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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Know Your Villains: The Fisherman

Our third installment of Know Your Aquaman Villains focuses on a villain as managed to rise in the ranks of Aquaman bad guys, despite not always been taken very seriously: The Fisherman!
The Fisherman debuted in Aquaman #21 (May/June 1965), which means he predates both Black Manta and Ocean Master, the Sea King's most prominent foes, by more than a year. Donned in an entirely purple costume, which looked vaguely like it's made from crustaceans, The Fisherman douses Aquaman with a serum which causes him to grow to Pym-like proportions, leaving Atlantis vulnerable to attack. Of course, his plan is foiled, and after receiving a quick punch in the face from the Sea King, The Fisherman is surrendered to the local authorities.

But The Fisherman didn't stay in stir long: sensing they had a winner, he returned just three issues later in Aquaman #24, this time teamed with a flame-haired siren named Karla. Right from this second appearance, we see that The Fisherman is not considered with a whole lot of respect:
Karla turns out not to be all that bad, when she actually helps Aquaman, Aqualad, and Mera defeat some invading aliens. Right in front of The Fisherman, Aquaman promises to tell the authorities to go easy on her!

Obviously The Fisherman ended up in front of one of those hanging judges (the same one The Human Flying Fish got), for he did not return for eleven years, until Paul Levitz dusted him off for a multi-issue, multi-villain storyline in Adventure Comics #443, sporting a new look:
The Fisherman's biggest shot at defeating Aquaman was just a year later, when he was the sole villain for a two-part story that ran in Aquaman #s 58 and 59. He ends up strapping Aquaman to a massive solar panel attached to a lighthouse, which would, ideally, fry the Sea King to a crisp once it was set to full power. Unfortunately for The Fisherman, he does that stupid thing so many James Bond villains have done, taking off and leaving the hero alone without just finishing the job:
...say what you want about The Fisherman's competence, but that is one sweet ride.

Aquaman (of course) freed himself and caught up with The Fisherman, and delivered him to the police in the most humiliating manner possible, as if the Sea King didn't even have time to bother seeing to it personally:
This led to another long hiatus in The Fisherman's career of villainy, for he did not return until 1985. This time, however, I guess he decided to try and take on someone a little easier, so he moved downmarket and squared off against Blue Devil:
The Fisherman gets his block knocked off by BD while in the middle of boasting how powerful he is, an extra level of humiliation dealt him by a superhero. This led to an even longer hiatus between appearances: The Fisherman didn't pop up in another story for sixteen years, until he was briefly spotted running around various places: taking on Young Justice, causing mayhem during Infinite Crisis, as well as in Gotham City (oh, that's a good idea). In Gotham Central #37, he is recognized by some members of the GCPD and is shown the proper esteem:
He ends up getting shot in the back by some cops, which seemed to suggest that was the end of The Fisherman's story. But no! He returned just one year later to tangle with the then-new version of Aquaman, and he too seemed to have undergone a metamorphosis:
In Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #s 48 and 49, this Fisherman is the same helmeted foe we've come to know and love, but he has been possessed by some sort of demonic force which gave him mystical powers (or at least abilities beyond those he showed previously), and changed him from ruthless crook to psychopathic murderer. Despite this, his luck was no better: in a duel with Arthur Joseph, he is stabbed in the chest, seemingly to death.

