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Can Geoff Johns Save Aquaman?

An Unenviable Task Falls Into the Perfect Hands

By Chad Derdowski     April 06, 2011


Can Geoff Johns Save Aquaman?
© N/A

 

Ahhh, Aquaman. The Dweller in the Depths. The Sea King. The most maligned do-gooder to don tights outside of Squirrel Girl. And hell, Squirrel Girl probably gets more respect than Aquaman. Much like the Canadian rock group Rush, Aqauaman seems to be either reviled beyond measure or loved unequivocally with little middle ground.
It’s been a while since we’ve discussed ol’ Arthur Curry and with the recent announcement that following this summer’s Flashpoint event, Geoff Johns will be penning an ongoing monthly series starring Atlantis’ favorite son, it seems high time (and high tide) that we weighed in on the subject yet again. Most comic fans fall into one of two categories: those who think that Aquaman is a joke whose only power is “talking to fish”, better left forgotten to the sands of time; and those who feel that he is a wealth of untapped potential, one of the legendary heroes of the DCU who need only find the right writer with the right pitch to finally take his place in the pantheon of greats. (And of course, there’s that third category, the folks who don’t really have a solid opinion on the guy but just get a kick out of mocking the King of the Seas ‘cause it’s the cool thing to do, but honestly – those people don’t count.)
For our money, we’ve said it time and again: there are no bad characters. Given the right treatment, and the right amount of care and attention, any hero can have a great story and go from a one-dimensional cliché to a fully-rounded character. And we won’t deny having a soft spot for Aquaman based on the simple fact that we grew up seeing him on the Superfriends cartoon. Sure, even as kids we recognized that he might not be quite as impressive as Superman or Wonder Woman when it came to superpowers, but it’s long been cemented in our minds that he stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the big guns and deserves to be there. If the heroes of the DCU are supposed to represent modern myths, as so many have suggested, then Aquaman plays the role of Poseidon or Neptune, the god of the sea.
All that being said, water-based heroes have never been given the same due as those who fight on the land or in the sky, and there’s a certain stigma attached to Aquaman.  His downfall goes hand-in-hand with his upside: the aforementioned Superfriends cartoon. Aquaman is one of a handful of heroes who has become a household name. One of those guys that your mom and dad have probably heard of, even though they always told you that comics were for kids and you probably ought to give them up. But with that fame has come a horrible notoriety. Because of his position and his perceived shortcomings when compared to his peers, he has been the butt of jokes for so long now, the guy faces an upstream swim that would give pause to even the bravest of salmon. 
But you already know all that and its likely you’ve already formed an opinion regarding the value of Aquaman. And then those two magic words come into focus: Geoff Johns. The golden boy of DC comics. A man that has long been lauded in print and online as one of the finest writers of this era. We’ve sung his praises time and again right here in Comicscape. The guy is good and his track record speaks for itself. Whether its his work on the Flash, Justice Society, Action Comics or Green Lantern, Geoff Johns is the go-to-guy when you want a good old fashioned superhero story. He’s a writer who understands the basic dynamics of how a superhero universe works and can implement that knowledge with modern sensibilities. He understands what makes superheroes fun and somehow finds a way to incorporate what may have previously been perceived as goofy Silver Age story elements into a current storyline and make it work. Long story short, he’s a guy who clearly grew up with the Superfriends and if anybody is going to convince skeptics that Aquaman can work, it’s gonna be Geoff Johns.
But we didn’t come here to toot Geoff Johns’ horn (though admitedly, we’ve done a fair job of it); we actually came here to wonder if even he can salvage Aquaman’s career from the depths. Is Aquaman too far gone? Has he become too much of a joke for even Johns’ to raise to prominence? At this point, can anyone write an Aquaman comic that people want to read? Even the venerable Geoff Johns?
In recent years, we’ve seen Johns (along with DC and Warner Brothers’ considerable marketing machine) take a character like Hal Jordan and raise him from B-lister to the head of the class. Previously, he’d taken a bunch of old fogies in the Justice Society and ensured that they be given the respect that they’re due from readers and the denizens of the DCU. Though it’s been a slow start, he’s working on doing the same with the Flash (something Flashpoint will hopefully accomplish). Essentially, Johns has made it his business to ensure that DC, like Marvel, has more than just two or three big guns to form the foundation of their shared universe. He’s spent the past few years bringing the Superfriends back to prominence and Aquaman, perhaps the biggest challenge of the Superfriends, is next on his list.
Is he up to the task? We tend to think so. We’ll be the first to admit that Brightest Day has been hit-or-miss since it started (and some folks would say we’re being generous in saying that), but the Aquaman story has kept us captivated since the first issue. So it’s clear that he can make Arthur Curry interesting. He’s updated the status quo with Mera and introduced a new Aqualad. And we certainly can’t complain about his use of Black Manta. So far, so good. More importantly, Johns cares. The man seems to actually have a vested interest in the preservation of these characters and if he treats Aquaman with the same level of respect he’s given other characters he’s written, ol’ Arthur Curry’s gonna be okay.
We’ve always enjoyed rooting for the underdog. Sure, Aquaman’s always been laughed at and made the butt of many jokes from both fanboys and non-comic readers, but that just makes us like him more. And don’t forget: it takes a thousand or so heroes to protect the surface of the earth, but Aquaman’s protecting ¾ of the planet all by himself. That’s the definition of a badass as far as we’re concerned. We’ll be there for the first issue and even though it might be hard to turn the pages, we’ll be keeping our fingers crossed that Johns has Apache Chief in his sights as the next member of the Superfriends to bring back to prominence.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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jedibanner 4/6/2011 5:23:54 AM

I'm no fan of DC but, Aquaman is probably one of the few characters I don't mind and might be looking into this new series.

