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Saturday, March 07, 2009

Showcase #32 - June 1961

Comics Weekend "The Creature King of the Sea" by Jack Miller and Nick Cardy.

Aquaman's adventures in Showcase continue,
where he and Aqualad take on yet another strange creature bent on conquest (aren't they all?):
Aquaman and Aqualad are bust collecting samples of rare coral for a museum, when they run across a skin diver trapped under a rock.

The man only has a few moments of air in his tank left, so Aquaman has a nearby devil ray head to the surface, collecting a huge pocket of air in between its fins, and then heads back down, scooping up the diver, giving him enough oxygen until they can all reach the surface.

The man is named Jed Coombs and he says he was searching for treasure, which is supposed to be buried nearby. Aquaman and Aqualad generously agree to go look for it themselves, and the trail leads them to a deep, narrow chasm of coral.

While in the chasm, our heroes run into a series of death traps, like spiked tendrils of coral, giant, man-eating clams(!), and a collection of Mangrove roots which ensnare Aquaman and Aqualad!

Thankfully, one of Aquaman's finny friends is nearby:
...this whole sequence in the chasm is colored in this manner, as if barely any light made it down there. A very effective, very cool-looking sequence, thanks to Nick Cardy and an uncredited colorist.

Now with the treasure, they bring it up to the surface, where inside they see all the trunk contains is two vials of liquid. Strange!

Even more strange is Jed, who Aquaman notices in sweating under the hot sun everywhere on his body, except his face--which means he's wearing a disguise!

Jed fesses up to Aquaman that he comes from an ancient race, and one of the liquids has the power to turn people into a giant, purple-skinned creature (see cover!).

Before Aquaman can get it away from him, "Jed" takes a swig of the liquid, turning him into the giant creature, claiming he is the "New master of the seas!:
The creature dives into the water, chasing after Aquaman and Aqualad. He seems nearly unstoppable, and he swats away a veritable army of sea life as if they were nothing.

He then turns his attention towards a nearby cargo ship, carrying gold bullion. The creature smashes the hull, stealing the gold, and takes off.

After getting some whales to help keep the ship afloat, Aquaman chases after the creature, while Aqualad has some octopi grab all the stolen booty and help hide it in a nearby cave, with the help of some helpful turtles.

Aqualad heads back down into the water, where he and Aquaman are grabbed the creature!

Now it's time for Chapter Three, but before that we have some of the great ancillary content DC put in all their comics of the time, like a house ad for House of Mystery, House of Secrets, and My Greatest Adventure, a one-page gag strip called "Homer Goes Skin Diving", and this fun little info strip:
...I like how both the cartoon strips (and the one-page text feature, "Explorers of the 'Liquid Sky'") are all water-related. You got a lot of content for a measly dime back in 1961.

Anyway, now for Chapter 3:
Aquaman and Aqualad, in the clutches of the creature, start to wilt from being out of the water nearly an hour.

Aqualad starts to collapse, and, to save his life, Aquaman demands he tell the creature where the gold is hidden. Aqualad points out the nearby cave, and the creature heads inside and reclaims it.

The creature leaves our heroes on the beach, about to die, as he takes off in a boat he has moored inside a cove (returning back his normal "Jed" form to be able to fit into it).

The boat takes off, but is stopped by some whales. Jed then grabs a rifle, but its knocked out of his hands by some flying fish! How...?

Its Aquaman, of course, who explains that some nearby sea gulls saved their lives:
...that's the second time in as many issues of Showcase that sea gulls provide a last-minute, third act save. Jack Miller must have really been a big fan of sea gulls.

Jed tries one last time to escape, tossing some grenades, but they are knocked away by Topo the octopus. The fat lady, it seems, has sung for ol' Jed:
...the end!

While this story has a lot of similarities to the previous two Aquaman adventures, its still such a fun, bright, fast-moving story that it doesn't really matter--these stories proved that Aquaman could carry a book all by himself, and that his stories didn't drag going from eight pages to book-length.

Tomorrow: Aquaman's final solo appearance in Showcase!

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