A Tribute to the of






If you haven't been by there lately, I can again heartily endorse Todd Klein's blog, where he has recently presented another interesting logo study, this time on Aquaman. It's in five parts, but part 2 specifically delves into the one I always think of when I recollect his solo series and the legendary Ira Schnapp is responsible for that one, as he was so many of the classic DC logos. I am really bummed that the Dial B for Blog website seems to now be cyber dust. If you didn't get a chance to see "Robby Reed's" incredible work on his Ira Schnapp series or the Gaspar Saladino tribute, you missed out on something great and I only hope it isn't truly lost forever.

I do digress. This is not my own personal logo or lettering study, though I certainly appreciate the skill. It is, however, a review of an Aquaman story, specifically issue #49 from January/February 1970. Check out that Nick Cardy rendered cover. I don't know if the scan will allow you the proper amount of detail, but this one looks almost like a rough with very scratchy linework on the figure of Aquaman. I do like it! The story is titled, "As the Seas Die!," and our writer is Steve Skeates, partnered with the late, great Jim Aparo on pencils, inks AND letters and editing by good ol' Dick Giordano. A trio of Charlton alumni, together again.

I'd like to briefly mention that I chatted recently with Carmine Infantino again and Jim Aparo's name came up during the conversation. He shared with me that Jim faithfully produced a finished page a day, no more, no less; pencils, inks and letters and that he was the only artist who had ever refused a raise. On to our story:

The first two pages are excellent examples of the story-in-pictures medium as Jim Aparo's panels contain no dialogue whatsoever, yet it is easily apparent what is happening. A diver rises from the depths on a dark and wintry night, working his way into a building, setting an explosive and retreating back to the water and his waiting undersea craft as it detonates.

Segue now to Aquaman and Aqualad, swimming off the coast of Alaska in frigid waters when they're suddenly accosted by a group of fish who fail to respond to the sea king's telepathic commands. The duo valiantly fights off the aggressors when an unexpected bit of aid arrives in the form of a hard hat diver and his spear gun. The trio surface and they discover their benefactor is Phil Darson, who, Dick Giordano reminds us, recently appeared in issue #43. He comments that he's there to do some hunting on his vacation, but also to investigate the problem with the fish, that appears to be some sort of toxic element killing and driving them mad. Aquaman shares that they are there at the request of the famed oceanographer, Professor Davidson and they soon part ways.

At Davidson's lab, the scientist confirms he'd contacted our heroes due to the situation with the fish. Davidson suspects pollution from factory wastewater, but he's received no cooperation from them, partly due to the recent sabotage by persons unknown with attacks on night watchmen and explosives. Davidson thought a clandestine underwater surveillance might prove helpful, but due to the late hour, he offers Aquaman and Aqualad a resting place in a large fish tank. Before they can retire, however, the saboteur strikes again, causing our heroes to spring into action. The diver spots the Sea King instantly and fires an underwater explosive at him, knocking Aquaman unconscious with the concussion and allowing a hasty departure. Aqualad retrieves his mentor and the next morning they start their investigation in earnest. (I couldn't help but chuckle at the sight of Aquaman with a steaming cup of coffee. Somehow I can't feature much of it being around in Atlantis, but what do I know?)

Elsewhere, the media is questioning Mr. Leland, president of the factory that was hit the prior night, but the honcho angrily denies sabotage, blaming the contained explosion on a boiler malfunction. After the reporters depart, one of Leland's staffers asks his boss about the cover-up and Leland says they can't afford an investigation, particularly since they've been dumping chemicals into the ocean. He will not be reasoned with and vows to himself that he'll take care of the saboteur, whose identity is apparently known to Leland.

Another shift of scenery takes us to Atlantis, where Mera, Aquaman's beloved, is watching a monitor showing Aquaman's enemy, the Ocean Master, approaching under a white flag of truce. Mera goes out to meet him and he demands to see Aquaman, claiming only he can help him with some unnamed emergency. Mera insists he reveal the situation to her, but the Ocean Master declines. This subplot will have to simmer, though, because we now rejoin Mera's hubby and Aqualad who are piecing together the puzzle, discovering that only the factories that have been polluting have been hit by the explosives. A nearby newspaper story reveals Leland's denials, though, so things begin to get curiouser and curiouser. Plans are made to do some more detective work and no one is above suspicion.

