Real Name: Arthur, King of Atlantis
Voiced by Scott Rummel
Originally regarded as an urban legend, the being whom the public dubbed “The Aquaman” (because of the stylized symbol worn on his belt) made his first public appearance to protest the underwater testing of explosives by LexCorp, which killed untold numbers of marine creatures and caused significant damage to Atlantis’ territories. His hopes for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis proved unsuccessful, however, as Arthur was captured, imprisoned, and nearly murdered by Luthor’s forces. These events served to foster his xenophobic tendencies, and would have eventually led to open warfare against the “surface dwellers” had it not been for the intervention of Superman. Convinced to give humanity one more chance, Arthur withdrew his forces, but vowed to renew the conflict should Atlantis be provoked once more.
Over time, Arthur has made good on his promise, designing elaborate contingency plans and keeping his military in a constant state of readiness. His paranoia, however, was tempered by the birth of his son, as he now has a renewed interest in diplomacy and finding a way for Atlantis to exist peacefully with the nations above. This peace was threatened, however, by the machinations of his brother Orm, who sought to destroy the surface world and usurp his brother’s throne. Orm’s plot was stopped with the aid of the Justice League, but it came at a terrible price, as Arthur was forced to sacrifice a hand in order to save the life of his infant son.
While he may be considered by some as a weak opponent whose only power is to “talk to fish,” Arthur’s ability to communicate with marine life is a formidable weapon, as schools of dolphins, giant octopi, sharks, and even whales can be called upon to aid him in battle. Even alone, however, he is still a daunting foe—possessing a durable body tempered by the deepest ocean depths, enhanced night vision (as there is little light at the bottom of the ocean), and a harpoon hand that can be fired and retracted like a grappling hook. In addition, he possesses the legendary Trident of Poseidon—a weapon forged by the ancient king that can channel unknown levels of magickal power. These gifts, coupled with the command of the armies of Atlantis, make Arthur a challenging opponent to face on the battlefield.As a monarch responsible for the well-being of Atlantis and its territories—over three-fourths of the planet’s surface—Arthur has no time or interest in costumed heroics. However, should Atlantis ever be threatened, Arthur is willing to resume his role as “Aquaman” and assist the Justice League with whatever threat they may face.
Grant Morrison on Aquaman #1 (circa 1998): “[Originally] I didn’t like him at all until I figured him out, and now I really enjoy doing the character. I just couldn’t figure out how to use a sea-based superhero in other types of situations. I just had to kind of rein my head away from thinking of Aquaman as the King of the Seas and just thinking of him as a superhero who comes from the sea but can do a lot of other things (courtesy of Wizard Magazine).”
Grant Morrison on Aquaman #2 (circa 1998): “He’s the King of the Seas—I’m sure Aquaman appears on television a lot because he’s monarch of three-quarters of the world. I expect he’s as least as well-known as Princess Diana. He wouldn’t have that kind of position as a world leader, but nevertheless he’s a world leader […] sitting on the Moon [and] fighting aliens. He’s almost a King Arthur figure, a fighting monarch (courtesy of Wizard Magazine).”
Kids’ WB on Aquaman (circa 1999): “Aquaman is the hereditary King of the underwater city-state of Atlantis. Because of his ability to communicate telepathically with all sea life—sea birds, fish, mammals, etc.—he is sometimes thought of as the 'King of All the Oceans.' A stern and austere leader, Aquaman is protective of his underwater environment. As leader of a technologically advanced society, Aquaman has kept a wary eye on the 'surface dwellers' for years, resentful of their wanton disregard for the ecology of his beloved oceans. Until his appearance in Metropolis, both Aquaman and his lost city were thought to be mere legends.
“A potentially dangerous enemy for Superman, he also holds the promise of being a great and helpful ally. Only time will tell which of the two paths their relationship will take (from the New Batman / Superman Adventures Homepage).”
Bruce Timm on Aquaman in "A Fish Story" (circa 1998): “It’s the old Aquaman costume, but he’s got the new Aquaman attitude. I don’t want to say he’s Namor-like, but he’s definitely not quite the old, benign Aquaman. He’s got the attitude, but he doesn’t have the beard and the hook. He’s more like the classic Aquaman (courtesy of Wizard Magazine).”
Alan Burnett on Aquaman in "A Fish Story" (circa 1998): "He'll be without the hook. We figured we could do the hook later (courtesy of [website name removed]).”
