Thursday, September 22, 2005

"Peter David's Aquaman"


Knowing of my newfound interest in Aquaman, one of the Absorbascommenters was kind enough to lend me the entire Peter David run of Aquaman, which I had not read before.

And I will never, ever forgive him for it.

Most of the issues I read while I was in a public place, like a restaurant or a park. People kept coming over to me, asking, "Are--are you okay? Did something happen to your head? Do you need me to call a doctor?"

All I could do was stare at them and mutter, "No. No, I am not okay. Peter David lives. And is free, free to write. Don't -- don't you understand?" Most people didn't understand and wandered away, disgusted with the failure of deinstitutionalization as a public policy. But one woman understood; she just stood there, crying and crying...

For those of you who escaped Peter David's Aquaman, here's what happens -- in every issue:

  • Aquaman suffers a bizarre physical transformation, disturbing his friends and subjects, and serving as a metaphor for his dramatic emotional change of the month!
  • Two women have a catfight over a male member of the cast!
  • Someone plots to overthrow the king!
  • A Previously Unmentioned but nevertheless Extremely Important mystical element or entity threatens Atlantis, challenges Aquaman's authority, and mindcontrols a member of the cast with whom they have a Previously Unmentioned but nevertheless Extremely Important connection!
  • Every castmember gets to make a snarky, sarcastic, or flip comment at a highly inappropriate point in the action (just like on "Buffy"; it must be cool!) !
  • The People change their mind about Aquaman!
  • Aquaman discovers that his powers are much greater than previously thought!
  • Someone close to Arthur (oh, excuse me .... "Orin") worries that he's losing it, and someone else close to him denies it!
  • Sea mammals evince high drama and/or low comedy!
  • Another mystical element in Aquaman's background or source of his power is revealed!
  • Aquaman demands respect!
  • A guest star learns respect for Aquaman and teaches us to respect him, too!
  • Something shaped like a skull appears and threatens everyone!
  • Two members of the supporting cast have an argument or fight!
  • The Atlanteans demonstrate that they are highly advanced and completely backward at the same time!
  • Aquaman argues with a member of the supporting cast!
  • Arthur becomes even more kingly than in the previous issue and comes to accept it again as his burden slash destiny!
  • Every castmember gets to make a childish pun!

The main reason I read this ... "stuff"... was to find out why everyone thinks Koryak is a jerk. Now I know -- everyone Peter David writes is a jerk. I find it hard to blame Koryak for that.

Don't get me wrong; I really enjoyed Peter David's Young Justice. But adolescent angst, childlish puns, and whistling past the graveyard humor works fine when your protagonists are all children. It wasn't until I read Peter David's Aquaman that I realized that's how he writes everyone.

I don't mean to upset anyone with these criticisms, but, you know, dreck is dreck. I know that Peter David's Aquaman is Aquaman for a lot of younger readers and that those are the comic books that interested them in the character. But if I'm willing to look at the comic books that interested me in characters when I was young and admit that, yes, they could be pretty darned stupid, then why can't other people admit that, too?

38 comments:

Marionette said...

So what you're saying is that any one issue of Peter David's Aquaman is really good value for money, but once you've read that you don't need to read any of the others?

Scipio said...

any one issue of Peter David's Aquaman is really good value for money

No. No, I didn't say THAT, LOL! I'm saying they are all bad in exactly the same way.

Shane Bailey said...

I liked a few of the issues, but prefered Shaun McLaughlin's run on the title. It dealt with politics between the country of Oumland and Atlantis after Oumland attacked them, Aquaman joins the UN as Atlantis' representative, and later deals with ecological problems. I thought it was a pretty interesting run personally. I've read all the Aquaman books from the end of the run before Shaun's to the current issue of this run now and I think it's my favorite.

Ariel said...

Wow, talk about a panel you can't show in a G rated setting!

Aqualad sure looks happy to have Koryak's fist against bone there.

