Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Aquaman Shrine's Best of 2011: Happy 70th Birthday Aquaman!

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We wrap up our look back at The Aquaman Shrine's Best of 2011 with--what else?--Aquaman's 70th Birthday Celebration, which ran on September 25:


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Today is a very, very special day in the history of Aquaman--it's his 70th birthday!

And when we say 70th birthday, we don't mean the birthday DC Comics has seen fit to give him within their continuity--that's January 29. No, we mean that on this day seventy years ago--September 25, 1941--More Fun Comics #73, Aquaman's debut appearance, hit newsstands (you can see the book for sale in the above picture, two rows up and about four books to the left of the crowded news vendor).

So, with Aquaman hitting the big 7-0, and his new series only days away from debuting, the Shrine thought it a tribute fit for a king to reach out and collect birthday greetings from various writers, artists, and performers, all of whom have been involved with the Sea King in some way over these seven decades.

Some chose to offer old Arthur a birthday message; others reminisced about their time when they were creatively involved with the King of the Seven Seas. The one thing they have in common is that all of them have contributed, by their talent, vision, voice, or craft, to the seven-decade legend of Aquaman:

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Dan Abnett, writer, Wonder Woman and The Furies: "Happy 70th Birthday to the Sea King...and sorry about what happened to Mera on my watch."

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Norman Alden, voice actor, Super Friends: "I just tripped down a tall building and you know, after 70 years, I am kind of losing my taste for that stuff.

But really and truly I have to let the cat out of the bag and celebrate Aquaman's 70th and my 87th! The guys I worked with
[
on Super Friends] were the top of the line.

Rob, what this world--and Aquaman--needs is more friends like you. God bless you."


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Art Baltazar, cartoonist, Tiny Titans, DC Super-Pets: "HAPPY BIRTHDAY ARTHUR! I'm here hanging out with Topo, Ark and Storm! So glad to work along side you and your Super-Pet pals, sir! I hear Aqualad is on his way to the party and he's bringing the Tiny Titans! We better save some cake! AW YEAH AQUAMAN!"

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Tony Bedard, writer, Emperor Aquaman: "Happy Birthday, Your Majesty! I have to admit it was the 1960s Superman/Aquaman cartoon that hooked me on you, but I've always seen you as a first-stringer, and I prefer Happy Aquaman to Angry Aquaman any day! I spent my childhood pretending I was you every time I went swimming, and I still think that riding a giant seahorse is the manliest thing in the world! Long Live the Sea King!"

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J.E. Bright, writer, Aquaman: Deepwater Disaster and Heroes of the High Seas: "Dearest Aquaman--Were you aware that you share your birthdate with Baroness Vivien Helen Stern CBE? Like you, Baroness Stern was voted into royalty, and like you, she has dedicated her life to criminal justice. Although she's certainly more academic and land-based than your adventurous aqua-self, perhaps there was something circling in the stars on September 25, 1941 that should make villains beware!
XOXO
J. E. Bright"


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Kurt Busiek, writer, Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis: "Happy 70th, Aqua-guy! Whether you're the son of a scientist given powers via Atlantean secrets, the child of a lighthouse-keeper and an undersea princess, the all-Atlantean scion of an ancient sorcerer or whatever--as long as you're rocking the orange and green, you'll always be the King of the Seas!"

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Nick Cardy, artist, Aquaman: "It was interesting for me to draw it [Aquaman], I enjoyed doing it. With Aquaman, I innovated a lot of things--the fish I used were actual fish. Sometimes I put too many fish in the water, and that can take more time than it does drawing the figures! But I really, really enjoyed it."

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J.M. DeMatteis, writer, Adventure Comics and Action Comics: "My first regular superhero gig in comics was writing Aquaman in Adventure Comics (with art by the great Dick Giordano), so the Sea King has a very special place in my heart. I'll never forget the day editor Len Wein called and gave me the assignment: I felt like I'd finally arrived. Happy Birthday, Aquaman: here's to another 70!"

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Dan Didio, writer, Co-Publisher, DC Comics: "Happy 70th Birthday to Aquaman, one of the true long lasting greats in DC's Pantheon Of Super Heroes!"

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Sholly Fisch, writer, DC Super Friends and Batman: Brave and the Bold: "Your Royal Highness: After 70 years of guarding the seven seas, you've survived death (more than once), cancellation (more than once), and even chairing Justice League Detroit (thankfully, only once). All the best for the next 70 years...even if living underwater does make it hard to blow out the candles!"

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Ramona Fradon, artist, Adventure Comics and Super Friends: "Aquaman was a wonderful feature for kids. While he had no personal super powers, his ability to communicate with sea creatures made him as effective as any other super hero, and his ingenious way of utilizing their abilities made them come to life for young readers. I have had more than one adult fan tell me that they had been inspired by reading Aquaman to become marine biologists."