Later that night, Aquaman approaches the factory via the same underwater avenue the saboteur did. I'd like to pause here a moment and point out another cool Aparo touch. The first panel on page 14 has the face of what appears to be an anguished man in the sea cliffs to the right of Aquaman, along with an upraised, partially clenched hand. I can't help but wonder if this inspired a similar effect by Neal Adams in the mountains of the Himalayas in Batman #232 with the introduction of Ra's Al Ghul.

I do distract so easily… Aquaman's surveillance seems to pay off when he spots the undersea craft.

Meanwhile, back at the lab, Aqualad is observing the professor working with some chemicals and seemingly reaching an epiphany.

Switching scenes yet again, the saboteur in his diving suit is being ambushed by Leland himself, but the diver manages to disarm him and monologues about the evil Leland is doing through his factory's pollutants and confirms that he'd approached Leland before, begging him to stop, but the businessman refused to listen. The dark visitor is about to mete out his own brand of justice with his spear gun when Aquaman arrives to engage the interloper. Fists fly and then the diver tosses out some incendiary material, causing an instant blaze. The distracted Aquaman is then cold-cocked from behind by Leland, who is determined to take out the saboteur himself.

Aqualad, meanwhile, is tailing the professor, who is trying, apparently in vain; to meet with Miles Leland at his residence, but the door goes unanswered.

Aquaman is coming to in the nick of time and as he works his way out of the burning edifice he hears gunfire. He sees two struggling figures on the nearby cliff when they abruptly drop off the edge. Working his way down the precipice, Aquaman hears the voice of the mysterious diver, assuring our hero that he meant him no harm. Peeling back the diving mask, Phil Darson explains his position: "The ocean…my second home! And…men like Leland destroying…the ocean! And there…no…legal way to…stop…them! But…men…like him will…make this planet uninhabitable…unless they are…stopped!" Aquaman asks how he justified killing the night watchman in the process, and Darson said it couldn't be helped. He then dies and the Sea King thinks to himself that no matter how right the cause, taking a life is never justified and there had to be legal channels available.

The tale wraps up with Professor Davidson explaining that his research had confirmed that the deadly chemicals originated at Leland's factory and he planned to have it out with the factory owner, but of course he was elsewhere. Aquaman tells the professor that things are under control now that the saboteur is gone and the new factory owner has pledged proper pollution controls.

An enjoyable tale with fantastic art and enough intrigue to make me want to come back for more, so I'll give this issue a rating of 8 on my 10 point scale. I'm thinking I may need to start haunting eBay to collect the previous issues as well…

The two page letter column in this issue contains lots of praise for the recent story arc containing the fabled search for Mera and some superlatives were heaped upon artist Jim Aparo and writer Steve Skeates, so that would be my cue to present part II of my interview with our tale's author:

Prof: They seemed to use you in a number of different arenas at DC. I found credits for stories in such diverse offerings as Supergirl, the Teen Titans, Plastic Man, Phantom Stranger, the Spectre, Aquaman (of course) and Plop! Where do you feel your talents worked most effectively?

Steve Skeates:   The way I see it, talent (and I'm not all that comfortable with that term, seems a bit pretentious, a tad "grandiose," elevating something that's mainly comprised of the hard work of learning one's craft up and up and up to the silly level of supposedly being some sort of innate ability that's God-given, but for the sake of getting down down down to what I want to say here, let us, at least for the moment, let slide my objections to the term itself) is (as that previous parenthetical comment has already made pretty much perfectly clear) not something that's solid and pre-set and in the business of looking for the proper and fitting venue in which to unfold itself! So-called talent is instead a changeable thing, particularly affected by the forever madly fluctuating worldview of the individual who is said to possess that talent! And, all of that makes for there being more than one answer to your inquiry here – a multitude of answers actually and all of them revolving around my being in the right place at the right time; yet I'm not speaking of the "right place" externally; I'm talking about the place I was in within myself!

