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Sunday, March 08, 2009

Showcase #33 - Aug. 1961

Comics Weekend "Prisoners of the Aqua-Planet" by Jack Miller and Nick Cardy.

This issue's cover, the last of the Aquaman try-out issues of Showcase, was drawn by none other than Dick Dillin, very early in his tenure at DC. (Of course, Dillin would become very accustomed to drawing the Sea King, in approximately seventeen-thousand issues of Justice League of America)

But we're here to talk about Showcase, and this story opens up with a typically dire situation facing our heroes:
Aquaman and Aqualad see a huge sea creature attacking a nearby cargo ship. It has an usual-sized head, almost like a chisel, and it scoops the ship up out of the water.

Aquaman tries to distract the creature away from the ship, while Aqualad spies another similarly-odd-looking sea monster, heading for a lighthouse!

Aquaman uses some eels to distract the second creature, but after a few moments they turn to attack him and Aqualad! What next?

Well, our heroes are saved by a group of green-skinned, tentacled aliens, who pop up out of the water and call the beasts off!

Turns out these aliens are from Venus, on the run since their home planet was taken over by invaders. They are living in their spaceship on the sea floor until they can plot their next move. They brought along those sea creatures to help build their new home, and were scared into a frenzy by their new surroundings.

Shortly thereafter, Aquaman and Aqualad visit the new city built by the Venusians, when another alien ship comes by, and grabs the entire structure with a tractor beam, carrying it skyward!

Time for Chapter 2:
They are brought to Venus (on a tiny patch of land, the only land we can see on the whole planet), and the new conquerors of Venus are none too pleased to see they brought some Earthlings along for the ride:
...I love how comforting Aquaman is to Aqualad, especially in panel 2--his arm on Garth's shoulder is a nice touch, presumably added by Cardy.

Turns out some of Aquaman's finny friends got brought along for the ride, and by distracting their captors, Aquaman gets Topo to grab the aliens and free Aquaman and Aqualad.

They are chased out of the building and out of the city into a thicket of dense vegetation. Since they know the Venusians can't stay out of water for long, Aquaman and Aqualad grab some sea sponges and head for the surface, where the Venusians can't follow.

While on land, they are attacked by yet more strange creatures, and on the surface of Venus (due to the lesser gravity) they have near-Superman-level strength! They toss around the creatures easily.

But suddenly, Aquaman and Aqualad start to feel very weak. Turns out in all the ruckus, the hour that they can go without water is almost up, and the sea sponges they brought for that purpose are down the beach, which seems like miles due to the condition they're now in.

Luckily, Aquaman gets one of the creatures--who has two giant nostrils on the sides of its face--to charge at them, blowing them near the sponges. They pour the water on themselves and rejuvinate.

Now for Chapter 3:
Aquaman and Aqualad try to help rescue their displaced friends, and they run into a pack of aliens who they think are hostile, but turn out to be supporters of the old regime, but were out-armed by the hostile takeover.

Our heroes help them break into the arsenal, so they can get their hands (tentacles?) on some weapons. The two sides battle, and the small band that took control by force are easily overwhelmed. Aquaman personally put the coup's leader in the same cell he and Aqualad were stuck in.

The Venusians thank Aquaman and Aqualad for their help:
...the end!

As I said above, this was Aquaman's final Showcase appearance (as a solo feature). Obviously, reader response must have been pretty solid, because less than a year later, Aquaman was headlining his own book, for the first time in his 20+ year career.

And I think these stories were even more influential than that--all four of these Showcase stories (and many subsequent issues of Aquaman) read like comic book versions of the Aquaman Filmation cartoons, which would hit the airwaves by the end of the decade. I can almost hear the Filmation voices when I read the dialog in these stories!


Daniel said...

Dick Dillin, very early in his comics career...

Dillin was pencilling Blackhawk (for Quality, before DC bought the character) and Ibis (for Fawcett, ditto) as early as 1950, eleven years before this "early in his career" cover.

Anonymous said...

...and on the surface of Venus (due to the lesser gravity) they have near-Superman-level strength!
Pre-Crisis Earth-1 Venus must have been a prety cool place.

rob! said...

I think everywhere in the Pre-Crisis DC world was a fun place.