Last time, we began our journey through Aquaman’s publishing history, examining his debut story in More Fun Comics #73. That short story introduced a powerful, mysterious, Nazi-punching man who could breathe underwater and hit you with an aquatic pun faster than you can say “Nice speedo.”
Now, we’re jumping a little ahead in the Aquaman canon. The character continued in More Fun Comics for a good while, even when it underwent a title change to Adventure Comics. He finally got his own title in 1962, which ran for over sixteen years and has since been relaunched seven times. Today, let’s take a look at an early issue from that first volume: Aquaman #18, titled The Wedding of Aquaman on the cover and The Wife of Aquaman in the interiors. The issue is drawn by Nick Cardy and written by Jack Miller.
What caught me from jump is that the comic makes a huge deal out of promising to the reader that the cover and the first page of the story, which show Aquaman about to pick a bride, are not lying. No tricks, no fake-outs, no misleading twists. By the end of the issue, he will be married. Putting this issue in context with the marketing used on comic book covers of that time, which often showed iconic characters in strange situations in order to grab readers’ attention, it is a fun piece of history. It seems to say Listen, we know we messed with you before, and you have very little reason to believe us when we saw Aquaman is about to tie the knot… but we pinky swear, he’s doing it.
The basic set-up is that Juvor, the leader of Atlantis, has died and there is unrest in the city. Aquaman must take up the mantle of King of Atlantis to prevent civil war, and my absolute favorite part of this issue is that Aquaman’s epic ascent to power is instantly cut short by his sitcom-style reaction to finding out he has to pick a wife. Basically, he’s Jack Tripper in green tights.
As Aquaman and Aqualad head out to try to figure out their problem – Aquaman isn’t down to marry a woman he doesn’t love, but still wants to respect Atlantean tradition – and run into Mera. After they help her fend off an underwater foe, Mera tells Aquaman that she has finally left her life behind to be with him… and the timing couldn’t have been worse. Aquaman tells her he can’t be with her, due to his obligation to marry an Atlantean, but before he can fully explain, Mera storms off in fury.
Mera then links up with Oceanus, a deep sea jerk who wants to marry Mera but has no respect for her or… well, anyone else. He easily takes down the unstable city of Atlantis in the time it takes Aquaman to get home, thus making Aquaman’s problems far, far more treacherous. Oceanus has surprising success for what seems like a somewhat extended period of time, turning the people of Atlantis into slaves and restricting the city in his warped vision. Just as Aquaman and Aqualad go to attempt to take him down, Mera turns on Oceanus, proving that she never stopped loving Aquaman.
She maybe could’ve done that before Oceanus enslaved an entire city, but hey. At least she came through in the end.
Aquaman, based on Aqualad’s suggestion, makes Mera an honorary Atlantean for what she did, and then goes on to marry her. See? They weren’t even lying! Given the way the writing moves back and forth between intense superheroic action to moments of flat out comedy, I’m surprised that that last page didn’t say “Told you so!” in gigantic letters. It’s a stellar page, beautifull drawn by Jack Miller, and a solid end to this off-kilter tale, uniting one of comics’ most iconic couples in marine matrimony.
NEXT UP: Aquaman #42 from the 1962 – 1978 run.
PAT SHAND writes comics (Vampire Emmy and the Garbage Girl, Hellchild), novels (Iron Man, Charmed), and pop culture journalism (Blastoff Comics, Sad Girls Guide). If you are at San Diego Comic Con this year, you can find him on the show floor, constantly refreshing comic book sites to read all the convention news.