Take Aquaman for example – I landed that assignment at a time when I was young and innocent enough to believe in the actual possible existence of a super altruistic good guy, whereas later certain things happened to me within the comic book industry itself – books I enjoyed working on were cancelled for some reason other than poor sales (which is the only reason books should be cancelled), editors repeatedly went back on their word, costing me not merely a bunch of sleep but quite a bit of moolah as well, and I even lost a number of writing assignments to writers who couldn't hold a candle to yours truly in the creative sweepstakes, getting blind-sided and shafted thanks to their employment of sleazy office politics to procure for themselves work that should have been mine, etc., etc. – things that caused this raconteur to grow bitter and cynical, and suddenly I was no longer any good at producing believable superhero epics; yet this was when I started pulling in all sorts of awards for writing humor and horror, both of which were definitely at that point a far better fit than those guys who ran around in leotards and flew with the aid of a cape!

Furthermore, to bring these proceedings rather up to date, I do quite honestly believe (what with the passage of so many years, as well as this particular individual in various recent interviews looking back at his career and finally realizing how lucky in so many instances I really was) that now at last I've calmed down a bit, learned even to forgive, and am no longer encumbered by various grudges the holding of which undoubtedly hurt me more than I inflicted any damage upon anyone else, and thus I may (in fact) (for whatever it's worth) even be ready to write superheroes once again!

Prof: Many terrific artists have interpreted your scripts, to include Bernie Wrightson, Bill Draut, Jim Aparo, Chick Stone, Steve Ditko, Sergio Aragones, Dick Dillin and Frank Robbins. Was there anyone in particular that you felt really got the feel of your stories?

SS: My initial impulse here is to add names to the list – Gil Kane (whose work on "To Save a Monster" I've already mentioned), Ogden Whitney (having been a big fan of Herbie The Fat Fury, it was indeed a thrill to have this dude illustrate a number of my NoMan stories over at Tower), Pat Boyette (even though Ditko and Aparo also worked on the book, Pat was hands down my favorite when it came to someone who'd embellish my spooky offerings for The Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves), George Evans (that first mid-seventies Blackhawk story the two of us put together is definitely up there, amid the top five favorites of mine vis-à-vis any specific comic book I've ever gotten involved in), Ramona Fradon, Mike Sekowsky, Tony DeZuniga, Gene Colan, Marie Severin, Jaime Brocal, Alex Toth, John Buscema, Alfredo Alcala, Ric Estrada, and what can I say about a guy whose work I had revered from as far back as the fifties, back when (as a twelve-year-old) I had a subscription to the original comic book version of Mad? And, yes, I am indeed talking about that creative powerhouse known as Wally Wood! The only problem with all of this is that there are so many – rarely respected artists who did fine by me, big-name illustrators who were truly a pain to work with -- too many even when you don't even consider every category imaginable, making for the distinct possibility that I've already accidentally left out someone who was extremely important and perhaps even somehow instrumental in shaping my career!

Be that as it may, however, let us nonetheless (in order to keep these proceedings from, say, sinking to the bottom of some mossy swamp of utter minutia, or whatever) move right along now to a couple of the names you mention – specifically, Wrightson and Aragones, highly individualistic artists who (obviously!) helped me immeasurably in the landing of at least two of those Shazam Awards I picked up in the seventies and were as well undoubtedly more than a little responsible for this particular tale-spinner winning those other two chunks of congratulatory Lucite I glommed onto back in those crazy days! The way I see it, no way would "The Poster Plague" and "The Gourmet" have been recognized as the best humor stories of 1972 and 1973 respectively had Sergio and Bernie not perfectly (interestingly enough, via such utterly differing styles) pounced upon the feel of what I was up to vis-à-vis these strange little dramas, call them "humorous horror stories" or "horrible humor stories" – the nomenclature, though admittedly one of the choices here does seem to possesses more than a smattering of the pejorative, is nevertheless entirely up to each individual witness to one or the other or both the destruction of a certain college campus and the freakish fate of a certain fat man! In retrospect, however, what I actually find most puzzling here (especially in the case of "The Gourmet") is how little follow-up there was! I mean, despite the well-publicized actuality that on our very first job together Bernie and I had reeled in one bigfat prestigious award (for, in fact, a story that has gone on to be reprinted more often than any other comic book tale I can in all honesty think of), we were weirdly never asked to team up again, obviously making that first collaboration of ours the only one we ever got to do! Of course one might conjecture that we simply didn't possess enough available time to get it together for a repeat performance, Bernie having suddenly gotten so enormously busy with all those early Wein-Wrightson Swamp Thing adventures he was illustrating, whilst I was simultaneously quite occupied producing scripts for House of Mystery, House of Secrets, Weird Mystery Tales, Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion, Secrets of Sinister House, and Plop, leaving the decision as to who would be drawing whatever story of mine you're wondering about totally up to the editor, Joe Orlando. As to the strangeness of Joe apparently simply never thinking to give one of those stories to Bernie (something I'm now rather baffled about), do allow me to expand upon that lack-of-time theme I just mentioned by pointing out that surely said phenomenon included when it came to this particular scripter an absolute absence of minutes set aside for the expressed purpose of wondering why something-or-other wasn't happening, especially when you consider (for example) that the horror books were not the only ones I was working on for Joe; there was also Adventure Comics featuring Supergirl and Captain Fear! There was Jimmy Olsen! And there were those various back-up stories I was producing for the Phantom Stranger book. And, let us not forget the other editors at DC I was working for, not to mention the other companies I was selling scripts to! I was spread (lemme tell yuh!) way too thin and leading a truly frantic existence, with little time to contemplate the overriding weirdness of (now that I stop to think about it) many a seventies' editorial decision!