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Laura Gjovaag, creator, The Unofficial Aquaman Website: "Happy Birthday, Arthur! Seventy years is just a beginning. Who doesn't enjoy a tale an outcast orphan, a story of a person trying to find his place, the age-old journey of a hero? And when that story is told, you provide a tale of majesty, learning to lead, and being in command. The setting you provide has more potential than most heroes...you have mastered land and sea. Live on in our imaginations, Aquaman. In another 70 years you'll just be getting to middle age."

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Patrick Gleason, artist, Aquaman: "Wow! Aquaman you are OLD!

But hey, don't sick a giant octopus on me yet! I'm just saying that I think that stands as a testament to the very real, and important legacy you hold in comics. Now blow out your candles...oh wait we're underwater. Glub, glub! Happy Birthday old chum!"


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Bob Greenberger, editor, The Atlantis Chronicles, Who's Who in the DC Universe: "Aquaman entered my life when I began reading the JLA comic in the early 1960s but was delighted to learn more when he gained his own animated series, leading me to add his comic adventures to my expanding reading list. It wasn't until the 'Search for Mera' storyline that I really got to see his potential. I still recall that summer, away at camp, and desperate for the next issue to see what happened. That run, of course, introduced me to the fabulous art of Jim Aparo, who made the Sea King his own.

Since then, he has been interpreted and reinterpreted; denigrated and lauded. It's great to see that a new Aquaman series as part of the Rebooted DCU and to celebrate his 70th. DC isn't much for appreciating its history these days but true fans know and will be celebrating."


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Mike Grell, artist, Adventure Comics: "Aquaman and I have a history that goes way back to the very beginning of my career in comics. Julie Schwartz had just looked at my portfolio and called Joe Orlando in to his office to see if there was some work he could throw my way. Joe took a chance and give me a seven page Aquaman backup story called "As The Undersea City Sleeps" by Steve Skeates that would appear in Adventure #435.

When I turned in the pencil pages, Joe pointed out that I had drawn the splash page with a shot of Aquaman angling away, body bent forward in a pose that not only blocked his face from view, I had him mooning the reader. Having survived the Dr. Wertham witchhunt of the '50s Joe felt it his solemn duty to test the Comics Code Authority at every opportunity, so he let it go just to see what would happen. Luckily it passed without incident--but--there was one panel that didn't even get past Joe.

The script called for Aquaman to be seated on his throne, but I had drawn his butt hanging down too far. Joe had me correct it, but not before showing it to Julie and just about everyone else who came by his office. Thirty-nine years later, that panel still bugs me.

That's how I became known as 'The Guy Who Drew Aquaman On The Toilet.'"


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Yvet Guichet, artist, Aquaman: "I remember Obsidian Age built up quite a fresh thirst for the Waterbearer before he was reintroduced into the channel of DC lineups back in 2002. Arthur's revamp then was easily a thing of legend. When he needed a new look I had no idea when I designed his new digs how it would be taken off some guy instead of maybe grown? Sort of the way his water hand magically grew into place...then it would have done some unique things too like the hand did. One of those things should have been spawning the new look on his action figure, no? Happy 70th bro!"

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Mark Gutleben, actor/performer, Sea World Superheroes Show: "Performing for the kiddies [as Aquaman] was fun. There were times when kids thought I was the Real McCoy! It was very exciting."

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Ken Hooper, artist, Aquaman: "I remember getting the job--Kevin Dooley called and asked if I would like to draw the new Aquaman series, in 1990. I remember thinking, oh, Lord...the water guy...boring.... I owned all of one Aquaman book my entire thirty-year life at that point. Thanks, though, to Kevin, and, even more so, to Shaun, it was never boring. Never. And we had such grand plans..."

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Michael Jelenic, Producer, Batman: Brave and the Bold: "Wishing you, Aquaman, an 'Outrageous' 70th Birthday...or as you like to call it: 'The One Where Aquaman Turned Seventy Years Old!'"

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Phil Jimenez, writer/artist, Tempest: "So anyone that knows my work knows how important Aquaman and his world have been to me. I promise not to get too sentimental on his birthday, but I will say this--I can think of few characters out there who are as cool, and as underestimated, as Aquaman; few comic book worlds as awesome as Aquaman's homebase of Atlantis and the undersea "universe" he protects; few characters in comics as grand and Shakespearean; and very few that inspire such passion and vision in their fans (including one Neal Pozner, who found exceptional truths in Aquaman he was able to explore in the famous miniseries he wrote (and wherein he designed Aquaman's famous blue/white costume) in the mid 1980's).

