] type='image/vnd.microsoft.icon'/>

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Aquaman (Vol.1) #15 - June 1964

Comics Weekend "Menace of the Man-Fish" by Jack Miller and Nick Cardy.

I thought we'd set the Wayback Machine to the early 1960s for today's installment of Comics Weekend, to Aquaman's very first series, back when it was drawn by the great Nick Cardy.

This issue opens with Aquaman and Aqualad facing a problem superhero universes have to deal with a lot: well-meaning but slightly mad scientists:
Our heroes follow Dr. Deering back to his lab, where he is also working on a serum that will allow humans to breathe underwater!

But something goes wrong, and there's an explosion that goes off right in Deering's face! Suddenly he finds it difficult to breathe, and Aquaman determines he needs water to breathe!

They take him underwater, and, true enough, Deering can now breathe. Aquaman and Aqualad get a doctor to examine him (using a high-tech underwater craft), and Deering is distraught news at the news: he's stuck underwater, all alone.

Deering is so distraught his mind starts to go:
...I love that last panel, with the furrowed brow of Dr. Deering peering out of the water. Cardy at his cartoony best.

Anyway, Dr. Deering climbs into the giant, crane-like machine he's built, and goes on a rampage in a nearby city, stealing a skyscraper! To be continued in Part 2!

After an ad for Palisades Park, NJ (starring Superman), a PSA called "Names Do Hurt!" and an ad for Capt. Storm #1, we're back to our story:
...Deering's machine seems unstoppable, as it makes its way through the city. The police are unable to stop it, even losing one of their helicopters in the fight.

Deering then steals part of a bridge(!), and some more skyscrapers, carrying them all underwater, building an "underwater metropolis" so he won't be so lonely.

Aquaman and Aqualad, seeing this from afar, try and figure out what to do--Deering is clearly mad, but they try one last attempt at reasoning with him.

Deering won't listen, of course, and he takes his plan to the next step--getting some people for his new city! He hops in his ship and uses it to grab a nearby passenger ship, but Aquaman commands some whales to get in the way.

Deering gets so mad he uses the machine's claws to grab Aquaman and Aqualad, turning them into his helpless puppets! To be continued in Part 3!

After an ad for House of Secrets and Rip Hunter, Time Master, a text piece called "Underwater Oddities" (ah, third class mailing permits, how I miss you!), and a subscription ad, our story concludes:
Deering tells Aquaman and Aqualad he plans to keep them in his new city, as his friends.

As Aquaman decides what to do, a pair of giant scissors comes flying through the city! It comes by and cuts the strings holding our heroes tight. What's going on here?

Turns out its Aquaman's new friend, Mera!:
Re: Panel 1 above: Hubba-hubba!

With Aquaman and Aqualad free, Deering gives chase in his machine, but Mera slows him down with another example of her hard water powers. He then turns on the machine's vacuum mechanism, trying to suck them all right inside!

But Mera, upon Aquaman's lead, forms a hard water ball, jamming it inside the vacuum. This stops Deering for the moment, but he vows to go find other people to kidnap, and takes off.

After one more failed attempt at grabbing a passenger ship (thwarted again by Mera), a Navy gunboat starts firing on Deering, with the intent of killing him and destroying his ship!

Aquaman has a meeting with the Navy captain, who informs Aquaman that Deering is too big a risk, and therefore must be stopped at all costs. Aquaman says he has one last idea...and the Navy captain gives the Sea King one last chance before they have to step in.

Aquaman, Mera, and Aqualad meet up with Deering, and Aquaman tells him that his city is already filled with people! They take a look, and Deering sees his city teeming with people! How can this be?

Turns out these are people from Mera's other-dimensional world, put there to distract Deering long enough for Aquaman to get control of his ship!

But Deering can control his ship by remote control, so it looks like Aquaman's last plan has failed. But then, suddenly, Deering's ability to breathe underwater starts to fade! He begins to choke, and passes out! Now what?

Aquaman notices the remote control, now out of Deering's hand:
...the end!

Whew, what a story! These early issues of Aquaman--whether written by Jack Miller or later Bob Haney--were jam-packed with plot. I honestly think that if this story had been done nowadays, it would fill enough issues to be reprinted a trade paperback.

Dr. Deering is a little more malevolent than your typical kooky scientist, which I think gives the story a nice little edge, underscored by the fact that the Navy is prepared to blast Deering--and his ship--to kingdom come.

And what a goofy little ending--Aqualad moving skyscrapers around like they were tinker toys. This would have made a great episode of the Filmation Aquaman cartoon!

No comments: