Batman newspaper dailies is the final(*sniff*) set of the storyline guest-starring Aquaman.

This has been enormous fun, reading these strips and presenting them here. And they attracted quite an audience, so I know I wasn't alone in my enjoyment.

Extra special thanks to F.O.A.M. members Jon Helfenstein, for the astounding legwork in collecting all these strips, and to Colin Smith, for sending me some of the color Sundays. Thanks fellas!

And we're not quite done yet! We have two more Batman daily newspaper strip-related posts for next weekend, sort of a post script to all this. And one of them involves yet another F.O.A.M. member!

So until then, enjoy the wrap-up, and click here for Part 15!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Batman Daily Newspaper Strip II, Part 14 - 1968

sgToday's set of Batman newspaper dailies is an Aquaman tour de force--he appears in every strip and gets to show off his AquaPowers!

And like last week, this is a double F.O.A.M. special--the dailies are, as always, from Jon Helfenstein, but we also have the color Sunday from Colin Smith, making a complete week's worth of strips! Thanks fellas!

Click here for Part 14!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Aquaman (Vol.1) #43 - Feb. 1969

sgI thought I'd give Adventure Comics a break and talk about something from the classic "SAG" era of Aquaman for this week's Comic Friday.

The cover is by Nick Cardy, featuring the Sea King in another one of those classic death-trap scenarios--being crushed beneath the foot of a giant is bad enough, but to be pressed on jagged rocks as well? Suffering starfish!

The story inside is titled "To Win is To Lose!", by Steve Skeates and Jim Aparo. It picks up from the previous issue; Black Manta has been defeated(again) and the citizens of Atlantis are celebrating.

All is not well though, since Aqualad has been suffering from partial amnesia. Tula(aka Aquagirl) goes to see him, but discovers him to be...gone!

Next is one of those fantastic splash pages that Aparo was so good at. They set the tone for the story, and were so well composed that they work as little movie posters
As Aqualad searches for a colony called the Sorcerers(who were defeated by Aquaman, but Garth doesn't remember that), he stumbles across a group of purple-skinned beings. They approach Garth and he attempts to fight them off, but they knock him out and put him in a net.

Meanwhile, Aquaman, still searching for the missing Mera(again continued from previous issues), finds his way into a partially hidden cave where the water is eerily calm. The pressures in there are so intense they briefly knock him out, and when he comes to, he finds himself in a land of giants!

Aquaman comes across a surface world explorer named Phil Darson, who explains to Aquaman that these giants--who seem to look as frozen as statues--actually have such a different metabolism that they move very, very slowly, so it only appears they are immobile. From comments Darson makes, Aquaman wonders if he wasn't involved in Mera's disappearance...

Back to Aqualad, as he has been dumped by these mysterious kidnappers into some sort of arena to fight for the amusement of this colony of people. Aqualad manages to hold his own--against even the biggest of the purple guys, who is armed with a giant scythe--but after he does, a group of them come in and overpower him, carting him out of the arena.

Turns out this colony is on its last legs, having been attacked to near extinction by a creature known only as The Bugala. These people are looking for a powerful champion from the outside world to help them defeat the monster, and they think Aqualad just might be that champion!
Will Aqualad become these people's defender? Will Aquaman be able to find him, as well as Mera? To be continued!

As are all the SAG issues, this one is a lot of fun and moves at a breakneck pace. Aquaman's undersea world is filled with so many crazy aliens, giants, and other creatures that its amazing Skeates could keep track of it all, but he did.

And Aparo's work is of course top-notch, as always. I'm running out of superlatives!

Trivia: The letters page features a missive from some young comics fan named Mark Evanier, as did about ten thousand other DC titles at the time.

Since Aqualad plays such a central role in the above issue of Aquaman, I thought it's a perfect time to mention that he also takes the lead in the newest issue of DC's fun Teen Titans: Year One mini-series, out this week.

I've enjoyed the two issues so far--the artwork is by Karl Kerschl, Serge Lapointe, and Steph Peru and is pretty darn nifty, and I like the different look for Aqualad they came up with, even if it is a little grotesque. I like the story, too, though I kinda feel like Bob Haney could've fit everything that's happened in these first two issues into the first ten pages of one of his old Titans stories.