Things stacked up in a much more reasonable and logical fashion as far as Sergio was concerned, with the two of us collaborating on quite a number of crazed yarns that quickly followed in the wake of "The Poster Plague," the best of which were undoubtedly "A Likely Story" in Plop #8 and "The Secret Origin of Grooble Man" in Plop #10! Those two potboilers (plus a number of the other collaborations I just now mentioned) quite likely elicited the requisite number of giggles, guffaws, and chuckles, I suppose, yet none of them (I'm sad and even halfway embarrassed to say) came anywhere near the general vicinity of possessing the sort of underlying structural integrity comprised of serious subject matter compellingly presented as that which (in fact) informed our initial collaboration -- specifically, a believable intellectual atmosphere in which our main character's theorizing has gone seriously awry via taking a turn toward a certain sort of paranoia, the seemingly insane delusional variety which nonetheless ultimately proves itself to not be all that crazy after all but instead the harbinger of some pretty damn deadly fruit, with worthy characterization and even a hint of the autobiographic thrown in for good measure!

Oh well, it's hardly a well kept secret that when one is writing for a living, no way can every single thing said writer produces be a gem! In fact, the general consensus amongst all the other writers I've talked to about this tends toward being that there's a 25-50-25 split going on here, i.e.: twenty-five percent of what you write is great, stuff you can truly be proud of; fifty percent is so-so, with another twenty-five taken up by those pieces that truly suck! The trick is to make the so-so stuff and somehow even the sucky stuff just passable enough so that you don't get fired! And, in point of fact, what I just now described is definitely where I was at in the seventies! However, I'm not all that convinced that this was how things worked for yours truly a bit earlier than that, back (that is to say) in my Charlton and early DC daze!

Hey now, say now, don't get me wrong here -- I'm not trying to imply that I was once different from all those other writers I was just now blathering about, that I was once better than any of them, better than all of them put together, or anything like that! The truth of the matter is, I think this happens to a lot of us when we're younger, especially when we land the proper character and get teamed with what each individual amongst us would deem his own personal best of all possible artists! And what I'm talking about here is climbing aboard a roll, hopping astride a sweet something powered primarily by youthful enthusiasm wherein the great stories just keep coming, the so-so tales become a rarity, and the icky sucky stuff takes a powder, slinks off to some Republican graveyard somewhere and politely bites the dust! As for that 25-50-25 deal, I have no idea how that caught on or why so many people have wound up believing that bilge, but I will say it's my honest opinion that those figures were originally devised by an older author as a way of saying "most of my stuff may be pretty terrible, but that's how it is with everybody else too!" Yeah, right.

