A Tribute to the of

I've wondered off and on how the editorial and writing staff at DC decided on the membership of the newly introduced Justice League of America in 1960 when they were introduced in Brave and the Bold #28.  The lineup was fairly logical, but at the same time I was scratching my head a little bit over the roster.  Certainly the Flash and Green Lantern were obvious choices, being two of the newest powerhouses in the Silver Age with the Flash having already received his own magazine and GL sure to follow.  Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman were similarly qualified.  Even more so, in fact, due to their unbroken continuity in the world of comics.  It was the remaining two heroes that confused me a little bit.  I'll grant you that J'onn J'onzz, Manhunter from Mars was also a pretty recognizable force after being the regular backup feature in Detective Comics for 5 solid years, but he was still pretty much a second-stringer.  Likewise, Aquaman seemed to be from the junior varsity ranks as well, being another mere backup player in Adventure comics.  What gives?  So, I did a little research in my wonderful copy of Justice League of America Archives, Volume I and learned the simple facts:  There just weren't that many characters in the DC Universe to pick from at the time.  One of the criteria mentioned specifically by editor Julius Schwartz was that any member of the Justice League of America had to have their own series, too, so you can see the rationale at this point.  As a side note I also learned some fascinating facts about my hero Gardner Fox, the first writer for the Justice League.  According to the leaf on the dust cover, he was trained as a lawyer and also wrote over 100 books including science fiction and fantasy novels as well as non-fiction material on a variety of topics.  Amazing.  What a tremendous loss when he left this world in 1986. 

So, we all know what happened after the debut of the JLA.  They quickly went on to their own self-titled magazine and they hold the record as the longest-running super hero team in the world of comics.  The Martian Manhunter never did get his own magazine, but the other backup hero did back in 1962 and that finally brings us around to the subject of this edition of the Silver Age Sage when I present for your approval my first review of the King of the Seven Seas, Aquaman in his own self-titled magazine.  No, I didn't forget I reviewed Aquaman's origin story from Adventure Comics #260, but this will be the first review of an actual Aquaman comic. Specifically , it's Aquaman #6 from November/December of 1962 where he "and his young ally, Aqualad" face "Too Many Quisps!" Story by Bob Haney; artwork, cover and interior, by Nick Cardy; editorial supervision, George Kashdan.

The story begins on the high seas (where else?) with Aquaman and Aqualad returning from a routine patrol when they spot a vessel that is floating above the water.  This, of course, bears investigation and as they approach the ship they discover the water sprite Quisp using his abilities to manipulate it.  They tell him to put the ship down, but with nary a word the elfin creature causes the vessel to fly off with him still aboard.  The aquatic adventurers pour it on and give chase, but Quisp then opens up a deep trench in the water and they fall into it, unable to stop in time.  After a one-mile drop they again strike water and then resurface to try and figure out what their friend is up to, but the cargo ship has vanished.

Later that morning they discover another airborne watercraft in the form of a barge with Quisp at the helm again.  They opt for a stealthy appearance this time and call on some whales that use water through their spouts to lift Aquaman and Aqualad up to the barge where the King of the Seven Seas grabs Quisp and demands an explanation.  The sprite makes no reply, but instead uses his powers to send the whales out of the sea, robbing our heroes of their "elevator" and sending them tumbling where they float unconscious on the ocean surface.  Wouldn't you know they're in the shipping lanes and are soon menaced by an approaching ocean liner?  Before the bow can strike the stunned Sea King and his sidekick, however, a tiny figure, riding the crest of a wave swiftly pushes them to safety.  It's Quisp!  Aquaman then demands to know what Quisp has done with the ship and barge and the confused sprite replies that it wasn't him.  He then mentions that his twin brother, Quink, has been interested in visiting the outside sea as his brother has, but he cannot believe Quink would do anything malevolent.  The only thing to do is to try and track the ships to get to the bottom of things.  They notice an oil slick from a barrel that had been punctured on the barge, so Aquaman removes a match from his handy waterproof belt pocket (who knew that Aquaman would ever have need of a match?) and lights the slick in order to follow its now blazing trail.  Okay…  Well, it works, of course and they find an island where they're beached along with the notorious pirate Captain Slade.  As the trio goes ashore, however, Quink appears and blasts them, bringing Part I to a close.

Part II, "The Beasts from the Water World!" begins with the trio regaining their wits and pursuing the fleeing Captain Slade who jumped into a speedboat.  Aquaman manages to knock the pirate into the sea, but then Quink appears and the aquatic aces are caught in a crossfire between Quink and Quisp.  Once again they find themselves recovering from a blast while Quisp quickly explains that his blast was to counteract the one from his brother.  They're just about to start another search when two massive sea creatures surface nearby.  Quisp says they are from a jungle in his world and that one is a borer beast while the other is a crusher beast.  He further explains that the oversized crustaceans are tame in the water, but go berserk out of the water and they are, of course, heading for nearby land.  Aquaman quickly dispatches Aqualad to search for Slade and Quink while he and Quisp subdue the massive creatures, which have just gone ashore and are menacing the coastal town.  The Sea King instructs Quisp to use his powers to cause a nearby lumber pile to block the progress of the borer beast with its huge and pointy proboscis.  Next a massive boulder is brought into play to distract the crusher beast, which looks to me like an oversized lobster, from attacking a school bus.  The two creatures are distracted, but soon regroup and Aquaman tries another strategy, commandeering a milk truck and driving it toward the creatures who immediately attack it, releasing the contents.  Fortunately the milk has the same effect as water and returns them to their docile state.

