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Monday, October 03, 2011

Aquaman Family Primer

It's pretty clear that, thanks to Aquaman #1 (which was one the New 52's best-sellers), the Sea King has a lot of new fans. Consequently, that means we have a bunch of new people visiting the Shrine wanting to learn more about the character, his supporting cast, and his villains. So, in the interest of making the Shrine as useful a resource as possible, today we present a brief "primer" of the Aqua-Family!

This list is no means meant to be comprehensive or definitive, especially since Aquaman has undergone a lot of changes in character and direction over the past seventy years. But hopefully this will serve as just a brief intro to the main members of the Aqua-Family:

sgGolden Age Aquaman
First Appearance: More Fun Comics #73 (1941)
Created by Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris

The product of genetic engineering by his father, the original Aquaman first ran in More Fun Comics before moving over to Adventure Comics in the late 1940s. He was one of the handful of superheroes to still be continually published throughout the 50s, alongside Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Green Arrow.
The Golden Age Aquaman tended to fight more land-based, non-fantastical villains, such as the modern-day pirate Black Jack.

After being replaced by the Silver Age Aquaman, the character essentially disappeared from DC Comics for decades, surfacing in the 1980s in All-Star Squadron, just in time for his entire existence to be wiped from continuity thanks to the Crisis on Infinite Earths.

New DCU status: Not yet known but Earth-2 is back!

First Appearance: Adventure Comics #260 (1959)
Created by Robert Bernstein and Ramona Fradon

This new version of Aquaman, with his new origin (the son of a lighthouse keeper and an Atlantean woman, making him in line to be King of Atlantis), debuted in Adventure Comics #260, though there is some dispute as to whether this is truly the Silver Age Aquaman's first appearance or not.

Only a few months after this, Aquaman would become a founding member of the Justice League of America (in Brave and the Bold #28, his first appearance on a comic book cover), earn his first solo appearances (in Showcase), then graduate into his own title (Aquaman), which would run until 1971. There have been numerous origin and appearance changes over the decades, but the Aquaman now seen in the new book is still essentially this version having his core concepts and iconic appearance restored in the Brightest Day maxi-series.

New DCU status: stars in Aquaman & Justice League. Can be seen in Batman: the Brave & the Bold & Young Justice on CN.

First Appearance: Aquaman #11 (1963)
Created by Jack Miller and Nick Cardy

The exiled queen of another dimension called Xebel, Mera met and fell in love with Aquaman, after he helped her escape capture from another member of her society.

After marrying Aquaman, she became Queen of Atlantis and soon bore him a son, Arthur Curry Jr. She and Aquaman's relationship had many ups and downs, the worst moment being when Arthur Jr. was murdered by Black Manta. They continued to be on and off in the intervening years, finally reconciling for good.

Mera played a large role in Blackest Night and Brightest Day, taking on the mantle of super-heroine as she never had before.

New DCU status: stars in Aquaman & Justice League. Can be seen in Batman: the Brave & the Bold & Young Justice on CN.

sgGarth aka Aqualad/Tempest
First Appearance: Adventure Comics #269 (1960)
First Appearance as Tempest: Tempest #2 (1996)
Created by
Robert Bernstein and Ramona Fradon

Banished from his small, cloistered society because of his purple eyes--a mark of magical power--the young boy named Garth was discovered by Aquaman and soon became the Sea King's sidekick. Assuming the mantle of Aqualad, Garth went on numerous adventures with his mentor.

Garth eventually joined the super-hero group Teen Titans, and as he grew up worked with Aquaman less and less. He claimed his magical heritage as a young adult and assumed the code name Tempest. Following in his mentors absence, Garth became King of Atlantis before he was killed in Blackest Night.

New DCU status: Not yet known. Can be seen in Batman: the Brave & the Bold & Young Justice on CN.

sgArthur Curry Jr. aka Aquababy
First Appearance: Aquaman #23 (1965)
Created by
Bob Haney and Nick Cardy

Born to Aquaman and Mera, Arthur Curry Jr. was the next in line in succession to be King of Atlantis. Despite being an infant, he frequently found himself involved in many of the superhero adventures of his parents.