Furthermore, pursuant to serving more than one god, let it at last be known that everything within those previous two paragraphs (the very ones you have just now perused) has come here this evening to proudly stand acutely self-evident as but a portion (albeit an integral portion) of an indication (complete with bells and whistles) that this insufferably verbose storyteller is now finally (can you believe it?) about to provide an actual answer to your long-standing "get-the-feel-of" inquiry, and that answer is Jim Aparo! Or, to get right down to it, while working with Jim on a number of mystery stories, plus that Thane of Bagarth series in the back of the Hercules book, and even a western, something called "The Coward" which made its appearance in Gunfighters #52 (all of that for the folks at Charlton), I came to realize that Jim and I were (to employ rather appropriate sixties vernacular) pretty much on the same wave-length, that we seemed (that is to say) to somehow view reality is the same "quirky" manner! Thus, as but an example of what was happening here, as time passed the picture descriptions I'd provide within those specific scripts of mine that would be sent to Jim became shorter and shorter, less elaborate, less specific, because I began to trust (implicitly!) that with but a few words (sometimes, believe it or not, it'd only be one word) that Jim would immediately firmly grasp what it was I wanted him to draw! Best of all, though he would often give me more than I expected and in doing so very pleasantly knock me for a loop, more importantly he would never ever give me anything less than what the story needed! As all those superlatives undoubtedly make fairly obvious, now all we needed to get aboard one of those aforementioned rolls was to be given the proper character! Then, when the two of us (along with Dick, Denny, Ditko, and Pat) moved on over to DC, Jim and I were handed Aquaman!

Prof: I found you've written for virtually all the publishers such as Tower, Seaboard, Archie, Marvel and a long run at Warren. How did they compare? Did you feel more artistic freedom at any particular publisher?

SS: Ah, yes, freedom for those who toil so strenuously within the sun-drenched fields of Art, that forever-sought-after forever-wished-for forever-dreamed-of bombastic release from what can only be described as the unspeakably emasculating shackles of editorial restraint! Or, am I perhaps overstating the case just a smidge here? I do quite honestly suspect, after all, that "artistic freedom" means something slightly different to each of those who have somehow come to consider themselves (whether rightly or wrongly) to be within that elite conclave known around these parts as The Art Gang! And, of course (especially within these particularly troubled times wherein economic considerations too easily infect everything anyone attempts to discuss) I must say that seeking that aforementioned freedom (no matter how it is described) can often be downright monetarily counterproductive, garnering you a dollop of respect from your peers whilst simultaneously putting you upon the path to the poorhouse! Furthermore, in my particular case, my desire for "artistic freedom" may go a long way in explaining various aspects of my so-called career which otherwise (upon, for example, the usual journeyman journalist's cursory examination) might seem quite utterly enigmatic! Consider, then, though it paid a mere pittance when compared to the loot one could glom onto at DC and Marvel, Charlton nonetheless remains my favorite among all the companies I ever worked for! Now, add to that the fact that I definitely never (as much as I could have anyway) pursued working (on a far more regular basis than I did) under the influence of that highly respected editor, Julie Schwartz! And, while you're at it, you might as well throw in there a consideration as to why I never warmed up to what is generally referred to as The Marvel Method!

Taking that trio of bizarre happenstances in order, then, let us attack my attitude toward Charlton by first of all examining a certain statement John Schwirian made during his interview with this particular author! In reviewing the Abbott and Costello book I did for Charlton, John not only said my stuff therein was rather funny; he also pointed out that he liked it better than the Plop material I did later on! I of course continue to stand by my response that I'm still way too close to those two books to make any sort of informed judgment as to which contained the funniest material; however, if Abbott and Costello is indeed funnier than Plop, I'd say the reason for that lies in the hands of our old pal Artistic Freedom! After all, up at DC, in order to do up a Plop story, I had to come up with a plot outline, type up said outline, talk that over with the editor, get told the page count by the editor, and then finally go write the story. And, really now, nothing kills comedy faster than belaboring it. As for those earlier efforts of mine, that stuff starring Bud and Lou, I'd come up with an idea, plunk myself down at the typewriter, and just start writing, to some extent allow the story to write itself, allow various jokes that weren't part of the original idea to worm their way in there, and just keep going until I was done, making the story as long or as short as I wanted it to be. You ask me, that's the way that sort of stuff should be done.

