Comics / DC Comics History

DC Comics History: Aquaman (1960 - 1964: the Silver Age)


By Deejay Dayton
May 25, 2017 - 9:20

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Aquaman appeared all over the place during the period 1960 – 1964: the Silver Age. His back-up series moved from Adventure Comics to Detective Comics to World’s Finest Comics. He appeared in four consecutive issues of Showcase, before moving into his own book. Aquaman also teamed up with Hawkman in an issue of Brave and the Bold. Along the way he gained a kid sidekick, Aqualad, a romantic interest, Mera, a magical friend, Quisp, and a recurring foe, Pomoxis.

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Aqualad is introduced in Adventure Comics 269, finally providing Aquaman a partner and supporting character that is not an octopus. The boy was exiled from Atlantis because he is afraid of fish. 

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Once again we see a child ejected from Atlantis, but this time the device looks just deadly. And once again, the purple eyes!  Aquaman makes reference to the Aquagirl story, saying that the boy will not be able to survive underwater, but Aqualad, who is not given any other name in this tale, informs him that he can live beneath the waves.  So what do the purple eyes really signify?  That won’t actually be addressed for a long time. Aquaman helps Aqualad overcome his fear of fish in a sort of cure-or-kill fashion. 

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I doubt being told I had been tricked into playing with eels would suddenly make me fine around them, but it works for the lad. At the end of the story, Aquaman takes him back to Atlantis, but the boy refuses to go, wanting to stay with Aquaman.  And after his parents stuffed him in a cylinder and shot him through that cannon, you can’t really blame him for not wanting to go back to them. As always, great art by Ramona Fradon.

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In Adventure 270 Aquaman becomes convinced that Aqualad is out to kill and replace him. Aqualad’s actions are mysterious to say the least, and it’s not as unreasonable an assumption as it sounds. The boy looks downright evil as he asks Aquaman questions about his life, and blatantly conceals his actions.

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Of course, it proves to be a big misunderstanding, Aqualad was gathering items to furnish the earliest version of the Aquacave, where they live, as a birthday surprise for Aquaman.



After a couple of decades as a back up series, Aquaman is finally given a tryout as a cover feature in Showcase 30, sharing the billing with Aqualad in a story by Jack Miller and Ramona Fradon. Aquaman's ongoing series in Adventure Comics had given him a new origin a couple of years before this tale, which is expanded on here.  Aquaman's father, Tom Curry, was a lighthouse keeper who rescued a young woman, Atlanna, during a storm.  The pair married, and Atlanna gave birth to a son, Arthur, who could survive underwater. On her deathbed, Atlanna revealed that she was an exile from Atlantis, banished for showing an interest in visiting the surface world, which is forbidden. We get a brief sequence of the teenage Aquaman discovering the mental powers that he has, and ability to control the creatures of the sea.  Then it's on to the story, as he has received an urgent call for help from Atlantis, a place he has never yet visited.  Kind of presumptuous for them to call on him. But I guess it's a case of desperate times call for desperate measures.  Aquaman heads to Atlantis and discovers that the people have been conquered an enslaved by beings from another dimension, who are using Atlantis as a base to build weapons, which they intend to use to conquer the surface world. Aquaman gets captured, but Aqualad comes to free him.  Together they, along with Aquaman's pet octopus Topo, lead a big aquatic attack on the invaders, using an army of sea creatures to defeat them.

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Following the departure of Ramona Fradon from the series, Jim Mooney stepped in. Or waded in, I suppose. Mooney’s work suited Supergirl well, but here it pales in comparison to what has come before. I’m sharing the story form Adventure 284, which was also the end of Aquaman’s run in that book. 

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Professor Shark leads a crime spree on the ocean, and has developed a number of devices to make things complicated for Aquaman, but of course in the end he is defeated. The best thing in the tale is the submarine disguised as a whale.

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Nick Cardy takes over the art with Showcase 31, and would be the main Aquaman artist for the remainder of this period. After a giant sea monster attacks a cargo ship, Aquaman finds out that a noted zoologist invented a devolution ray, which was then stolen from him by his assistant.  He is using it to devolve sea creatures and use them in crimes.

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While the scientist works on creating an opposite ray, Aquaman and Aqualad go after the thief.  He manages to hold them off a couple of times by using the devolution ray on the fish, turning them into monsters who do not obey Aquaman's commands. Aquaman overcomes this by summoning a battery of luminous fish, who have the effect of counteracting the devolution beam.  Aquaman retrieves the devolution ray, and the professor creates the evolution ray, and all seems well.

