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Sunday, April 07, 2013

Adventure Comics #229 - Oct. 1956

Comics Weekend "Aquaman's Undersea Partner" by Bob Haney(?) and Ramona Fradon.

It's Adventure Sunday!

A small piece of Aqua-History snaps into place in a little story we call:
The swordfish acquits himself well, puncturing the boat's rudder so it spins out of control. This allows the Sea King to grab one of the crooks, dragging him into the water and putting him in the swordfish's custody. Aquaman is pleased with the swordfish's performance, so he tries out the final contestant...a whale!

The erstwhile Robin The Whale Wonder uses it's spout to shoot Aquaman into the air, and he lands on the boat, surrounded by the three remaining crooks. It looks bad for our hero, except:
...and so ends another adventure with Aquaman!

A fun story of course, if a bit abrupt at the end. And I'm not sure I'm down with Aquaman's reasoning in the last panel, but it was clear he had to make room for the 5:30 Green Arrow that was arriving, so the octopus is the winner, and that's that!

What makes this seemingly standard story notable--according to the normally solid-as-a-rock Mike's Amazing World of Comics site--is that this is the debut of the Silver Age Aquaman! The decision-making behind this assertion is that this is the debut of Topo, Aquaman's trusted sidekick, and a long-standing side character to the (as we used to know it) Earth-1 version of the character. Since the Earth-2 Aquaman never had a Topo (although he is not named such here), this story must mean that this is the beginning of the Earth-1/Silver Age Aquaman.

I'm sorry, But I'm calling shenanigans.

To me, the natural starting point of the Earth-1/SA Aquaman is "How Aquaman Got His Powers", from Adventure Comics #260. That story features the origin most of the world recognizes as the Sea King's "secret origin"--son of a lighthouse keeper and an Atlantean queen, etc.--and it was published enough time after the debut of the Barry Allen Flash and Hal Jordan Green Lantern that, to me, it's not a big jump to assume that Julius Schwartz and the Powers That Be at DC saw that superheroes were back, and decided to give a couple of the B-listers a facelift just in time for them to join the newly-formed Justice League of America. Since Aquaman had been continually published throughout the 50s, he didn't require such a strong demarcation point as the new Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Atom, etc. did, so all of a sudden one month he got a new origin, and off he went!

Add the fact that Aqualad debuted a mere nine issues later, in Adventure #269, and IMO you can safely conclude that this debut of Topo, while nice, was merely a detail that future Aquaman writers decided to keep for their "new version" of the character, rather than an indication that he's already arrived. So while I have always considered Mike's Amazing World one of--if not the--preeminent research tools on the web for comic book history, I'm going to use what little journalistic heft The Aquaman Shrine has and state that, as far as we're concerned, this story--and the thirty more or so still to come--is still starring the Golden Age Aquaman: friend to dim-witted Surface Dwellers and buster of Nazi chops.

Now let us never speak of this again.


Anthony said...

Liked the expression on not-yet-named-Topo's face on page 3...

Re: Earth-1/Silver Age: For me, I assume this issue is the start of the Earth-1 version, for reasons previously stated, though #260 might work also (though feels a bit late). Assuming the Silver Age isn't the same as Earth-1 (the term "Silver Age" representing a shift in writing styles, themes, and elements), #260 is definitely the start of the Silver Age version, especially with the other familiar elements that soon come after---Aqualad, the JLA, the appearances in Superman's comic, etc. But yeah, your site, your call. ;-)

Re: Superboy (who definitely is only on Earth-1): This month's plot sees the Kent family forced to move to a new town/adopt new identities after a meteor destroys their home (and supposedly them with it).

David J. Cutler said...

It remains my steadfast religious belief that Adventure 229 is the first of Aquaman's earth 1 adventures, though I believe official DC cannon agrees with you, rob!.

Unknown said...

Viva Adventure Sunday!

I knew ol' Topo wasn't just spinning his tentacles. Besides, a whale could never be Aquaman's main partner. He wouldn't fit through the cave door.

Re the start of the Earth-2 Aquaman: In solidarity to Bob Haney, I was all set to stump for issue 228, which is the closest we can get to pinpointing as his first issue. Then I remembered: Haney spent his entire career at The Brave & The Bold demonstrating that he had no clue what a parallel universe theory even is.

So, either 229 or 260 works for me. But...I have an alternate theory. What if some of the last adventures of the Earth-2 Aquaman were EXACTLY the same as some of the first adventures of the Earth-1 version. They happened at exactly the same time, with parallel versions of many of the supporting casts. The only way you would be able to tell the difference is by the color of the gloves. After all, we have no idea when the Earth-2 Aquaman retired. He could've been operating all the way up to 1985. Gives it a different angle to look at, while still preserving the parallel universe concept.

James Chatterton of Earth SF-CA

rob! said...

I like the way you think JC.

Russell said...

I would be ready to support the theory that green glove equals Earth 1, except that on the cover of B&B when Aquaman is fighting Starro, there it is in all its glory: the yellow glove. :-(

Unknown said...

You're right, Russell that is a yellow glove. I'm going to have to use more brain-power than I ever have before to get out of this one.

I'm just spitballing here, but wouldn't a giant extra-terrestrial starfish give off an abnormal amount of radiation. And, given how unpredictable radiation works on every Earth with superheroes, I'm betting that Starro's radiation only affects green gloves


Maybe both Aquamen owned green and yellow gloves. We may have to factor in laundry cycles too. And if at least one of the Aquamen takes undersea showers, then you know he does undersea laundry.

James Chatterton- Professor of Parallel Excuses

Anthony said...

I just assume the Earth-1 Aquaman owned a few yellow gloves and would occasionally wear those. Ditto the Earth-2 Aquaman owning a few green ones he'd occasionally wear. (Arthur has yellow gloves in "Adventure" #260...)

Was there ever a story explaining where the Earth-1 Aquaman got his costume from? (I assume the Earth-2 version got his from his scientist father...)

El Santo said...

Wait... are you seriously envisioning a world where the debut of Topo is NOT the beginning of Silver Age Aquaman? That is shenanigans! A world without Topo is like a world without light or Santa Claus... only much, much worse! I mean, Topo totally saved that ship from hitting an iceberg and everything!

Anonymous said...

While Topo was not mentioned by name is Adventure 229, he was mentioned by name and appeared in the next to last panel of Adventure Comics 251 (August 1958)

"A World Without Water". Aquaman referst to him as "Faithful Topo, my octopus". So if Topo being a helper to Aquaman is a factor as to when the Silver Age Aquaman began, then it would have had to be before issue 260. Adventure 229 seems right to me. Does anyone know if Topo was in any other issues by name, prior to Adv, 251?