Lets not kid ourselves here. Aquaman used to be lame. He was corny, had (still has) an ugly costume and had the powers of a Magikarp. For the longest time he was the butt of many jokes on SNL, Family Guy and even The Big Bang Theory.
That’s all behind us now, because Aquaman is cool again — er — now.
But how did this happen? It certainly wasn’t an overnight process. This transformation all falls on the shoulders of one man: Geoff Johns.
Geoff Johns, as some might know, is DC’s golden boy. He is penning the scripts for Justice League, Aquaman, and Green Lantern. He’s also tackled some of DC’s most popular crossover events: Infinite Crisis, Sinestro Corps War, Blackest Night and Flashpoint.
The writer has admitted numerous times that Aquaman is one of his favorite characters, so it only makes sense that Johns would do everything in his power to make everyone see what he saw in the character.
So how did he do it? How did he make Aquaman cool?
1. ARTHUR CURRY OF EARTH — RISE!!!!
It all started in Blackest Night. Its really hard to look at this cover of Blackest Night #2 and say “wow, that’s totally stupid.”
This cover is a statement. And it says, not in so many words, “Look how badass Aquaman is.”
This is where Aquaman started to be cool again, because Geoff Johns didn’t bring Arthur back in any normal way: he brought him back as a zombie (essentially).
In this series, though Aquaman wasn’t very apparent outside the 2nd issue, he was still ruthless and memorable. So memorable, in fact, that I wish he had a more commanding role in the series as other Black Lanterns did.
Aquaman wasn’t a blip on anyone’s radar before this series, but after he crawled out of the dirt and summoned zombie sharks to kill Atlantean soldiers, there wasn’t any doubt that the king of the seven seas meant business.
2. Black Manta
It was in the maxi-series Brightest Day that fans were reintroduced to Black Manta, Aquaman’s arch nemesis.
Black Manta was working in a shop cleaning fish when he hears the news that Aquaman is back from the grave. Without uttering a single word, he kills everyone in the store and simply walks out the front door.
This set the tone for what type of villain Black Manta would be, and it implanted in readers’ minds what type of ruthless character that Aquaman needed to be in order to take down a villain as sinister as this.
If there’s one thing that makes a great hero, it’s great bad guys.
3. Getting used to the king
Geoff Johns did a great job allowing readers to get accustomed to reading Aquaman with Brightest Day.
He didn’t just throw Aquaman back into the role of being the guy who talked to fish – he gave him his life back, but let him have his zombie powers.
While the king was back to his normal self, he was still summoning undead sea life and wasn’t sure why. This was a smooth transition from being a badass BlackLlantern to being a badass hero.
I mean, c’mon, he sank a ship with a giant undead squid!!!!!
4. First world problems
In Aquaman’s debut issue after the New 52 relaunch. Geoff Johns did something bold and amazing with Arthur Curry. He brought the humiliation and ridicule Aquaman faces in the real world and brought that into the comics.
Even after helping the police stop criminals, Aquaman is still made fun of for being himself.
This allowed readers to sympathize with the character and see that he really was a good hero and – even in his own series – he couldn’t escape the stereotypes.
This was also the time that Geoff John set some ground rules for Aquaman’s new powers.
- He doesn’t need to be in water. That’s stupid.
- He doesn’t talk to fish. He controls them with his mind.
- He’s essentially bullet proof. Is your precious Batman bullet proof?
It was in the pages of Justice League where Green Lantern asked Aquaman, “What can you do?”
Aquaman simply answered by summoning an army of sharks to save the day.
Being able to command one of the most terrifying creatures ever created makes you a force to be reckoned with.
For anyone who wasn’t listening before, you should certainly be listening now. Because this image of Aquaman doing what Aquaman does best is what sealed the deal for most readers.
Aquaman is cool again.