All hail DC's King of the Seas!

This will be a thread to discuss any and all things Aquaman.  The character has come up in a few different threads here in the last little while, so I decided to start one for general discussions on him.

Before I go any further, I want to recommend an excellent thread started by Jeff of Earth-J, where he is having a discussion of "The Search for Mera" storyline, from 1968-69's Aquaman # 40-48.

http://captaincomics.ning.com/forum/topics/the-search-for-mera

Also, if you're so inclined, check out a thread started by yours truly where we discuss DC's Golden, Silver, and Bronze Age Omnibus collections.  Recently, I made a post for upcoming 2018 releases, leading Philip Portelli to ask "Any guesses why no Aquaman, Atom or Hawkman volumes?", and a new line of discussion around those three characters sprung up; you can find that on page 24 of the discussion below.

http://captaincomics.ning.com/forum/topics/dc-s-omnibus-line-golden...

I'm already a fan of Aquaman, and this piqued my interest in him a bit more.  So I did a little digging, learned a few things that surprised me, and so, this thread.

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Aquaman first appeared in More Fun Comics #73, Nov 1941.  That puts him firmly starting in the Golden Age, which I think would surprise the general public, and maybe even some long time comics readers.  People tend to associate him with his membership in the Justice League of America, the Filmation cartoons from the late 1960's, and the Super Friends cartoons from the 1970's and 1980's.  But he's one of a handful of characters that regularly appeared in a DC comic right from his Golden Age beginnings up to and through the Silver Age.  While he would not headline his own title until 1962, 21 years after his debut, he did appear almost continually in two different anthology titles from 1941-1962.  These would be the aforementioned More Fun Comics and Adventure Comics.  He appeared in More Fun # 73-107 (Nov '41 - Jan/Feb '46) and then moved over to Adventure, beginning with # 103 (Apr '46).  More Fun had been a monthly when Aquaman debuted, but became a bi-monthly title with #91.  In his first appearance, Aquaman shared the book with Green Arrow and Speedy (who also made their debut in that same issue), Dr. Fate, the Spectre, Johnny Quick, the police strip Radio Squad, and Clip Carson, of whom I can find little info, but I'm guessing may have been a spy.

The only indication of the new Aquaman feature on the cover of More Fun # 73 was at the top, a headline stating: "3 Smashing New Features!", referring to (but not naming) Aquaman, Green Arrow & Speedy, and Johnny Quick (who had debuted in # 71).  Dr Fate was the star on the cover, with the Spectre given a headshot in the top left corner.  Aquaman gets mentioned by name on the cover of # 74, 75, 81, 87-91, 93, 94, and 101, but never is drawn on any of the covers.  His stories were either 8 or 10 pages long.

I always wondered how Aquaman never made it into the JSA.

They thought there was something fishy about him.

The Baron said:

I always wondered how Aquaman never made it into the JSA.

...I thought that " Akky " was a character originating from the National side of DC - created by Mort Wesinger - and not from the All-American side, that the JSA was primarily All-American characters - with the Seven Soldiers of Victory the National side's answer to the JSA. You might ask why he didn't't get into the SSoV - perhaps editorial thought that a character who had his adventures outside of the urban super-hero world was too hard to write into a super-team story without blatantly shoehorning an underwater angle into the storyline?
If course, JSA staples the Spectre and Doc Fate were in MORE FUN, too... Maybe MF represented a " creations from both sides - best of both worlds " title for DC?

All-Star Comics was produced by AA, but the initial JSA line-up was half AA characters and half DC, on a two-from-each-title basis. Aquaman debuted between All-Star Comics #7 and #8. At that point the title had two More Fun Comics heroes, the Spectre and Dr Fate. When Dr Fate was dropped he wasn't replaced. The remaining DC characters were replaced by AA ones when AA switched to using an AA brand in 1945. After Max Gaines sold his superhero titles to DC the AA line-up remained in place, but the Black Canary replaced Johnny Thunder when she replaced him in Flash Comics.

Emerkeith said what I was going to say. He might have joined fellow Weisinger characters GA and Speedy in the Seven Soldiers of Victory. Maybe someone early on figured out that a guy who's mainly under water works better as a solo character.

The Baron said:

I always wondered how Aquaman never made it into the JSA.

Without doing a lot of research, IIRC there was a short-term parting of the ways between National and All-American. A couple of characters were unceremoniously booted out of the JSA and replaced by All-American characters. One panel I remember showed Green Lantern wielding Starman's rod.

