Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Do Not Let Me Write Aquaman

DC Editorial has put an open bid out on Aquaman to whatever creators make the best pitch.

Now, I've enjoyed Aquaman very much since Will Pfeiffer saved him from Rick Veitch, so I'm loathe to see new creators come on for no apparent reason. Some of us readers, quaint though we may seem, still follow characters instead of writers and hate to see those characters "revamped" every 6 or 12 months (and any new readers picked during that time can be easily turned off by a dramatic shift in a character whose current state they are appreciating).

While some may fuss with some particulars of the storylines, pacing, and characterzation in Aquaman, the overall "mythbuilding" process Pfeiffer began in Aquaman #15 has been sound. Will actually made Aquaman into a superhero comic book again. What I like about Arcudi's work is that he's been building on what Pfeiffer established as the new core elements of Aquaman's mythos.

I'm asking DC emphatically: DO NOT HIRE ME TO WRITE AQUAMAN. I'm sure Brad Meltzer would put in a good word for me, and, yes, I'd do it for free, and, okay, I'm the so-called "new reader of Aquaman" you'd want to attract to the book. But DO NOT HIRE ME; because if you do, you will not get a bold new direction for Aquaman.

  • I will not de-power him and put him in a white pants suit.
  • I will not make his costume blue and give him electric powers for no apparent reason.
  • I will not make him "The Wettest Man Alive" and extend his powers so far beyond all previous versions of him that any story where he faces fewer than 14 supervillians simultaneously seems silly.
  • I will not drive him insane with guilt and have him kill thousands of other ocean-based heroes in an attempt to re-create San Diego before its destruction.
  • I will not break his back and replace him with a bad-ass version of himself, have a monster kill him and replace him with 4 bad-ass versions of himself, have his mother strip him of his title and replace him with a bad-ass version of himself, or have the guardians of the ocean decide he's unreliable and replace him with a bad-ass version of himself.
  • I will not send him off to a year of exile in space in an attempt to make him galatically relevant or revitalize interest in DC's forgotten space characters.

My inability to do such things would surely disappoint DC. Even worse, I would not abandon the idea that Aquaman is a public superhero with close ties to the superhero community and whose main activities are fighting criminals and threats to society, particularly to the residents of an American city he lives in that is well-suited to his talents. I would ignorantly adhere to an individually-tailored version of the essential mythic model that resulted in America's creation of the superhero genre, has sustained it as a pillar of popular culture for nearly 70 years, and resonates with innate Jungian arch-types for maximum adaptability and accessibility.

As a sad result of my narrow-mindedness, I would further disappoint by being unable to change Aquaman from being a superhero into:

  • a lordly sword and sorcery character who rules a mysterious sub-surface world ("Travis Morgan, King of the Seven Seas!")
  • a pugnacious pirate character complete with bad manners, bad barbering, and a hook to replace a hand he lost to sea monsters ("Bluebeard, King of the Seven Seas!")
  • a geopolitical character and world leader of high-tech armies ("T'Challa, King of the Seven Seas!")
  • an abandoned changeling character, the misunderstood special offspring of secret magical parentage discovered only later in life and rightful ruler of a mystical land ("Amethyst, King of the Seven Seas!")
  • a healing avatar of a mystical elemental force of nature and emissary of peaceful ecological balance ("Swamp Thing, King of the Seven Seas!")

Nope, I'm doomed to appreciate Aquaman for what he is: a superman of the sea and batman of the bathoverse, a superhero with a bright, simple, and iconic costume, a unique combination of easily and clearly describable physical and mental powers, and a job that only he can do.

I guess that why I read superhero comic books, huh...?

Anyway, if anyone is interested I may post later on about what I would do with Aquaman. But know this ...

I'd be asking Will Pfeiffer to help me.


jack klugman said...

Could you hook a brother up with some information about this open editorial thing? Specifically, how to make pitches.

joncormier said...

I can't believe you wouldn't be willing to re-imagine him as a woman or provide a script with fishy boobs.