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But wouldn't you know it, the evolution ray gets jammed, and the fish all become futuristic fish, again not subject to Aquaman's orders.  The future fish begin attacking a city, but Aquaman lures them back out to sea, and eventually the ray wears off.

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Aquaman’s last try out issue was in Showcase 33, and sent the hero into space. Aquaman and Aqualad come across some very unusual sea creatures, and find that they are alien fish, brought by beings from Venus who have been exiled to Earth after their leader, Mermor, was overthrown.  The fish help construct a shield around the Venusian spaceship, which will keep all the alien fish inside.

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But as Aquaman and Aqualad meet the friendly Mermor, a Venusian craft arrives and pulls the entire domed settlement into the air, carrying it back to Venus, along with the two heroes. So the bulk of the story becomes Aquaman and Aqualad in the oceans of Venus, dealing with alien sea life that is not subject to his mental commands. 

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Though they are not aware of it at first, Topo had followed them to the Venusian ship, and so is also on the planet, and able to free them when the dictator has them thrown in prison. Aquaman and Aqualad aid a number of Mermor's followers in overthowing the tyrant and restoring Mermor to power. The story ends with the two heading home, presumably with Topo, although we don't see him in this sequence.

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After this Aquaman moved into his own book, bringing along Aqualad as well as his pet octopus, Topo. The story pits Aquaman and Aqualad against some deadly, magical fire trolls, and also introduces Quisp, a water sprite. Aquaman and Aqualad have never heard of Quisp, but the sprite knows all about them.

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Quisp has magical powers, which he uses to aid the two heroes against the fire trolls, even though this backfires, making the pair of them shrink. Aquaman and Aqualad think that Quisp intentionally made them shrink, and they spend much of the issue in miniature size, trying to avoid being killed and finding water.

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Cardy makes the whole thing look just great, and it is a pleasant revelation when it turns out that the effect was the result of a combination of Quisp's magic and the chemicals the fire trolls have exposed. So together, with Qusip's help, they cause the shrinking effect to happen to the fire trolls, and then bury the little creatures. Quisp returns later in the year.

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Quisp, the water sprite, returns in Aquaman 4. Aquaman and Aqualad are trying to save a seafront town threatened by unusual tidal waves, when Quisp shows up, using his magic to help them. Power-wise, Quisp is like Mr. Mxyzptlk or Bat-Mite, able to do pretty much anything he wants, it seems. But he only seems to want to help Aquaman, and does so far more effectively than Bat-Mite "aids" Batman. Aquaman notices a strange floating island offshore near the town. Investigating, he and Aqualad find an elevator on the seemingly deserted island, and then learn that the whole place is really an alien spaceship.

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In battle with the would-be conquerors, it appears that they kill Quisp at one point, although the sprite shows up safe at the end of the story, having merely been blown a long distance away. As Quisp is so much more powerful than Aquaman, there was really no option but to get him out of the way, or the story would have been over immediately. Instead, Aquaman and Aqualad have to deal with a stone monster the aliens create, and then take over their ship and turn their own weapons against them. Quisp returns for the final battle, as they drive the aliens off.

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We get to meet Quisp’s brothers in Aquaman 6. Aquaman and Aqualad are surprised when they see Quisp use his powers to help rob a cargo ship, but then find out that they are really dealing with Quisp's brother, Quink. Quisp insists that this is not one of those evil brother things, and cannot understand why Quink is using his powers against Aquaman.

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Then things get more dangerous, as giant beasts from the water sprite's world start rampaging on shore. Eventually the two brothers meet up, and Quisp learns that Quink has been tricked by an evil pirate into working with him against Aquaman. The pirate has already been dealing with a different water sprite, called Quirk, and sometimes Quirp. That one really is bad, though he had briefly lost his powers when the pirate used an energy gun he just happened to have.

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The energy gun only temporarily removes the water sprites' powers, so Quirk regains his abilities, and works with the pirate against the heroes and the other sprites. The two brothers manage to outwit the pirate, who uses his gun on Quirk, not realizing that Quisp is behind him and still able to use his powers. By the end of the tale, Aquaman and Aqualad are largely just spectators of the grand battle, but it's a fun story anyway.

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We don't see Quink again, but the evil Quirk is back in Aquaman 10. Aquaman receives an urgent message for help from Quisp, and heads to his world. We only get to see a little of this underwater civilization, that appear to live in hives. The heroes find Quisp, who has lost his powers. Quisp explains that Quirk has invented a new weapon that removes their powers.