Unlike his adopted brother Garth, Arthur Jr. never really aged over the decade-plus he appeared in comics. He was still only a toddler when he was murdered by Black Manta, the single most defining moment of the Aqua-Family in the last thirty years. His death cast a pall over his parents' relationship, causing them to break up and reunite many times. It appears by the events of Brightest Day, the rift between them has finally healed.

New DCU status: Not yet known. Can be seen in Batman: the Brave & the Bold and Mera is currently pregnant in Young Justice on CN.

First Appearance: Aquaman #33 (1967)
Created by
Bob Haney and Nick Cardy

Orphaned at birth, Aquagirl (aka Tula) found herself intertwined with Aquaman and the royal family. She fell in love with Garth (aka Aqualad) soon after meeting him.

Possessed of similar abilities to that of Aquaman and Aqualad, she became a part-time super-hero, also occasionally working with the Teen Titans. She helped put down a palace coup in Atlantis while Aquaman was away searching for Mera.

Generally upbeat and carefree, she provided a nice contrast to Garth, who was frequently beset with doubt and insecurity. Sadly, Aquagirl was killed in the Crisis on Infinite Earths, which took a tremendous toll on Garth.

New DCU status: Not yet known. Can be seen in Young Justice on CN.

First Appearance: Aquaman Vol. 7 #16 (2004)
Created by
Will Pfeifer and Patrick Gleason

Caught in the disaster that would lead to the creation of Sub Diego (where a portion of that city was dropped into the ocean, with all of its residents genetically modified to be able to breathe underwater), Lorena Marquez gets involved in helping Aquaman restore order and build this new society.

After a run-in with Ocean Master, Lorena decided to assume the identity of Aquagirl, becoming a super-hero in her own right. Like her predecessor, her generally upbeat attitude contrasted with her new-found mentor, Aquaman.

Lorena went on to work with the Teen Titans, but returned to the fold during Brightest Day, where she helped Aquaman, Mera, and the new Aqualad fight off an attack by Black Manta and Siren (known as Aquawar).

New DCU status: Scheduled to appear in Aquaman.

First Appearance: Brightest Day #4 (2010)
Created by
Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis

The new Aqualad, aka Jackson Hyde, who, unbeknownst to him for many years, is the son of Black Manta, and possesses many amazing powers.

Pursued by Siren and Manta, Jackson and his adoptive family were rescued by Aquaman, who revealed to Jackson his true lineage and identity. Initially wanting nothing to do with being a super-hero, he changes his mind and helps Aquaman and Mera fight off an invasion of the surface world by Manta and Siren.

Deciding to accept his role, he became the new Aqualad and started training as a super-hero. He also appeared to have a bit of a crush on the new Aquagirl, Lorena Marquez (who wouldn't?).

New DCU status: scheduled to appear in Aquaman. Can be seen in Young Justice on CN as the leader of the team.

sgBlack Manta
First Appearance: Aquaman #35 (1967)
Created by
Bob Haney and Nick Cardy

An undersea plunderer with a burning hatred for Aquaman, Black Manta has (at most times), possessed no superhuman powers; rather he is a technological genius and cunning strategist, always creating some new machine to help him steal the treasures of the sea.

He dealt his foe Aquaman a blow unlike any other when he murdered the Sea King's son, forcing to make Aquaman and Aqualad fight for his amusement. When Aquaman essentially chose his son over that of Aqualad, Manta caused a rift in the Aqua-Family that took decades to heal.

Manta is the father of the new Aqualad, and always manages to resurface despite repeated defeats at the hands of Aquaman, most recently in Brightest Day.