After this, The Fisherman was pretty much relegated to cameo appearances in flashbacks or group shots, like this stunning collection of bad guys courtesy Jose Luis Garcia Lopez (PBHN) from DCU: Legacies #4:
The Fisherman's final appearance in any DC comic was in a non-continuity story (though I guess, post New 52, every DC comic is now non-continuity) that appeared in The All-New Batman: Brave and the Bold #8, but was really just a preamble to the main story. Here, The Fisherman basically goes out in the same way he ran his supervillain career: begging for mercy:
His most impressive moment probably came in 1985, when he made the cut to get his own listing in Who's Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe, one of only four Aquaman villains to be granted such an honor. Ably drawn by Luke McDonnell and Bill Wray, you don't get any sense that this guy was someone generally not taken seriously as a supervillain:
Now the DCU has been rebooted, and Aquaman is in the market for as many villains as he can get (headlining two monthly books and all), will The Fisherman return? Never having been merchandised in any way (no action figures, video game appearances, or Heroclix, for instance), there's not a lot of fan support behind this character, so it will take the creative largesse of either Jeff Parker or Dan Jurgens to officially bring him into the New 52. I, for one, hope they do, since this new ultra-tough Aquaman ought to be able to take care of this guy in one issue flat.

Now, I've been mocking the Fisherman quite a bit here, but I always liked him, simply because unlike Black Manta and Ocean Master, his motives are so uncomplicated: he wants to steal stuff from the ocean floor, and Aquaman is always in the way. Ergo, kill Aquaman! I've always liked that some super-villains are just in it for the money, there's not some epic psychological drama motivating them. I think that would be a nice change of pace for the New 52, so why not give the Fisherman his due?

The Fisherman Appearances:
Aquaman (Vol.1) #21
Aquaman (Vol.1) #24
Adventure Comics #443
Aquaman (Vol.1) #57
Aquaman (Vol.1) #58
Aquaman (Vol.1) #59
Blue Devil #17 
Young Justice #50
Infinite Crisis #1
Gotham Central #37
Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #48
Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #49
DCU: Legacies #4
Cry For Justice #5
The All-New Batman: Brave and the Bold #8


Diabolu Frank said...

I like to think of Fisherman as a contender, based solely on how cool he looked in that Who's Who entry. However, "Fisherman" is way too on point, and wielding a rod and reel is seven shades of stupid. "Fisherman" brings up images of what your dad told your mom he was doing on weekends as he sat on a boat to drink extensively and/or was getting a handjob from an aging prostitute two counties over. I'd recommend obfuscating a bit with a name like "Piscator," and using slightly more esoteric equipment like a harpoon and net.

Earth 2 Chris said...

Why not change his name to "The Angler"? Angling is fishing, so you still have the connection, and you can also say he's always got an angle on a robbery. Or maybe that's too close to Wonder Woman's perpetually lame foe, the Angel Man?

He actually looked very menacing in his first appearance by Cardy. As much as I love Aparo, I guess I have to blame him somewhat for his later lameness.


Earth 2 Chris said...

I meant "Angle Man" above. I hate typos!

Count Drunkula said...

Fisherman has a very striking look that... doesn't make sense. The hood, the color scheme, it's all very visually stunning and memorable, but it's also a little incomprehensible. What is that hood supposed to be (if it's not an alien brain slug)? And why is his face covered in shadows most of the time, which makes the hood look kind of like an alien face? And what does his intriguing costume have at all to do with fishing?

Tusky the Walrus said...

I first met the Fisherman in the Filmation cartoons. He was one of a handful of actual pre-xisting comic book villains to appear in the Aquaman cartoons. I remember he appeared at least two or three times, one of them being the (I think) Final episode...

Joseph Brian Scott said...

I think casting a fishing line underwater would be very difficult, and slow; certainly easy to evade. Maybe the device is automated somehow.

Anonymous said...

Fisherman should be the predator or boba fett of the sea.

Joser Kyind said...

You forgot to include Fisherman's appearances in Flashpoint. I can't remember which specific issues, but he was in at least one issue of the main story and the Deathstroke tie-in as a member of Deathstroke's pirate crew. Also, in Death of a King, one of the statues in the Dead King's tomb is wearing Fisherman's headpiece. So, I'd say it's a pretty safe bet that he'll figure into Rise of the Seven Seas.

Joser Kyind said...

I dug out my Flashpoint comics to check, and Fisherman appears in Flashpoint #2 and Flashpoint: Deathstroke and the Curse of the Ravager #1.