Wednesday, January 27, 2016


With a new movie slated to be released in the midst of 1,800 other movies about second-tier superheroes that'll be hitting your local movie theaters over the remainder of your life and the lives of all of your children for a thousand years hence, until the tribe of Lost Children from Mad Max:Beyond Thunderdome becomes a reality, Aquaman is hot. 

Well, not literally, but that's pretty much the only thing that DC's King of the Seven Seas doesn't do in this adventure from Aquaman vol.1 No.14 (March-April 1964, "Aquaman's Secret Powers"). When Aquaman and his kid sidekick, Aqualad, discover a bearded hermit floating on a storm-tossed raft in the middle of the ocean, they naturally drown him and consume his flesh, as do all merpeople of the unforgiving oceans.

That's good. You want to stretch before working out.
Nope, wait, hold on -- Aquaman and Aqualad rescue the old codger, learning that he's in possession of a magic powder. So are most television executives, but in this case it's a magic powder capable of granting the user the ability to transform themselves into four amazing shapes at will. The powers come with the usual, exceptionally-specific Silver Age rules. In this case, each power can only be used once, the transformations last for six hours precisely, they all wear off after twenty-four hours, and if you have an erection lasting longer than four hours then you should see your doctor.

I've always been of the mind that Aquaman should have more powers than his traditional assortment of water-breathing and fish commanding, and I know I'm not alone in that. When you consider all the possible powers you could extrapolate from his aquatic environment, you realize that the sky's the limit. Sort of. The sea's the limit.

Anyway, Aquaman could always pick up a venomous or electric touch, the ability to control water, cuttlefish-like camouflage, sonar and other enhanced senses, ink sacs, the seahorse-like ability to gestate young ... you know, all the classics.

Those aren't the powers granted by the magic powder, though. Impulsively dusted with the sprinkly stuff, Aquaman is now simply playing out the clock until he gains the opportunity to use his new abilities -- opportunities which come in short order (we're fighting a twenty-four hour deadline here, mind you).

You'll never be normal, Aquaman.
Firstly, Aquaman rescues a man dying on the deck of an ocean-going cruiseliner, and returns him to land by stretching his legs to ridiculous lengths -- miles, possibly -- so as to deposit the guy at the hospital. And then live with mile-long legs for six hours. Imagine if part of one of them washed up on shore in the interim, it'd be a genuine mystery of the sea.

Rescuing a damaged ship-at-sea a scant six hours later requires Aquaman to blow up like a dirigible so that he can haul the vessel to shore. I've seen worse novelty hot air balloons than that, to be honest. His high vantage point allows him to witness a tidal wave, which his third transformation luckily blocks -- Aquaman spreads out and becomes a human wall. That happens to a lot of men in middle age, it's nothing to be embarrassed about.

His final transformation is to turn into a stone giant, hundreds of feet tall. For the life of me, I can't figure out why this seems like the unlikeliest transformation of all, but it really does. Maybe because the other ones can all be accomplished with Silly Putty, so the stone giant seems out of place.

Once the transformations are concluded, Aquaman returns to his normally-powered self. I assume so, anyway, because they didn't extrapolate as to whether Aquaman kept any of the magic powder or if he and Aqualad did anything with the old hermit's corpse. It might still be rotting on a beach somewhere, clutching a sack of supernatural cocaine in his bony claw. Now THAT part I hope ends up in the movie.

Aqualad is insensitive.


BillyWitchDoctor said...

Some attempts to expand Aquaman's skill set have been of the obvious-in-retrospect variety: a dude who can swim from the ocean floor to dry land has to be incredibly strong and hardy, and a guy who can communicate telepathically with sea mammals ought to be able to do so with land mammals. (I think Grant Morrison even gave him the knack of using his telepathy offensively, scrambling the brain signals of more-primative opponents.) Others have been less successful ("MY HAND IS MADE OF WATER, DOOOOD!! IT AFFECTS THE TIDES!!").

Over at the competition, Prince Namor beat Aquaman to those good ones AND has thrown away more superpowers than Arthur ever had. The most ridiculous features (aside from those bird wings on his ankles) were his ability to inflate himself like a pufferfish, and his "sprinkler system," which involved spinning around emitting water from his skin like...well, like a lawn sprinkler. (Or a fire-suppression system, which is what it was. Once Namor and the Human Torch stopped trying to kill each other, he had little use for that one.)

John Longenbaugh said...

All of your pieces, Humble Editor, I enjoy your gentle yet venomous takedowns of the Silver Age Comics the best. Keep 'em flying!

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