New DCU status: Scheduled to appear in Aquaman. Can be seen in Batman: the Brave & the Bold and Young Justice on CN.

sgOcean Master
First Appearance: Aquaman #29 (1966)
Created by
Bob Haney and Nick Cardy

The half-brother of Aquaman, Orm Marius has always harbored a seething hatred for his sibling, because of his lack of super-powers and the fact that it seemed, to Orm, that their father loved Arthur more.

Over the years, Orm, in the role of Ocean Master, has dabbled in magic, allowing him to possess various super-human abilities. Combine that with his technological genius, Ocean Master has been a constant threat to his brother's existence, and by extension to that of Mera, Aqualad, and the rest of the Aqua-Family.

Ocean Master was not seen in Brightest Day, but rest assured he will be back to threaten the new-found happiness of his brother and sister-in-law.

New DCU status: Scheduled to appear in Aquaman and can be seen in Young Justice on CN.

First Appearance: Aquaman #22 (1965)
Created by
Jack Miller and Nick Cardy

The sister of Mera, the woman born as Hila pretended to be Mera as a way to infiltrate Atlantis. After being stopped by her sister and Aquaman, he promised to reform before returning to her home dimension of Xebel.

Clearly that didn't last, because Hila (after not being seen in comics for many years) returned to threaten Mera in Brightest Day, under the new name of Siren. Leading an army, she simultaneously tried to kill Aquaman and Mera, and kidnap the new Aqualad.

Her attack was stopped by the newly reformed Aqua-Family, and she was banished back to Xebel, but, like Manta, its a guarantee she will return!

New DCU status: No scheduled appearances (yet).

sgArthur Joseph
First Appearance: Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #40 (2006)
Created by Kurt Busiek and Butch Guice

Arthur Joseph, like that of the Golden Age Aquaman, received his powers thanks to experiments performed on him by his father.

During the events of Infinite Crisis (and the subsequent One Year Later), the original Aquaman was changed into a being known as The Dweller of the Depths, and helped mentor Arthur Joseph into his role as the new Aquaman. During this time Arthur Joseph had run-ins with Mera and Ocean Master, neither of whom could fully accept this stranger.

After the Dweller of the Depths seemingly died (his body dissipating into water and becoming part of the ocean), Arthur Joseph decided to abdicate his role as the new ruler of the seas, and has not been seen since. Now that the original Aquaman is back, it is assumed Arthur Joseph has fully given up his role as an underwater superhero.

New DCU status: Existence no longer in continuity. Sorry, AJ!

...and that's it for now! We hope all you new Aqua-Fans find this little primer useful, and the Shrine will be updating it as we learn more and more new things in Aquaman!


Tempest127 said...

Nicely done...however: Garth was never "adopted" by Arthur. They considered themselves to be "friends" (both characters made that reference several times during the first series and later) as well as "brothers." (Garth told the Titans that baby AJ called him "Uncle," and, indeed, the nameless orphan of that series did not consider himself on par with the prince). Of course, Garth later finds out that he is a prince in his own right (would be cool to mention that), but that fact did not change his official status as Arthur's ward and best friend.

Anthony said...

Besides "Adventure" #260, there's several other options for the "first" Silver Age Aquaman appearance I've seen suggested (though admittedly conflated with Earth-1/Earth-2, which I suppose isn't the same as Golden Age/Silver Age):
* "Adventure" #211 in April 1955: the first appearance of green gloves instead of yellow ones, though it fluctuates back and forth after this issue for several years.
* "Adventure" #218 in November 1955: the first appearance of fellow JLAer J'onn J'onzz was on this date (Nov. 1955 thus often serving as the default dividing line between Earth-1 and Earth-2).
* "Adventure" #229 in October 1956: the first appearance of Topo, clearly a Silver Age character.

This site further debates/analyzes the Earth-1/Earth-2 Aquaman issue (opting for the Topo appearance): http://www.dcindexes.com/planet/weeklyplanet.php?issue=27

For me, I'd probably go with either Adv. #211 or #218, as they'd cover Topo, the revised origin in #260, and all/almost all of the green-glove appearances...

