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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"The Greatest Aquaman Stories Ever Told"

Yesterday, CBR's Brian Cronin revealed the results of his "Greatest Aquaman Stories Ever Told" write-in contest--head on over there to see the (somewhat surprising) results!

Here was the list I submitted. I tried to keep it to single issues, since nominating a whole run seemed a little like cheating, but a couple still made it in:
10."My Brother's Keeper" by Paul Kupperberg, Don Newton, and Dave Hunt - Aquaman #63. I remember reading this comic on our family vacation in 1978, and I've had the same copy ever since. Its got a classic battle between Aquaman and Ocean Master (although those aren't exactly hard to find), plus Mera and Aqualad. The fact that the book ends with an ad for the next issue--which would never come, due to the DC Implosion--probably lends this particular issue added resonance for me.

9."The Creature That Devoured Detroit" by Steve Skeates and Jim Aparo - Aquaman #56. Writer Steve Skeates at his most impish, introducing a new character only to kill him off a few pages later. This issue has a noir-ish feel to it, which Jim Aparo brings off perfectly.

8."The Undersea Lost World" by Otto Binder and John Daly - Adventure Comics #137. While I wasn't interested in quotas, not having any Aquaman story from the first twenty-five years of the character felt wrong, so I picked one of my favorite Golden Age Aquaman stories, beautifully brought to life by artist John Daly and an unknown colorist. I think it was stories like this--bursting with imagination--that helped Aquaman survive the 1950s, when so many of his more popular superhero compatriots got cancelled.

7."Short Fuse" by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, and Joe Prado - Brightest Day #16. Including all of Brightest Day seemed like a cheat (especially since Aquaman only appeared in every third or fourth issue!), so I picked my favorite Aquaman-centric story from this series. With some great nods to Aquaman's past (the Aqua-Cave, Arthur Jr.), Geoff Johns adds some new elements to the Aquaman mythos and charts a new direction.

6."American Tidal" by Will Pfeifer, Pat Gleason, and Christian Alamy - Aquaman #s 15-20. Despite its brevity, its clear "American Tidal" remains a lot of fans' favorite, and it deserves to. Writer Pfeifer introduced a new Aquagirl--my favorite new member of Aquaman's supporting cast since before I was born--and came up with a ballsy, big storyline, fit for a king. And the Alan Davis covers didn't hurt!

5."A League Divided" by Gerry Conway, George Perez, and Brett Breeding - Justice League of America #200. Sure, Aquaman isn't in this story all that much, but he is drawn once again by Jim Aparo, plus he gets to pull one of his bad-assest moves ever against one of the Apellax aliens, with writer Gerry Conway using one of the Sea King's particular abilities to perfection.

4."Aquaman" by Neal Pozner, Craig Hamilton, and Steve Hamilton - Aquaman #s 1-4. Proving not all Aquaman fans are curmudgeons that only want to stick to the past, Neal Pozner and Craig Hamilton gave us Aquaman's first new costume ever and people (myself included) loved it! Hamilton brought a visual dynamism to the Sea King, a look never replicated. Why this series has not been collected in a trade remains a complete mystery.

3."Scavenger Hunt" by J.M. DeMatteis and Dick Giordano - Adventure Comics #475. I almost picked all four DeMatteis/Giordano issues, but then I wussed out and just went with the first, which features a eight-panel page of Aquaman schooling The Scavenger. Pure bliss.

2."And Death Before Dishonor" by Paul Levitz and Jim Aparo - Adventure Comics #444. Again, I almost picked this whole run since its so much fun, but settled on this mid-point issue, because it ends with one of all-time favorite single Aquaman images, ever.

1. "The Search For Mera" by Steve Skeates and Jim Aparo - Aquaman #s 40-47. Okay, for my #1 pick I just had to go with this multi-issue storyline, which kicked off the first ever issue of Aquaman by the unbeatable team known as SAG (Skeates-Aparo-Giordano). Mera has disappeared, and Aquaman has to hit the watery trail to find her! Combining fantasy and western elements, it moved Aquaman away from the "Threat of the month"-style of superhero comics to more nuanced, character-driven stories. Unbelievably, has never been collected, except in digest form in Adventure Comics #s 491-498!

