When Aaron posted this Superboy cover online in January, a few things caught my attention:
- Carmine Infantino could design the hell out of a cover.
- Murphy Anderson made everybody look good.
- Even as a teenager, Aquaman was getting his ass kicked.
If anything good came out of DC's New 52 shenanigans, it was to rehabilitate Aquaman's image as a badass. Although I would assert that Aquaman's bearded hook-for-a-hand phase did that already. Yes, it was an example of 90's excess but in the case of Aquaman, I think it worked. Then somebody got the bright idea (as they always do) to take Aquaman back to basics. So cut the beard, restore the hand, pull the old orange 'n' green out of wardrobe and voila! Aquaman's back to basics.
In other words, bland.
A lot of this ineffectiveness was highlighted by Aquaman's most high profile presence outside of comics, the Super Friends TV show. Yes, as a young Dave-El, I would watch enthralled as super heroes from comics came to life. Sort of. Life...ish.
Anyway, it was always clear that anything Aquaman had to do was conveniently connected to water.
- "I'll see if the villain is hiding in this river."
- "My fish friends in the ocean have not seen anything suspicious."
- "He's getting away! Wait, there's a tributary!"
- Superman would fly
- Wonder Woman would take her invisible plane
- Batman and Robin roared to the scene in their Batmobile.
Yes, dammit, he swam!
Or sometimes he would get squirted out by a whale.
"It's fortunate that this mystery happened by the side of this lake."
Sometimes Wonder Woman would give Aquaman a lift. But not Batman. ("I just had the upholstery cleaned and you smell like fish, Aquaman.")
As hokey as it was, the producers of Super Friends were at least trying to make Aquaman relevant to their show. In the comics, it seemed he got less respect.
There were a lot of covers where Aquaman is not faring too well. I'm not talking about being caught in a challenging encounter with an enemy or a monster in a "how will he defeat this menace?" type of thing. No, I'm talking about a lot of covers with Aquaman in not exactly heroic situations.
The last two are of particular interest to me:
- Aquaman attacked by fish.
- Aquaman attacked by bubbles.
To be fair, these covers feature some dynamic designs by the late great Nick Cardy. But the cumlative effect of issue after issue of Aquaman unconscious, tied up or having the crap beat out of him by fish (and bubbles!) did not do a lot for Aquaman's image as a powerful and effective hero.
It's probably not fair to call out Aquaman for covers like these when other super hero covers employed such motifs. True but Aquaman seemed to have an inordinate amount of appearances in a state of weakness or distress.
But thankfully these days Aquaman is getting more respect and not getting caught in embarrassing predicaments.
Be good to one another.
I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You