Moreover, what with the truth hopefully herewithin getting laid out like we're in the business of performing an autopsy upon it or something, do allow me to indicate that (when all is said and done) I'm really not merely speaking of humor pieces here; I'm embracing the entire magilla, which is to say what I just now described within that previous paragraph is in fact my preferred manner in which to write any comic book story – devising the mere rudiments of an idea that somehow vaguely resembles a plot and immediately immersing myself within the writing of that tale, letting that aforementioned so-called plot develop even as I'm typing up the particulars of the piece! That, as matter of fact, stands as pretty much the bulk of my own private definition of "Artistic Freedom" – being able to avoid having to write (and then even get approved) a preliminary plot outline and thereby boxing myself in, severely limiting my own freedom! Furthermore, that's why I loved working for Charlton – they allowed me to work in my preferred manner; only once during the years I worked there was I asked to produce a preliminary plot outline!

Sometimes, back in those days, to get right down to the particulars here, I wouldn't even know how a story of mine was going to turn out until I reached page five or six of a nine-pager and would suddenly have a revelation as to where I was really headed! In that way I would often be as surprised as hopefully ultimately the reader would be, and that was definitely a major part of the fun of the process! Oh, sure, there were problems that would arise vis-à-vis this particular approach – writing myself into a corner, coming up with a yarn that started well but then just sort of petered out! But that was offset by those tales that I already did have an idea for the ending to, yet halfway through writing the piece I'd come up with a much much better ending and be very happy that I could actually do it the new way, that I wasn't hemmed in by a previously approved plot outline, as surely would have been the case at DC or Marvel! Certainly, the editors at those two larger companies did tend to talk a good game when it came to their own so-called flexibility! More often than not, though, in reality they were stiff as a board, and it was close to impossible to talk them into changing the ending of a plot that had already been approved!

There was, though, of course, far more to the problems I had at DC and Marvel than something that so rarely arose anyway as trying to get an ending to a previously approved story changed. At Marvel there was for example that thing called the Marvel Method, that whole plot-then-pencils-then-script-then-inks idea, an approach to comics that (in my honest opinion) made for an even tighter straight jacket that I had to ensconce myself within! I mean, not only was everything in the story worked out in advance preliminary-plot-outline-wise (making the actual writing of that story, in my opinion, rather a bore), but at Marvel the actual flow of the piece was taken out of my hands as well and given over to the penciler. Certainly, I can see why certain writers would actually prefer to have the artist work out the action and the flow, and maybe this makes me a bit of a control-freak or something! But, really now – I wanted to be the one who decided when to move in for the close-ups; I wanted to figure out where to place the jump cuts and the scene switches and all of that!

I never really thought of it this way before, but actually there was a definite similarity between my problems with the so-called Marvel Method and my reluctance to work with Julie Schwartz. Within the former case, decisions as to the pacing and the flow of a story would be ripped away from my control, while, with Julie, it would be the actual plot to whatever story I'd wind up working on that would no longer be primarily my own! Instead (generally) a writer would go into Julie's office with a couple of ideas, maybe three or four, nothing more than that, whereupon the two of them (the writer and Julie) would toss those ideas back and forth and back and forth and all around as they worked out a plot – a plot that would usually turn out to be mainly Julie's rather than the writer's! Hey, I love the way those World's Finest stories and that one Spectre tale of "mine" that I did with Julie turned out, but still (being a selfish bastard!) I wanted to write my own stuff, not his!

I do quickly wanna toss in here that my situation at DC was not anywhere near as bleak and dismal as the last three or four paragraphs may have seemed to make it appear. After all, at DC I was mainly working for Dick Giordano, the very editor who at Charlton had basically never required me to write a plot outline. Now that we had both moved on to one of the big companies, there was a bit of give and take (on both our parts) going on – I was putting up with having to write preliminary outlines, while Dick was putting up with those outlines being quite poorly written and rather sketchy, knowing that I was saving my good stuff for the stories themselves! Additionally, I was ultimately able somehow to convince Julie that a back-up series didn't need a big two-hour-long plotting session, that it would be better if I simply did those simple little seven-page Kid Flash stories I produced in the early seventies on "spec" – in other words, turn in a completed script without there having been any preliminaries whatsoever! Of course this meant that upon occasion Julie would flat-out reject one of those seven-page scripts I'd come in with, but even taking that into account, this was still my preferred way to work!

Prof: Stan Lee has said that doing a continuing storyline allowed him to avoid having to come up with new material all the time. Did the "Quest for Mera" series in Aquaman serve in that capacity to a certain extent?