Ariel said...

Wow, talk about a panel you can't show in a G rated setting!

Aqualad sure looks happy to have Koryak's fist against bone there.

Ariel said...

Whoops, sorry guys, pressed submit one too many times.

Scipio said...

Indeed; Atlantis is one big piece of slash fiction waiting to happen.

Martin said...

Peter David's Madrox was really good, though.

Chris Arndt said...

I liked the issue where Aquaman kicked the crud out of Superboy. Didn't care for how young they made Aqualad look in that issue (at that time in comics there was something stupid flying around where all the original Teen Titans grew up and gave themselves adult super-hero names but Garth was a moron running around calling himself Aqua-sidekick).

Some of the stuff in the run made sense, like Aquaman being really fast on land.

The thing I really hated.... "Orin".

Whatever happened to Arthur Curry? What happened to his dad the lighthouse keeper? These new comics can suck.

Benari said...

Eh, I enjoyed Peter David's run of Aquaman at the time. It was interesting and different, it got people reading the character, it had all the fun elements of light comic entertainment with a healthy dose of melodrama. It would have been nice if at some point, though, he got back to the orange shirt and superhero gig.

It's just too bad that this became the definitive look and version of the character in the 90s. This was the period of time when DC was so ashamed of their icons, they made them unrecognizable. And they wonder why they lost an entire generation of new, young readers...

totaltoyz said...

Whatever happened to Arthur Curry? What happened to his dad the lighthouse keeper? These new comics can suck.

It was stated somewhere (I think in Aquaman: Time & Tide, PAD's prelude to his run on Aquaman) that the lighthouse keeper was not his biologcal dad but found the young Orin after he left the dolphins who raised him. This was after his true Atlantean parents left him to die because he was born with blond hair, a jinx sign in Atlantis. The lighthouse keeper raised the boy to young adulthood and, in his honor, Orin used the lighthouse keeper's name, Arthur Curry, as his "surface identity".

No, really. I'm serious.

Chuck T. said...

Who wrote the brief 90's run? I remember enjoying that for some reason. I have a big, random pile of David's run and the end of that series; from the quarter boxes of my local store. Hit and miss.

Ariel said...

Wasn't that Erik Larsen? I think he may have created Lagoon Boy as well.

Devon said...

Dan Jurgens finished off "Peter David's Aquaman."

Tom Curry said...

Ah, poor, noble, unlamented Tom Curry. He of the peacoat and pipe. Standing there, keeping his lonely vigil on the railing of his lighthouse, limned by the seaspray. A bottle of Old Spice resting snugly in his pocket, waiting for the day he'll toss it playfully to some young rake, while whistling a jaunty sea shanty ....

I miss him. That's why I've taken his name.

Look, I liked two things about the PAD run. The Major Disaster as Supervillain Rube Goldberg story, which was a very neat idea. And the Random Parademon Gains Individuality story, also a neat trick.

Paging through those issues, you see the ads for all the early 90's/Too The EXTREEME!/Poochy the Dog crap that what was going in comics back then, (Lobo! The Extremists! Knightfall!) and PAD can almost -- almost -- be forgiven.

He thought it best to give Arthur the maritime equivalent of the "Raised by Wolves" trope.

Porpoises. To the EXTREME!

But it doesn't hold a candle, iconically speaking, to Son of a Lighthouse Keeper and the Queen of Atlantis.

Jhunt said...

Extreme porpoises are twice as RAD as regular porpoises, it's a scienticular fact!

Seriously, I started reading Aquaman at the start of Pfeifer's run, and I'm glad I did, because it looks like reading the adventures of the Soggy Grump might have soured solo Aquaman stories for me. As it is, I'm looking forward to a (as of now) hypothetical Showcase Presents Aquaman tpb.

H said...