Excerpts from the Justice League Panel at
Bruce Timm: Some of you are probably wondering, “Why doesn’t he look like the one that was in the Superman show?” And there’s an interesting story behind that: what happened was, when we did ["A Fish Story," the Aquaman episode of Superman], we all were kind of rebelling against DC Comics. We said, “No, we don’t like the guy with the long hair and the hook, we like the orange and green guy who rode the seahorse.” But what was interesting is that when we wrote it, he kind of was the new Aquaman. He was kind of angry—not the old family man, seahorse-riding, curly haired guy. And it didn’t really work with the old costume, you know?
And the more we really started looking at the new costume design that DC had come up with, we thought, “You know, it’s kind of cool.” He’s got long hair, kind of like Triton, and he’s got the hook, which is kind of like, I don’t know, like a pirate or something. So we kind of adopted it a little bit. Our take on him is that he’s kind of like Conan of the Sea—he’s kind of like a barbarian king who lives in Atlantis. We wanted to find ways to make him not just Namor with blond hair.
And again, going back to the old Aquaman, he is literally a family man—I mean, Mera and his son are in the big Aquaman spotlight show. And that actually plays a real pivotal part in ["The Enemy Below"]—his whole family life—even though he is a barbarian. But that’s one of my favorite episodes so far…I think you guys are going to get a jolt out of it. It’s pretty fun.
Courtesy of Revolution Science Fiction and Comics2Film.
Cartoon Network on Aquaman:
“Aquaman is the ruler of the undersea
on Aquaman #1: “He will definitely be
in the show, [but] he’s not going to be a member of the team.
In fact, in the Aquaman two-parter that we’ve already done, he’s
almost more of a villain in it (courtesy of [website
Bruce Timm on Aquaman #2: “Aquaman didn’t make the cut, and yeah, that probably goes back to Superfriends. It became a joke, Aquaman saying, ‘There’s no water here on the Moon, so what am I doing here?’ Our interpretation of Aquaman is that he’s the King and Protector of Atlantis, so it doesn’t make sense for him to go out and fight evil with these other guys. It’s outside his jurisdiction […] Now he’s like King Conan of the Sea, a barbarian king—definitely not standard League material (courtesy of Starlog Magazine).”
Rich Fogel on Aquaman #1: “We knew that a lot of Aquaman fans would be unhappy with our decision not to include him in the regular Justice League lineup. It’s not that we don't love the character—we do!—it’s just that our primary focus was building a group that had a strong dynamic with clearly defined roles. Unfortunately, Aquaman ended up being the odd man out. Still, we felt it was important to include him in the series, so we built a two-part story arc [that] revolves around him.
“Those who only know Aquaman from the old Superfriends will hardly recognize him. Gone is the bright orange shirt, the giant seahorse, and the neatly coifed hair. Now, he is the rugged and determined ruler of an undersea kingdom. He is also a loving husband, and his wife, Mera, plays a key part in the story (courtesy of [website name removed]).”
Rich Fogel on Aquaman #2: “Aquaman is a tremendously rich character and we wanted to build a story that matches his unique stature in the DC Universe. He’s a proud king, a fierce warrior, and a man who loves his family. It was fun telling a big, sprawling court intrigue story with Aquaman at the center. The themes are almost Shakespearean, and have real resonance in these troubled times (courtesy of [website name removed]).”
Scott Rummel on Aquaman: "Once again, we don't know if Aquaman is good or not so good. Is he a team player, or is he not a team player? [...] Of all the voices I've done, Aquaman is the one that people come up to me and say, 'Do that one' (courtesy of [website name removed])."
Bruce Timm on Aquaman #3: “When we first introduced Aquaman on the old Superman show that we had done, DC Comics had done a major revamp of the character, where they [had] changed him from the nice, family man Aquaman—with the short blond hair and the orange shirt and the seahorse and all that—and…made him a much stronger and more outwardly vicious-looking character, with the long hair and the beard and the big hook on the hand. And a lot of us, we’re like any other fans—we’re very traditionalist ourselves, y’know—so, when we used Aquaman, we said, 'Oh, we’re not going to use the one with the hook and that’s just silly and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!' So we kind of used the old Aquaman look in Superman.