SS: Although your inclusion within this specific question of the phrase "to a certain extent" does go a long way in making me want to come down (albeit rather begrudgingly) upon the affirmative here, my answer (upon reflection) nonetheless still gravitates unerringly toward being one of denial, especially when one considers both intention and desire! In other words, there were all sorts of forces in play here that reached well beyond the itch to avoid having to devise new and different plots all the time. First and foremost is the fact that we were new to this character and furthermore wanted to take him in a new direction! Certainly no need, though, to barge off into anything so outrageous that it'd be like a baggy zoot suit or something of a similar uncomfortable ilk, some utterly bad fit for such a regal personage, particularly considering the vast quantities of unrealized potential that were sitting right there right in front of our faces, potential within both the sea king himself and that bizarre world in which he lived. The thing to do, then, would be to explore that world, to visit the various communities that abounded there at the bottom of the sea, and Dick figured the best way to accomplish that would be to send Aquaman on a quest.

So, no, I didn't (and don't) see the overriding plot here (Mera's kidnapping and Aquaman's search) as any sort of means of avoiding the construction of new plots; I saw it instead as but a momentary backdrop upon which to pin all the many new and different plots we were (in fact) downright eager to devise! The Sorcerers of the Sea, followed by that strange symbiotic society of the Depths, on into the savagery of the Maarzons, and Aquaman's adventures within each of these communities treated as though these were individual stories, tales with their own distinctive beginnings, middles, and ends, even as those aforementioned overriding concerns, elements that admittedly suggested that these weren't stories after all, that they were instead mere pieces of some larger whole – the sea king's seemingly endless search, his frustration, his mounting anger – allowed us to at last provide this formerly cardboard character with an actual personality.

As to there even being back then a desire upon my part to avoid having to concoct new and different plots – no way, man! No way to the max!!

I don't mean to come off here all defensive (or self-aggrandizing, for that matter), yet I do want to bring to the fore my own frustration, even anger, over Dick's decision a number of months later to so soon upon the heels of our nine-issue arc present yet another multi-issue tale! You see, once our nine-part story had done its job (or what I personally mainly perceived as having been its job) of endowing Aquaman with a viable personality – strength and determination with just a touch of volatility, a touch silent, withdrawn, even a bit of a loner, yet all in all a downright likeable guy -- I wanted to immediately involve this stalwart character in a rather lengthy series of one-shots, single issue stories, self-contained 23-page yarns that would be satisfying unto themselves rather than dependent in any way upon any of the other entities within this or any other series! Unfortunately, Dick had other plans!

However, in order to immediately quash even the merest possibility of this particular bon vivant being categorized by those in the know (including especially a certain Mr. Giordano) as one truly ungrateful unreasonable (not to mention utterly miserable) misanthropic malcontent, do please allow me here and now to point out that what I'm talking about here was far far from being entirely (or even majorly) Dick's fault. That is to say that Dick (in point of fact) had absolutely nothing to do with getting the ball rolling here; instead this thing that at least I (honestly and subsequently) would term "a truly pathetic mess" was initiated by that ultimate evil known as the specter of illness! To elaborate, beyond being a consummate professional who would (as I indicated earlier) put his all into everything he did, Jim Aparo was the sort of artist who was into producing a page a day, and by that I mean doing up the entire magilla – pencils, inks, and letters! It was here that illness struck, making it impossible for Jim to ink any of what was to be the penultimate issue of our seemingly endless Quest arc, the episode entitled "The Explanation," whereupon I was asked to expand what was going to be the final issue of that arc from 23 pages to 30, then split it in half, so that it could be spread out over two issues (with reprints of older Aquaman stories employed as back-ups) thus considerably lightening the load that Jim would have to carry!

Jim ultimately rallied enough to get back into doing a full book, truly putting his all (and then some!) into Aquaman #49, the first of what I was (as I just now indicated) hoping would be a long line of one-shots (as well as, in this particular case, being a rather brash attempt to demonstrate that the Skeates/Aparo/Giordano team could whenever we damn well felt like it easily produce the sort of socially conscious melodrama that O'Neil and Adams were so totally into over at the Green Lantern/Green Arrow comic), and I do indeed love the way this baby turned out – the totally wordless two-page introduction, that fist fight within a burning factory, the sympathetic qualities of "the villain" nicely played up in the artwork! Yet, all of that took a lot out of Jim and put him on a path toward a possible relapse; thus he requested that he able to go back to doing but fifteen pages an issue, at least for a while.

