It’s time for another character analysis, and this time it goes to the once ridiculed, Aquaman! Here is one of the most misunderstood superheroes in comic books, and with his appearance in Batman v Superman coming up in a few months now is a great time to get into this Aquaman character analysis.
Although Aquaman used to be heavily made fun of, I definitely feel like the tide has turned (hahha) and he’s now a lot more respected. This has a lot to do with his New 52 soft reboot, so most of this character analysis will stem from there.
However although he may not be the big joke he once was, many people still don’t understand him. Aquaman is actually an incredibly interesting character, and has a lot of storytelling potential.
First let’s go through a brief rundown of his origin: his mother was Queen Atlanna and his father was Thomas Curry, a human from Amnesty Bay. The pair of them had a romance before Atlanna was forced home. However she did manage to escape, and Arthur Curry was born on the surface world. Arthur grew up on the surface world with his father. His mother was murdered when he was young, and his father died of a heart attack. There was a lot of back story to this but basically he had a heart attack after being attacked by Black Manta. Manta was hired by Shin, a marine biologist who had become fascinated by Arthur and his powers.
Angry over his father’s death Arthur found his way to a boat and killed who he thought was Black Manta. However it was actually Manta’s father, and since then the two have been locked in this vicious cycle of vengeance. Black Manta is currently part of the Suicide Squad, however unlike the others he chose to be a part of the team. When asked why he joined the team he said he enjoyed it because every person he killed, Manta would just imagine it being Aquaman. So yeah, there’s a bit of bad blood between the pair.
Arthur gains the throne of Atlantis eventually and becomes their king. He also becomes a founding member of the Justice League. I couldn’t tell you what has been happening with Aquaman in the comics right now as I recently stopped reading it because of its poor creative team. Thankfully Johns is coming back to the title in a couple of months, so we should be getting some good Aquaman material soon again.
Okay with that out-of-the-way let’s talk about his character in-depth. In Geoff Johns’ New 52 stories, he represented Arthur as a man split between two worlds. His life in Atlantis, and his life on the surface world. Initially neither worlds really accepted him. On the surface world people didn’t respect him, they made fun of him and didn’t see him as a superhero (clearly representing how many viewed Aquaman in the real world). In Atlantis they looked down on him, as he was half-human.
This split between two worlds is a defining character trait of Aquaman. Here’s a man who is made fun of, disrespected and not accepted by both of his worlds. However he doesn’t let their perspectives of him define him. Aquaman was a character that was initially burdened by the need to constantly prove himself. Sometimes he overcompensated, and made silly mistakes, because he felt like he needed to prove to people that he was good enough. Good enough to be the King of Atlantis, good enough to be Aquaman. However it wasn’t until later that he gained the confidence to no longer feel the need to prove himself.
He no longer felt the need to be defined and objectified by the perspective and gaze of the surface world or Atlantis. Arthur refused to internalise the objectified identity granted to him by the societies on the surface world and in Atlantis. He refused to allow their degradation of him define himself. It’s this character evolution that makes Aquaman so great and so relatable. He may be the King of Atlantis and Justice League member, but his struggles are completely understandable and human. He became free from the pressures of having to constantly prove himself and became empowered in this sense of new-found freedom.
Part of his boost in confidence came from Mera. Mera was from Xebel, and was sent to kill Aquaman. Instead she fell in love with him, when she realised how kind and genuine he was. Mera helped shape Aquaman to the person he is today. The pair of them have a very genuine and open relationship, she has a big part to play in the Aquaman lore.
Back to Aquaman, as you can see he has a very human struggle. At one point in time I’m sure we’ve all felt judged by other people, but it’s up to us to not let other people’s perceptions of us define who we are. Aquaman is a true success story in doing exactly that. Now Arthur comes off as quite the free-spirit.
So how anyone can still call Aquaman lame is beyond me. His powers aren’t useless. He has super-strength, durability and is quite fast. He can telepathically communicate with marine life, meaning he can and will send a shark to eat you if you piss him off enough. His trident is powerful and can kill even the strongest opponent. He’s also the ruler of the Seven Seas. And considering that most of Earth is water, it means he has a lot of power.
But to me it’s not his powers that make him interesting. Sure he’s a badass, I won’t deny that. However to me, the story of a guy who is split between to very judgmental worlds, and becomes such a great leader to both is fascinating. The surface world and Atlantis do not like each other. Humans are terrible to the oceans, and during the Throne of Atlantis story arc we saw what Atlantis would do in retaliation (basically they waged a very terrible war on the surface world). So not only is Arthur split between two worlds judging him, he has to be a bridge, a diplomat between these two worlds as well.
Aquaman in that way shares a very similar role as Wonder Woman. Both are rulers of these kingdoms and have to be a diplomat between our world and theirs. It’s a tricky balance to find. Their mythological worlds are based heavily in ancient practices and values. Aquaman and Wonder Woman need to find a way to have the modern world operate with their mythological worlds.
Once again it’s important to note the storytelling potential Aquaman has. Exploring the mythology of Atlantis, the politics, scandals and backstabbing, whilst exploring Aquaman’s role on the surface world and witnessing those two worlds collide could be incredibly epic. But what’s also important to explore is Arthur’s home life. He doesn’t have a secret identity and has a very transparent relationship with Mera. It’s quite fun seeing Arthur go to a seafood restaurant and everyone freaking out, or seeing Mera go to the shops to buy dog food in her Xebel warrior clothing.
Hopefully these are things we see from Aquaman in the DCEU. Obviously Aquaman is going to be badass in the films, there’s no doubt about that. But it’s also important to show his struggles, his home life, family, friends etc. Soon Aquaman will be a household name…for the right reasons!
Please share this post if you enjoyed! 🙂
Categories: comic book characters