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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Know Your Villains: The Human Flying Fish

Our second installment of Know Your Aquaman Villains focuses on a villain that has returned to tangle with Aquaman in several different eras, but has never quite managed to attain the level of Black Manta and Ocean Master. Let's see if we can figure out why (Hint: It's the name and the costume): 

The Human Flying Fish first appeared in Adventure Comics #272, in a story by Robert Bernstein and Ramona Fradon:
The Human Flying Fish started out as a guy named Bragg, half of a criminal team who planned to commit acts of sea piracy, but saw that Aquaman and Aqualad were likely to stop them. The other half of the team, a Dr. Krill, came up with an idea to perform an experimental operation on Bragg which would give him super powers, powers perfectly suited to thwart the Aquatic Avenger.

Bragg goes along with this, and in short order he donned a colorful--some would say asinine--costume, becoming The Human Flying Fish:
While it took our heroes a little while to figure out a way to deal with a super-powered bad guy, eventually they found a way to defeat him, sending him off to jail:
Bragg must have been put in front of a real Hangin' Judge, because he didn't appear again for sixteen years! It took writer and DC Comics Walking Encyclopedia E. Nelson Bridwell to dig HFF out of mothballs and use him in the first issue of Super Friends.

Not only did Bridwell bring Fish back, but he gave him a kid sidekick named Sardine!:
In a two-part story, The Human Flying Fish is part of a team of villains (and their respective sidekicks) that attack the Super Friends one-by-one. In Aquaman's case, the Sea King has to stop Fish from attacking an undersea lab. While defeated, HFF managed to get away with an assist from Sardine.

But having a kid sidekick ultimately doesn't work out: when The Penguin prepares to kill an imprisoned Batman and Robin, the junior partners rebel at the escalation of violence, and turn on their mentors. They help the Super Friends defeat the bad guys:
While Sardine was never seen again, clearly Bridwell thought there was potential in Human Flying Fish. He used the same set of bad guys in a children's book published around the same time called Super Friends: The Revenge of the Super-Foes featuring an all-new story:
Despite this multimedia blitz, The Human Flying Fish once again was relegated to the dustbin of DCU history. He did not get a listing in Who's Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe, despite more than qualifying for inclusion (three appearances and a children's book? C'mon!).

HFF did not, er, surface again until 2007--a thirty-year gap--when writer Tad Williams brought us a new version of the character in Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #54:
This Human Flying Fish is a hired gun, whose task is to kidnap the current Aquaman (Arthur Joseph). Despite the lack of personal vendetta, this version of the Fish is a much tougher customer, and accomplishes his task: he drags Arthur Joseph to a hidden lab, and delivers him to the ultimate Big Bad: Vandal Savage!

Fish has been fed a lot of lies about his employer's motivations, and believes that all they really want to do is get a ransom for Arthur Joseph. But when everything goes to hell and bullets start flying, Cal Durham points out to HFF that this is all much worse than what he thought:
The Human Flying Fish takes off, not to be seen again.

Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis was cancelled with the following issue, so Tad Williams never got the chance to bring him back. That was a shame for a number of reasons: we learn that the HFF seen here is also named Bragg, which suggests that this is the same guy from all those years ago. I would have loved to seen this guy's back story explored: What's he been doing all these years? Was he in jail? If so, you'd imagine he'd be pretty mad at Aquaman!

Now that we have a new Aquaman and Mera in the New 52, there's no reason why The Human Flying Fish can't make another comeback. Sure, the name is still completely ungainly and the costume doesn't exactly inspire fear, I'd love to see him (re)added to Aquaman's Rogues Gallery. Jeff Parker, are you reading this?

The Human Flying Fish Appearances:
Adventure Comics #272

Super Friends #1
Super Friends #2
Super Friends: The Revenge of the Super Foes
Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #54
Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #55
Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #56



r duncan said...

That was fun, Rob.

Diabolu Frank said...

I've been doing Vile Menagerie posts for years that typically feature only one or two pieces of art and reams of dry authoritative informational text. "Know Your Aquaman Villains" offers a colloquial tone to its sparse text and plentiful images. This is our OHOTMU vs. Who's Who argument in a nutshell.

A quick fix for the New 52 Human Flying Fish: Charybdis the dude. There are 64 species of Exocoetidae, offering many options to redub and redesign Bragg. My suggestions by order of personal preference...


rob! said...

Mirrorwing--Wasn't that a Pearl Jam album?
Blacksail--Not bad, but I think that's better for a pirate-y type character.
Barbel--10lbs or 20 lbs? I don't want to get too bulky.
Darkbar--Delicious, I like the one with almonds.
Clearwing--Pretty sure that's one of them there newfangled wind energy companies.

Earth 2 Chris said...

Take out the "Human" and the name isn't as bad.

I'm more disturbed by the skimpy outfit of Poison Ivy's teen sidekick. This was in Super Friends!?!


Earth 2 Chris said...

I just noticed her name is "Honeysuckle."

"Sweet" Name. Check.
Skimpy outfit: Check.
Pasties: Check.
Garter: Check.
Ability to climb a rope (or pole): Check.

We all know what field "Honeysuckle" went into after her days as a sidekick, don't we?


Diabolu Frank said...

Rob, you can pick apart my minutes and minutes of research all you like, but at the end of the day you're left with Human Flying Fish. There's no reconfiguration or omission amidst those words that improves on Backspot, Blotchwing, Guinean, or Narrowhead, much less the prior list.