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Friday, October 31, 2008

Aquaman Color Model Sheet by Alex Toth

This shot of the colored model sheet for the Super Friends version of Aquaman was sent to me by F.O.A.M.er Tommy of the Bat-Blog. Thanks Tommy!

I've talked about Alex Toth's pitch-perfect version of Aquaman before, so what else is there to say? This is very first version of Aquaman I ever remember seeing, setting the template for an obsession that will carry me through the rest of my life.

Nice job, Mr. Toth!

sgShameless Plug Dept.: Today is the debut of my newest character-centric blog, I Am The Phantom Stranger.

Hopefully, in time I can do for the Stranger what I've managed to do for Aquaman here...introduce him to comics fans unfamiliar with the character before now, as well as giving those who already know and love the guy a place to revel in The Phantom Stranger's mysterious and unique charms.

And when else to start up a Phantom Stranger blog than on Halloween?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Super Dictionary, Part 11 - 1978

The penultimate installment from the 1978 DC Comics Super Dictionary, this one is unusual in that it features a shot of the entire Justice League (cribbed from an issue of the book, with art by Dick Dillin and Frank McLaughlin) to define the word "United"--although Aquaman does look a little perturbed there.

Regarding the text for the word "Unusual"--"It is usual for Aquaman to talk to fish. It is common for him to talk to fish. We expect him to do it." Well, ok then, omniscient narrator!

For the last definition, for "Whale" this panel seems to be pastiche of two different Aquaman artists--Aquaman and Aqualad are by Nick Cardy, but the angry whale is by Jim Aparo, from Aquaman (Vol.1) #40:
Remember: "More whales are coming."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Aqualad Paper Doll

sgA few months ago, I posted pics of a super-keen Aquaman Paper Doll. Then, not too long after, I posted pics of Mera Paper Doll made by the same person, F.O.A.M. member Mac Schafer.

Well, Mac has delivered another member of the AquaFamily, this time its Aqualad in paper doll form!

I love the look these things have, Mac does such a good job on them. They have a distinct old-timey look, yet they look just like their comic book counterparts.

Hey Mac, where's Ocean Master?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Aquaman (Vol.1) #56 Original Cover Art

This is the original art for the super-awesome cover to Aquaman (Vol.1) #56, the last issue of the title's original run. (This scan was sent to me by an anonymous donor--thanks, Anonymous!)

It's credited entirely to Nick Cardy, but there's something about that creature that screams Neal Adams to me.

And as I've mentioned before, someone along the line decided to reorient the type, presumably to make it easier to read:
...a great cover, no matter what direction the text is going in!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Rubb'rniks - 1968

sgSometime last year, I posted this, a 3"-high rubber figurine. As you can see, its a very sad toy(I even titled the post "Sad, Sad Rubber Figurine").

Pity the poor child you had to find a way to play with this thing--while its obviously Aquaman (what with the scales, scalloped gloves, and "A" belt), its such a crude little piece I had assumed, having no better information, that it was some sort of bootleg or knockoff. Poor Arthur doesn't even have any feet!

Little did I know, that this figurine is actually an officially licensed product:
...Great Neptune, how did the manufacturer (Multiple Toymakers) ever get approval for this from DC?

Having stock shots of the four heroes below makes it even worse--by showing you the original versions, you know what you're missing. Wow.

The ultimate irony is, when this item shows up on eBay, it goes for like a thousand dollars because its so hard to find still in the package. Having originally retailed for 19 cents, that's a mark-up of, like, oh, a bajillion percent.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

DC Infinite Halloween Special #1 - Dec. 2007

sgComics Weekend Boo!

When deciding what comic to talk about today, I came across this DC Infinite Halloween Special, a book I had somehow missed talking about last year.

I remembered telling myself that, having forgotten to talk about it last October, I wanted to save it for the next Halloween. And since this is the last Comics Weekend segment before Halloween '08, now's the time!

This book is stuffed to the rafters with stories--as the cover promises, 13 stories in all--and is narrated by a group of Arkham Asylum inmates, a fun and appropriate gimmick.

There's stories featuring Zatanna, Robin, Batman, Lobo, Superman, Flash, Deadman, and others. But of course, we're here to talk about "Children of the Deep", by Tony Bedard and Sebastian Fiumara, starring Aquaman--or the then-version of Aquaman at least:
This tale is told by Dr. Destiny, and is about three comely women, known as The Morgan Sisters. The three sisters lived in a creepy house on the edge of the water, a place the men of the town have long since stopped visiting.

Turns out the Morgan Sisters were waiting for "a true man of the sea", so they are of course happy to see this strapping young man who calls himself Aquaman (actually, he simply calls himself "Arthur", but you know what I mean).

Being very friendly, they lure poor Arthur into their house, and it seems like it's going to be a scenario out of Penthouse Forum. But unfortunately, once they walk him onto a pentagram on the floor, it sends a spear of mental anguish into Arthur's head, driving him to his knees.

Of course, the Morgan Sisters are witches, who finally have the sacrifice they need. Or so they think:

...pretty tough stuff there, from Arthur Joseph: dragging the three Morgan Sisters to their deaths! A perfectly dark, gruesome ending for a Halloween-themed story.

