As unlikely as it may seem given his history as the butt of whole schools of jokes about talking to fish, fans are thirsty for Aquaman – and I mean parched.
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Since Newsarama broke word of DC’s impending Aquamen event (likely to be a team-up between classic Aquaman Arthur Curry and newly crowned Aquaman Jackson Hyde), fan reaction has undoubtedly been excited – and not just for the details of the story.
Part of the fun of fandom for many folks is the stylized, idealized, and yes, sometimes even sexy nature of superheroes.
And judging by the attention both Aquamen get – and the flirty nature of many of the most enthusiastic reactions to news of their team-up – it seems Aquaman is going from dud to stud as a comic book sex symbol for fans who appreciate great hair, swimmer’s shoulders, and what the kids call ‘drip’ (gold scale maille and undersea treasures count for that, right?).
But Aquaman’s big secret is that he’s just about always been the Justice League’s resident himbo, the team’s strong, silent, beefcake badass – with a little too much inherent goofiness to match the reputation of a stoic superhero like Batman.
Aquaman is swimming in sex appeal
In a way, the idea of Aquaman as a total hunk is baked directly into his character – it’s no coincidence the original Aquaman is a blonde, blue-eyed, babe with broad shoulders and perfect hair.
At the time of Aquaman’s creation in 1941 (which DC is celebrating this year, partially through the announcement of Aquamen), some of the most popular athletes, both in terms of physical performance and sex appeal, were Olympic swimming champions – several of whom transitioned their good looks and charisma from endorsement deals to movie stardom following their Olympic glory.
Johnny Weissmuller, the record-breaking Olympic multi-gold medalist who set the standard for competitive male swimming in the 20th century, is the most well-known example of a swimmer-turned-celebrity, as the star of over a dozen film adaptations of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan the Ape-Man character.
But it’s one of Weissmuller’s contemporaries, Buster Crabbe, that may have had the most impact on Aquaman’s portrayal. Crabbe, though not as decorated as his fellow Olympian medalist Weissmuller, had a more varied screen career after his competitive days. After starting out in his own version of Tarzan, Crabbe went on to portray sci-fi heroes Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers in their respective movie serials.
(Weissmuller and Crabbe even starred together in a few movies – that’s how big their influence was).
Though it’s never been stated outright, Crabbe was almost certainly an influence on the creation of Aquaman, who came to the page just as Crabbe’s star was rising, and he was becoming one of the premiere Hollywood hunks working in genre films at the time.
With his perfectly coiffed blonde hair, muscular swimmer’s physique, and especially in some of his more outlandish Flash Gordon costumes, Crabbe is practically a spitting image for the Golden Age Aquaman, to the point where artist Craig Hamilton used Crabbe’s likeness as the inspiration for his portrayal of Aquaman (opens in new tab) in the character’s redefining 1986 limited series.
Aquaman is a savage sea king
After that limited series, Aquaman’s early ’90s portrayal took things in a different direction for the underwater uber-hunk. Writer Peter David and artist Jim Calafiore redefined Aquaman (opens in new tab) both in his look and his attitude, giving him a beard, long, wild hair, and a hook hand, while also replacing his classic garish scale maille with sleeker, more gladiatorial armor that showed off a lot more skin (including his ocean-forged washboard abs).
This more savage, almost barbaric look for Aquaman is the costume that most directly inspires Jason Momoa’s portrayal of the character in his own film franchise – though it’s safe to say the fact that Momoa’s been rocking a version of Arthur Curry’s ruggedly handsome style for some time is a strong indicator of why the actor was matched with the character to begin with.
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And of course both Momoa and Aquaman himself are what Twitter loves to call ‘Wife Guys,’ meaning they’re both in dedicated relationships with loving spouses (fellow actor Lisa Bonet, in Momoa’s case, and fellow hero Mera, for Aquaman) who they support and stand-by – extremely attractive qualities for monogamy-minded fans.
Oddly enough, Momoa – whose own indisputable hunkiness is undoubtedly a major factor in bringing Aquaman into the hearts and fantasies of fans across the seven seas – has his own history as a swimmer, sort of.
Momoa got his big break as an actor starring as the maverick lifeguard Jason Ioane in Baywatch Hawai’i (the revamp of the mega-popular show that notoriously jumped the shark) well before he was sporting his burly beard and long, dreamy locks – so in a way, the tradition of Aquaman resembling the hottest, hunkiest celebrities and athletes of his era has continued directly into the modern day.
And of course there’s Arthur Curry’s counterpart, the newly christened Aquaman (and former Aqualad) Jackson Hyde, whose own style couldn’t be more of a dramatic departure from the original Aquaman’s Hollywood-heteronormative handsomeness.
Originally introduced in the animated Young Justice show before appearing shortly thereafter in DC comics, Jackson Hyde (Atlantean name Kaldur’ahm) is much more reflective of a modern vision of masculine hotness than the classic portrayal of Arthur Curry.
Though he’s been around in the pop culture consciousness a lot longer, it’s hard not to compare Jackson Hyde’s current look to hip hop superstar Lil Nas X, whose unapologetically queer and outrageously outlandish fashion makes him look something like a superhero himself, and have already found their way into the visual lexicon of other pop culture – including recent Apex Legends video game character Seer, who is practically Lil Nas X’s doppelganger.
Again, we’re not claiming a direct correlation with the newly upgraded Aquaman – after all, Hyde’s been rocking his bleach blonde hair for longer than Lil Nas X has been charting.
But much like with Buster Crabbe, whose physique and swept back haircut were dead ringers for the original Aquaman, Hyde’s latest look resembles the style of the young, fashionable, fans who clamor for more of his adventures in a way that shows artist Diego Orlotegui of Hyde’s current title Aquaman: The Becoming has his finger on the pop culture pulse.
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As you can see, it’s more than a little ironic that Aquaman has often been seen as a bit of a joke. Maybe we can blame his off-kilter ‘fish talking’ powers, or his colorfully clashing orange and green costume – but we definitely can’t place the onus of Aquaman’s fluctuating popularity on his hunkiness, as that’s been baked into who he is from the word go.
A regal bearing, a badass attitude, and an almost effortless level of hotness are just as much a part of who Aquaman is as his abilities to communicate with sea life and breathe underwater.
And now that he’s moving further and further away from his stereotypical Super Friends portrayal as the hero who’s barely a cut above mascot characters like Wendy, Marvin, and Wonder Dog thanks to his unlikely blockbuster film franchise and the combination of mythology and fantasy politics that has defined his recent comic book adventures, the world is finally waking up to the fact that Aquaman – in fact, the Aquamen, both Arthur Curry and Jackson Hyde – might just be the hunkiest heroes in the entire DC Universe.
If you’re in the mood for a boatload of historical hotness, check out the best Aquaman stories of all time!