Anonymous said...

I'd read all the Brightest Day issues, and had no idea that it had been confirmed that Siren=Hila! Makes sense, but I thought Hila was Mera's twin, while Siren has been referred to as younger. (Siren is, of course, the second Siren, after Garth's foe in Teen Titans.)

Ryan said...

No u are right Kenn. Hila is not Siren and Johns made that clear in Brightest Day and Flashpoint by stating that she is Mera's younger sister and giving her a totally different look than Hila had (purple hair with a white streak).

Most likely, Siren is the retcon of Hila but Johns is respectful of Silver Age stories to he left it open to interpretation that Mera could have had 2 sisters, He did the sam e thing in Green Lantern and Flash with supporting cast past stories.

rob! said...

Like I said in the post, things tend to get sketchy when trying to figure out definitive dates. To me, the debut of Aquaman's new origin is THE starting point of the new version. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

I did revise Garth's history slightly.

I think I knew Johns said Siren isn't Hila, but unless he reveals Mera has two sisters, I'd say Siren is a modern day version of Hila. If Mr. Johns wants to do an interview with the Shrine and tell me I'm wrong, he is welcome to!

nf said...

Another useful post could help show people where to find good Aqua-stories. You could point to the Showcase Presents volumes or the newly released trade where Arthur Jr. dies. It'd be great to get a primer on where to find more Aquaman. I wish DC would release a Chronicles series for Aquaman like they have for WW, Batman, and Superman. It wouldn't take too many volumes as he only had one book and was only one part of it unlike the others.

rob! said...


If you click the Collected Editions label in the sidebar, you'll be taken to a post listing all of Aquaman's TPB editions.

That's not exactly what you asked, but its a start!

David J. Cutler said...

Re: Garth's New DCU status, Roy Harper name drops him in Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 when checking to see if Starfire remembers her Titans teammates. Dick, Garth, Dustin, Vic, Lilith, Gar. So, it seems the original Aqualad is still in continuity but Wally West isn't.

Wings1295 said...

I have a question for whoever has an answers: Is Siren Jackson's mother? I thought it was a first alluded to that it could be Mera (and many Aqua-fans were not happy with that) but then it was more or less assumed it was Siren? Or am I remembering wrong?

Great post, Rob! Awesome, actually!

Joe Slab said...

@Caffeine Joe

No, what you are describing was the assumption of many people who read message boards (and even some fan sites)but did not read Brightest Day itself...

Jackson's mother was shown to be an as yet unnamed African-American woman with whom Black Manta had a relationship with but who also "meant nothing to me" as per his report.

Wings1295 said...

@Joe: Okay, thanks! As long as his mother is NOT Mera, I'll be happy. :)

Russell said...

Rob, if Jackson's mother wasn't from Xebel then how did he get those nifty Aqua powers?

Anonymous said...

Exactly, Russell! Manta didn't have them. (I think they're sorcery in the YJ toon, but that seems to be the case for all the toon Atlanteans.)

Anthony said...

From what I researched (for my "minorities in comics and animation" blog post on Jackson), Jackson gained his powers from when he (at a very young age) and his mother were kidnapped and experimented on by criminals from Xebel (Mom died, Jackson survived).

(My blog post on Jackson's here: http://www.anthonynotes.com/2011/05/19/minorities-in-comics-and-animation-aqualad-jackson-hyde/ )

aquaman said...

thx for the primer. Trying to keep up with DC and their constant rewriting of origins is a bit crazy. Me i am a total AV 260 origins guy. Love that story of how he became and I will always use that as cannon for me. It is the deepest meaning for a Superhero (IMHO) The struggles he goes through loosing his mother, learning his secret just as she passes and deciding to leave his father for Atlantis is a gut wrenching story for me. That is what makes Arthur Aquaman. Thx again for the primer. U can nit pick all u want, but I don't think u can ever keep it simple with DC!!! LOL

Anonymous said...

No La'gaan mention :/