For this week’s Toonbarn character feature, we’re going with King Arthur himself, the ruler of the seas and one of the founding members of the Justice League: Aquaman. Technically, we were going to feature Batman but there’s really nothing more to say about Batman (other than the fact that Beware the Batman completely exceeded everybody’s expectations, turning out to be much, much better than what even the most jaded fans are expecting).
There’s always been a consensus that Batman = Badass, and the only point of contention is the level of his badassitude especially when compared to other equally-lauded characters like Superman or Son Goku. However, when you mention Aquaman, people automatically think “guy that talks to fish.” In fact, it’s very telling that a large part of this feature on Aquaman talks about Batman – that’s exactly how poorly Aquaman’s being treated. Guy can’t even get a single feature about himself without people bringing up his more popular friend.
Aquaman’s Poor Reputation
Most people point to the silly portrayals of Aquaman in the original Superfriends cartoons as the reason for Aquaman’s poor reputation, but it doesn’t really hold any water considering that the show portrayed everybody as silly.
I mean, it was the show that had Green Lantern taking an extraterrestrial boy with no powers as his sidekick, and having him ride on his back to and from missions when he is the one superhero in the team who can literally create any kind of vehicle out of thin air. So how come Aquaman’s still the butt of jokes? How come nobody’s making fun of Green Lantern for being powerless against a guy dressed in a banana costume?
It’s because of people’s misunderstanding of Aquaman’s power.
Aquaman’s Powers and Abilities
Technically, talking about Aquaman in terms of powers and abilities should not use the singular form of the words, but we do it because that’s the root of the problem: people focus on just one of his powers. Namely, being able to talk to fish.
It’s true that his most unique ability is being able to communicate telepathically with marine creatures, but that hardly scratches the surface of what he can do. First, let’s get this out of the way: he’s the king of the seas, with complete control (well, give or take a mutiny or two depending on whether he’s got an overly ambitious relative or subordinate around) over its undersea army. Would you pick a fight against someone who can throw hundreds of thousands of soldiers and giant creatures at you and wouldn’t even have to get approval from the congress to do it?
There’s also the thing about Aquaman functioning well in environments that would crush normal people like a grape (at 250 meters deep, Aquaman’s feeling 364 pounds of pressure per square inch at all times.) so you can only imagine how fast, tough, and strong he is on land. He’s not going to win a fistfight with Superman anytime soon, but you can bet that he can tear a normal human apart with his bare hands.
The character has actually gone through changes multiple times throughout his history, most of it an attempt to make him credible to newer audiences via new powers, new look, edgier attitude, but the “guy who talks to fish” jokes continue.
Aquaman’s Place in DC’s Food Chain
The comic book tie-up to Injustice: Gods Among Us may not be canon, but it is one of the perfect examples of how a writer can handle Aquaman. It doesn’t change anything substantial about the character nor does it give him any new powers, all it did was emphasize the powers, influence, and attitude that he’s always had and puts him on a collision course with Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Shazam, and Superman.
That’s right. It took four of the most powerful heroes in DC to put Arthur in his place. As mentioned above, he had an army larger than any government’s, a kingdom full of loyal subordinates (each one stronger and faster than your average human soldier, due to the reasons stated above), and his own version of WMDs like the Kraken.
Aquaman was actually able to fight Wonder Woman to a standstill, by taking the fight to the waters where he has an advantage, and his army was only stopped when Shazam, Green Lantern, and Superman literally lifted Atlantis and dropped it in the middle of a desert, effectively making Arthur back down in an effort to save his people – because the King on his own would not back down from a suicidal fight against four people who each had the power to tear him apart. What, did you think Batman had the monopoly on brass necks?