“I guess, between that time and when we worked on Justice League, the hook and the long hair kind of grew on us…We thought, ‘Well, you know, it’s kind of interesting; it kind of ties him in into mythology—he’s kind of like Neptune…with the trident and the long hair.’ It seemed to kind of be a good way to go with the character—for better or worst, these are more sophisticated, tougher times, so having a tougher Aquaman, we thought, would be a kind of a good way to go.“[In doing so], we had to figure out, ‘Why does he have a hook, how are we going to give him the hook, and what can we get away with [on television] in giving him the hook?’ We changed the origin of the hook quite a bit from the comics, [where] his hand went away by piranhas, which never really made sense to me. Here is a man who could command fish, and, y’know, piranhas ate his hand, and, ‘Oh, darn, I could have just told them don’t eat my hand! I forgot!’ So we came up with a more dramatic reason, we think, on how he loses his hand and it’s certainly one of the highlights of the show. It’s not just for [shock value] because it goes right to the heart of the character, in a way. He is still the old, family man Aquaman and that’s still a really strong part of him but, at the same time, he is a guy who will do whatever it takes to accomplish his goals (courtesy of the Justice League: Justice on Trial DVD).”
Bruce Timm on Aquaman on JLU (circa 2004): “I referenced the ‘Aquaman’s only useful when there’s a body of water around’ thing as being the general public’s perception of Aquaman, not mine, based on his poor showing in the old Superfriends days. It’s something of a popular joke (I recall Cartoon Network even doing a spoof ad mocking his supposed ‘useless out of water’ a few years back). The residual bad taste of the Superfriends’ Aquaman was one of the reasons we didn’t pick him for the original Justice League line-up, but not a major one (we frankly just liked Hawkgirl better). Honestly, though, I think he works best as an occasional guest star. As cool as his badass attitude is, I fear it would get grating if he were to appear on a regular basis.
“Yes, they were all handled poorly on Superfriends, no question, but for some weird reason the lame-ass Aquaman is the one that sticks out in people’s minds. Again, it’s not that we held it against him, but that we felt his rep in the general public’s perception had been severely damaged by Superfriends. Obviously, it didn’t stop us from using him; in fact, it made us want to make him as cool as possible when we did use him, to undo the damage. However, in doing so, we gave him an attitude that really doesn’t scream ‘team player’ (courtesy of Toon Zone).”
Real Name: Mera, Queen of Atlantis
Voiced by Kristin Bauer
As Queen of Atlantis and wife of Arthur, Mera serves as the monarch’s closest confidant and friend. In addition, she is capable of holding court in Arthur’s absence and even assisted the Justice League in preventing Orm’s attempted coup d'tat.
Aquaman Model Design Sheet | Aquaman Image #1 (STAS Design) | Aquaman Image #2 (JL Design)
Mera Image (JL Design)
Aquaman Image #3 | Aquaman Image #4 | Aquaman Image #5
Namor the Sub-Mariner Image #1 | Namor the Sub-Mariner Image #2 | Conan the Barbarian Image #1
Conan the Barbarian Image #2
"For too long we have remained hidden and silent, and have suffered the consequences. […] Tell the surface dwellers to respect the sovereignty of my seas, or we’ll return and finish what we’ve started."
Aquaman (to Superman) in "A Fish Story"
Oddly enough, during the promotion for Justice League’s first season, one would get the impression that Aquaman—despite repeated statements to the contrary—was the unofficial eighth member of the Justice League. Because of his absence from the roster, he was a frequent subject during the interviews and promotional appearances for the series—TV Guide went as far as to dedicate a sidebar to the topic—as fan and non-fan alike questioned why one of the most iconic members of the team was not there. However, his popularity can mainly be traced to his successful stint in animation—a series in 1967 that was later packaged with Superman as the Superman / Aquaman Hour of Adventure, as well as a prominent role on Superfriends (where he was featured alongside the DC trinity of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman), which later evolved into the Challenge of the Superfriends and The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians shows. However, in terms of his comic book appearances, his career is very different in terms of its success.
conceived by creator Mort Weisinger as DC Comics' answer to Namor, the
first appeared in More Fun Comics #73 (November 1941)—sadly lacked much
of the complexity and diversity of his Marvel Comics’ counterpart. For
example, Namor was an antihero who was never on anybody’s side—depending on
the story, he was sometimes a hero (fighting alongside Captain America in the
Invaders) and sometimes a villain (he was an early foe of the Fantastic
Four)—but Aquaman was always simply portrayed as a hero.
