I tip-toe down the street, smile at everyone I meet. But suddenly a scream smashes through my dream. Fee fie foe fum, I smell the blood of an asylum. – “How Sweet To Be An Idiot,” written by Neil Innes
I think there are few, if any, major heroic fantasy characters that have received less respect over the past eight decades than Aquaman. Well, this ain’t gonna win me any friends, but to me that makes perfect sense.
This is not to say that the fish man didn’t have a lot of great stories. With artists like Ramona Fradon, Nick Cardy, and Jim Aparo, some swell writers, and an uninterrupted run (more or less) of 82 years, there’s a reason he’s still in the water. But let’s face it: Aquaman was created as just another bland rip-off of the Sub-Mariner, and at that one of many. In fact, Subby’s creator Bill Everett also created two other water-bound heroes, Hydroman and The Fin, as well as a third with the Sub-Mariner spin-off Namora.
Aquaman was no Sub-Mariner. For one thing, he was a nice guy. For another, he talked to fish and ordered them to do his bidding. His enemies were largely lame, and his costume looked like he escaped from an undersea disco.
For all these efforts, DC’s fishy super-friend has been severely and continuously mocked. Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim created a series of really funny bumpers featuring the guy, and any number of folks have had their photos taken while engaging in deep mockery. Aquaman has been the butt of much teevee humor ever since the Boomers started getting work in the writers’ rooms.
Perhaps Aquaman has received more respect than, say, Ant-Man, but that ain’t saying much.
And then came the latest waive of DC superhero movies, a wave that ends this coming Friday with the release of Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. Even though he was featured in quite a few recent flicks and most of them covered the range from “bad” to “holy shit why didn’t they write this one off,” Jason Momoa has been — in my opinion — great fun to watch in the role. His first Aquaman solo film was just about as close to a solid superhero yarn as DC got, with the exception of Wonder Woman 1 and The Suicide Squad 2. Momoa is much larger than life, and he plays the part with… dare I say it… gusto.
And right now, days before the Aqua-sequel’s release, Jason has been giving interviews saying he’s unlikely to return as the big golden fish man. This must thrill Warner Bros’ press relations people to no end.
It’s understandable. As I noted, Lost Kingdom is the last of the current plethora of largely lousy DC superhero movies and this new wave, assuming it is allowed to progress beyond Superman: Legacy, wants to wipe the slate clean. Except for Amanda Waller and Peacemaker, thankfully.
However, many of the performers who have been in those movies were terrific in their characters, and there is no reason to banish Momoa — or Gal Godot — from future and hopefully better productions. Sooner or later, they’ll get back to using Aquaman and Wonder Woman and whenever that happens, their replacements are going to enter the DCU as Roger Moore replacements. Except those performers are unlikely to have the name recognition Moore had when he replaced Sean Connery as TuxedoMan.
As I said, Aquaman don’t get no respect. No respect at all. And neither does Momoa, and neither does Godot. When emptying the bassinet, always remember to hold onto the baby.
Looking back at the title of this piece, it occurs to me that Rodney Dangerfield was a super-hero. But that’s a story for another time.
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom opens in theaters on Friday December 22, 2023.