Golden Age Aquaman
Aquaman debuted in More Fun Comics #73 (1941) and during that story he gives a pretty good account of his origin:
"The story must start with my father, a famous undersea explorer — if I spoke his name, you would recognize it. My mother died when I was a baby, and he turned to his work of solving the ocean's secrets. His greatest discovery was an ancient city, in the depths where no other diver had ever penetrated. My father believed it was the lost kingdom of Atlantis. He made himself a water-tight home in one of the palaces and lived there, studying the records and devices of the race's marvelous wisdom. From the books and records, he learned ways of teaching me to live under the ocean, drawing oxygen from the water and using all the power of the sea to make me wonderfully strong and swift. By training and a hundred scientific secrets, I became what you see — a human being who lives and thrives under the water."This must be the ultimate example of pushy parenting. Geoffrey Rush thought he had it bad in Shine. He was just being pressured to play the piano really well. Aquaman had to actually learn to breathe underwater in order to win his father's approval!
"Hey Dad, I commanded a giant squid to destroy a Nazi U-boat today!"
"Just one U-boat son?! You'll never be as good as Namor the Sub-Mariner at this rate! Now go stick your head in the fish tank and study!"
That's messed up.
Silver Age Aquaman
Aquaman's Silver Age origin is a lot more pleasant. Daddy was a lonely lighthouse keeper called Tom Curry who fell in love with Atlanna, a former occupant of the undersea kingdom of Atlantis. Together they had a son, Arthur Curry, who grew up to be Aquaman. Arthur eventually returned to his mother's home and became King. It was this version of the character that gained a kid sidekick in Aqualad and, after meeting Mera, also became the first superhero to get married. Aaww bless.
The Silver Age origin remained relatively untouched for decades, even after the Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985 tweaked the origins of most DC heroes. In the 1986 Aquaman mini-series by Neil Pozner the origin is told once more and it's largely the same as it was in 1959. This mini-series is a great read and I urge all Aqua-fans to track it down. It features Aquaman sporting a brilliant new blue costume that was later used as the inspiration for Tempest's costume.
In 1989 the origin received a reboot in Robert Loren Fleming, Keith Giffen and Curt Swan's The Legend of Aquaman. This origin was later expanded upon by the brilliant Peter David in The Atlantis Chronicles (1990) and Time and Tide (1993/94). Aquaman was now the son of Atlanna, a fully fledged Atlantean queen, and Atlan, an ancient Atlantean Wizard. He was abandoned as a baby to die on a coral reef because of the Atlantean belief that people with blond hair were cursed. He survived (obviously) and was adopted, first by a dolphin named Porm and then by a human lighthouse keeper named Arthur Curry.
This origin has stayed with Aquaman right up until the last time he died and it's now tied pretty firmly to the character and his world. However, things seem to have changed once more. In Blackest Night #2 the late Aquaman is resurrected as a heart chomping zombie Black Lantern. Before he attacks Mera and Tempest he refers to himself as "your King who would rather be buried in the mud next to his human father than his own people." This would seem to indicate that DC Comics are returning to the Silver Age origin, especially considering that Blackest Night writer Geoff Johns will also be writing Brightest Day, the comic in which the fully restored Aquaman is scheduled to appear.
So, is this a good move? I'm undecided. I love the idea of Aquaman being tied to the surface world by blood. I mean, if both his parents are Atlantean does he really have a strong enough motive to bother with the Justice League and all the other landlubbers? On the other hand it would be a shame to jettison all the rich Atlantean history documented in Peter David's Atlantis Chronicles, a history that's firmly attached to Atlan and the Nineties origin. Geoff Johns is generally pretty good at wrapping conflicting interpretations into one neat little package (see his Return of Hawkman arc in JSA for evidence of this) so we may end up with the best of both worlds.
What do you think? Take the poll below and let us know. One thing's for sure though, no matter what his origin may be it'll just be good to have the fishy bugger back in action!