When it comes to members of DC Comics’ core roster, Aquaman has never quite been an A-lister. This is partly because of his campy cartoon past, but partly because, as upcoming Aquaman writer Kelly Sue DeConnick explains, his core conceit, the traditional approach to doing Aquaman — “the idea that he’s an outsider, the fish out of water, this child of two worlds who doesn’t belong anywhere” — just doesn’t work anymore. And that’s exactly the problem she and artist Robson Rocha intend to address with their upcoming Aquaman run. As the book’s first new creative team since 2016, DeConnick and Robson are primed to take a deep dive into the very core of Arthur Curry to find exactly what makes him tick, and they’re going to build an entire mythology around the ocean in the process.
An Aquaman renaissance couldn’t be coming at a better time. With James Wan’s long-awaited solo Aquaman film about to crash into theaters later this year, the appetite for Atlantean whimsy is at an all-time high — though the spotlight isn’t without its fair share of pressures. DeConnick was quick to explain that their take on the character, though fortuitously timed against the movie, isn’t going to just transcribe the on-screen Arthur to the page.
“It’s all a bit of a balancing act,” DeConnick told IGN during an interview at New York Comic Con. “Nothing good ever comes from reverse engineering. We know the facts of the market and [what people think when they hear Aquaman] but we can’t just play to that, because historically that produces crap.”
But that doesn’t mean Momoa’s version of the character will be completely absent in their take. Gone are the days of the historically clean cut Prince Charming of Arthur Curry’s comic book past, DeConnick admitted.
“When you look at Jason Momoa as Aquaman, there’s this — you know the joke where people say he looks like the best Metallica roadie?” she laughed. “There’s that swagger. That hero spirit in him, the twinkle in his eye, that’s what we want to tap into.”
To do so, she and Rocha are going to be diving deep into the foundational history of both Aquaman and the very ocean itself to discover a new set of story engines. The idea involves uncovering a new pantheon of sea gods who now populate a “metaphysical island” called the Isle of Unspoken Water, where Arthur washes up.
“These are old gods. They’re ocean gods. We really wanted to try and explore that mythology. The mythology and the power of the oceans and how it relates to Aquaman,” DeConnick said.
Rocha has taken to designing the gods Arthur will meet by blending elements in real world mythology. “It’s a huge research process,” he said, “trying to find a way to adapt these ideas for a wide audience.” DeConnick highlighted Rocha’s work for a new character — an Aztec inspired god named Loc — who looks like a human with coke-bottle glasses in one form and a jaguar-inspired monster in another.
“At one point, in issue three, we meet a character who becomes so caught in their grief that their body breaks into seven pieces and each piece becomes a different monster,” DeConnick teased, before praising Rocha’s eye for design. “The first thing he said to me as we were planning the book was ‘I want to draw sea monsters’ so, there they are,” she laughed.
This mythology will all be in service to DeConnick and Rocha uncovering the heart of what they believe Aquaman to be about. Where characters like Superman and Batman may be able to be condensed down into pithy statements, like “truth, justice, and the American way,” Arthur Curry is a more challenging puzzle to solve.
“It all comes down to the ocean,” DeConnick contemplated. “Our bodies are mostly water. Life began in water. If the ocean dies, we die. There’s something lizard-brained and essential about water. There’s a magnitude to it, and a sensuality. That’s what we want to break into. That’s what we’re trying to work with in Aquaman.”
Kelly Sue DeConnick and Robson Rocha’s run begins in Aquaman #43, hitting shelves on December 19.