Voiced by Richard Green
The younger half-brother of Arthur, King of Atlantis, Orm grew up in the shadow of his elder sibling, which led him to develop a bitter resentment. Jealous of his brother's success, he bided his time, waiting for the right moment to seize the throne. That moment came when Arthur left Atlantis to speak before the World Assembly in Metropolis. Planning ahead, Orm contacted the mercenary Deadshot and paid him to assassinate his brother. While this act of regicide proved to be unsuccessful, it did provide him time to approach several generals in the Atlantean military and, using the threat of the "surface dwellers" as a smokescreen, convinced them to back his plot. His coup was successful: when Arthur returned to Atlantis he found his brother on the throne, and he was arrested as a traitor by his own military.
With Atlantis under his control and his brother out of the way, Orm began the second phase of his plan, using the plutonium from a sunken submarine to power the Doomsday Thermal Reactor, an Atlantean device designed to cause a polar meltdown, effectively eliminating the threat of the "surface dwellers" and cementing his favor with the military. As for his brother, he had him chained to a rock overlooking a volcanic fissure and, as a way of eliminating any potential rivals for the throne, cast both his brother and nephew into the lava below. What he did not expect, however, was that Arthur would escape, sacrificing a hand in the process, and would ally himself with the Justice League. Following the defeat of the military, the League shut down the reactor while Orm fought his brother on a melting ice bridge overlooking a chasm inside one of the glaciers. While initially successful in the battle, Orm lost his footing as the ice gave way under his feet. Begging his brother for help, Arthur merely watched as Orm lost his grip and fell into the icy chasm below.
Cartoon Network on Orm: “Orm, Aquaman’s manipulative and spiteful sibling, uses his brother’s absence to his own advantage. When Aquaman ventures to the surface to appeal to the World Assembly, Orm takes the opportunity to attempt a takeover of Atlantis (courtesy of Cartoon Network).”
Bruce Timm on Orm: "As comic book fans know, Orm was Aquaman’s brother in the comics and, at a certain point, he became a supervillain called the Ocean Master. For simplicity’s sake—for people who don’t know a lot of the complicated back-story from the comics—we decided to make Orm’s betrayal of Aquaman the main thrust of the story.
"We toyed with the idea of actually turning him into Ocean Master at a certain point, [but] it ultimately came down to a visual. We tried designing his character in a number of ways and the Ocean Master design just…we just hit a brick wall; we just couldn’t figure out a way to actually make it look really interesting and cool. So, we incorporated a little bit of the fish motif in the helmet that he wears when he usurps the throne from Aquaman, but he doesn’t…really become Ocean Master. You can’t even say the name ‘Ocean Master,’ you know, it just sounds kind of goofy, so that’s why we played him a little bit straighter (courtesy of the Justice League: Justice on Trial DVD).”
Orm Model Design Sheet #1 | Orm Model Design Sheet #2
"Well, I'm off to avenge your deaths."
Orm (to Aquaman and his infant son) in "The Enemy Below"
Traditionally speaking, there is a symmetry that exists between a superhero and his arch-villain; a powerful bond that links them like yin to yang. These are the villains that keep the hero awake at night, and any encounter with them will often come with a dire cost. These may not even be the most powerful villain in the hero’s Rogues Gallery, but they are often the foe with the strongest presence—the one that commands fear and respect with a simple glance. So strong is this presence that their names are often uttered in the same breath as their rival; you can’t help but think of one without the other—Superman and Lex Luthor, Batman and the Joker, Green Lantern and Sinestro—and it is because of the strength and cunning of the arch-villain that the hero is made to appear that much more heroic by successfully fighting and defeating him. However, this principle works both ways, as a weak arch-villain makes a hero himself look weak, so it should come as no surprise that Aquaman—traditionally one of the weakest characters in DC Comics’ stable of icons—was saddled with an equally weak nemesis in the form of the Ocean Master.
Created by Bob Haney and Nick Cardy, Ocean Master first appeared in Aquaman #29 (October 1966) as a high-tech pirate who came into contact with Aquaman while looting ships at sea. Originally a victim of amnesia, Ocean Master soon realized that the blond-haired monarch was his half-brother, both sired by the wizard Atlan by different women. Jealous of his elder brother, the career villain sought to usurp the throne of Atlantis, and tried to do so on countless occasions. Originally relying on technology to fight his private war, Ocean Master gained magickal powers by selling his soul to the demon Neron (during 1995’s Underworld Unleashed miniseries). He remains an Aquaman foe to this day, but he’s hardly the nightmare-inducing nemesis that one would think that he should be.
The problem with Ocean Master is that, despite his stature as Aquaman’s half-brother and the inherent drama that kind of pairing would bring, he’s always been more nuisance than nemesis in his appearances, as he lacks a definite act or deed that would cement his presence as a major threat. All of the major, lasting injuries dealt to Aquaman have all been delivered by other foes—the one-note villain Charybdis was responsible for the loss of his hand, and the more-familiar Black Manta was responsible for the death of the hero’s infant son. Adding insult to injury is Ocean Master’s costume—an ugly mix of orange and purple (or, in some cases, yellow and gray) that curdles into a generic bad guy formula of spandex costume, cape, and mask. Nothing about him screams master of the oceans; he just looks like another clown who happens to breathe underwater and have a manta ray on his chest.
In adapting Ocean Master for Justice League, the creative team thankfully scrapped the spandex suit and the corny, serial villain codename. By cloaking him in the royal robes of Atlantis, he actually looks like he could be king of the seas, and the green-and-yellow color scheme successfully links him with his sibling. As for his characterization, Orm’s jealousy takes a perverse turn in "The Enemy Below," as he not only conspires to take the throne of Atlantis from his brother, but also to slay his brother’s son (formerly Black Manta’s claim to fame) and it is suggested that he also planned to take his brother’s wife as his own. By taking his brother’s robes, throne, and consort, this version of Orm seeks to sate his covetousness by usurping not only Aquaman’s birthright, but his very life itself. Here, in the animated universe, this revised, ultimate version of “Ocean Master” is truly realized as the monster that he needs to be in order to be a worthy opponent to a similarly-revived Aquaman.
As Orm apparently fell to his demise at the end of "The Enemy Below," I would hazard to say that a return appearance on Justice League Unlimited would be unlikely. However, it is worth noting that his appearance on "Below" could be considered pre-Ocean Master, and a second appearance may find him making a full transition into his comic book role—as a renegade Atlantean causing trouble for Aquaman any way he can. However, I hope it doesn’t come to this, as Orm—no matter how much more improved he is over his comic book counterpart—is still a rather one-note villain, as his simple motivation of jealousy kind of flattens his character a little bit. Better he go out with a bang, and leave the stage for a more emotionally-complex villain to tell his tale.
Images courtesy of Toon Zone, Bird Boy, The World's Finest, Warner Bros. Entertainment, Warner Bros. Online UK, DC Cartoon Archives, and DC Comics.
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