I read the third chapter (and only the third chapter) of this story in 1968 and I was hooked! Every once in a while DC drops a hint that they might be reprinting it, but nothing ever comes of those rumors. A couple of years ago I got tired of waiting for the story to be reprinted in its entirety, so I set abpout tracing down the individual chapters. I posted about my search then, but I’ve decided to post about Aquaman’s search in a little more depth (no pun intended) now. The story is written by Steve Skeates and drawn by Jim Aparo, who had recently taken over from long-time Aquaman artist Nick Cardy.

I know Aparo’s art from The Brave & The Bold in the ‘70s and Batman and the Outsiders in the 1980s (among other places). I only recently discovered he got his start drawing The Phantom and got the opportunity to read those stories when Hermes Press reprinted them a couple of years ago. His Phantom art looked pretty much like his Batman art, but his first few issues of Aquaman look quite a bit different. I would be willing to bet that, either by editorial direction or on his own, he was drawing a close to Nick Cardy’s style as he could (in much the same way John Romita imitated Steve Ditko when he first took over Spider-Man).

AQUAMAN #40:

As the story begins, Aquaman, Mera and Aqualad are separated by a mysterious, underwater “sea storm” which comes up from seemingly nowhere. Groggy, as if he were drugged, Aquaman sees Mera being abducted by three shadowy figures. He attempts to stop them, but is knocked unconscious by one who is wearing a ring with a five-side stone, and the search begins. Days out of Atlantis, Aquaman and Aqualad come across what on land would resemble a walled medieval village. It is shimmering as if it doesn’t truly exist in this dimension, and is ruled over by (can it be?) Mera.

They are attacked by the sorcerers who live there and Aqualad is wounded, forcing Aquaman to retreat back to Atlantis. Aquaman returns alone and must fight a sea monster sent against him by the sorcerers. Only then does he realize that the queen is not Mera after all and that he has wasted days of his search.

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This was an interesting idea at the time, but the Mera-and-Aquaman-get-separated schtick got repeated endlessly, usually along with the hypnotized/drugged/insane/angry-Mera-fights-Aquaman schtick. I haven't looked back on this particular story in years, essentially because all the repetition soured me on the idea. It'll be interesting to see it through your eyes.

Jim Aparo's work, and Aquaman, have really grown on me over the years. 

His run on Aquaman up to #52 was reprinted in the Adventure Comics digest in the 80s. The GCD tells me the death of Aquababy story from the 1970s was reprinted in 2011 in a trade Aquaman: Death of a Prince.

He also drew three Batman/Aquaman team-ups for The Brave and the Bold, #114, #126 and #142.

I always liked Aparo's work.

This December will see Aquaman: The Search For Mera Deluxe Edition hardcover come out with a $34.99 price tag.

It will reprint the first 9 (Aquaman #40-48) of the 17 issues Skeates and Aparo did together (#40-56).  Hopefully it sells well and we get a second collection completing their run.

Philip Portelli said:

This December will see Aquaman: The Search For Mera Deluxe Edition hardcover come out with a $34.99 price tag.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

I know Aparo’s art from The Brave & The Bold in the ‘70s and Batman and the Outsiders in the 1980s (among other places). I only recently discovered he got his start drawing The Phantom and got the opportunity to read those stories when Hermes Press reprinted them a couple of years ago. His Phantom art looked pretty much like his Batman art, but his first few issues of Aquaman look quite a bit different. I would be willing to bet that, either by editorial direction or on his own, he was drawing a close to Nick Cardy’s style as he could (in much the same way John Romita imitated Steve Ditko when he first took over Spider-Man).

Good theory and quite plausible imo.  Cardy drew the first 39 issues of this Aquaman series and did all of the covers except for issue #1, including the all the Skeates/Aparo issues.

Prior to Cardy, the Aquaman strip was done by Ramona Fradon. He may be just a Sub-Mariner swipe, but he had great artists.

The GCD now credits Cardy with the cover of #1, too. It says he confirmed at a convention he drew it.

The GCD credits Aparo with the pencils and inks of #40's story, but Wikipedia's bio of Aparo says he did only the pencils for that issue. I don't know which is right.

Aparo's first published comics work was an adventure strip called Stern Wheeler, written by Ralph Kanna. An issue collecting part of the run was published by a company called Spotlight in 1986. Toonopedia has an account of the strip.

At some point Aparo also drew samples for an unsold SF strip called Zip Tyro.



Philip Portelli said:

This December will see Aquaman: The Search For Mera Deluxe Edition hardcover come out with a $34.99 price tag.

No $#!t? I'll believe it when I see it, but thanks for the heads up.

ISSUE #41:

While he searches for Mera, Aquaman has turned control of Atlantis over to Narkran. (It’s not a huge plot point in these stories, but in issue #35 Black Manta turned all of the Atlantians into air-breathers, so they’re dealing with that.) Aquaman sets out to trace the ring he saw on one of his assailant’s hands. It’s a Maarzon ring, and it’s about a 3-day journey to the colony. (One thing I get from these Aquaman stories that I never got from Marvel’s Sub-Mariner is that the world beneath the sea is full of many diverse cultures.) Aquaman decides to take a 1-day short-cut through “The Depths” where he encounters a gnome-like creatures who telepathically send fish against him.

This society lives in harmony alongside sea beasts which provide heat and light from their bodies. In return, the beasts are allowed to eat the people every once in a while. When one of the beasts tries to eat a woman, Aquaman kills it and is put on trial, but narrowly escapes. In Atlantis, Aqualad tries to leave the hospital, but falls and bumps his head.

On the letters page, future pro Tony Isabella expresses a preference to Bob Haney and Nick Cardy over Steve Skeates and Jim Aparo, and suggests the latter team would be better suited to Hawkman.

I think the movies are or will be highlighting Mera, so that may be the impetus.

Philip Portelli said:

This December will see Aquaman: The Search For Mera Deluxe Edition hardcover come out with a $34.99 price tag.

One thing I get from these Aquaman stories that I never got from Marvel’s Sub-Mariner is that the world beneath the sea is full of many diverse cultures.
I understand that DC established that Lori Lemaris fish-tailed Atlanteans we're in another dimension or something instead of saying they were just in  different part of the ocean.
In return, the beasts are allowed to eat the people every once in a while. 
Not unlike H.G.Wells The Time Machine.

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