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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Guest Post by Joe Slab - Poll Results

sgWelcome to another Aquaman Shrine Guest Post!

The most recent Aqua-Poll (which was the Shrine's most popular, ever), concerning everyone's favorite Aquaman era, was
F.O.A.M.er Joe Slab's idea--so I thought it only made sense to have Joe do the wrap-up to talk about what it all means. Take it away, Joe!

AZ: The Aquaman Zeitgeist

First off, thanks to everyone who took the time to vote in the Aquaman Shrine's most recent poll asking the question "What is your favorite era of Aquaman?" Rob and I discussed doing a poll to find out which interpretation of Aquaman is most popular as we close out 2010 and all signs point to a resurgent Aquaman, more visible than ever in 2011. Rob divided Aquaman's publication history into different "eras" for voting purposes.

Unfortunately, not everyone was happy with our choices, and some fans complained that their favorite period was not included--most notably Kurt Busiek himself, who wanted to vote for a Jurgens/Epting era and tweeted that he couldn't find it within the choices. I assured Kurt and other Aqua-fans that the categories were meant to be inclusive rather than exclusive, and that all they needed to do was vote in the era that most closely represented the particular run or creative team that is their favorite. We also included the animated Batman: Brave and the Bold version of Aquaman (which received significant vote percentage) however did not include other TV versions of Aquaman such as the Filmation cartoons, Super Friends, Smallville, or the recently debuted Young Justice. Perhaps in the future another poll will focus solely on Aquaman in other media?

In any case, the spirit of the poll was always to celebrate the various iterations of Aquaman throughout his 70+ year history and promote an appreciation for all of them, not to debate the validity of one version over another. Much time and print on the interwebs is devoted to Hal Jordan vs. Kyle Rayner and/or Barry Allen vs. Wally West type debates which at some point move beyond fun into mean-spiritedness and futility. And while Aquaman fans don't have as clear cut of a debate, there has been much discussion since Aquaman has returned from oblivion in Blackest Night as to which portrayal of Aquaman will be received most favorably by long time fans as well as the new fans that DC hopes the Sea King will garner as a headliner in Brightest Day and beyond.
The results of the poll are not surprising and correspond to Aquaman's most successful periods of publication. A predictable win was for the later Silver Age Aquaman drawn by the legendary Jim Aparo and written by Steve Skeates, Dave Micheline, and Paul Kuppergberg. Aquaman's glory days have always been the later 60's and early 70's and it is from this period that many fans draw their perception of the definitive, iconic King of the Seven Seas. Earlier periods, fared poorer, largely I suspect to fans lack of familiarity with the Golden Age and early Silver Age Aquaman's adventures. Thanks to Rob and his work on the Shrine for giving many of us our only exposure to Aquaman's early, hard to find adventures of the 40's and 50's!

For other fans, presumably those who may have discovered the adventures of Aquaman for the first time in the 90's, a very different Marine Monarch was being published by DC, written by Peter David, Dan Jurgens, Erik Larsen, and Grant Morrison (in the pages of JLA). This Aquaman was wildly popular with a new generation of fans but was not received as enthusiastically by purist fans, many of whom rebelled against a maimed, "Wolverined" version of their childhood hero. Nevertheless, the "Beard & Hook" version of Aquaman remains a significantly popular era, coming in 3rd in the poll and giving the #2 era a run for its money.

Other versions of Aquaman, the blue uniformed Sea King depicted all too briefly by the late Neal Pozner and designed by Craig Hamilton, the radically new take on Aquaman in the Waterbearer story arc, and the altogether different Arthur Joseph who held the title of Aquaman during the character's last solo title, have all been valid interpretations and represent different fans favorite eras.
However, coming in 2nd in the poll, perhaps generating votes based more on what is hoped for to come rather than what has been seen so far, is the current version of Aquaman appearing in Brightest Day. This is not your father's Arthur Curry. This is a revitalized Sea King written and drawn by arguably the premiere talent in comics today, and DC has not been shy about forecasting an expanded role for Aquaman and his supporting cast of Mera and the newly introduced Aqualad in 2011. While some of us are just breathing a sigh of relief to see Aquaman not relegated to obscurity, others are fearful of what a writer with a reputation like Geoff Johns' may have in store for him. Johns knows that dark characters sell comics and it was no small coincidence that his first depiction of Aquaman was as a nefarious Black Lantern (cue ominous soundtrack) in Blackest Night.

Thankfully, scores of new Aquaman fans have made their voices heard both in this poll and elsewhere, and it is obvious that the powers-that-be at DC are listening. Mera joining Aquaman on Smallville. A new animated version of the Sea King appearing with Aqualad in the Cartoon Network's Young Justice. The coming of AquaWar in Brightest Day. An official DC Comics Aquaman Facebook page. And finally, the ongoing rumors of an Aquaman movie, not commented upon, but not denied by the DCE execs. All indicators of big things to come…

So whatever version of Aquaman is your favorite, it appears that the best may be ahead of us. If this is indeed true, the Aquaman Shrine will be busier than ever in 2011 and I encourage all members of FOAM to lend a hand, spread the word, and join rob! in bringing one of the best fan content blogs to the forefront of comic fans' awareness.

Semper Fi F.O.A.M!

Joe Slab


Keith Jones said...

This was a fantastic idea.

I fell into the ... well, "victorious" group of voters. Skeates. Kupperberg. Aparo. These guys - special credit to Aparo for this - really started to unify the disparate elements of the 60's series into a world that nearly became fully realized (with more time Atlantis could've been as defined and notorious as Gotham City - there's evidence of that in places like DC Comics Presents # 5, where the history of "Poseidonis" and "Tritonis" was first created, a bit later, in the early 80's).

Much of that world-building has to be credited to the artists of the period. Aparo, but also Don Newton and the others.

The golden era/halcyon days of Aquaman also benefitted from a few repetitive themes (How many attempted coups and rebellions were there?) and solid adversaries with motivations. Plus, they took away Ocean Master's amnesia to make him more interesting, and raised the bar for Black Manta, added Shark and Kobra.

I believe the Bob Haney "Brave & Bold" issues featuring Aquaman also count as part of this era.

I will say that I wished I could vote for "second place" with the old Ramona Fradon era. It established a lot of the "Silver Age core" of Aquaman, and the art was fantastic.

And I have high hopes for the future Johns-led revival. He's already restored Tom Curry to Aquaman's history ... that is as good a sign as I could've hoped for as to what he believes are Aquaman's key traits and origins.

Sandor_Clegane said...

Great idea for a poll, guys - nice to see Aquaman getting some attention.

I didn't get a chance to vote, but Skeates / Aparo is a deserving winner, as it's just about the definitive Aquaman. It's a bit absurd that *none* of the stories from this period have been collected up to this point. I know that a collection is coming in 2011, so...good news. Finally.

Similarly, very few Aquafans have ever read anything from prior to 1959, since NONE of it has ever been collected - not even in a 'Greatest Stories Ever Told' form! The first 20 years of Aquaman's existence...a complete mystery to his fans. I'd like to see that change.

So here's my 2011 New Year Aqua-wish:

Hopefully we get more collections of the classic material (40s and 60s/70s), more solid modern material, and even more fans to vote in the poll the next time!