Shrine Correspondent Joe Slab also sent in his Top 5 choices:
5. "Justice" by Doug Braithwaite & Alex Ross - Justice #s 1-12. This deluxe series showcased the Sea King in his most iconic representation, majestically painted by Alex Ross. No fish jokes in this series as everyone knows that Aquaman means business when his son is kidnapped by Brainiac and he declares "He's only a machine, and maybe that's for the best. Because I am going to kill him."

4."Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Rick Veitch, Yvel Guichet, & Mark Propst - Aquaman # 12. The epic conclusion to the Waterbearer/Secret Sea/The Thirst storyline, it was only years later when going through a re-read of this series that I fell in love with its creative take on Aquaman which left all of his history intact but moved him forward into the new millennium. The art of Guichet & Propst was just beautiful. If you've never read this series, I will spoil the end for you: The trinity of Supes, Bats & WW are confounded after a worldwide crisis is averted and ask with puzzlement "But who saved the day?"

3."The Return of the Queen" by Peter David, Martin Egeland & Howard Shum - Aquaman #12. I had been waiting eleven issues into Peter David 90's run for this issue! The fight between Mera and the sea ingenue Dolphin did not disapoint and this story kicked off a multi-issue run that included the return of Thanatos (wearing the blue camouflage uniform, no less), the Others, and a mysterious lad who looked a lot like...Arthur Junior...my favorite arc by far of PAD's run.

2."Blackest Night" by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis & Joe Prado - Blackest Night #s 1-8. I had quit comics altogether following the epilogue of Infinite Crisis but this is the story that brought me back into the fold. Zombie Aquaman riding Zombie Storm? Boom! I loved everything about this story from its portrayal of Mera as a beautiful, powerful & resilient queen, to its restoration of Arthur Curry's "son of man & mermaid" origin to its awesome conclusion with Aquaman front & center in the four-page splash of the returned and his perfectly executed, emotionally-satisfying reunion with Mera!

1. "The Secret of the Sinister Abyss" by David Michelinie & Jim Aparo - Adventure Comics #451. My very first Aquaman comic is still my favorite. Aquaman defeats Starro single-handedly. That's all.

So those are our lists! In the comments, discuss, dismiss, and submit your own choices. And thanks to Brian Cronin for starting this whole thing in the first place!


Jakethy said...

Great write-up and a perfect primer for those of us not familiar with every Aquaman related series. 'Love seeing those classic covers.

Derek said...

Awesome list guys! I am a newer fan since Blacekst Night and will have to check out some of these stories.

Geoff Johns is kicking it with the new Aquaman book- I loveit!

Shellhead said...

Called it. Death of the Prince and some PAD goodness. I know you don't care for much of PAD's take on the character, but you can't deny it was the most successful Aquaman run of all time (it had the most issues, anyway). Hopefully Johns will be able to surpass it. I like your list as well, however.

Aaron said...

What about "Aquaman and His Sea-Police"?

The Irredeemable Shag said...

Fantastic list! Caught most of my favorites - American Tidal, Creature that Devoured Detroit, & Pozner/Hamilton Aquaman. I would have included Atlantis Chronicles, Time and Tide, Legend of Aquaman, early Sword of Atlantis issues, and a few of the PAD issues.

The Irredeemable Shag

Diabolu Frank said...

For once, I agree with a CSBG fan poll... on Aquaman. Not on my Martian, of course.

Anonymous said...

The CSBG list is pretty safe and mediocre (IMO of course).
Justice League Annual? I wouldn't put it in a top 100 nevermind a top 10. And the Legend of Aquaman is very generic (saved only by the art).

I'd love to see Emperor Aquaman, the Triton storyline from PAD's run and the amazing Brave and the Bold #32 team-up with the Demon. A more serious and confident Aquaman, unlike the undefined, generic side character in Justice League Annual and most of his 70's appearances (IMO of course)