Sunday, February 03, 2013

Adventure Comics #220 - Jan. 1956

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Comics Weekend "The Coward and the Hero" by Jack Miller and Ramona Fradon.

It's Adventure Sunday!

Re: the Superboy cover--I like how optimistic the other circus acts on the ground are. They're still performing, as if anyone is looking at anything other than the flying boy and flying dog act.

In any case, this month, Aquaman goes undercover to help a friend with a serious problem:
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Over the next hour, the Coward Formerly Known As Johnny continues to impress people with his swimming and diving skills. Unfortunately, an onlooker finds Aquaman's empty costume, revealing Johnny to be the Sea King.

The crowd is disappointed that Aquaman would defend such a coward, but he sticks up for Johnny, telling the overly-judgmental mob how Johnny ended up so afraid of the water: while serving as a Navy pilot in WWII, his plane was shot down, and ended up crashing into the ocean:
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...and with that, so ends another adventure for Aquaman!


While this is another Aquaman adventure where the ending is crammed into the last few panels, the tone is altogether more serious than the usual fare. Not to put too much thematic weight onto a silly six page superhero store, but I can't help but think Johnny's story touches ever-so-gently on the issue of Shell Shock (or Battle Fatigue, or PTSD, whatever you want to call it), something that so many war veterans dealt with after they came home from duty. If only the gentle participation by a well-meaning superhero could solve the problem so easily for everyone.

On a side note: check out the splash page--the bare-legged Aquaman is sporting fleshy fins on his calves! He doesn't have them in the rest of the story (surely that would have given the game away), and to my memory we haven't seen him with them before. Methinks it was a mistake on Ramona Fradon's part (heresy!) and the colorist just went with it.


5 comments:

Anthony said...

I wouldn't call it insane (versus "Aquaman's clearly crazy now, shoot him!"), but a nice story anyway. ;-)

A WWII reference... wonder why they didn't go with the then-more-recent Korean War (though guess Korea was less aquatic-based a conflict)?

Re: Superboy: I like the "How to teach your dog tricks!" box on the cover. Imagining some 50s kid trying to teach his dog to "fly" like Krypto... anyway, the story: Krypto fetches a circus owner to save Superboy from a kryptonite meteor, but the owner refuses unless the super-duo perform in his show.

Russell said...

Aquaman had fleshy fins during the 90s AQUAMAN series. He even made some comment about them being organic, and not part of the costume.

Barry Fackler said...

Mera originally had fins for feet which always made me wonder how gracefully she must have walked. It was never clear if they were organic or not.

Joseph Brian Scott said...

Look at Aquaman whooshing 20 feet into the air from that pool! That's pretty neat.

I caught the dorsal calf fins, too, and was all excited, but was then disappointed when they didn't show up in the story. I always wondered about those, and what other anatomical differences Aquaman might possess.

Once, when I was a kid, I asked my older brother about Mera's flippers, whether they were part of her or just part of the costume, and he told me, rather cryptically, "...only Aquaman knows for sure." (At that point in time I hadn't read Aquaman #26 Mar-Apr '66, which features Mera in a nightie and shows without a doubt that she has regular, human tootsies.)

I like how Johnny's girlfriend breaks down crying over the revelation that she'll never be able to go swimming with him. I guess that would be a dealbreaker for some people.

Anonymous said...

Viva Adventure Sunday!

Wow, one glance at the splash brought back vivid memories of reading a reprint of this story in the 70's. I'm pretty sure it was early on in my comic collecting days. This might actually have been the first solo Aquaman adventure I ever saw. I'm sure I haven't thought of this story in at least three decades, and yet it all came back to me.

Thanks for the inadvertantly spooky memory jog, Rob.

James Chatterton