A solid little tale, and it makes me sorry all over again that Sword of Atlantis got canceled so abruptly.

Aquaman--any version--has now been without a regular comic book for over a year now. There's arguments to be made all over the place, but I have a deep-seated belief that there are a stable of DC characters--ones that have endured for decades--that simply should always be available in some regular comic book.

While not reaching the legendary status of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, characters like Aquaman, Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Atom, Hawkman, Captain Marvel, and maybe even Plastic Man I think should always be regularly visible in DC's publishing schedule.

C'mon, DC, let's get Aquaman back on the schedule. Howabout Adventure Comics Vol.2, starring Aquaman, Hawkman, and Plastic Man?

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.

Friday, October 24, 2008

DC Comics Presents #5 Ad - 1979

An exciting ad, promoting DC's two titanic team-up titles (say that three times fast!).

As a kid, I would have been interested in both these books--the issue of DC Comics Presents because of Aquaman's appearance,
of course, (one of only two he would ever make in the book's 97-issue run), and The Brave and the Bold because it features one of those really crazy team-ups I loved as a kid (still do, in fact)--Batman and the Unknown Soldier?? I'm so there!

Anyway, we have yet to talk about that issue of DCCP here at the Shrine, and its time to rectify that--so be here tomorrow!

(P.S. Speaking of Brave and the Bold--many of you have graciously sent/fwd'd me B&B-related stuff, now that the show is a mere weeks from premiering. Rest assured I appreciate all your emails and I'm working on putting all of the stuff together into one post)

Aquaman--or someone being called Aquaman, at any rate--makes another appearance in Final Crisis, issue #4, released this week. You can see him pictured there behind Green Lantern and next to Firestorm.

Again, I say...?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

AquaSketch by Jay Piscopo - 2008

A couple weeks ago I posted an original Aquaman sketch from writer/artist Jay Piscopo, who I met at an appearance at my LCS, All Things Fun. Jay is the creator of The Undersea Adventures of Cap'n Eli, a fun all-ages comic, and he's a big Aquaman fan.

Well, a few days ago, completely out of the blue, he sent me this sketch--well, more than a "sketch" really--of a sort of alt-universe Aquaman, which he calls "Pulp Aquaman." Way cool! I really dig Jay's style--its very simple and direct, very old school Classic Comic Book Art.

If the head gear looks like its from a certain space adventurer, you'd be right. As Jay says: "
I ripped off the costume idea from a Flash Gordon story."

...if you're going to steal, Alex Raymond is a really good person to steal from.

Thanks Jay, I dig it!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Aquaman OS-11 Operation Battle Starter...?

Every so often I go trolling on eBay to see if there any cute little (read: cheap) Aquaman items up for sale that I want (read: need). There hasn't been much lately, but I did come across this oddity.

It's listed as a "Rockman Operation Battle Starter OS-11 Aquaman Megaman", whatever the hell that is (sounds like something Cartman really would want).

As you can see from the packaging, there doesn't seem to be any connection to Aquaman whatsoever, except for the "Navi Data Chip/Aquaman" label on the top right of the package. What "Aquaman" means in this context is anyone's guess.

It's currently for sale here, and while I am curious to see if there is any connection to the Sea King, I'm not curious enough to bid on it.

Completely unrelated, here is the cover to the upcoming Brave and the Bold comic series, part of the Johnny DC line. This graphic was sent to me by several F.O.A.M. members on the same day, so I can only assume DC finally has started soliciting the book.

Aquaman in particular looks very Ren and Stimpy-ish to me, but I have to say the beard is really growing on me. Plus, look how huge he is compared to Batman!

Thanks for the heads-up fellas!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Aquaman Redondas!

This is another one of those items I have in my Shrine folder, and I have no memory of how I got it--some generous F.O.A.M. member must have sent it to me, but I am apparently getting very forgetful in my old age.

Click the image to see the full sequence--its a series of nine panels, where Aquaman has a very truncated adventure. Hey, I've never seen Aquaman riding a walrus before!

Monday, October 20, 2008

My Grudge Against Shazam!

Ok, I've been wanting to talk about this for a while, but never quite got around to doint it. But after reading the newest, Shazam!-centric issue of Back Issue!, I finally got the impetus to sit down and write about what I call My Grudge Against Shazam!

When I say grudge, I don't mean anything personal about Captain Marvel/Shazam!/The Big Red Cheese/The World's Mightiest Mortal, whatever you want to call him. I think he's a great character. I loved him as a kid, and I still like him today.

But as a kid, I always had a chip on my shoulder towards him, because, as far as I could tell, it was he who got a lot of the attention that I thought was due my hero, Aquaman.

In the late 1960s, Filmation had the rights to Superman, Batman, and Aquaman, and of course they each starred in their own series of successful cartoons, still popular to this day.

At some point in the early 1970s, the rights expired, and they were snapped up by Hanna-Barbera, along with Wonder Woman, who put them all in a little thing called Super Friends--again, popular to this day.