As a result of his lack of depth—along with no exciting hook or
interesting Rogues Gallery—Aquaman slogged through decade after decade of
stories, stuck being a second-rate hero in DC’s pantheon.
In fact, in the entire history of the character, there are only two major
events that differentiated him from the rest of the pack:
His marriage to
Mera, Queen of the other-dimensional aquatic
· The loss of his
hand in battle against the villain Charybdis (who had temporarily robbed him of
his mental powers) in the 1990s, which made him one of the few superheroes to
endure a permanent, lasting injury (the only other notable one being Batgirl,
but she was only a supporting character in Batman at the time).
In the case of the former, it was the only thing that made him unique for a long time. However, his family was not to last, as his infant son (named Arthur, or Aquababy, in the comics) was murdered by the supervillain Black Manta, which resulted in Mera leaving him, as she blamed Arthur for his death. As a result of this loss, the character had nothing significant to offer either audiences or creative teams, which led to subsequent writers overusing the story arc of him losing and reclaiming his kingdom from various usurpers.
As for his role in the Justice
In adapting Aquaman for Justice League, the creative team took the character back to his roots by making him the original, family-oriented character; but also by incorporating more elements from the Sub-Mariner as well. Historically speaking, this has been happening for quite some time: early Aquaman designs (created as part of an early pitch for the Superman series) included the pronounced widow’s peak that Namor possessed (as opposed to the hairstyle that the classic Aquaman wore), and the Aquaman from the Superman episode "A Fish Story" (voiced by Miguel Ferrer) also sported a slightly muted version of this hairstyle (not to mention the more Namor-like antihero attitude that nearly led to a war with the surface world). As for his current design, Aquaman no longer possesses the widow’s peak, but is now bare-chested, as the Sub-Mariner was traditionally depicted (and as the 1990s Aquaman was, but without the odd metal armor that only covered half his chest).
In addition to the Namor elements, this incarnation of Aquaman also draws significant influence from an unlikely source: Conan the Barbarian. As seen in the pictures above, Arthur shares many elements from Bruce Timm’s Conan designs, such as the long hair, the gauntlets on his wrists, and the medallion across his bare chest. Also, he possesses the aggressive, warrior-king attitude that people identify with the pulp hero. It was no accident that Bruce Timm called their Aquaman the “Conan of the Sea,” as this association was one that was intentional from the beginning.
Based on his appearances in "The Enemy Below," "The Terror Beyond," "Ultimatum," and "Wake the Dead" (not to mention "A Fish Story"), it is unknown how much of Aquaman’s background has been ignored, changed, or streamlined from its comic book origins. His parentage, The Curse of Kordax (his blond hair, which initially made him an outcast amongst his people), Aqualad, Poseidonis, Oceanid—these things may have been tossed out, which, in terms of story, would be good, as they make his history needlessly convoluted and add nothing to his character as it appears on the animated series (besides, Aqualad [seen here] is being used on the League's sister series Teen Titans). Of course, had he been a full-time League member, things would be different but, as a supporting character, all we need to know is that he’s an Atlantean king, he can be seen as both a hero and as a villain depending on the story, and that he’s known as Aquaman by the League members.
It’s also worth noting that, in terms of Aquaman’s history, "The Enemy Below" was conceived and written as both a tribute and a highlight reel for the character, as all the significant people (Mera, their baby, his brother Orm) and events (the endangerment of his child by an enemy, the loss of his hand, the battle for his throne) from his history have been included. In the end, his presence on Justice League communicates to the audience that this character isn’t the walking punchline from Superfriends but, rather, a powerful, iconic hero that is a valuable member of DC Comics’ history.(Finally, as for Aquaman’s “daughter” Aquagirl [from the Batman Beyond episode "The Call"], it is more likely that she is the granddaughter of the original Aquaman. While we know nothing about the aging process of Atlanteans, it is more likely that Arthur’s infant son will be the eventual father of this Justice League Unlimited member.)
Images courtesy of Toon Zone, Warner Bros. Entertainment, Cartoon Network, the New Batman / Superman Adventures Homepage, Warner Bros. Online UK, DC Cartoon Archives, The World's Finest, The Bruce Timm Gallery, Albert Moy's Original Online Art Gallery, Heroic 'Toons!, and DC Comics. Namor the Sub-Mariner courtesy of Marvel Comics; Conan the Barbarian courtesy of the estate of Robert E. Howard. Additional information courtesy of Don Markstein's Toonopedia.
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