A Tribute to the of

It’s anniversary time again, readers and this time we focus on the King of the Seven Seas, the one and only Aquaman!

Having thoroughly enjoyed the Aquaman movie and looking forward to the sequel, currently slated for release in December of 2022 and even getting a kick out of the Brave and the Bold animated series version, I am also linked to Arthur Curry through the opportunity I had to write up a feature in BACK ISSUE #108 on his arch-nemesis Black Manta. I enjoy the Sea King!

In order to mark this milestone, I’ve chosen issue #18 of the Aquaman title with a publication date of November/December 1964. That cover comes courtesy of the wonderful Nick Cardy with Ira Schnapp lettering. “The Wife of Aquaman” was scripted by Jack Miller and Nick also did interiors, all under the editorial eye of George Kashdan.

Things kick off a little strangely. The King of Atlantis is basically being compelled to choose a bride, much like medieval royalty, and his initial reaction is to resist. The text tells us that this “…is not a dream…or a hoax…or a trick ending!” Sounds like the disclaimers I’ve seen on other DC titles when sometimes they’d slip in an imaginary tale. Apparently, it’s some kind of law that our hero must obey. Let’s dig into the story by turning the page.

Things take off in a hurry as Aquaman, along with Aqualad, answer a summons from Atlantis. Their leader, Junor, has passed away. Arthur asks who has been elected in his place and he is stunned to learn that it is himself. It’s explained that he was the only one they could all agree upon, so rather than risk a civil war in the undersea kingdom, after establishing that he still has duties on the surface world, Aquaman reluctantly accepts. He is no sooner crowned than he is informed that he must now choose a wife in accordance with their ancient law. Talk about your bait and switch…

An assembly of eligible maidens is presented, but Aquaman begs off, saying he needs some time to consider matters and that he’s late for his patrol. Soon he and Garth are speedily swimming to the surface where they encounter a bizarre scene. Mera is being chased by someone on a strange creature. The man astride the beast is telling Mera that he will never leave her in peace until she agrees to be his queen.

Once the man notices Aquaman, he projects some sort of force that brings into being another creature to chase our heroes. Acting quickly, Aquaman uses his unique ability to communicate with the denizens of the deep and calls on some giant eels who rapidly form a chain that he uses to catapult himself over the predator.

Landing alongside Mera, he asks who the man is and why she isn’t using her powers to defend herself. She says she hasn’t time to explain and points out that the two weird creatures are coming right for them. They wait until the last possible moment and the monsters collide as they dive below to safety. When our heroes surface, Aqualad notes that Mera has lost consciousness. The pair take her to Aquaman’s underwater cave to look after her. The Sea King says she has simply fainted and remarks that she’s beautiful. Garth suggests his mentor is in love and Aquaman acknowledges as much.

When she awakens moments later, Aquaman asks again who her pursuer was and why her powers weren’t brought into play. She explains that she’s now powerless. In a flashback sequence, Queen Mera is approached by one of her subjects who tells her that the ray machine that opens and closes the dimensional warp she uses to visit Aquaman is burning out and it will be years until another one can be constructed. As a matter of fact, the existing machine is good for only one more use. Alarmed at the thought of never seeing Aquaman again, she makes a momentous decision to use the machine for the last time, leaving her people behind.

To the queen’s surprise, however, she notices another figure right behind her, barely squeezing through the portal. It is Oceanus, who professes his long-held love for her. He proposes that they join forces and rule this world together. Mera vehemently refuses, stating her hatred for Oceanus and promising to use her powers against him, but he has another trick up his sleeve and uses a ray gun that was designed to eliminate her powers permanently.

That brings us back to the present, where Mera is relieved to be in the arms of Aquaman, but the nearby Aqualad is fretting. What will Mera do when she learns that her beau must marry an Atlantean woman?

Part II has Mera asking Aquaman what’s wrong. That female intuition at work again. He confesses that he cannot marry her, but before he can further explain, she swims off in a rage. The Sea King lets her go, reasoning that nothing can be done against Atlantean law.

