Re-reading John Ostrander's outstanding Sea King stories inspired me to contact him and see if he wanted to share some of his thoughts regarding his two issues as writer of Aquaman. Luckily for all of us, John was nice enough to say yes to a brief chat:
The Aquaman Shrine: How did you end up writing those two issues of Aquaman?
John Ostrander: Some fill-in issues were needed because of deadline problems or something and the editor called me up.
TAS: How familiar were you with the character? Were you a fan at all?
JO: I knew Aquaman, of course, and I liked some of the work done on the series but I can't say I was a huge fan when the offer came to me.
TAS: Did you come up with those stories after being asked to fill in, or did you have those stories in your mind beforehand?
JO: I usually come up with any story on a given character when I'm asked to do it. Sometimes I have an idea for a series involving a given character but usually it's connected to someone wanting a story from me.
TAS: Both stories concern themselves with other people and how they see Aquaman. I've heard from other writers that in some cases Aquaman is a harder main character to write, because his personality isn't as distinct as, say, Superman or Batman. Do you agree with this? If so, was it a part of your thought process in coming up with the stories?
JO: I think that's right although even Superman and Batman have undergone changes during their publishing histories. Let's compare Aquaman to Namor (as has often been done). Namor is the anti-hero, quick tempered, and so on. He has flaws. Makes him both easier and more interesting to write. Aquaman doesn't have flaws or they’'re not as central to the character. I'll be honest--my first reaction to doing my first fill-in story was, "What do I DO with Aquaman?" (Keep in mind that, with a fill-in story, you don't play with the ongoing storyline and you basically have to leave the characters as you found them.)
So I wrote a story about a writer assigned to do a story about Aquaman. He also moans about it but then learns things about Aquaman from characters who have met (or say they met) Aquaman and changes his mind along the way. That made for an interesting story and allowed me to play around with the character quite a bit. It allowed me to get into the character and wound up with a story I am very proud of and that I enjoyed doing quite a bit. If I don't enjoy the story when I'm writing it, the reader won't enjoy is when they're reading it.
TAS: Whose idea was it to have the kid's drawings of Aquaman fighting Octo-Man kick off the story? I thought that was a great touch.
TAS: It sure did! Would you ever want to write Aquaman again, either regularly or more self-contained stories like the two you did?
JO: I had a neighbor kid then named Adam who drew up his own comic that was very much like the one in the story. I stole the idea and instructed the artist to make sure it looked like a kid's drawing. I thought it worked out pretty good!
JO: Actually, I would like to write more Aquaman especially as an ongoing series. There were certain things I came up with for him that I'd like to do more. One thing I specified as a visual--Aquaman shouldn't just climb out of the sea--he should erupt from it, like whales do or dolphins, raise a plume of water with it. Makes him look more majestic. Better entrance. I always enjoy playing with characters that others might take for granted. Ultimately, it's what the individual writer does with a character--and Aquaman has the potential for greatness.
TAS: What are you working on now?
JO: I'm currently winding up Star Wars: Legacy with the miniseries Star Wars: Legacy--War. After that, there will be more Star Wars stuff (which I can't announce yet) and I'm always pitching at DC and Marvel. Anywhere in fact.
Thanks to John Ostrander for not only chatting with the Shrine, but writing two great Aquaman stories. Let's hope we get to see more from John in the future!