I think you should submit in haiku.

Candy Kane said...

So what's your problem with fishy boobs?

Just out of idle curiosity, if I were interested in reading some good Aquaman, where would you recommend I start?

Elephantine Room said...

Candy Kane, dude, you should totally start with Will Pfeiffer's run, because Will Pfeiffer made Aquaman a superhero. Nobody managed to do it before then, but Will Pfeiffer did it by going and - get this - giving Aquaman a city. Because Batman and Superman and those other guys have cities; you can't be a superhero if you're just some lame-ass king of the ocean! Wonder Woman? No city! Just some chick in a shiny bra! But Aquaman - he's got a city now. Just like Firestorm!

But wait, it gets better - it's a city... underwater. And it's part of San Diego. So they call it - wait for it, wait for it! - Sub Diego. Like a submarine! Because it's underwater!

And Aquaman totally patrols the city, like Batman or Superman would, only he does it... underwater. So he walks around in buildings... underwater. And he chases after petty criminals... underwater. And he stands around on rooftops... underwater. Why, you might even forget you're reading Aquaman after a while! Now that's how to write a character.

Scipio said...

I agree with that recommendation, Kane; #15 of the current run is the place to start.

Heroes with too broad a field of play ("the ocean", "space", "man's world") tend to be too diffuse in focus. Their context is too broad to help define them and too alien to seem relevant to readers. This has caused cancellations of, for example, Aquaman, Green Lanterns, and Wonder Woman.

In contrast, I've noticed that Batman and Superman (despite their mythic model being apparently too unsophisticated for some) have remained in continous publication as the world's most popular superheroes.

Go figure.

Ashtur said...

Interesting point about characters with a broad field of play. Honestly, the only major hero(s) from either company I can think of that aren't too directly tied to one place is the X-Men. (The school sort of serves, but not entirely). However, they are (or were, I haven't read the X books in 5 years or more), "grounded" by the entire mutant issue, so that gave them the basis they needed.

totaltoyz said...

Frankly, I think when DC and Marvel do these "open casting call" things, claiming to be actively seeking new talent, it's all a load of horse hockey designed to make them look like something other than the closed and boring shops that they are. Marvel and DC aren't interested in new talent, but they want to look as though they are. To perpetuate the Jim Shooter Myth, so to speak. Maybe I'm just bitter because I've sent both companies what I felt were damn good proposals and never heard a word, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's not just as I describe it.

Marionette said...

Since the only time Wonder Woman was anything resembling canceled was when they switched her off ready for her post-Crisis reboot, she's been cancelled exactly as much as Superman.

The only one of the big three who got to say "Crisis, what crisis?" was Batman, and that was only because he hadn't yet spotted that the biggest, most cosmic, reality warping event in DC history had turned his kid sidekick into a git.

Devon said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ariel said...

Sorry guys, I have to play Devil's Advocate here.

Aquaman was never more interesting when Peter David was writing him, hook, bad hair, pissy attitude and all. And that orange costume is one of the ugliest, most nonsensical of any of the DC icons. The only one worse is J'onn "Bondage Harness" J'onzz.

I do agree that the Roman Gladiator costume had to go...it was so 90's! But then again, why shouldn't his costume reflect that his culture began worshiping Posiedon or Neptune sometime after the sinking? I think that makes sense, as well as being visually appealing and interesting.

And I do agree that he's been lost in recent years and that the Sub Diego idea was a pretty damn clever way of refocusing him. But here's the thing: I also love that he is King of a major world power. I mean c'mon: didn't that scene in Morrison's JLA when he shows up with the armies of Atlantis behind him under his command give you the shivers? I think the character really shines as a geopolitician and warrior king.

I also love Aquaman when he is a badass with his telepathy.
"And for starters, I can give you a seizure." I still remember that moment, again from Morrison's JLA, quite fondly.