The thing is, Dick at this point had no desire to once again use reprints for the back-ups -- the response to the ones he had employed in issues 47 and 48 had hardly been of a positive nature; thus he wanted to do something new and original this go-round, something that would in fact help draw even more readers into becoming regular members of our audience! Furthermore, Dick also wasn't particularly taken with the idea of our doing at the front of the book a series of fifteen-page one-shots (although personally I still contend that that would have been a far better idea than that lame three-issue lost-in-Mera's-ring storyline that we ultimately settled upon). Or, to expand upon what I just now mentioned parenthetically – what evolved here was a three-parter within which the sea king was basically trapped within a bizarre alternate reality and was trying for all he was worth to find his way back to Atlantis so that he might be reunited with his Queen, a storyline essentially devised by our aforementioned editor and one which (at least in my opinion) bore way too many similarities to that nine-part extravaganza we had finally put the kibosh upon but a few issues earlier; this new one, then, coming off like some weak-kneed watered-down sad and lackluster imitation of that quite brightly-lit chunk of fiction we had not long ago just spent a year and a half producing! And, as for the back-up here, there was a three-part Deadman adventure written and drawn by Neal Adams that somehow interacted with this utterly unfortunate Aquaman retread!

Judging from everything they said and did as well as the work they produced, Jim, Neal, and Dick were totally into this project! As I believe I've sufficiently indicated, I was not! Yet, I did try to suck it up and be professional about this situation I suddenly found myself trapped within, tried hard to write it well despite not being into it, even added certain elements I do quite like, such as the bubble-guns and a weird religion wherein conversation outside the confines of a church is seen as a sin!

I mention all of this because beneath my frustration over having to participate in this travesty was my desire to get back into doing up that batch of one-shots I had merely scratched the surface of back when we produced our socially conscious 49th issue, a desire that I must say stands as more or less the exact opposite of the attitude you quoted Stan Lee as speaking in favor of! I wanted more than anything else to come up with some new material, to devise a whole bunch of stories, sagas, sea chanteys (if you will) that would stand on their own! And, finally, after merely a half a year (with Jim now apparently fully recovered), I at last got my wish, and we were able to produce what I still contend are the three best issues of Aquaman ever (plus a fourth one that wasn't half bad either) – "Is California Sinking?," "Crime Wave" (I do indeed consider it an utterly out-of-this-world honor that a number of critics have cited this one as being an Aquaman tale as though written by Philip K. Dick – like I might ever be in a league with that dude!), "Return of the Alien" and "Computer Trap" (definitely this issue was the clunker of the four, yet the two stories here did allow me to establish some of the sea king's more liberal political attitudes whilst simultaneously enabling me while still holding on for dear life to the last vestiges of being in my twenties to do up a tale based upon that silly hippie axiom, "Don't trust anyone over thirty!"), and finally supposedly the best of the lot, "The Creature that Devoured Detroit!" Hey, talk about being on a roll – a Kaiser with poppy seeds I believe it was!!

There's more, of course! There's always more that can be said! Yet, I do like that as an ending! Just the proper amount of not taking all of this all that seriously! So…

Steve was lots of fun to get to know and his candor and pleasure in his answers made this interview a particular treat. I hope you think so, too, and by all means feel free to share your impressions with me at the usual place: professor_the@hotmail.com.

Don't forget to tap your way back here in the requisite two weeks for the next installment of this ongoing feature.

Until that time…

Long live the Silver Age!



© 2000-2009 by B.D.S.

Interview copy edited by Steve Skeates


This feature was created on 05/01/00 and is maintained by

B.D.S.

 





The Silver Lantern Site Menu + Map & Updates

HomeThe SageSage Archives1934-19551956
19571958195919601961
19621963196419651966
1967196819691970GL Data





All characters mentioned, artwork, logos and other visual depictions displayed, unless otherwise noted, are © by DC Comics. No infringement upon those rights is intended or should be inferred. Cover, interior and other artwork scans and vid-caps are used for identification purposes only. The mission of this non-profit site is to entertain and inform. It is in no way authorized or endorsed by DC Comics and/or its parent company. The Webmaster assumes no responsibility for the content or maintenance of external links.