And let's face it--no other super-hero has a kid partner as sweet and as awesomely powerful as Tempest, a personal favorite of mine (for obvious reasons).

I think the other Super Friends should have felt jealous of Wonder Woman every time she got to fly Aquaman around in her invisible jet. Just sayin'!

So happy birthday, Aquaman. You and yours inspired my best work in the business and my most personal work to date -- and for that I thank you. I wish you the best birthday this month, and many, many more to come!"


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Dan Jurgens, writer, Aquaman: "I was first exposed to Aquaman as part of the Superman/Aquaman Hour, which was a relatively cool Saturday morning cartoon. That sent me scurrying for the actual comics and I loved what I found. For me, Aquaman was always something of a regal, majestic character. He was a king, for crying out loud!

I had a great time writing the book. Unfortunately, by the time I took it on, it was in really bad shape. Still, with great covers by Michael Kaluta and wonderful interior art by Steve Epting, we gave it our best.

Fortunately, the King of the Seven Seas is in good hands with Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis. Aquaman deserves nothing less!"


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Paul Kupperberg, writer, Aquaman and Adventure Comics: "People make fun of Aquaman. They joke about his ability to 'talk' to fish, that his superpower is swimming, and about how the bad guys can escape him by just getting out of the water. Thanks to a couple of generations raised on Super Friends, the non-comics reading public may know who Aquaman is, but they don't take him seriously, not like they do the big guns. But for all his being better known as a punch line than a superhero, Aquaman has an endurance that few characters of his vintage can boast.

Beginning as a back-up feature in a 1941 issue of More Fun Comics, Aquaman was one of only a tiny number of comic book superheroes to survive the Golden Age and be continuously published, virtually without interruption, straight through to today. The others were Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Green Arrow, a handful of heroes in a sea of romance, western, crime, funny animals, and horror comics. Whatever it is about the King of the Seven Seas that saved him from the cancellations suffered by the majority of the 1940s heroes (including such luminaries as the Flash, Green Lantern, and the Atom), Aquaman's maintained it for seven incredible decades, still King of the Seven Seas, and now a major player in the DCU.

Laugh that off!"


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Erik Larsen, writer, Aquaman: "Happy 70th Birthday to you, Aquaman. I had a fun visit."

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Paul Levitz, writer, Adventure Comics, Publisher, DC Comics: "Congratulations, Aquaman--despite all the tragic tales, you've been one of comics' most consistent heroes over all these decades, swimming against the tides. And thanks for being the very first super-hero I got to write, over half your career ago!"

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Original 70th Birthday Illustration by Stewart McKenny (DC Super Friends)!

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Shaun McLaughlin, writer, Aquaman: ""Happy Birthday, Artie. You were my favorite super-hero as a kid and you opened some doors for me. I hope the next 70 years treat you kindly."

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Darell McNeil, layout artist/animator, Challenge of the Super Friends/All-New Super Friends Hour: "I animated and laid out Aquaman and his Superfriends for three years at Hanna-Barbera on 'All-New Super Friends' and 'Challenge of the...' and I wanna toss a birthday sea bass to the once and future King of the Seas on his 70th. (Doesn't look a day over thirty....at least when I was drawing him!)"

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David Michelinie, writer, Adventure Comics and Aquaman: "Congratulations, Aquaman! Few kings manage to reign for 70 years, even in the off-and-on manner that seems to have defined your rule. And yet here you are, after seven decades of battling monsters, pollution, political corruption, even that insidious bane of the publishing industry: cancellation. You still stand regal, hardy and whole (well, except for that pesky missing hand thing), giving truth to the classic Mel Brooks line, 'It's good ta be da king!' Happy Birthday, Arthur!"

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Paula Nelson, actress/performer, Sea World Superheroes Show: "One of my most memorable Mera moments was of 'saving' the finale pyramid from disaster after one of the male superheroes had fallen. Only the guys supported the bottom of the pyramid, but I was confident my shoulders were strong enough to handle it. After all, I had been an Aquamaid (seriously, that's what we were called) at Cypress Gardens--World Water-Skiing Capital--and there women would step in if needed. I successfully filled in for one of the mighty male superheroes and was seriously scolded by the Justice League for doing so! 'Out of character', they said. Quite the contrary, I felt most Mera-like!

Aquaman,

Happy 70th Birthday to my favorite King of the Sea!
Here's to a bright, adventure-filled, BP spill-free year ahead.
Forever yours,
Mera"

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Chuck Patton, artist, Justice League of America: "Happy Birthday, 'Your Majesty', from your pal Chuck Patton"

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Joe Prado, artist, Brightest Day and Aquaman: "Happy 70th Birthday, Aquaman! Keep doing what you've always done! Being awesome and protecting us from menaces from the deep, deep seas! Keep your spirit, and brace yourself for a new era of adventures, my friend! And hey! Kick Manta's butt, and give Mera a kiss! :)"

Rod Reis, color artist, Aquaman: "To defend only a city like Gotham or Metropolis is very easy. To defend 70% of the planet Earth, live under water, talk to fishes and ride seahorses a true King is needed. Congratulations Arthur Curry, Happy 7-0 Aquaman! I am honored to color your magazine."

