On the most recent Big Monkey Podcast, the gang and I mourned the loss of comic book artist Mike Wieringo, who was beloved both for who he was and the work he did. Remembrances by his colleagues (like Mark Waid here at Newsarama) have brought to my attention the pitch that Waid and Wieringo did for Aquaman four years ago, which I include in its entirety below.
It's nice-- very nice-- to see that there are people who get Aquaman. Sadly, DC's editors weren't, and apparently, still aren't among them.
How delightful, how different Aquaman's recent history would have been, had the Waid/Wieringo pitch been accepted. Aquaman would have been leading DC's charge toward brighter, more inspiring heroes, rather than trailing far behind.
Tad Williams would have this guy at right to work with, rather than having been given the superhuman task of writing Aquaman without Aquaman in it, of making bricks without straw. Tad has, in fact, done a superhuman job of pulling together the various pieces of Aquaman's broken history, adding new and interesting elements, and weaving them into a narrative quilt that's made DC's underwater world seem larger and more fascinating than ever before. For that, he gets my highest praise. But DC, in forbidding him to bring back the real Aquaman, has essentially doomed his ingenious series and might as well rename it Aquaman: Meatless Lasagna.
I take some comfort in knowing that the type of Aquaman described below will be coming back. DC's new Superfriends comic (and its concurrent toy line) will, of course, include the Classic version of Aquaman, because, although Editorial doesn't also know what sells, Marketing does. Surely DC won't let pass that opportunity to reassert Classic Aquaman in a manner similar to what Waid and Wieringo laid out below.
Why, that would be like wasting the unprecedented level of public recognition that JLU brought the Martian Manhunter by not having him in the JLA or by dramatically altering his visual and character design!
The Waid/Wieringo pitch
"I am so sick of people making fun of Aquaman that I’m beginning to take it personally. For the last ten years or so, the way we’ve been scrambling to combat Aquaman’s “Dork of the Sea” image--and I’ve been guilty of trying this, too--is by making Aquaman increasingly darker, grittier, and tougher, the brooding, angry king beset with trouble. Each incarnation of the character seems grimmer than the last, to the point where all that’s left for us to do is give him two hooks. And a peg-leg.
OR--here’s ANOTHER thought. Yes, the seas can be turbulent and stormy, but y’know what? Far more often, the ocean is a universal symbol for peace and contentment. It’s a calming influence. If it weren’t, Bermuda would be deserted and
would be an industrial trade port. It is most people’s “happy place.” Yes, the ocean is the set piece for “A Perfect Storm,” but it’s also the world of “Finding Nemo” and “The Little Mermaid.” I have never yet met anyone of any age who didn’t come away from Sea World envying the guides who swim with the whales and porpoises. I propose we turn this “grim Aquaman” paradigm around for a one-shot and see what happens. “Test the waters,” if you will. I know, I slay me. Anyway.... Hawaii
Our POV character in this story is a female marine biologist--and since Aquaman’s turf covers the world, there’s no need to make her American. (In fact, Russian is preferable--I’ve been doing a lot of reading about the culture of Russian courtship, and that could really play in nicely.) At any rate, our biologist--let’s call her Yelena for now--may have heard the name “Aquaman” here and there, but to her, he’s about as real and significant as, say, German football stars are to you and me.
Yelena’s work is done with grungy old equipment and spit-and-bailing-wire technology, the best she has to work with. Her whole world has a gritty feel to it--
--so when this bright, blond, shining knight of a man pops out of the water and into her life, she’s addled simply by the contrast.
Their paths cross, she’s drawn into an adventure, and to Yelena, this “Aquaman” is, yes, mysterious like the sea--but in a warm, enticing way. To Yelena, he is otherworldly, like a fairy tale character come to life. He rarely speaks (though when he does, he’s staggeringly charming), he lives in the water, and he smiles. Constantly. In fact, at first, Yelena has a nearly impossible time taking him seriously. He’s like a walking cartoon.
And yet...the more she gets to know him, the further she’s drawn out of her world and into his, she’ll come to realize that there’s something going on behind those wide eyes of his. Looking in them, she sees peace and confidence; looking through them, she’s gradually introduced to an underwater world of absolute wonder, a place that is far more colorful and in tune with nature than is her own gritty lifestyle. Once she surrenders to the implausibility of it all, she’s rewarded a thousandfold, and so are we. Aquaman’s joy becomes her joy becomes OUR joy.
There will be no mocking. NO jokes about how “dumb” talking to fish is. Anyone with a keyboard can make cynical jokes. That’s easy. What’s harder is reminding you why, when you were a kid, you thought the idea of living underwater or commanding the creatures of the sea WAS cool. We can do that. We can remind you, and Yelena’s awed voice will be there to back us up."