A Tribute to the of

In November of 1941 (the publication date, at any rate), a mere 67 years ago this very month, a new superhero was introduced in the pages of More Fun Comics #73. He was the creation of Mort Weisinger and artist Paul Norris and we would soon know the King of the Seven Seas as Aquaman.

The character of Aquaman ran pretty consistently as a backup feature in More Fun through issue #107 in Jan/Feb of 1946 when More Fun morphed into a humor format and the superheroes, including Superboy, Green Arrow and Aquaman migrated to Adventure Comics beginning with issue #103. Aquaman enjoyed this new perch pretty much continuously in what was usually a 6-page burst for quite a few years and then before you know it, he began to crop up all over the place, to include the odd appearance in Lois Lane, Action, Jimmy Olsen and of course the Brave and the Bold #28 when he became a founding member of the Justice League of America.

Now for reasons unknown Aquaman (along with his young ally Aqualad) made three consecutive appearances in Showcase in 1961. I find that odd because of course Showcase was used as a try out title and at this point Aquaman had 20 years of history behind him. He would be given his own title, but that didn't happen until Jan/Feb of 1962. I don't quite get it, but that's okay. Meanwhile, let's take a peek at one of those Showcase appearances, his second, in issue #31 from March/April of 1961. The cover is by

Howard Purcell with inking by long-time Bob Kane ghost Sheldon "Shelly" Moldoff. The script for "The Sea Beasts from One Billion B.C." was written by Jack Miller. (As an interesting side note, Miller also wrote an Aquaman story that appeared in Adventure Comics #253 titled "The Ocean of 1,000,000 B.C.") Nick Cardy did interior art, both pencils and inks and the editor's chair was occupied by Jack Schiff.

Things begin with almost instant action as Aquaman and Aqualad encounter trouble on the high seas during a routine patrol. A huge sea monster attacks a nearby vessel, causing massive damage. Using his mental influence with creatures of the deep, our hero promptly summons some whales to help him board the vessel via a combined waterspout and then enlists the aid of some octopi to act as organic propellers to speed the ship out of harm's way. Unfortunately there's no time to investigate as an urgent message for the Sea King summons him to the lab of Professor Richards, famed zoologist. Richards explains to Aquaman that he'd developed an evolution ray that was stolen by his assistant, John Cook. The device not only has the capability to devolve fish back to a billion years prior, but can control them as well. Aquaman asks if the ray can reverse the effects, but the scientist regretfully informs him that he's been working on a reverse control, but hasn't yet perfected it.

It isn't long before Aquaman and Aqualad encounter a deep diving Cook who flashes an attack beam on the Sea King, which is like waving a red flag in front of a bull to his devolved creatures. The canny master of the deep manages to avoid a collision with two of the beasts by swimming rapidly toward one with the other in hot pursuit and then arcing away so that they collide. The next maneuver is to amass an underwater army to attack, but Aquaman and Aqualad get the tables turned on them when Cook engages the beam to alter their finny friends, ending Part I.

Part II, entitled "The Creature Army!," has the pair using brains over brawn by diving to the bottom of the ocean and stirring up massive clouds of silt to cover their escape. Cook wastes no time in beaming the attack ray at a cargo ship. When The Sea King and his sidekick observe the operation, Aquaman pulls a page from the Flash's battle book by swimming so swiftly around a pair of menacing sea monsters that he creates a circular wave that holds them fast. Not to be outdone, Cook sweeps his beam in an ever-widening arc to send more and more of his deep sea minions to attack. Facing up to reality, Aquaman dispatches Aqualad to check Professor Richards' progress on the reverse control while he rescues refuges from the vessel.

When Aqualad returns, he brings the perfected device. Soon the duo is on their way to the deepest and darkest ocean depths to collect several luminous sea creatures to accompany them in their next assault. When they locate Cook and the menacing beam is brought into play, the luminous sea creatures act as flashing reflectors, diffusing the light and confusing the monster armada. Seizing on the element of surprise, Aquaman strips the ray device from Cook and installs the reversing accessory. As he plays the beam over the mutated sea creatures they begin to evolve, but to the Sea King's dismay, it is jammed and they quickly evolve into future versions of themselves that are even more menacing than the prehistoric versions. He pulls the accessory from the ray to reverse them again, but a massive burst of force from a mutated blowfish wrecks the device, wrapping up Part II.

Part III, "The Menace of the Future Fish!," brings out more primitive methods in engaging the blowfish when Aquaman fires a speargun at it. It merely scratches the head of the monstrous blowfish, but does startle it a bit into enough of a retreat that they can escape.

Now the futuristic fish head for the surface and create more mayhem as they attack ships left and right. After running out of targets, they head for the nearby coastal town. Aquaman goes ashore to warn them and sends Aqualad along with the captured Cook to contact the Professor to enlist any and all aid they can muster.

On shore, the King of the Seven Seas is struck by inspiration when he sees a large flock of seagulls. He orders them to carry him along on a rope (who knew he could control birds, too?) and uses himself as a lure to lead the future fish back out to sea where Coast Guard cutters armed with deck guns can attack. Oddly, Aquaman reverses course and heads back for the fish, sending up a large protective wave in the process. It is only then that the crewmen notice that the fish are changing back to their regular forms. It just so happens that Aquaman had spotted a blowfish with a scar matching the one he'd inflicted on it earlier and realized the effects of the ray were temporary. With the threat neutralized, Cook is taken into custody and Professor Richards mutters that he must discover why the effects of the ray are temporary. The adventure ends on that note.

As mentioned at the beginning of this review, the King of the Seven Seas got his own title beginning in 1962 and it ran until #56 in March/April of 1971. Meanwhile, he maintained a presence in the Justice League of America, some backup stories in Detective Comics and World's Finest and of course the occasional team-up appearance in the Brave and the Bold. For a somewhat minor character in the DC Universe, Aquaman managed to stay fully employed to a surprising degree. There is more to the Sea King than meets the eye of the casual observer, and of course he still endures in current continuity. Happy 67th birthday, Aquaman! By the way, for a pretty nifty website dedicated to the ruler of Atlantis, check out the Aquaman Shrine: http://aquamanshrine.blogspot.com/

This full book length adventure was drawn masterfully by the great Nick Cardy and I certainly give him full marks for the many complicated underwater scenes, fish and other details along with the regular figure drawing. If anything, Nick has only improved with age and while he still hits the convention circuit, he doesn't seem to be doing much in the way of commissions any longer, unfortunately. His webpage doesn't change much, but if you're interested, check it out at www.nickcardy.com. For the record, I've left more than a few messages on his answering machine, but no luck so far. Since he recently hit the grand age of 88, I hope perhaps I can manage a chat one of these days. For a little more about one of the great artists who graced DC with his talents, check out the Wikipedia entry here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nick_Cardy.

My rating this time around is a 6. Not a bad story, but nothing that really struck me in a major way. I don't know how the writers managed to keep the Sea King so busy for so long, but more power to them.

Hopefully I'll have an interview prepared for next time, but meanwhile, give me a shout at: professor_the@hotmail.com.

Thanks for visiting and…

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2008 by B.D.S.

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