Aquaman gets a real mixed reaction from people. Some see him as a joke while for others he’s a favorite. Some people only like certain takes on him and many people think of the Super Friends version of him. No matter how you feel about him, you likely have heard of him. Recently it’s been said that Jason Mamoa will be playing him in the new Superman movie, so with that I thought I should give one of his back stories. The guy has a few so we’ll focus on the post-Crisis and New 52 versions for simplicity’s sake. How does one get the power to command sea life and such an orange shirt? Let’s find out!
Orin was born to Queen of Atlantis, Atlanna and the ancient wizard Atlan. Clever names are not an Atlantean tradition, I guess. Being born blond was considered a dangerous marking so he was sent to die on land. Instead, Orin survived and was found by lighthouse keeper, Arthur Curry. Curry also came from a tradition of lacking clever naming and dubbed the child Arthur Curry. He’d raise the boy on land and in the ocean until the elder Arthur disappeared one day.
Left alone, Orin traveled the oceans until he met an Iñupiat woman, Kako, who he would unknowingly father a child, Koryak. Eventually, Orin would find his way to the Atlantean capital of Poseidonis and be taken prisoner. Here, he’d meet Vulko, an Atlantean scientist who knew Orin as a baby and fought to keep the child, finding the idea of blond children being marked for death as barbaric superstition. Vulko would teach Orin the language and history of Atlantis. He’d learn of his heritage as royalty and that his mother, the Queen, had also been imprisoned but had sadly passed away while in jail during this tumultuous time in Atlantean politics. Gifted with knowledge and burdened with loss, Orin would escape back to land.
Now on land, some tumultuous times were occurring as well. This was the age of new heroes arriving. Flying people and urban legends of bat men were crawling out of the wood work. Knowing that his Atlantean heritage gave him strengths beyond those of land-dwelling humans, Orin took on the name Aquaman and began to fight crime to avoid dealing with Atlantean problems. He’d find a friend in fellow Atlantean, Garth, who would become Aqua Lad, his sidekick. Even though he was on land Atlantean troubles followed him. He’d make great enemies with Black Manta and Ocean Master.
Realizing that Atlantis needed him, Orin would eventually return to his birthplace and take his rightful place at the throne of Atlantis. He would marry a woman named Mera and they would rule together until the death of their son which caused Mera to need to be put into a hospital and eventually she’d escape the asylum and this dimension all together fleeing to another. Saving Poseidonis and all of Atlantis time and again, Orin would decide to return to the surface world as Atlantis’ representative in the UN. This got him back in the hero game and he’d stop many threats of both the surface world and Atlantis, sometimes at the same time.
Learning that Ocean Master was not only his brother but that it had been foretold in ancient prophecies threw Orin into a spiral. He withdrew from the world, becoming bearded and loses his hand in piranha-infested waters through torture. He’d lose his iconic orange shirt in a battle with Lobo and eventually he’d replace his shirt with a gladiatorial manica armor and his lost hand with a retractable harpoon. Filled with prophetic dreams, Orin would try to find all 5 cities of Atlantis, he’d find a space ship able to lift Atlantis to the surface and allow for more interaction with the rest of Earth. Mera would return and was back to her self and ready to work alongside Orin. Koryak, Orin’s son from Kako, along with Vulko would try to enact a coup on Orin but he’d fight them off.
When Earth’s heroes are battling against the planet Warworld, Orin and Atlantis would seemingly disappear. It turned out that they’d been launched back in time by a sorceress, Gamemnae and Orin would be turned into a pool of water. The rest of the Justice League would have to come back in time to save him and help Atlantis. They’d eventually return to the present and sever the sorceress from her power by sinking Atlantis again.
Now that Atlantis was in working order again the people blamed Orin for all that had happened and were going to execute him. He escapes and meets the Lady of the Lake, yes that Lady of the Lake, and she gives him a new prosthetic hand made of magic water that can talk on multiple forms. Orin would also go back to his more traditional orange scale shirt and clean-cut look. He’d take refuge in a part of San Diego that had fallen into the ocean during an earthquake and somehow all the inhabitants and buildings survived and the new water-breathing people dubbed it Sub Diego. Sub Diego. Sub. Diego. Basically a new set of Atlanteans, Orin would meet a Sub Diegan named Lorena who would become Aquagirl and work with him to protect Sub Diego. SUB DIEGO.
It would turn out that Orin’s exile and planned execution were planned by a cabal or wizards who wished to rule Atlantis themselves. Mera would need Orin’s help when it was learned she knew their dark plans and had been turned into an air-breather only. During the Infinite Crisis, the Spectre would destroy Atlantis killing many, including Koryak and Vulko. Orin would have to bring the refugees from the destroyed civilization to Sub Diego to try and build a new future for what was left of underwater dwelling humans. Black Manta would try to use this moment of weakness to destroy the remaining Atlanteans but Orin fought him off and left him for dead.
A year went by where Orin was nowhere to be found, a new Aquaman showed up, gifted by a strange Dweller of the Depths. This Dweller would turn out to be Orin who had gained magic but forgotten who he was but still knew that Aquaman was needed. Orin would die in trying to help this new Aquaman.
The events of Blackest Night would bring back Orin as a Black Lantern super zombie. Mera would face off against him as a Red Lantern and he’d taunt her about being with their dead child. When the White Lantern force resurrected heroes, Orin was one of those brought back but he had a new found power. He could now summon dead sea life, a holdover from his Black Lantern form. To aide the planet during a great threat, Orin is made into a Water Elemental to have control over all of Earth’s waters.
In the New 52, Arthur Curry is a half-human/half-Atlantean child of human, Tom Curry, and Atlantean Queen, Atlanna. As a young man finding his way, he’d become part of a team of heroes called the Others who would do equal parts vigilante work and aggressive protections for the Earth. As he got older he ruled Atlantis alongside his common law wife (There is no marriage in the New 52) Mera and upon seeing how under his rule so much damage to the oceans has occurred, he abdicates the throne hoping for a better protector of the oceans will rule Atlantis while he goes on land with Mera to be a hero.
There you have it! Aquaman, does whatever a water-breathing human can! My favorite Aquaman is from the cartoon, Batman: Brave and the Bold, Aquaman is effectively Hercules and loves a good fight. He’s bombastic and ready to help his friends and loves his family, even if they don’t much care for punching bad guys. He’s also known to make friends and command creatures that only have the loosest definition of sea life. Go watch that show and see what I mean, he’s outrageous. See you next time, chum. Only one sea-based joke, good on me. Sorry for you.
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