An added bonus with this issue is that features a quick appearance by the Sea King himself! Sure, he's under the influence of some nefarious force causing him(and Batman, Green Arrow, and Flash) to go rogue, but what the heck, it's still nice to see classic Aquaman in a DC comic again:

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Aquaman "Armory" Figure by DC Direct - 2008

sgThis is a new figure from DC Direct, part of their "Armory" series, featuring Batman, Nightwing, Flamebird, and Arthur in "armored attire".

I don't think this line is connected to any current comics*, so it's kind of odd, but of course I bought one. I'm just glad Aquaman(who looks a lot like Graham Chapman from Monty Python's Holy Grail here) got included at all!

I didn't even know this series existed, but thanks to the eagle eye of
All Things Fun's John McLaren, there was one waiting for me when I arrived at the store yesterday.

In fact, it's long past due that I officially induct John into F.O.A.M., because over the past few years, Jon has always been finding me AquaStuff that I never would've known about otherwise--Heroclix figures, Vs. cards, comics where Arthur guest-stars, but somehow it never occurred to me to make John a F.O.A.M.er. It finally did when he angrily confronted me in the store, demanding to be included in the august club.

So thanks for everything, John, and welcome to F.O.A.M.!

*Update: My fellow AquaFans have pointed out to me via the comments that this armor look is from the "Our Worlds At War" storyline. I hope my errant commentary did not ruin anyone's day.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Showcase Presents Aquaman Vols. 1 & 2

Somehow I never got around to talking about the first Showcase Presents: Aquaman volume when it came out, so now that Volume Two is here I thought we'd do a round-up. Giddyap!

I'm so glad Aquaman is getting represented in DC's successful Showcase series. Since the backlist is getting deeper with these books, I assume they're selling well, which of course is great. I know many parents buy these(and Marvel's Essentials) books for their kids, since obviously you're getting the absolute best bang for your buck. Over five-hundred pages for seventeen bucks? Not bad, especially when so much of the material is classic stuff. Kids I think don't have as much of a problem with the black and white, especially if its the first time they're encountering this material.

The first volume features Aquaman's tales from Adventure Comics, Detective Comics(that was a stretch, putting him in Detective Comics), World's Finest, Showcase, and the first few issues of Aquaman. Art is by Ramona Fradon and Nick Cardy, proving again that Aquaman may have been a second-tier hero, but he had top-tier artists.

Volume 2 features the classic "Aquaman Weds Mera" cover by Cardy from Aquaman #18, beautifully re-colored by Drew Moore--I loved how the colors are just a tad washed out, perfectly capturing the underwater feel. These tales are from further issues of Aquaman, World's Finest(wow, Aquaman was popular enough back then to have two--three, if you count Justice League of America--regular series!), plus his team-up with Hawkman in The Brave and the Bold #51.

I know I just mentioned this a few days ago, but it bears repeating--looking back over these issues all in a row like this, I had forgotten how much of a stone cold babe Mera was when rendered by Nick Cardy. Curvy and graceful, Mera looked at times like an underwater Ava Gardner. No wonder Arthur missed so many JLA meetings!

Anyway, these are fine volumes, well put together(though one request--any chance DC could reinstate the half-page ads that used to run in the original books?). I hope they continue to sell, so we get the chance to see Showcase Presents: Aquaman volumes three, four, five...

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

AquaSketch by Michael Netzer - 2008

Michael Netzer is a man of his word!

He promised an original Aquaman sketch for the Shrine in conjunction with his
Save the Martian Manhunter campaign, and boy did he deliver!

Here we have
not only Aquaman, but also the Martian Manhunter and the Atom, all hanging out and taking five from presumably yet another world-shattering JLA adventure.

I love it, thanks so much Michael!

Monday, February 04, 2008

JLU DC Superheroes Metal Figurine - 2007

sgI own the original release of the this die-cast figurine, when it came out in 2006. But I scan the Target shelves so relentlessly for JLU figures that I never even noticed that all the metal figurines were re-released with this new package design.

I wouldn't normally buy a figure just for that, but when my pal, frequent
Hey Kids! contributor and now F.O.A.M. member George Rears handed it to me when we had lunch a week ago, I happily accepted it. Thanks George!

Semi-Interesting Note: this package features multiple languages, so now I know that Hawkgirl is Chica Halcon in Spanish, while Aquaman is still Aquaman. This will come in handy if I ever visit Spain, because I will at least be able to say "Take me to your Aquaman merchandise."

sgGeorge also contributed the DC house ad that I'm running today on
Coming Super-Attractions!, so he only has to contribute something to two more of my blogs to make it a complete set. Get going, George!