After 80 years as a DC hero, Aquaman is finally getting his due as a legit badass with an attitude that goes far beyond his reputation as the butt of Super Friends-related jokes.
(And he’s even getting noticed as one of the hottest, hunkiest heroes in the DC Universe).
With Aquaman’s reputation as an also-ran giving way to his well-deserved station as a Justice League A-Lister, and his popularity among fans rising with the tide, we’re counting down ten reasons Aquaman is a total badass.
Aquaman does more than talk to fish
Aquaman’s telepathy can also influence non-aquatic life in subtle ways. He can’t read minds and directly communicate telepathically with people, but in different adventures, he’s given people hypnotic suggestions. One battle involved him causing an enemy to have a seizure by simply concentrating. A mental attack he unleashed on the evil Kordax was so intense that the villain killed himself to end it.
Aquaman was born with several other abilities. As a swimmer, he’s reached a top speed of 1,000 knots (about 1,150.7 mph) and has launched himself 60 feet into the air from the water. This strength means Arthur can easily lift a car and throw it like a football. He once helped support a burning 10-story building for several minutes until firefighters could evacuate everyone. Bullets bounce off him, leaving only scratches. His senses are enhanced, his eyes able to see in complete darkness. And a connection to unseen, magical forces has given Aquaman several prophetic visions over the years.
Add to that his years of fighting experience and the fact he doesn’t shy away from bloodshed or killing if he thinks he has to, unlike Superman and Batman, and you’ve got a pretty deadly warrior.
Aquaman’s wife is also a superhero
But Arthur is very different from many superheroes. With no mask or secret identity, he never had to worry about the angst that comes with keeping half of your life secret from someone you want to date. So his romance with the woman called Mera was rather interesting, making it one of the most honest relationships in superhero comic books.
Things got even more fun when it turned out that Mera, along with being a fellow water-breather who was stronger than she looked, was a pretty good fighter and a hydro-kinetic. By thinking about it, she can manipulate and solidify liquids, which leads to a variety of ‘hard water attacks in battle. After several adventures together, Aquaman decided there was no point in kidding around and they got hitched.
After all, when you find a gorgeous redhead with superpowers who digs you, you can’t let her go!
Aquaman travels through time and space
Some folks who don’t read his stories seem to think that Aquaman only hangs out underwater to be effective. First, this is silly logic when you consider that King of the Seven Seas has complete freedom to patrol, explore and defend over 70% of the planet that landlocked superheroes and people can’t fully experience. Secondly, it’s just not true because ever since his creation, Arthur has had regular adventures throughout time and space.
When an enemy sent him to ancient Greece, Arthur enjoyed a life of being worshipped as a god and helping in great battles before he was finally able to go home. Another time travel journey took him to the planet Neptune in the 853rd century where he participated in a form of interplanetary Olympics and then saved the entire planet from an alien menace. Many superheroes patrol streets looking for carjackers, muggers, and drug dealers. Aquaman regularly guards Earth against the ‘Night Gods,’ ancient monsters and demons that try to invade the planet through hidden doorways.
Basically, he fights Cthulhu. Every year at around the same time. And wins.
Aquaman deals with real loss
Aquaman and Mera had a son, Arthur Jr., in the pre-‘New 52’ universe. He was a cute kid with powers and for years was a bright spot in Aquaman’s life. And then the villain Black Manta took the boy hostage and our hero was not able to save him in time. The loss of their child led to Arthur’s marriage dissolving and Mera left his life for some time.
Years later, the villain Charybdis forced Aquaman’s hand into a river infested with piranha. Arthur can communicate with fish, but he can’t force them to his will and his hand was ripped apart. But rather than consider himself handicapped, he got out a harpoon and strapped it to his wrist. Later, this was replaced with a mechanical version that could spin like a drill, fire as a spear gun, and could deliver an electric current. In other words, he used his injury as an excuse to become more dangerous.
And Charybdis? He was shot by the female superhero called Dolphin and then Aquaman tripped him, sending him headfirst into the piranha river. He didn’t make it.
Aquaman commands armies
Arthur Curry was elected to be King of Atlantis (and later stories revised his origin to say he was the rightful heir to the throne anyway). As soon as this happened, he was put in charge of a society where technology and magic are sometimes one and the same, an underwater nation that has never been fully conquered by outside forces. As King of the Atlantean people, Aquaman is the “sworn protectorate over fifteen thousand submarine states,” with territories surrounding every continent of the planet.
His Atlantean soldiers are several times stronger than the average human being and use weapons unlike anything known to surface world military. The only reason they haven’t already conquered the entire Earth is that most of them, and certainly Arthur, are not motivated by conquest or the acquisition of further power.
Add to that his command of sea life and his power grows. Do you have any idea how many life forms live in bodies of water all over the Earth? They all heed Arthur’s call, including sharks, squids, and creatures most people have never seen.