Meanwhile, Aqualad is closing in on his quarry as they approach an abandoned lighthouse.  Slade spots him, however and sends Quink to blast him.  Before he can do so, however, Quisp appears and the two sprites confront one another.  It seems that Quink came to the outside world to pursue Quirk, a wanted criminal from their world when he came upon Slade, who posed as a law-abiding citizen and claimed that Aquaman was a pirate whom Quirk was probably allied with.  Quisp explains to Quink that he's been hoodwinked and instructs him to send the sea beasts back to their world while they apprehend Slade.  As they hea d toward the lighthouse, however, Slade's boat flies out of the water like a projectile toward them.  Submerging quickly to avoid it, they resurface to discover Slade onshore with none other than Quirk.  On to Part III, "The Water-Sprite Raider!"

Quirk looks just like Quisp and Quink, but has red hair instead of green and in moments the two sprites are engaging, using their powers to try and gain an advantage, but they are too evenly matched.  Aquaman tries to do a flanking maneuver by approaching Slade from one side while instructing Quisp to attack Quirp (Quirp?  Oh, editor!  You missed something) when a helicopter appears and drops a package to the pirate.  It's some sort of strange weapon that promptly robs Quisp of his powers, allowing Quirk to pull the trio out of the sea.  Slade then announces that they are all his prisoner and that any false mov es will cause Quirp (Editor!) to blast them to bits.  Quisp asks about the origin of Slade's odd weapon.  The pirate replies that it dropped right out of the sky, probably from a passing space ship.  (It could happen.)  He discovered its capability when he encountered Quirp (sigh) and the two startled creatures fired on each other.  The ray gun robbed Quirk of his powers and the sprite's blast bent the barrel of the gun.  A gunsmith was able to repair the barrel and the effects of the ray were temporary, so they decided to form an alliance where Quirk will help Slade do some looting in return for the mysterious weapon, which will make him all-powerful on his world.  Slade orders them into the lighthouse, but at that moment a giant Manta appears at the behest of Aquaman's secret signal and the trio escape. 

Later, Slade's speedboat approaches a cargo ship and Quirp (would you get it right?) lifts it out of the water and flips it upside down so the contents can be plundered.  In the next moment, however, Quisp appears riding a waterspout.  Slade fires his weapon, but to no effect.  Quirk decides to jump ship since Slade is no good to him now and the Sea King appears and relieves Slade of the ray gun.  Quirk decides to attack Aquaman just on principle, confident that the now useless weapon is no threat, but is shocked when it robs him of his powers again.  The secret is then revealed when the waterspout diminishes a nd both Quisp and Quink appear.  One took the hit while the other maintained the waterspout, allowing the illusion that the weapon had lost its power. 

So, the cargo is restored to the ship and Quirk is taken back to his world to face justice.  All is right again on the high seas and the story comes to an end.

According to the Overstreet Guide, this first Aquaman series ran 56 issues before it faded away in 1971.  The Sea King was revived later in both special limited series' and a couple of other runs in new series, but he just didn't seem to have much in the way of staying power.  I'm not sure if it had anything to do with his limitations, i.e. having to be submersed every hour to stay alive and essentially having only the ability to live underwater and communicate with and control the denizens of the deep or if he just wasn't assigned the best writing talent.  In any case, he never seemed to become a major player in the DC Universe.  I can't say I care much for his latest incarnation in the Justice League animated series on Cartoon Network.  He seems more like a cross between Neptune and Captain Hook with a bad attitude thrown in.  No thanks.  We already have enough angst out there.   

As for this issue I think it was less than groundbreaking.  It was mostly tired formula.  You've got the youthful sidekick, Aqualad (loaded down with nautical alliteration like "Suffering Sardines!" "Great Guppies!" and "Suffering Swordfish!") who of course went on to team up with Green Arrow's ward, Speedy; Batman's partner, Robin and Kid Flash and Wonder Girl to form the Teen Titans (yawn) and a mischievous, diminutive character with magical powers to deal with who is basically a take-off on Superman's Mr. Mxyzptlk or Batman's pesky Bat-Mite.  Yawn again.  It didn't help matters that Quirk was given an unintended identity crisis with the constant misspelling of his name, which I found distracting.  There just wasn't much to get excited about with this issue, which I rate at a mediocre 5.  Stick with the JLA, Aquaman.  Your talents are better utilized in that team setting.                

Check back in about two weeks for the first review of 2004 and help us as we continue to explore this very special time in the history of comics.  Remember also that this is an interactive sort of effort, so be a part of things and let me know of your ideas and comments.  E-mail me at silveragesage@thesilverlantern.com

Until next time…

Long live the Silver Age!

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