Luke Blanchard said:

The comic was produced by AA, but the initial line-up was half AA characters and half DC, on a two-from each-title basis. Aquaman debuted between All-Star Comics #7 and #8. At that point the title had two More Fun Comics heroes - the Spectre and Dr Fate. Dr Fate was dropped when the page-count was cut.

There were a couple of wartime page count reductions. The JSA feature lost chapters, and Fate was dropped when he was dropped from More Fun Comics upon a reduction. The Sandman was dropped at the same point, but not from Adventure Comics. Starman and the Spectre represented DC in the remaining pre-break stories.

The Aquaman feature appeared in More Fun Comics # 73-107 without missing an issue.  Aquaman's only appearance outside the book during that time was a one-off 10 page story in World's Finest # 6 (Summer '42).

I've always assumed that Aquaman survived from the Golden Age to the Silver Age because he was one of Mort Weisinger's pet characters.  That may be partially true.  Weisinger was the editor of More Fun starting with # 71, and he co-created Aquaman (with artist Paul Norris), as well as Green Arrow & Speedy, who also debuted in More Fun # 73, and Johnny Quick, who first appeared two months earlier in More Fun # 71.  Mort is credited as the writer for the Aquaman stories in More Fun # 73-76 and World's Finest # 6, and he may have written more after that, as some credits remain unknown today.

More Fun had been previously edited by Whitney Ellsworth (issues # 52-70); during his tenure the book was the home of the Spectre, Doctor Fate, and about a half dozen non-superhero strips.  When Aquaman debuted in #73, the six non-superhero strips were whittled down to two, Radio Squad and Clip Carson, with the latter being dropped with #76.  Another change occurred with # 77, as Green Arrow and Speedy replaced Doctor Fate on the covers.  If Mort had one pet character, it was Green Arrow.  GA and Speedy were featured on every cover between # 77-85, and sometimes even got a separate blurb of their own.   Even the cover headshots of the Spectre stopped being used with #81.   Poor Aquaman got only one mention on those covers; Johnny Quick also only got one cover mention between # 77-85, but he did end up getting featured on the covers of # 86 and 87.

However, Mort Weisinger's last issue editing More Fun Comics was # 86.  He actually left DC Comics at that time, in late 1942, and would not return until early 1948 to begin a long tenure editing Action Comics and Superman.  His replacement as editor on More Fun Comics was Jack Schiff, who made a few changes.  The Radio Squad feature ended in his first issue, making More Fun an all super-hero book from # 88-93.  Green Arrow and Speedy returned to the covers with # 88.  The cover blurbs for More Fun # 87-94, except for # 92, promoted all of the super-hero features by name in the book.  Issue 94 saw the debut of a four page humor feature "Dover and Clover", two identical twin detectives who solved mysteries purely by accident; because of their addition, the Doctor Fate feature went from 10 pages to 6.

There were a few other changes to the book made by DC as a company and most likely out of Schiff's hands.  More Fun # 90 (Apr '43) was the last monthly issue.  Luke mentioned the wartime page count reductions; issue 92 (July/Aug '43) saw the book reduced from 64 pages to 56 pages, and like the other features, Aquaman saw a drop in his page count, in his case from 10 to 8.  Issue 99 (Sept/Oct '44) saw a further page reduction, from 56 to 48.  The Doctor Fate feature was dropped; Aquaman stayed at 8 pages until the end of his run in More Fun Comics (# 107, Jan/Feb '46), except for a 10 page story in # 103.

Jack Schiff's last issue as editor of More Fun Comics was # 107, and the book became an all humor anthology with # 108.  Aquaman and the other super-hero features (Green Arrow, Johnny Quick, and Superboy, which debuted in More Fun # 101 and displaced the Spectre strip) moved over to Adventure Comics, a book Schiff had been editing as long as he had been editing More Fun.  Aquaman and the other features started their runs in Adventure # 103 (Apr '46), displacing Sandman and Starman (Adventure 102 turned out to be the final Golden Age appearance for both) as well as non-hero features Genius Jones and Mike Gibbs.  The only feature Schiff retained in Adventure was the Shining Knight.

RE: Seven Soldiers of Victory membership.

Leading Comics featured one character from the five DC anthologies so we had the Vigilante from Action Comics (since Superman obviously didn't need more exposure!), the Crimson Avenger from Detective Comics (ditto Batman), the Shining Knight from Adventure Comics (as Hourman, Sandman and Starman were already in All Star Comics), the Star Spangled Kid from, naturally, Star Spangled Comics (though the Guardian might have been a better choice) and Green Arrow from More Fun Comics which already had Doctor Fate and the Spectre as JSAers.