Scipio:

When I get up to the Peter David run in my Aquaman indexing I may just link to this entry of yours. It was terrible for all the reasons you stated. In fact, I can't think of another book that I kept buying long after I dreaded reading it.

Dorian said...

But if I'm willing to look at the comic books that interested me in characters when I was young and admit that, yes, they could be pretty darned stupid, then why can't other people admit that, too?

I've encountered this many times as well. As near as I can figure, these people apparently believe that their critical and aesthetic faculties are fully develooped sometime around age 6, and just deteriorate after that.

Marionette said...

Hey, most of the comics I read now are pretty damn dumb. But they are a whole lot more fun than a lot of the grown up stuff around these days.

Julio Oliveira said...

The problem with admitting that something that something you originally liked could be perceived as awful on a second, more critical glance, is that in my opinion is both responsible for the "To the EXTREME!" mentality of the 90's and the "Grim and gritty equals adult adult" of nowadays. When readers (and worst, comic book creators) become ashamed of the stories they read when they were younger, the impulse is to try to explain the silliness, or lack of logic of these stories had (ie. Identity Crisis and Omac Project).

Now, I am not saying no criticism can be done, since if no critic as synonym of quality, the best comic ever made would have John Byrne and Rob Liefield together on the creative team (don't even joke about it) since they both are totally blind to the flaws of their works.

Basilios said...

I think you OVER simplify (to the XTREME.. haha) the run too much, there was alot to the book, if you look past the "childish pun" as you put it. Did you read Atlantis Chronicles also? I think alot of interesting subjects were approached in the title?

Tom Foss said...

Generally, I really like David's stuff. I loved Supergirl and Young Justice (and I'm continually kicking myself for missing out on those for so many years) and both Madrox and Fallen Angel were top-notch.

That being said, I've never read David's Aquaman, but I really do like a lot of the changes that were made to the character 'round that time, which I experienced secondhand through Morrison's JLA. I mean, even as a kid with no fashion sense, I thought orange and green were an odd mix of colors. I like that Aquaman became competent, powerful, and no longer the laughingstock of the League for having as his claim to fame the ability to talk to fish.

I mean, come on, the guy with color-themed trick arrows got more respect. It's a wonder Aquaman ever left the ocean.

Giving Aquaman stronger telepathy and thinking about the surface consequences of the abilities one would necessarily have to survive at the bottom of the ocean were brilliant strides, and made Aquaman a damn interesting character in Waid's JLA: Year One and both Waid and Morrison's JLA runs. The beard? Why not? It's tough to get shaving cream to stick when you're underwater, and it offers better potential for cool visuals. The hook? A little derivative, but it was a decent change up until they decided to replace it with a "liquid metal hand that might as well just be a hand and let's forget that it was ever cut off"

Raised by dolphins? Okay, he's not Aqua-Mowgli. That's just dumb. But giving the people of Atlantis a little of their own culture instead of making them Earth-W (for wet!), that was a worthwhile pursuit.

David's Aquaman may have been a mixed bag, or just a load of crap. Maybe I'll pick up Time and Tide and some back issues next time the comic shop has a half-off sale (I know I've seen many of those in the 50-cent boxes). It'd have to be better than Rick Veitch's run, right?

Scipio said...

"in the 90s. This was the period of time when DC was so ashamed of their icons, they made them unrecognizable."

Thank you, Benari! I'd never put my finger on that before, but I think you must be right...

Scipio said...

"It'd have to be better than Rick Veitch's run, right?"

It is, completely and unequivocally; no argument there!

In Hell, only four DC comic books are published:
Rick Veitch's Aquaman
Jeph Loeb's Batman
Phil Jimenez's Wonder Woman
Jack Kirby's Superman

Vincent J. Murphy said...

"in the 90s. This was the period of time when DC was so ashamed of their icons, they made them unrecognizable."

More like, Aquaman wasn't selling as the orange shirted talks to fish guy, so a writer decided to do something different with that character to actually sell some comics.