And the whole Aquagirl thing: I'll give her a chance...but so far she seems pretty generic and dull. On the other hand, under Geoff Johns, Wonder Girl has become a character that I really quite like, so maybe Aquagirl will do the same thing.

naladahc said...

Did you just coin the term "bathoverse"?

R Greene said...

Interetingly, Lorena (Aquagirl) is one of the few non-white new sidekicks, not a physical extension of Arthur, like Connor, Robin, Impulse, Speedy, or Cassie (most of whom even share their mentor's hair color for crying out loud). Problem right now is she's a little more teen than hero sidekick--fawning over Arthur's son and all, without any real powers of her own. Define her and give her a subplot involving a heroic choice, and she'll be much more interesting.

Scipio said...

"didn't that scene in Morrison's JLA when he shows up with the armies of Atlantis behind him under his command give you the shivers?"

You where Aquaman seems incapable of speaking a complete and coherent sentence. Nope; Morrison's concept-diarrhea, I'm sorry to say, no longer impresses me.

If I wanted to read about Namor or Capt. Nemo, I would. To me, all that scene says is, "I don't know how to make Aquaman powerful or interesting on his own, so I'll just back him up with thousands of tin soldiers." Does Wonder Woman ever need to show up with the Amazon army behind her? No.

Scipio said...

" Did you just coin the term "bathoverse"?"

According to a Google search, yes, I did.

Scipio said...

Rico, if Aquagirl can yell at Aquaman without getting smacked, that's enough of a power for me!

You have inspired me to write more on her later this week...

totaltoyz said...

Dale, I didn't mean to mislead you; DC has put the call out to current creators, not the public at large.

Ah, well, even so. I still think these things are gimmicks designed to give the Big Two a false appearance of interest in new talent. These days you have to have a couple of NYT Best Sellers under your belt to even be considered by DC.

R Greene said...

Have we already done the Aquaman Dynasty? If not, maybe its time for an update.

Mike Loughlin said...

Out of curiosity, who should DC not hire to draw the Aquaman story you're not writing?

Scipio said...

Kirk-Clarke art am perfectly capturing underwater environment and so must am being fired!!!!

As long as they continue to draw Koryak EXACTLY AS THEY HAVE BEEN, no other art team would EVER be necessary...

Julio Oliveira said...

an abandoned changeling character, the misunderstood special offspring of secret magical parentage discovered only later in life and rightful ruler of a mystical land ("Amethyst, King of the Seven Seas!")

What I was under the impression that was already the Aquman's backstory... Am I wrong?

I mean, son a sorcerer, check.
Mystical Land (Atlatis), check.
Discovered only later in life, check.

What I am missing?

Candy Kane said...

Okay, so I just read Aquaman 15 - 23. Damn you all! Now I have to go tell everyone I know they should be reading Aquaman.


I ask you, how uncool is that?

So yeah, I'm not totally hooked on it, but there's one thing I don't get. All the inhabitants of Sub Diego are wearing like suits and ties. Have you ever tried swimming fully clothed? I can tell you now that after a few hours you'd be down to your skimpies, let alone 6 months. And as for Aquagirl's boob tube, unless it's designed for underwater usage the drag against it would have popped her out of it after about 3 minutes.

Which would have been entertaining.

Candy Kane said...

oops. I don't know where that "not" snuck in. Cos clearly I am totally hooked on it.

Where's the edit button on this thing?

Scipio said...

Julio, the folderol about Aquaman being the child of some ersatz mystical water-sorceror is not part of Aquaman's original myth. Some decided to add "magick" to Aquaman's backstory; yeah, that's been real helpful.

Originally, Aquaman was the child of a landsman and an Atlantean. The combination made him amphibious (somewhat) and his power over sea creatures, well, that was just a special power.

Candy; yeah, I've talked about the shirt and tie thing. It IS odd. You'd think some smart swimwear company would donate bathing suits or wetsuits. I chalk it up to wanting to retain some vestige of their former lives.

And, yes, the ability to swim in a wrap-top and combat boots is Lorena's own superpower.

Ariel said...

