In With the Tide, Part IV

Last Time, in COMICS 101: We’ve been exploring the Silver Age heyday of DC Comics’ AQUAMAN in recent weeks, with our most recent conversation introducing at long last a romantic interest for Aquaman in Mera, an otherdimensional undersea queen. While Mera was at first limited to guest appearances, it wasn’t long before she made her presence a permanent one…

At first, the Aquaman/Mera relationship began to fall into familiar Silver Age DC patterns, with Aquaman showing an interest in Mera, but nervously coughing and demurring at any real sign of commitment. Such as for example, this moment from AQUAMAN #14, in which, after a knock on the noggin has temporarily made Aquaman think he was King of Atlantis, and declared Mera to be his queen, a now-recovered Aquaman sidesteps the issue:

cough

Of course, as is always par for the course, there were obstacles in the way for Aquaman and Mera as well, whether it was Sirene, an alien fishgirl with eyes for Aquaman…

sir

…or the lord of the oceans Poseidon himself, who travels from the ancient past to put the moves on Mera:

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All this would be academic though as of December 1964, when Aquaman and Mera tied the knot in AQUAMAN #18, “The Wife of Aquaman,” written by Jack Miller and drawn by Nick Cardy.

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Here Aquaman’s life takes a surprising turn at the news that Juvor, Atlantis’ leader, has unexpectedly died. With the prospect of a civil war looming, the Atlanteans could only agree on one man to become their new King – you guessed it: it’s our boy Aquaman.

crown

Aquaman reluctantly agrees, and is crowned the new King of Atlantis. However, there’s another wrinkle: ancient Atlantean custom requires that the new king take a bride, and Aquaman is immediately confronted with a bevy of Atlantean beauties, and told to choose his queen-to-be.

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Before he makes his decision, Aquaman is confronted by the sight of Mera, being chased by another of her people, Oceanus. Aquaman outwits Oceanus and gets away with Mera, where he finally confesses his feelings for her. Too bad it’s to Aqualad and not Mera herself:

love

When Mera comes to, she fills in Aquaman on the rest of the story: Mera’s chief scientist back in her otherdimensional homeworld had informed her that the machine she used to cross over to visit Aquaman was about to burn out, and it would only be good for one more crossing. Unable to bear the thought of never seeing Aquaman again, Mera made the difficult decision to abdicate her throne and leave her people and her world forever. Unfortunately, just after Mera made the crossing someone else managed to swim through the portal at the very last second: the aforementioned Oceanus, who turned out to be a creepy stalker type with a fixation on Mera, and who had stolen a device that deprives Mera’s people of their water-control powers, leaving Mera unable to defend herself.

Even worse for Mera, she soon finds herself jilted by Aquaman, who tells her he can never marry her, though he fails to tell her why.

spo

Way to let her down easy there, sport.

Crushed, Mera returns to Oceanus, who in turn creates an army of water soldiers and attacks the Atlanteans, who fold like a deck of soggy cards. After a coup lasting only about three panels, Oceanus has taken over Atlantis, with Oceanus and a pissed-off Mera reigning as its king and queen. When Aquaman and Aqualad are brought before her for execution, well, Mera’s just not hearing it:

exe

Before their execution can commence, Aquaman and Aqualad escape, but are again ambushed by Oceanus and one of his water-creatures. But before he can finish them off, Mera has a change of heart and swipes Oceanus’ power-removal thingy, forcing him to surrender and give up Atlantis, lest he too be rendered powerless.

A jubilant Aqualad has the genius idea that since Aquaman is king, maybe he should use some of that royal stroke he now has and make Mera an honorary Atlantean. Aquaman agrees, and since this also clears the way for his other marital problem, Aquaman immediately proposes.

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Before you know it, the two are married, with all of Aquaman’s Justice League teammates in attendance.

wedding

And by the way: I can understand Superman, and even J’onn J’onzz to some degree, but wouldn’t Wonder Woman still need to breathe? Somebody get Diana one of those bubble helmets the rest of the League are sporting…

Aquaman and Mera quickly settle into domestic bliss, although to be honest, they still don’t seem all that into each other. To be fair, this was the early ’60s, not far removed from the days of Lucy and Ricky sleeping in twin beds. Plus, with that damn Aqualad always hanging around, it must have been difficult to get any privacy…

Of course, Aquaman had another marital difficulty to deal with: the in-laws! To be specific, Mera’s heretofore unknown twin sister Hila, who showed up in AQUAMAN #22 and immediately started making trouble, pretending to be Mera in order to get a little sugar from Aquaman:

sis

Unfortunately, it turns out Hila is under the control of her fellow exile Kandor, and the two are soon on a reign of terror to get Aquaman to reveal the location of the Seven Golden Eels, which will grant their holder great power, or something like that. It’s all kind of vague, really. Just as Kandor is about to crush Aquaman, Hila breaks free and interferes, saving Aquaman. Just then, in a startlingly convenient plot twist, Mera regains her long-ago lost water powers and attacks her sister.

After a series of mistaken identity twists to convoluted to go into here, eventually word comes from Mera’s kingdom that Kandor and Hila’s exile has been lifted, and the two can return home. Good riddance.

Readers heard the sloshy pitter-patter of little underwater feet in October 1965, with the birth of Aquaman and Mera’s first child, Arthur Jr., in AQUAMAN #23’s “The Birth of Aquababy.”

The happy couple first get the news of Mera’s pregnancy from the royal doctor, who decides that now is the right time to tell them that any child they may have is doomed from the start due to a rare malady Aquaman’s mother had. Not only that, this genetic defect on Aquaman’s part will also kill the mother at childbirth.

doomed

Okay. Two things.

A). This sounds like some pretty shaky science on the part of Doc Toga here, and

B). Shouldn’t this have been something he told them about before this?

Anyway, Aquaman takes off on the quest to find the rare root that will cure both Mera and the baby, and barely manages to get it back to Atlantis to the dying Mera, thanks to the brave sacrifice of one of Aquaman’s fishy friends.

jrMonths later, Aquababy is born, and after a brief tussle with superpowers granted by an exiled Atlantean criminal, is welcomed by the people of Atlantis as the heir to the throne. A shame it wouldn’t work out that way.

But that’s a story for a future column…

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