In the decades since his creation, it’s fair to say that Aquaman has become a bit of a joke. While the rest of the world’s superheroes have awesome, enviable powers, Arthur Curry is mostly known for being able to talk to fish, which is somewhere below the power to shrink your penis on most guys’ superpowers wish list. There is one guy in the king of Atlantis’ corner, though, and that guy is Geoff Johns, superstar comics writer and staunch defender of the dude in the orange jersey. With Aquaman #2 coming out today, we talked to Geoff about why Mr. Fishy should get more respect.
You’re determined to prove that Aquaman kicks ass in this new series. What makes you love the character so much?
I just always found the character really appealing but also I thought the world - Atlantis and the ocean and all that - was always was pretty mysterious and interesting. Whenever you look into the ocean, your imagination kicks in and you find yourself wondering what’s out there, and Aquaman taps into that whole side, too.
The first issue referenced the public perception of him as being kind of goofy a lot. Why do you think he became a joke in the first place?
It’s not hard to make fun of Aquaman because he talks to fish - like, it’s almost too easy. I wanted to tackle that perception right away - most people have heard the jokes more than they know where Aquaman came from, like what his background is. There’s plenty of characters more deserving of ridicule, but nobody knows them. It’s almost flattering to Aquaman, because at least everyone has heard of him. I could name probably a hundred characters as easy to ridicule, but I think it’s part of Aquaman’s charm is that at least people know who he is.
Why do you think Marvel’s Submariner character doesn’t have the same kind of jokes made about him?
Aquaman’s more recognizable than Submariner and, quite frankly, I think he’s cooler. He doesn’t have those little wings on his ankles…
So can Aquaman talk to fish?
He can obviously communicate with sea life, but they’re not very intelligent. He can’t have conversations with them as such, but he can push them to do things. Sometimes they’ll resist, but he’s pretty much in control. Dolphins are another story - their intelligence level is a little higher. They actually communicate with Aquaman and we’ll see that he doesn’t really like it. They bother him, they always want to play. He’s like, “I’m on a mission, go away.”
What did you think of his 90s look, with the beard, the long hair and the one-shoulder armor?
I like that they tried something new - I think Peter David made it work for the most part. He created a lot of interesting things and expanded a lot of the mythology and myths that he wanted to cover in Aquaman’s history. And it was definitely a unique look.
Were you ever tempted to go with the bombastic, excitable version of the character from Batman: The Brave And The Bold?
Not in this context. I love that show, but it didn’t quite fit what we wanted him to do. We wanted to go in our own direction.
You made Aquaman’s wife, Mera, a much more prominent character – how come?
For me, her background is really interesting. She felt very strong to me, her hydroconnect powers are very interesting - controlling the water is visually beautiful and I felt the character was very appealing. That’s why we introduced her in Blackest Night and had her stand on her own before we brought Aquaman in. You know, I think people respond to the character because she is such a strong, confident kickass superhero.
What can we expect from the rest of your run on the title?
There’ll be a story where Aquaman goes on the search for who sank Atlantis: He learns that it wasn’t an accident and he wants to know why, who did it, and what they were planning next. It’ll be cool - I think it’s a question no one has asked.
It’s hard to believe that in 60-odd years, no one has thought to do that story.
Yeah! Then from there, we’ll see some of the classic well-known Aquaman villains like Ocean Master and eventually Black Manta, though not for a while, and we’ll be introducing a lot of new characters and a lot of new threats.
So I’m guessing there’s absolutely no way you’ll tell us who sunk Atlantis?
Damn it. So, you obviously like Aquaman a lot. What do you think he’d be like as a drinking buddy?
He would out-drink everybody! His stamina is way higher and he does drink. He’d be great to have at your side if there’s a bar fight going on. Someone would say ,“I’m going to kick Aquaman’s ass” and it’d be really fun to watch him kick their ass. I think it’d be entertaining. Definitely more than Batman...
Which other heroes should we invite?
Green Lantern would be good, but he’d end up getting us kicked out. Superman wouldn’t hang out at all - he’d say no, and that he has to work the next day.