"...appreciate Aquaman for what he is: a superman of the sea and batman of the bathoverse, a superhero with a bright, simple, and iconic costume, a unique combination of easily and clearly describable physical and mental powers, and a job that only he can do."

But then that's the rub. Traditionally, Aquaman's job is to protect the Seven Seas, but he's only gotten the job by default. Why couldn't Superman do what he does? Because Superman chooses not to, preferring to protect the surface world. Batman prefers to protect Gotham, an urban center on the surface world. Wonder Woman brings a message of peace and equality to, you guessed it, the surface world. It's hard to identify with Aquaman because, well, who cares about the Seven Seas anyway?

Perhaps if Aquaman's mission were refocused to protect the surface world from underwater threats, he'd 'read' clearer.

My goodness. I sound like a total Atlantiphobe!

Don't get me wrong Scip, I love the character...but I think that he's a tough nut to crack because he's not as 'glamourous' as the other DC icons. Everyone would love to fly, or be a martial arts detective scary bad ass, or, in the case of many young girls and gay men, be a warrior princess from a far away land, but breathing underwater, talking to fish and swimming real fast? Not as many I'd wager.

So I wanna hear it! How WOULD you make Aquaman cool?

And now is the time to reveal my secret shame, and my continuing verdephilism: I loved Lagoon Boy. He was a cutie. Why can't HE be Arthur's sidekick?!

Scipio said...


I loved Lagoon Boy, as unlikely as it seems.

He was so ... absurd. That made it okay.

You are quite right; the base problem for a long time has been "Who care about Atlantis?" I certainly don't.

Golden/Silver Age writers simply had Aquaman patrol the interface of the worlds above and below: the shore and the sea surface. Much of civilization is coastal, so there was plenty for Aquaman to do.

Atlantis was just his backstory, a Krypton under the Sea. He didn't even live there; he lived in the AquaCave (don't ask).

One recent writer tried to give Atlantis a surface presence through the annexation of the island nation of Cerdia, but that seems to have been all but forgotten. Haven't seen Aqualad's son, lately, have ya?

Pfeiffer's solution was elegant and novel: put an American city into the sea.

Anonymous said...

I'll bet there are people in the comics field who wanted your first reassurance on accounta they're still sayin', "Well, the last time we hired an openly gay writer to do a DC superhero he depowered her and put her in a white pants suit: you don't want that to happen, do you?" But if I were you, I wouldn't have given them the satisfaction. It'd be like going, "Although I am a black comics professional, I will not change my name to that of a British science fiction writer for religious reasons." You end up just supporting their stereotypes.
--Mr Ripley

Ariel said...

Mr. Ripley: the legendary Walt Simonson wrote the run you're referring to. He's been married to the equally legendary Louise Simonson, co-creator of Power Pack, for decades.

Phil Jiminez is the openly gay writer who wrote and drew the run right before that. A super nice guy and real sweetheart, and is drawing Infinite Crisis.

Ariel said...

Scip: Yeah, both Cerdian and sadly, the wonderful Dolphin seem to have been regulated to limbo lately. I've always loved Dolphin for some stupid reason or another. Daisy Duke of the Sea!

Well, unless Atlantis & Cerdia gets sucked into a drain by Infinite Crisis, it looks like it's here to stay. I like how Pfeiffer is making it more a thorn in Arthur's side than a beloved homeland...Krypton would most likely be a thorn in Superman's side if it hadn't exploded, come to think of it.

Ah Aqualad. Swimmin' my way, tall dark and handsome?

Shane Bailey said...

I always thought Aquaman worked well when combined with his role as a king or ambassador dealing with other countries. I would also have him fighting villains not "ocean" based just to spread things out a little. Why does he always have to fight the sea villains. Are all the other heroes busy? What if he comes across some other villain, can he fight him or does he have to call Superman to take care of it. I always liked Aquaman when he was put in an environment he wasn't used to be it land or world politics. I think that's why I liked the whole Sub Diego thing.