It's no different than Identity Crisis: some will hate it, some with love it, people will buy it.

Jeffrey said...

I have no opinion about whether Peter David's Aquaman or the classic Aquaman is better than the other, having never read an Aquaman comic in my life (though I've liked his portrayal over in the Justice League cartoon). But let's not dismiss Peter David's writing skills just because you dislike what he did to Aquaman. He had good runs on Young Justice and Supergirl, and Fallen Angel was one of the best books out there.

Franny said...

Sigh. The book that made me interested in characters when I was young was freaking Generation X. And while the characters, I maintain, rawked, it was still a pretty uneven and often bad book.

Tom Foss said...

"In Hell, only four DC comic books are published:
Rick Veitch's Aquaman
Jeph Loeb's Batman
Phil Jimenez's Wonder Woman
Jack Kirby's Superman"

Rick Veitch's Aquaman: For everyone who read Veitch's Swamp Thing and said "gee, I wish this were more complicated and laden with unnecessary Arthurian mythology."
Jeph Loeb's Batman: "Remember when I wrote good mystery stories, in which Batman was a detective more than a sci-fi gadget superhero? Keep remembering."
Phil Jiminez's Wonder Woman: Confusing? Yes. But at least it's pretty.
Jack Kirby's Superman: If you took Grant Morrison off his meds, you might get something like this. That being said, the dialogue's nothing great, and...Goody Rickels? But damn...fun comics.

Oh, wait, Superman? We're not talking Jimmy Olsen?

Martin said...

Porpoises? Oh, great. You just made me remember that bit from his origin where he gets sent away from the porpoises because he hits on one of them.
Aquaman. Hitting on a porpoise. In his own origin story. That alone made me turn my back on any concept of the character for years.

Scipio said...

Makes ya appreciate Pfeiffer that much more, don't it?

Mike Loughlin said...

I'll be the first to say I'm a Peter David fan. He made Incredible Hulk my favorite comic growing up, wrote one of the few good Wolverine stories (the one drawn by Sam Kieth), made a collection of C-Grade mutants entertaining in X-Factor, and built an interesting world with Fallen Angel.

That said, he's had his share of misfires. Like most comic book writers, Peter David has his tics (puns being one of the worst), and it sounds like all those tics turned up in Aquaman. At the same time, the DCU went "Xtreme." Not a good combo.

While I've never read David's Aquaman, I dropped Young Justice because it seemed like empty schtick, and lost interest in Supergirl because it was boring.
Did I miss anything by ignoring those books?

Ariel said...

Oh, I don't know. I thought the "Death of Hippolyta" issue of Phil's run wasn't so bad. The whole Trevor Barnes thing though was irredeemable, yuck.

What I'm not digging are the rumors that Diana will be biting it and Donna taking over. Arrgh.

Jeffrey said...

I've only read a handful of YJ and Supergirl back issues, but they were a lot of fun. I certainly found YJ more enjoyable than Teen Titans, which replaced it.

Charlie Anders said...

Like a lot of comics writers, Peter David is pretty hit and miss... but when he hits, he's great. His original Hulk run and some of his recent Hulk issues, Fallen Angel, Madrox, and a few other things I'm forgetting right now, were all great. But his Aquaman run made me deeply ashamed to be seen reading it in public.

Martin Wisse said...

Haven't red his Aquaman series but I did enjoy the Atlantic Chronicles (iirc) which showcased the history of DC's Atlantis.

Any thoughts on that?

totaltoyz said...

I have thoroughly enjoyed much of Peter David's writing, particularly Hulk and Atlantis Chronicles. But I do agree he's had his very low points too. I'm surprised no one has mentioned his Green Lantern series in Action Comics Weakly.

Martin said...

Maybe from Sub Diego onwards, they can start doing a nice, orderly, JSA-style run of trades?

Aron said...

Thanks so much for this post, pretty worthwhile material.
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