The art will also make a big difference on this decision because, I like when both the writers and artist are very good, it's rare these days. You either get one or the other.

Time will tell I guess...

Bryzarro 4/6/2011 5:52:00 AM

 I'm also hoping they can make a decent series for Auquaman.  I thought his part in Brightest Day was pretty good.  And by losing a bunch of his supporting role in Blackest night this could be a good launching point to get him rolling again.

okonomiyaki4000 4/6/2011 6:46:06 AM

 Aquaman's story in Brightest Day was lame but then everything about Brightest Day is lame. I don't see much hope for the character and I don't see what's the big deal with Geoff Johns. I've tried to give DC a chance but practically everything I've read from them is junk. 

Wiseguy 4/6/2011 6:56:54 AM

I hated what they did with Aquaman in "One Year Later" and the entire Dweller of the Depths. Then DC added the alternate universe aquaman late which IMO is the thing I hate the most of DC, the aternate universe. Well not so much the alternate universes but the way they use it. And of course Blackest Night and Brightest Day allowed for some resetting

Anyway yes, I'm all for them getting Aquaman back on board and paying him the respect he deserves. Hopefully Johns can do it. Like Chad said Aquaman has been a main stay for me ever since his appearances in Superfriends, he is tattooed in my brain and heart as one of the big guns :)  And as original JL'er he needs to be treated accordingly.

8man 4/6/2011 7:56:47 AM

Aquaman is a great character with a rich history and fantastic mythos.  The problem is when comic books are selling for between $2.99 and $4.99 people who aren't fabulously wealthy have to make choices on what they buy.

Most of the time they'll opt for Spider-Man, Batman and X-Men.  That leaves characters like Aquaman out in the cold.

 

goldeneyez 4/6/2011 8:04:49 AM

 I think I'm one of those that don't really care about Aquaman in a good way or bad way, however, I don't dismiss the character because it's cool to do so.  Part of the problem with Aquaman is the perception that the Superfriends cartoons of the 70s and 80s gave him (not to mention the 60s cartoons).  It made people think he could only talk to fish and breath underwater and they seem to have forgotten that he also had super strength and all the good things that ocme with that high endurance, etc.

I'm 100% in agreement with Chad that there is no such thing as a bad character.  Put in the right hands a bad character can turn out pretty good.  I'd give the example of Jar Jar Binks.  Paul Dini wrote an episode of Star Wars the Clone Wars titled Bombad Jedi & it was a really good episode and did some damage control to Jar Jar's character...

Geoff Johns is a good writer.  He's not my favorite because I don't like the direction he's taking DC currently with Brightest Day & trying to bring back the Silver Age, however, I don't begrudge him that he is talented and a lot of people like his work, he's just not my cup of tea.  Hopefully he can do somehting cool with the character of Aquaman.

Tevii 4/6/2011 8:15:08 AM

I think the Aquaman segment in Brightest Day is really the only interesting thing IN Brightest Day .

When you talk about Aquaman's untapped potential, you cant be more correct. You can get a great taste of his potential in Brave and the Bold #32 written by J. Michael Straczynski.  It really shows in one issue how epic the stories around the character could be.

I love Johns writing but Im not sure they will delve into the character that way though. The current trend at DC seems to give each member their own team -  Batman Inc, The Flash Family, GL Corps (of course), so Im expecting Mera, Aquaman, Aqualad to work very close together and maybe see them revive Tempest and Aquagirl and so they could have The Aquatic Aggregation or something stupid.

Bryzarro 4/6/2011 8:35:37 AM

 Good point Tevii........never really saw that pattern developing like that within the DCU.

jedibanner 4/6/2011 11:13:43 AM

Sometimes, when you think about it (like tevii did), the whole ''familly'' of one type of heroes is not helping the growth of the character. I loved Captain Marvel (DC....and he could beat Superman to a pulp)  but he started getting so many little kids here and there, same thing with Flash and GL. If the same thing happens with Aquaman, I won't care about him and his 1347574567814258756 servents and wives and kids (yes I know he doesn't have that many).

I have not read Brightest Day so, can't talk about what they've done to the character but still...

Tevii 4/6/2011 11:54:27 AM

@jedibanner - YES! Ive always preferred Captain Marvel and thought he'd beat Superman. I think Marvel has a cool costume too. An i think your right. The more characters can mean more drama, but it doesnt really give the main character room to grow.

I think, just like in the 80s when Xmen comics were really getting big, everything went mutant at Marvel so they could capitalize. Now with the huge success of Green Lantern and the Corps, DC is kinda doing the same thing. They are just trying to find the winning formula.... It works with GL, but Batman will NEVER work like that.

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