We follow Mera to an island where she walks onto the beach, still stricken with grief, when she’s abruptly grasped by a tentacle. It’s another weird sea creature under the control of Oceanus. He again professes his love and seeks to prove it. He changes the creature back to its original water form and then urges her to leave him to his loneliness. The ruse works and his play on Mera’s sympathies softens her feelings toward him. Seeking to leverage his advantage, Oceanus says he’s discovered an underwater kingdom for them to rule. He urges her to wait for him as he heads for Atlantis.

Once at the sunken kingdom, Oceanus demands that they declare him their monarch, but the people explain that he’s a little too late. He insists the current King be cast out, but it only inflames the members of Atlantis and they seek to seize him. Before they can do so, Oceanus has again used his abilities to create a wall of torpedo shaped warriors out of the very water that surrounds them. A swift offensive soon leads to the surrender of Atlantis and Oceanus again takes advantage of the mutterings among some of the people to suggest that Aquaman is not their rightful ruler, but that he, Oceanus, is the King they deserve. He then leaves them under the guard of the torpedo creatures to fetch his queen.

Soon, a mopey Aquaman is alerted during his patrol by a signal fish. He and Aqualad dive to check the status of Atlantis and are surprised to see the torpedo creatures. They then attack our heroes, who go on evasive maneuvers that soon have the creatures colliding. Then, a blistering counterattack and when the members of Atlantis see the results, they are inspired and join in.

Just as victory seems assured, our heroes are abruptly held fast in steel-like bands formed out of the ocean itself. It is then that they are addressed by Oceanus, who, along with Mera, is occupying the thrones of Atlantis, closing out Part II.

Chapter 3 opens dramatically with Oceanus stating he’ll use his first royal command to order their execution. When an Atlantean subject petitions Mera on behalf of her friends, she says she doesn’t care what happens to either Aquaman nor Aqualad. The bands begin to tighten as our heroes struggle to maintain their lives and Mera then suggests that it’s not truly a suitable fate considering what she suffered. She says that they should be made into the royal’s servants and Oceanus is gleeful at the prospect.

Soon Aquaman and Aqualad are waiting on the pair hand and foot and Mera tells Oceanus she will agree to their wedding as soon as a suitable temple like the one on their world is completed. Oceanus immediately orders construction, to include massive statues of he and Mera. Does anyone else think this sounds a lot like ancient Egypt?

Aquaman, meanwhile, has hatched a plan and one night as he and Aqualad are in their barracks/prison, he summons some sawfish to sever their chains. Next, the Sea King orders some octopi to use the chains to take down the statue of Oceanus. The disturbance causes the creatures guarding the duo to swim off to investigate and Aquaman and Aqualad swiftly swim toward the quarters of Oceanus, but when they pounce upon his sleeping form, it is soon discovered it’s merely a water image of the usurper.

Oceanus then appears with another menacing creature. Mera appears and Oceanus orders his minion to attack. Then, in an unexpected turn of events, Mera grabs the ray gun from Oceanus and turns it on him. She professes her undying love for Aquaman, despite how she’s been hurt. Oceanus pleads for her not to use the powers-canceling weapon on him and bargains the lives of Aquaman and Aqualad for his freedom. Mera agrees and after returning the creature to its water form, Oceanus flees.

Later, after explanations have been offered, Aqualad has a sudden inspiration. After Mera’s service to the kingdom, shouldn’t she be given honorary status as an Atlantean? Aquaman quickly and joyfully agrees and proposes on the spot after using his office as King to bestow the boon upon Mera.

The final two-thirds page panel is reminiscent of the cover of this issue, with several recognizable members of the Justice League of America, to include Wonder Woman, Superman, the Martian Manhunter, the Flash, Batman and Robin, and the Atom in attendance.

The couple is pronounced man and wife and the new King and Queen of Atlantis are official.

What a great, fun little story. Very indicative of classic DC Silver Age far. Here’s to the King of the Seven Seas, Aquaman and his 80th year of existence!

Once again, the webmaster and I thank you for your patronage and extend the usual invitation to involve yourself in future features. It’s easy. Just fire off an email to: professor_the@hotmail.com.

Join us again the first of December for a new review and always remember…

Long live the Silver Age!

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