Green Arrow would soon be the cover feature but was this before he was in Leading or because of it? Aquaman and Johnny Quick may have not been considered due to the fact that they were too close to the Sub-Mariner and the Flash, respectively and DC didn't want to push their luck!

Aquaman resembles the Shark, who appeared in comics from Centaur starting with Amazing Man Comics #6. He debuted just a couple of weeks after Namor, but Amazing Man Comics #6 was apparently a Funnies, Inc. production like Marvel Comics #1, so I think it's likely his creator/s knew about the Marvel character. Another character from Amazing Man Comics, Minimidget, wore a costume that looks like Aquaman's.

Paul Norris eventually moved into newspaper strips and drew Brick Bradford for decades. He also drew comics for Western, including Tarzan of the Apes in 1969-71.

I think it's reasonable to assume Weisinger and Schiff both considered Green Arrow and Speedy bigger stars than Aquaman and Johnny Quick, and that the archers were the stars of More Fun Comics.  Green Arrow became the lead feature of More Fun with #76, and the cover star starting with # 77.  He and Speedy appeared on the covers of #77-85, 88-99, 101, and 103, and they had the first story in the book from #76-97 and 101-107. 

 
Mort was one of the writers of Leading Comics # 1, so I think it's a reasonable guess that it was Mort's call to pick GA and Speedy for membership in the 7 Soldiers.  Leading Comics was published quarterly and went on sale in Dec '41, the same month as More Fun # 76, and featured the 7 Soldiers in and on the cover of the first 14 issues.  GA appeared on all 14 covers, often prominently.


Green Arrow was also featured in World's Finest #7 (Fall '42) to # 93 (Mar/Apr '58), all but issue 7 edited by Schiff.  According to the Mike's Amazing World page, WF 93 is considered to be the last appearance of the Earth-2 GA until Len Wein brought him and the rest of the 7 Soldiers of Victory back in JLA 100 in 1972.  GA was one of 9 features in WF 7, a 96 page comic published quarterly, and managed to stay in the book as page counts were reduced several times and other features were dropped.  When WF became a 32 page book with #71, the start of the Superman & Batman team-up lead feature, only Green Arrow, and Tomahawk were retained as backup strips.

(EDITED TO ADD: There was a Green Arrow strip in WF 7-134, 136, 138, and 140.  Issues 7-93 are considered Earth-2 GA stories and 94 and up are considered Earth-1.  In reality there was very little difference in the Green Arrow in #93 and #94.  Something similar happened with the GA strip in Adventure Comics: Adv. #103-245 are considered E-2 and #246-269 are considered E-1.)

I think Green Arrow and Speedy got a push that included being added to the SSoV that Aquaman and Johnny Quick didn't because they were seen as being similar to Batman and Robin while having their own gimmick of archery to differentiate them.  I find the covers of More Fun featuring the archers to be much alike Batman covers of the era, even down to the cover blurbs.  I agree with you that Johnny Quick was too much of a Flash knockoff to be considered for the SSoV.  I think you may be on to something with Aquaman's similarity to Subby but I think Emerkeith and Richard also made a good point, that the creators and editors of the time may have felt it was too much of a hassle to shoehorn in an aquatic element to have Aquaman on a team and thus left him out of the JSA and the SSoV.   As we all know, in the 1980's Roy Thomas would retroactively make almost every DC hero from the Golden Age a member of the All-Star Squadron, including Aquaman (who he barely used) and Johnny (who was one of the books main stars).


Philip Portelli said:

RE: Seven Soldiers of Victory membership.

Leading Comics featured one character from the five DC anthologies so we had the Vigilante from Action Comics (since Superman obviously didn't need more exposure!), the Crimson Avenger from Detective Comics (ditto Batman), the Shining Knight from Adventure Comics (as Hourman, Sandman and Starman were already in All Star Comics), the Star Spangled Kid from, naturally, Star Spangled Comics (though the Guardian might have been a better choice) and Green Arrow from More Fun Comics which already had Doctor Fate and the Spectre as JSAers.

Green Arrow would soon be the cover feature but was this before he was in Leading or because of it? Aquaman and Johnny Quick may have not been considered due to the fact that they were too close to the Sub-Mariner and the Flash, respectively and DC didn't want to push their luck!

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