That left Filmation with not a lot of options, in terms of "A"-list characters with which to build a new TV show around. So they went with a character that the head of the network liked: Captain Marvel.
Of course, DC made a big deal about their adding the good Captain to their stable of characters, with the debut of Shazam! in 1972. While Aquaman was relegated to only showing up in Justice League of America, Captain Marvel got a marketing push nearly unprecedented in comics back then. (In addition to his regular title, he headlined no less than three treasury-sized editions:)
Even though the Shazam! comic series was not a big hit, the combination of it and the TV show reintroduced the character to a whole new generation of kids, and that meant, when it came time for merchandising, the Big Three--Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman--were of course represented. But when merchandisers had room for a fourth character to slap onto something, they often as not went for TV star Captain Marvel instead of the King of the Seven Seas.

As a kid, this drove me nuts. I kept looking at these ads, and wondering where the hell was Aquaman?? Sure, he made it onto a lot of merchandise himself (this blog is proof of that), but look at all the stuff he missed out on:

Sometimes the indignity was really hard to take, like with the pencil sharpeners, a few pictures above. They had to go
out of their way take Aquaman off the Super Friends logo, and instead emblazoned one of the sharpeners with Shazam! As Arrested Development's Gob Bluth would say, "Come on!"

Sometimes it felt like toy manufacturers were really out to get poor Arthur. I remember seeing this ad on the inside of what seemed like every DC comics for two years:
...now I have to admit, that Shazam! Car is really, really cool--but hardly necessary! Captain Marvel can fly!! Corgi could have repurposed Superman's Rock'Em Sock'Em Spaceship into an Aquaman Jet Ski with just a few tweaks. Harrumph, I say.

Even DC themselves got into the act sometimes, pushing Aquaman aside in favor of their big TV star:
And of course, all this Shazam! stuff left a deep impression on kids of the 70s, some of whom grew up to become comic book pros themselves--guys like Paul Dini and Alex Ross, who produced that series of superb, treasury-sized books starring Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman...and Shazam!

To think, if only things had worked out differently, we might have gotten this:
...I would've bought 100 copies of this. Easy. *sigh*

Now, I realize, I need to be realistic about this. As I've said here before, being Aquaman fan means having to manage expectations, because so frequently hopes are dashed (I guess its like being a Cubs fan).

Even if he had been available, a live-action Aquaman TV show would have been far beyond, budget-wise, what any production company could've managed. So I realize we really never could've had this:
But sometimes I really wonder why, so frequently, Aquaman just misses that brass ring of success.

But since I want to end this angry screed on an up-note, I guess I could say, hey, I'm lucky that H-B tapped Aquaman to be in the Super Friends, otherwise the show might have looked like this:
Holy Moley!

(Post Script: In my research for this piece, I had to scour every ad for DC superhero merchandise I could find. And in one instance, Aquaman and Shazam! had the right to both be mad:
...a Green Arrow patch? And a Silver Age Green Arrow, at that? The mind reels...)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Adventure Comics #455 - Feb. 1978

sgComics Weekend The last chapter of Aqualad in his solo feature in Adventure Comics!

Like last issue, the Aqualad is strip by by Paul Kupperberg, Carl Potts, and Dick Giordano (who took over for Joe Rubenstein, who inked the first chapter).

Last issue ended with Aqualad talking to what he thought was just a crazy old man, but who turned out to be an important key to learning what really happened to Aqualad's parents. The old man revealed it was he who killed the Idyllists' king, Thar, who looked just like Garth!

Aqualad then returned to the Hidden Valley of the Idyllists, enraged, and threatened to do the same thing to the Idyllists that they did to his father:
As Aqualad swims off, he notices all the fish in the area are dead!

Thinking its more of the radioactive waste that "the surface dwellers are famous for dumping down here", he checks out the area.

Noticing something behind a boulder in front of a nearby cave, he is shocked--literally--when he touches it. Then the boulder explodes!

Luckily Aqualad is only stunned, and he continues into the cave, seeing something he did not expect:

The robot then turns its sights on Aqualad when it notices him, trying to blast him with its laser. He manages to disarm it, so the robot tries a more direct approach, grabbing Aqualad's throat and squeezing the life out of him!

He manages to grab the robot's laser, shooting it from below, destroying it.

The destruction of the robot sets off a prerecorded message from the computer, telling the history it was there to safeguard!

Turns out many years ago, the Idyllists were ruled by King Thar and his queen, Berra. It was a peaceful place, until one day Thar proposed that they could strike out of their tiny valley and conquer other peoples.

The peace-loving Idyllists were horrified at their king, so they plotted against him:
Aqualad now understands why the Idyllists were so reluctant to tell him the truth, and that it doesn't really matter where he came from...it matters who he is now.

He resolves to rejoin his friend and mentor, Aquaman...

A great little strip, accomplishing a lot (i.e., not making Aqualad such a whiny jerk anymore) in a mere eighteen pages, spread out over three segments. The art by Potts and Giordano was top-notch, and not too long after this, our pal Paul Kupperberg would move from writing Aqualad and Mera back-ups to the big man himself, Aquaman!