Aquaman played with deadly animals as a kid
On that note…
Some of us had pets as a kid. Dogs, cats, maybe a strangely judgmental lizard. But Arthur had a unique upbringing with animals.
To help him learn how to hone his gift of marine telepathy, Arthur’s father Tom would often place the boy in situations where he had to communicate properly if he wanted to avoid injury. Little Arthur would be placed into a tank with some ill-tempered swordfish and have to convince them that he was not a threat before they started spearing his tiny body, for example.
And it worked. Growing up with electric eels and octopuses, Arthur became very used to the creatures and lost his fear of them, knowing that he could ask or convince them not to attack. He even became so comfortable with sharks that he’d ride them like horses as a kid.
Think about that. I don’t care whether you’re a kid or an adult in an orange scale mail shirt, if you show up riding on the back of a shark, you are an intimidating sight!
Aquaman founded the Justice League
When folks talk about the Justice League, they often think about the major players such as Flash, Green Lantern, Batman, and Wonder Woman. But Aquaman was there to help found the original team and has been with it through many of its incarnations.
He’s been there in fights against intergalactic tyrants such as Kanjar Ro, Despero, and Starro the Conqueror. He’s fought alongside Superman and Wonder Woman against renegade warrior angels and has saved the planet and all of reality from complete destruction.
A few years after the Justice League first formed (Again, we’re Pre-‘New 52’ here), the team was fairly large and many of its members were becoming less reliable. This lack of focus led to an alien race known as the Debris making a successful sneak attack on Earth, easily getting past Justice League detection and destroying their satellite base. Most of the world and its superheroes were under the mental control of the Debris. Only Aquaman and a few others still had their free will.
Rather than give up, Arthur led his small group on a mission against the Debris and was able to free the entire planet, after which he reformed the Justice League into a new team under his command.
When asked how he thought he and just a handful of heroes expected to win against an invading force of thousands, Aquaman’s answer was simple: “It’s what we do.”
Aquaman doesn’t have time for your nonsense
Aquaman is a guy with biting sarcasm who often just tells you how it is.
When Ocean Master declared that he would kill the king and become the new ruler of Atlantis and the seas, Arthur shrugged and said “okay.” But first, he’d have to introduce himself to every fish and explain that he, not Arthur, was now in charge and then he’d have to deal with the vengeance of all Atlantis and the king’s redheaded, super-powered wife Mera. Obviously, Ocean Master felt like a tool.
When Earth was invaded and terrorized by the Crime Syndicate, Aquaman confronted one of its deadliest members, Power Ring. This villain was an evil duplicate of Green Lantern and, like him, wielded one of the most powerful weapons in the universe on his finger.
After hearing the bearded Aquaman call him a “gutless moron,” Power Ring grinned, figuring he could easily take down this guy even if he did have a harpoon on his wrist – which is when Arthur speared Power Ring through the forearm. And then he electrified him. And then he punched the jerk right in the face like it was his job.
Aquaman has fought gods and punched Death
On repeat occasions, Aquaman has fought Triton, the other-dimensional being of incredible power who was worshiped as a god by ancient Greece and whose father is the even more powerful Poseidon. Triton has never liked the fact that Aquaman is considered ‘king of the seven seas’ by the modern world, and has repeatedly tried to humiliate him.
In one story, Triton sent his father Poseidon into Hades, the afterlife world of the Greek Pantheon and their ilk, and then wreaked havoc on Earth. Aquaman confronted Triton and then tricked the competitive god into sending him to Hades as well.
But rather than let Charon, the ferryman of Styx and the ancient Greek version of the Grim Reaper, escort him to the land of the dead, Arthur had a different plan: He punched Charon in the face, took his boat, hit him again with said boat, took down the three-headed demon dog Cerberus, and then talked Lord Hades into releasing him and Poseidon.
Back in the land of the living, Poseidon helped bring down Triton and then gave Aquaman his famous trident as a keepsake, believing the hero was nobler than those who called themselves gods.
All in a day’s work.
Aquaman will throw a bear at you
So in a story published in 1942, a group of criminals was hunting seals to make money off their fur. Aquaman got word of this and headed over as quickly as he could. He sees the hunters in the distance, just as he’s crossing paths with a polar bear who is not in the best of moods.
Rather than possibly be delayed by the bear in a confrontation and give the hunters a chance to escape, he solves both problems at once… by throwing the bear at the hunters like a damn javelin!
Think about it. You and your buddies have committed some crimes together. You’re going to commit some more. You see in the distance this guy that you all have made fun of because he wears orange and apparently hangs out with fish. And then, before you know it, an airborne and very angry, possibly panic-stricken bear is heading right for you.
A guy dressed like a bat suddenly doesn’t seem as scary after that. If you’re lucky enough to survive what the bear does after it lands, of course!