Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Aquaman We Need

Once again I find my viewings of fantasists diversions in life promising to be grossly disappointing over the next few years. As you might have reckoned by my title, right now it's the promised Aquaman films coming some summer to a theater near me.

First off, we should not have to apologize for liking this Aquaman

Why is this too silly for fans of the rage-filled gay pirate that Aquaman is supposed to be these days?

Better than this guy
Swimming from the waist, great for abs. Those fins are stupid outside a disco.
What exactly is the point of a superhero?

My point being that something about the Throne of Atlantis or the Seven Tribes of the same place are a nice indulgences. The steady trend of the ocean as being other-worldly doesn't make Aquaman relevant to anybody. Fish-people from far off and mystical places... I could write up tales of the biggest members of multiple guppy farms from when I was 15 until 24. There would be long lineages and plenty of drama; they swam around, mutilated each other, and cross-spawned-- often eating their own young. In the end, most of the family members were fed to gruppers and piranha of nearby exotic fish-owners. How long did your sea-monkey farm last? That is the trend that our tales of Atlantis sub-genre are liking to follow.

What made Aquaman such a fun character in the 60s?

 Well, a lot of fascination about octopi and whales, AND the fact that he wasn't Namor, the Sub-Mariner.

 Looking back, Prince Namor was the "water dude" to fight with the "flame dude" known as the Human Torch (which was actually a machine and not human at all). He was the prince, maybe king, definitely a monarch of Atlantis, and hated humanity. Then the Germany and Japan declared war on the USA, and then he decided that NAZIs were bad. He then fought Germans, vampires, and too many Japanese people with prominent buck teeth. He had to save the world with a nerd on radioactive steroids and an alien with a surf board to become cool after 1951.

Aquaman was DC's take on not being all mystical about the ocean. Not only were people trying to get to the moon, sizable amounts of people were spending a lot of time underwater, even under 30 feet worth, and making the post-nuclear age happen. This hero was about humanity's continued intrusion into its nearby seas and coming to terms with it. His first major nemesis, Black Manta, was a overly-technological enemy that was a sign of the secretive and self-serving approach to being underwater.

In 1993, Black Manta's _real_ origin story came about. Aquaman, riding on dolphins, swam past a man who was serving on a slave ship. The tale in and of itself, is one awesome piece of compelling comic book scripting, definitely great characterization. The image of the prince of Atlantis frolicking with dolphins while not making the world a better place, would continue to fester as the writers at DC.Writers would even use "black" in the title become a smarmy allusion to Black Liberation movements, having been in the spotlight 10-twenty-five years before. It is around this point where we see Aquaman project managers become more worried about a fantasy kingdom and fights with his brothers and in-laws, rather than deal with the bigger world.

Despite the fact that Batman can overcome spinal injuries, and Captain America can become an anti-governmental figure, Aquaman can't be about water and humans. The real world is too much for folks on the way to the beach. The beach always comes to us though.

It's not about global warming, idiots
 Aquaman comes most under criticism when a bank robbery occurs. That is because of the fact that most comic readers don't live areas where there are whales and dolphins. It is also, and mostly, because Aquaman is being misapplied. When it comes to comic books, especially the very-well educated heirs at DC and Marvel comics, and the grossly conservative Hollywood scene; dealing with social controversy is easy, science literacy is hard.

At least in the 90s,  insightful commentary on the franchise comes about when folks notice that most of the world where seafaring and the customs around it are about two centuries behind the modern world.  These days,

Despite what the coal industry, Phoenix Arizona, and the state of Wyoming would have you believe, 87-90% (depending on if its an election year) of humanity live within thirty miles of major above-ground sources of water. 80% of all humanity lives within eight miles of a place where water commerce is a significant part of their local economy. One cannot tell me that there isn't some water issue criminal here and there that doesn't deserve a superhero meddling in their business.

If only there was somebody who was a person that could do amazing things underwater without a suit. Anybody know of superhero that lives nearby and not in the murky depths of Atlantis?


Ben Lathrop said...

While I like how much exposure and development there is of comic book properties, I think a lot of what's going on in superhero stuff these days is unfortunately missing the forest for the trees.

At their heart, super heroes aren't monolithic archetypes that need to revealed as the incredibly serious and poignant insights into our collective psyche -- they are earnest (and maybe a little naïve) fantasies of power; but more importantly, they are fantasies of using power to help other people.

I'll probably go see "Mean Aquaman" when it comes out (just like I'll probably so see "Mean Superman vs. Mean Batman"), but when I'm telling stories and playing games with my kids, they're always about "super-heroes to the rescue."

Tom K. said...

Your perspective on the "mean DC" film-takes is accurate. And your take on super heroes is not at all wrong.

I am more focusing here on the take on one "superhero" in the milieu that you are describing Mr. Ben.

My major is history. This year, I have everybody falling over themselves trying to understand 1914-1915.

A lot of good it will do me, but when I am 80. After four strokes and finally a heart attack, I suspect someone will say, "Hmm that would have been really keen."