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Alan Ritchson, actor, Smallville: "Happy 70th Aquaman! You will always be the king to me! I'll never forget your time on Smallville kicking Clark Kent's butt underwater! I loved knowing that I had the chance in some small way to remind everyone how great you really are! Having had the opportunity to portray the Sea King on Smallville, I was also welcomed into the best part of the comic world, the Aquaman family, the best fans in the world. Thanks AC and here's to another 70 years of greatness!"

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Bob Rozakis, writer, Adventure Comics and Action Comics:
"Your pants, they are green
The ocean is blue
Happy 7-0, Sea King
Happy Birthday to you!"

Alex Saviuk, artist, Action Comics: "I can remember my excitement when Julie Schwartz asked me if i would like to do some Aquaman stories as back-up features in Action Comics. The oceans and what lies underneath have always intrigued me, and it was a real treat and an honor to follow in the footsteps of Ramona Fradon, Nick Cardy, and Jim Aparo in chronicling the Sea King's amazing adventures! I believe the mantle has now been passed on to Ivan Reis and Joe Prado and from what I have seen so far, Aquaman couldn't be in better hands! (although if Ivan and Joe ever need a break , I would love to step in for just one more adventure!)

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Original 70th Birthday Illustration by Dan Schoening (Aquaman: Deepwater Disaster)!

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Steve Skeates, writer, Aquaman: "Hereabouts there are not many heroes these days, even in comics. But Aquaman had been a hero from before even I was born, so I knew he was strong enough to survive my strange writing style--more into form than into content, sometimes silly, often too verbose. What I didn't know was that he would soon become both my best friend and my imagined self, and, as such, would make me not only a better writer, but a better human being as well. Don't ask me how that works; just allow me to thank the Sea King for being who he was."

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Laurie S. Sutton, Editor, Arion: Lord of Atlantis
"Happy Birthday Wishes to King Arthur, Sovereign of the Sea, the one and only Aquaman! I had the great pleasure of chronicling the tails...er, tales of your Atlantean ancestors in Arion: Lord of Atlantis. This was a dream come true for me because I grew up reading your undersea adventures, which inspired me to write my own comic book stories and eventually become an editor at DC. Without Aquaman, I'd probably be working for Marvel. (Oh, wait, I did that. But don't worry, I never had eyes for Namor.) I lift my glass of Aquavit and offer a toast to His Marine Majesty--here's to 70 more years of aqua-tastic adventures!"


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Roy Thomas, writer, All-Star Squadron: "I'll admit that, when as a kid in the late 1940s I paddled around the local swimming pool, it was always Sub-Mariner, and never Aquaman, that I pretended to be. However, I came to see over the years that Aquaman was (is) a great character in his own right, not just a copy of Prince Namor. I have a particular fondness for the work of Ramona Fradon and Jim Aparo on the character, although Nick Cardy and others have certainly had their moments. And I always loved the fact that, unlike Namor, Aquaman could speak to fish. For a couple of years there I really wanted a pet octopus I could name Topo! So--Happy 70th, Aquaman!"

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A bunch of people (besides all those quoted above) were instrumental in the assembling of this special birthday post. The Aquaman Shrine gives special thanks to Correspondent Joe Slab, artist Bill Walko (who drew the above superb Aqua-Family pin-up, commissioned especially for this post!)
, Marc Tyler Nobleman, Eric Nolen-Weathington, John Karl Schwirian, and Mike's Amazing World of DC Comics, which (accidentally) inspired this whole thing in the first place. Every single one of them was invaluable in the creation of this post!


As we all know, Aquaman is starting his 71st year in a big, big way, with the debut of his new series this Wednesday, Sept. 28th. The Shrine cannot imagine a better way for the King of the Seven Seas to reclaim his rightful place in popular culture, and in the world of comics, than with this new series, written and drawn some of DC's top talent. And thanks to each and every person you see quoted above, the Sea King was able to be in the right place at the right time when this new generation of creators was ready to come along and grab the trident!

Happy Birthday Aquaman!


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This post respectfully dedicated to the work of Jim Aparo, Otto Binder, John Daly, Dick Giordano, Bob Haney, Paul Norris, Neal Pozner, and Mort Weisinger.



Thanks Aqua-Fans, see you all in 2012!

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