By Scott Tipton
Last time, in COMICS 101: Last time, in our seemingly endless coverage of DC Comics' AQUAMAN, we took a look at what still stands as the most traumatic issue of the feature ever, the murder of Aquaman's young son. What's happened to the character since? In our concluding chapter, we'll find out...
With remaining members J'onn J'onzz, Zatanna and the Elongated Man (the only Leaguers to knuckle under to Aquaman's whiny emotional blackmail, presumably because they had nothing else going on in their own lives), Aquaman recruited new members Vibe, Gypsy, Steel and Vixen, and set up shop in a bunker in Detroit, Michigan (the perfect base of operations for someone like Aquaman who needs to be close to the ocean...)
As much as this made Aquaman look like the ultimate in needy boyfriends, at least it was proactive and put him front and center in the League, right? Not so fast. After being the one to throw this huge hissy fit about members needing to devote themselves to the League, Aquaman leaves after barely a year. Why? He decided he couldn't devote himself full-time to the League. I wanted Batman to re-join the League just long enough to smack him one...
I'll give DC this much credit: they certainly weren't giving up on the character. Next up in 1989 was THE LEGEND OF AQUAMAN SPECIAL by Robert Loren Fleming, Keith Giffen and Curt Swan, which slightly revised the character's origin, and was followed up by another short-lived attempt to give Aquaman his own series, this time lasting only 13 issues before once more getting the axe.
The beginning of Aquaman's most creatively fertile period began in 1990, with a criminally underrated and underread miniseries entitled THE ATLANTIS CHRONICLES, written by Peter David and illustrated by Esteban Maroto. Detailing the history of Atlantis and its people over the centuries, the series was both a beautiful captivating book in its own right and created a rich backstory for future AQUAMAN stories David clearly hoped to tell.
He got his chance in 1993, in the 4-issue miniseries AQUAMAN: TIME AND TIDE, which revised and refined Aquaman's constantly shifting origin story, now firmly placing him as a full-blooded Atlantean (with the Atlantean birth name of Orin) superstitiously abandoned as an infant by his people due to his blonde hair, and found and raised by lighthouse keeper Arthur Curry.
Ocean Master was given much more emphasis as well, with the introduction of the notion of an ancient prophecy about "two brothers battling for control of Atlantis."
Guess what? It worked. Although some decried the bit as an overly grim-and-gritty "stunt," it clearly sent the message that this was not your father's Aquaman, and David settled in for a nearly four-year run on the series, probably the most consistently satisfying run the character has ever seen.
Unfortunately, disagreements with editorial led to David's departure from the series with issue #46. The series lasted for another 29 issues under various writers, none of which were able to capture the newfound drama and excitement David had brought to the character. Aquaman's new look and character had crossed over firmly into the rest of the DCU, though, particularly in the pages of Grant Morrison's JLA. Morrison keenly carried over David's new characterization, portraying Aquaman as a monarch first, who often resented being pulled away from his kingdom to deal with the League, and only really felt comfortable around Wonder Woman, whom he considered fellow "royalty."