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This is likely not accurate, as the last time we saw Quirk he was working with the pirate who had developed a less powerful version of the same weapon.  I think Quirk just improved it. Quirk leads a group of sprites, who have found a food that turns them into giants.

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He traps Aquaman for a while, though Aqualad frees him. Aquaman alters the weapon to restore the powers of Quisp, although it briefly puts him in a deathlike state. Aquaman and Aqualad consume the same food, which turns them into even larger giants, and they defeat Quirk and his evil sprites. This is the last time we see Quirk.

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Aquaman 2 pits Aquaman and Aqualad against Captain Sykes. The two heroes are hunting for a missing ship and its crew, when they come across the cheerful Sykes. He keeps a big smile on his face as he admits to having taken the ship and people, but makes demands of Aquaman before he will release them. Sykes sends Aquaman and Aqualad to retrieve a chest buried in coral. But as they approach it, they encounter giant fish.

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Gasses near the chest cause the size changing effect, which Aqualad falls prey to as well, although the effect proves to be temporary. After they get the chest, Sykes sends them to a remote island, sealed off by an energy field, and menaced by a dinosaur like monster. Aquaman uses the energy shield to dispose of the monster, and the islanders present him with the shell he has been sent to get.

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Aquaman turns over a fake version of the shell, and Sykes reveals that it and the chest have magical properties. But the fake, of course, does not. Aquaman and Aqualad rescue the kidnapped crew. A decent tale. Really, Captain Sykes could easily have been brought back, hunting for other magical relics, but he never was.

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Atlantis makes its first appearance in this book in Aquaman 3. We see very little of the city in this story, though. Aquaman and Aqualad get summoned to Atlantis by an Atlantean, Pomoxis, after a series of nearby eruptions worry them. The men go to investigate, and Pomoxis appears to die in an explosion. But then, Aqualad notices that Aquaman starts behaving really rudely towards him. He trails "Aquaman," and discovers that he is really Pomoxis in disguise.

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Pomoxis has goals to master his telepathic control over fish, and pass himself off as Aquaman as he robs the seas. Pomoxis defeats Aqualad, and leaves him tied up on land, to die. Pomoxis had shoved Aquaman through a time warp, and he winds up back in ancient Greece. The Greeks believe he is Posiedon, and there is little Aquaman can do to convince them otherwise, as he displays his power to control fish and uses this to fend off a Persian war fleet. Aquaman finds the time warp and heads back to the present, saves Aqualad, and together they defeat Pomoxis.

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Aquaman also informs the Atlanteans that the eruptions have been taking place since ancient times, and never get any closer to the city. Why exactly the Atlanteans did not know this is far from clear, and I think that maybe the ones who pretend not to know were really friends of Pomoxis, and part of the ruse. Shame there wasn't much Atlantis in the story, especially since it gets billed on the cover.

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Quisp and Pomoxis both appear in Aquaman 7. The story opens as Aquaman and Aqualad come across some strange creatures attacking cargo ships. The monsters do not attack the people inside the ships, though, and it turns out that they are just looking for food. The creatures were grazing beasts that lived near Atlantis, but moved when all their choice food was uprooted. Quisp turns out to be the one who did that, thinking he was just being helpful to a friedly horitculturalist. In fact, he was aiding a pirate who exploited the ship attacks of the creatures, in order to loot the ships himself.

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The guy briefly captures Aquaman and Aqualad, but they get free and defeat him, before returning to Atlantis, and finding out that Pomoxis has used the pirate's diversion to overthrow the rulers of Atlantis, and install himself as their leader. Pomoxis clearly has devoted followers in this story, which kind of helps back up my notion of his followers lying to Aquaman a few issues earlier. Aquaman and Aqualad do manage to oust him, and fairly quickly.

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Mera makes her debut, and Quisp makes his final appearance, in Aquaman 11. Aquaman and Aqualad first see Mera as she uses her hard water powers to protect the two from an oil tanker explosion. Until they learn her reasoning, they assume that she was behind the explosion. But as soon as they find her and clear things up, Mera discovers that her hard water powers have disappeared. Mera explains that she is from another dimension, and fled after a rebel group took control, under their leader Leron. Leron and his men have followed her to Earth, and have the same hard water powers she does. Quisp briefly joins the battle against the invaders, but is far less useful than in earlier stories. Leron and his men capture Aquaman, Aqualad and Mera and bring them back to her home dimension. In this story, that is simply called Dimension Aqua.

