It’s been said before on The Nerdd that Aquaman has been the laughing stock of many comic book fans and casual movie goers alike. Many wonder why he is even still around in the comics, and why is he even on the Justice League. Surely if you are competing with flying ultra-strong men, demi-goddesses, and even the worlds greatest detective with nothing but a trident and the command of fish, why are you even there? Hopefully with the release of James Wan’s Aquaman on December 21st, we’ll get a fresh and unique look at why Aquaman is such a welcome addition to the slate of superheroes that has filled the entertainment industry today.
Aquaman has become a favorite superhero of mine as I’ve learned more and more about his character. I’d like to talk about why Aquaman is such a great underrated hero. He deserves a place in our hearts because he fights evil without looking for any real attention, he is truly concerned with making the world a better place, and he is the epitome of balance in the DC Universe. I’m talking about going deeper than how he is portrayed in the Justice League movie as a ‘cool’ guy who is privy to smashing bottles, with the tribal tattoos and acting like Zach Snyder’s take on a “badass” Aquaman. Don’t get me wrong, he’s one of my favorite parts about Justice League. I understand the intent of his characterization in the movie, but it doesn’t feel like the Aquaman of the comic books (which I’m hoping we’ll see more of in this upcoming film). A lot of people don’t think they want to see a comic book accurate Aquaman in live action. I say keep the look, Jason Mamoa looks great as the aquatic hero, but I want to dive deeper into who Aquaman really is and see if any of that can carry over into the upcoming movie.
The thing that sets Aquaman (a.k.a. Arthur Curry) apart from a lot of the other heroes on the Justice League is the fact that he isn’t really looking for a whole lot of attention. That’s not to say all the other members of the league have a Booster Gold sized ego, but Aquaman’s sedate nature sets him apart from the rest. In Geoff Johns’ New 52 run on the character (from which the movie looks to be based heavily off of), there is a moment where Aquaman shows up to help some police apprehend some armed robbers. After some ridicule from the robbers and the police, he quickly apprehends the criminals and pretty much jets out of there amidst laughter before anybody really has time to witness the spectacle of his deed. Immediately afterwords, he goes to a small seaside restaurant where his Dad used to take him when he was a kid. He just wants to eat his fish and chips, but everybody around him is asking for an interview, and asking him questions about how he talks to fish. At first he politely tries to answer their questions but eventually he just gets frustrated and leaves (not before tipping his waitress a few gold coins). Later, as he is talking to Mera we see that he doesn’t feel the need to be anybody special. He doesn’t really want the responsibility to be the King of Atlantis. He doesn’t care to be the best or strongest member of the League, and he doesn’t seem to care that people think he’s the “dumbest”. He just does what is right, regardless of how others perceive him.
Furthermore, he’s always been grounded in realism, even though the premise of his powers and backstory are pretty fantastical. When he was younger, his father took him across the country so that he could experience life away from the water. This allowed him to realize his human self before he became the Atlantean King he was destined to become. Most of the Atlanteans are very arrogant and bigoted towards the surface dwellers, which is really exemplified in Aquaman’s half brother, King Orm. King Orm constantly wishes to wage war on the surface dwellers and control the entire planet. Unlike Orm, Arthur is able to maintain the perspective of a modest lighthouse keeper as well as lead the people of Atlantis. He even still feels the need to come to a compromise with his half-brother, something the other members of the Justice League refuse to do leading to conflict with Orm. His willingness to talk things over before acting in violence is a venerable quality among superheroes.
Deep down, Aquaman truly believes the best in people. It’s shown in his willingness to go about saving the world without regard for himself in order to just make the world a better place. He doesn’t necessarily have a city that he is protecting, or a specific landmass to patrol; and he only really deals with enemies outside of the water when on a mission with the Justice League. He’s comfortable to take to the seas and protect the land from whatever lurks below and keep Atlantis’ best interests in mind as he and his wife Mera act as ambassadors to the rest of the world. Even though the surface dwellers trash the oceans, and pay no real attention to the welfare of the nations beneath, it is admirable that Aquaman still strives to find the best in both the sea-folk and land-lovers. Though he wishes to live a normal life with Mera on the surface, he realizes his duties and decides to act with diligence in the task that has beset him. Because of this, Aquaman is one of the best superheroes to trust when it comes to carrying out an objective. Many times have the Justice League been pulled out of a pinch due to the efforts of Arthur Curry (even if it is calling upon the aid of a dolphin or a shark).
Aquaman acts as a force of nature almost. He is the thing that stands between the oceans and the land. He gives balance to the world in this way. It’s an expression of himself. He walks the line between a regal emperor and a earthly seafarer. The symbolism of having one foot on land and one foot in the ocean is a powerful one for this particular character. In his prime, he displays the best qualities of the two worlds. Like a hurricane, he knows when he needs to rule with unstoppable determination. Yet with the stability of the land, he has the personable qualities that you’d want in a close friend. With the fluidity of an ocean current he can go with the flow, and act according to what comes his way. But when he needs to, like the cliffs of the sea he acts as a vigilant protector; a barrier not to be passed. Many heroes have a similar responsibility, but Aquaman feels such an obligation to the welfare of both his peoples that I can’t help but notice the difference in how he exemplifies righteousness.
“There’s an ancient wisdom I should have heeded long ago, if only I had recognized its truth applies as much to me as to all men. True happiness is found along a middle road. There lies the balance and the harmony — with reason and emotion not at war, but hand in hand.” ~Aquaman
All the qualities and strengths that Aquaman brings to the table show that he really is the stuff of legends. He is part of the solid foundation that keeps the Justice League running, that keeps them together. Many still term him as a lame superhero, and at first glance it’s pretty understandable; the image of Aquaman was set in the minds of the public long before his character was really expounded upon. And sadly, people hardly venture past the surface to see what lies beneath, similar to how the surface-dwellers in the comics aren’t very interested in the civilization that lies just beneath the ocean. Much like them, we’ve allowed the experiences we’ve had with the character in the past injure our view of who he really is now. In his own right, Aquaman truly is one of the most amazing heroes in the DC Universe because he is so down to earth, he represents that balance that we all look for in life, and like all good heroes; he just wants what’s best for the people he has been given care over. With all of this said, I look forward with anticipation for the new films release, and even more so to the adventures and tales to be had with the King of the Seven Seas.