Saturday, February 11, 2012

Aquaman #23 - Oct. 1965

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Comics Weekend "The Birth of Aquababy" by Bob Haney and Nick Cardy.

We continue Mera Month with a look back at yet another huge--and in some ways unprecedented--moment in Aquaman and Mera's superheroic career: the day they became parents!

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Aquaman and Aqulad encounter a trio of sirens, whose alluring--but deadly--call entices the Sea King, so much so he covers his eats to prevent himself from hearing them. Aqualad is confused, because to him they "look like old sea-hags"!

Aquaman has Garth lash him to his seahorse to keep him from listening to the sirens, and they manage to move on. Suddenly, their steeds grow frightened, and dump Arthur and Garth off them, where they fall into a pit of quicksand coral!

Aquaman sends out a command to a nearby giant squid...but will it arrive in time?
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Aquaman faces the creature, which has the ability to change shapes: it goes from sea snake to sea urchin to a giant poison anemome, all within seconds!

It chases our heroes, and Aquaman has them hide inside a hunk of coral. The anemome sees Aquaman's hand sticking out of the hole, and stings him repeatedly. This would probably kill the Sea King, except...Aquaman's shirt and glove are empty! He took his tunic off (!), causing the creature to use up all its poison!

Aquaman then hauls off and hits the anemome, and it changes back to its original form, a harmless old man named Sinquo. Aquaman knows who Sinquo is: a criminal exiled from Atlantis years ago. Despite this, Sinquo offers his foe the serum Aquaman came for, honoring the fact he was bested in combat.

Aquaman and Aqualad make a speedy turn back to Atlantis, but the trouble isn't over! An undersea volcano erupts, sending them smashing into a reef. Aquaman, too weak to move and partly covered in debris, calls his finny friends to grab the serum and carry it, bit by bit, creature by creature, across the sea all the way to Atlantis!

Unfortunately, just as it nears Atlantis, a pilot whale carrying the serum is so exhausted from the long journey it drops the vital liquid down a crevice in the ocean floor! Now what?
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Suddenly a deadly, monstrous sea creature comes to life, thanks to the powers of Arthur Jr.! Aquaman surmises Sinquo put something in the serum to give their son his amazing--and uncontrollable--powers!

After he accidentally destroys a building, some citizens of Atlantis declare AquaBaby a menace, and demand he be exiled! Aquaman and Mera, of course, reject such a notion, and leave as a family--along with Aqualad.

They find a place to rest many miles away, and Aquaman leaves the three to find food. While they sleep, Aquababy wanders away, into the path of a band of giant ape-like creatures:
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...The Beginning!


As a story, this isn't really one of Mera's finest moments--she doesn't get that much to do, but I guess you can't expect much superheroing from someone in the midst of childbirth.

Amazingly, no one seems to know who wrote this comic! Even the second volume DC's Showcase: Aquaman book lists the writer as "unknown." My hunch it's the work of Bob Haney, who is credited with starting on the book as of #26. Considering Haney's penchant for gleefully throwing a monkey wrench into established continuity (introducing long lost brothers, nephews, and other assorted family members), I'd say this was his work.

Another hint that he wrote this is page five, where we get to hear the internal monologues of both Aquaman and Aqualad:
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Before this, superheroes (DC ones, at least) still really didn't ever show fear or apprehension or even really have any sort inner thoughts other than ones dealing with whatever foe was in front of them. Here, Aqualad is worried he's going to be the odd man out in the new family dynamic.

I don't mean to overstate this moment--it's hardly the groundbreaking sturm und drang that was going on across the street at Marvel--but this whole issue feels like a giant step in a new direction of superhero comics writing, so the Shrine is going use its well-earned reputation as an authority on All Things Aquaman to state that this is the work of Bob Haney. Unless we're wrong.

Of course, Nick Cardy was doing excellent work on Aquaman in every single issue, but there are some extraordinary moments here. Aquaman's final battle with the Morrkas is almost Alex Toth-like in its direct simplicity and elegance of movement:
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As we mentioned on the Top 10 Memorable Mera Moments list, this story forever altered Aquaman's core concept, the changes of which are still felt to this day. So while Mera didn't get all that much to do, of course none of this would have been possible without her!

One final note--I had to chuckle at this panel:
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Given Aquaman and Mera's...healthy sexual relationship (as seen in Brightest Day and Aquaman), it made me laugh to see Arthur determined to go get a lifetime's supply of serum. Which, with these two, is probably a lot more than most of us would ever need.

2 comments:

jim said...

"Aquababy, a tiny bundle of DOOM!"

And that was just the contents of his first messy aqua-diaper!! lol

Tempest127 said...

One of my favorite issues ever, as far-fetched as it is. I detested the way Arthur thought nothing of potentially costing Garth his life in exchange for that of his own son, an act which perfectly mirrored the events that ended the partnership between our beloved Marine Marvels years later. All hail Prince AJ (the brat)!