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We meet one other resident of that realm, a scientist friend of Mera's, named Xebel. Eventually, the world Mera is from would come to be called Xebel. Aquaman's control over sea life allows him and the others to escape, and they head back to Earth. Mera's powers return after Aquaman removes a small smudge of oil from her arm, and he deduces that oil will block Leron's powers as well, which it does. Mera explains that lead can neutralize her hard water powers (oil has lead in it) but that will be forgotten over time. At the end of the story, Mera heads back to Dimension Aqua.

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Mera returns in Aquaman 13. Aquaman and Aqualad discover an underwater time portal, opened after a large undersea earthquake. They attempt to seal it up using an old Nazi submarine, but a number of monstrous prehistoric sea creatures make it through, and start to cause problems for shipping. The quake was big enough to be felt in Mera's dimension, and she gets the scientist Xebel to open a warp so she can come through and help Aquaman. Criminals from the future have also come through a time warp (there are warps pretty much everywhere in this story), and have weapons that allow them to control the prehistoric beasts.

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They intend to use the animals to help them fend off any attempt to capture them, and even use it successfully on Mera, sending her after Aquaman. Aquaman and Aqualad use icebergs to herd the creatures back to the criminals, and the effects of the ray wear off on Mera, enabling her to use her hard water powers to take them all down.  The conclusion of the tale sees Aquaman and Mera admit their attraction to each other, though it's done in that creepy 60s way, as Mera states that she wishes she had used the mind control gun on Aquaman, to force him to fall in love with her.

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Mera comes to Atlantis for the first time in Aquaman 14. The opening of the story makes it explicit that Aquaman is not the King of Atlantis, and has very little contact with the city his ancestors came from. Aqualad's connection to the undersea kingdom isn't even mentioned. But then Aquman gets hit on the head and knocked out. Mera and Aqualad bring him to Atlantis for help, and when the hero awakes he turns evil, as so often happens. He insists that he is the king now, and Mera his queen. The Atlanteans go along with this pretty easily. They already have a throne, which would seem to imply that they also already have a king, but we never see them.

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Aquaman forces sea creatures to battle each other for his amusement, but when he starts to attack Aqualad for not obeying his commands, Mera creates hard water pincers to hold him captive. Aquaman gets tossed into a sort of water prison, and in trying to escape bangs his head again, which restores him to normal. I think this story's real goal was to test out the notion of Aquaman becoming King of Atlantis, and see if the readers wanted it.

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Aquaman and Hawkman team-up in Brave and the Bold 51. The story begins with Aquaman and Aqualad dealing with an attack on Atlantis.  Aquaman is able to hold off the sea creatures attacking with his powers, but we see that an odd frog like creature, with wings, is behind this, Tyros.  Having failed in his underwater attack, he takes to the air. Aquaman brings Aqualad along as he goes to consult an immortal, the Old Man of the Sea, who tells him about Tyros, an Atlantean exile transformed by exposure to a magical gem.  He was cast out Atlantis, and vowed revenge, and has been biding time, also bring immortal now.

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Tyros steals a magical horn, which grants him mastery of birds, and this brings Hawkman and Hawkgirl into the fray.  Tyros is able to transform Hawkgirl into a harpy, and makes her his slave. Using his control of birds and fish, Tyros is able to successfully take over Atlantis, despite the best efforts of Hawkman and Aquaman. The pair then split up to seek out the gem and the horn, destroying both.  This not only removes Tyros' control of creatures, it changes Hawkgirl back to her normal form, and does so for Tyros as well. For two characters with no obvious connection, this is actually a pretty good tale.

Aquaman continues in the next period, 1964 – 1967: The New Look.

Aquaman: Adventure Comics 269 – 280, 282, 284 (Feb 60 - Jan 61, Mar 61, May 61)

Showcase 30 – 33 (Jan/Feb – July/Aug 61)

Detective Comics 293 – 300 (July 61 – Feb 62)

Aquaman 1 – 14 (Jan/Feb 62 – March/April 64)

World’s Finest Comics 125 – 133, 135, 137, 139 (May 62 - May 63, Aug 63, Nov 63, Feb 64)

Brave and the Bold 51 (Dec/Jan 63/64)

Next up – Wonder Woman!

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Last Updated: May 25, 2017 - 9:26

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