Believe it or not, the book that has kept Max weighed down for seemingly ages, The Aquaman Archives Vol. 1 gets its final stories examined, and where appropriate, mocked. But it’s not all silly this time as Ramona Fradon’s final work on Aquaman is on display in some visually exciting stories! Go on and see it through with Super-Fly’s seasick sidekick!
Super-Fly Comics & Games’ plucky sidekick Max Lake has embarked on a journey to read his collection of DC & other comics! Join Max each week every Friday as he takes on his Library! Titles reviewed by this blog do not necessarily reflect what the store has in stock, but you can always email the store to special order something that you’ve seen here at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call Super-Fly at (937) 767-1445 or just ask someone at the store next time you’re there for special orders. You can read past entries of the blog here. Any questions or comments for Max should be sent to email@example.com or feel free to comment in the comments section below. Check out @maxdlake to follow Max on Twitter. The things Max writes do not necessarily reflect the views of Super-Fly Comics & Games, and Super-Fly Comics & Games is not responsible for what Max says—especially anything that bugs you.
Written 4/23/12 -Later than Last Entry
Well, I’ve gone and finally finished The Aquaman Archives Volume 1 tonight, a book that I started about a month ago. I know, that’s pretty sad when I have a ton of books to get through it and it takes me a month to get through one of them. To be fair, in that month I’ve stepped things up at my job quite a bit so I have a lot less free time and when I do come home and have free time I’m usually exhausted and need to spend time with the wife. But I need to find more time to read and write to keep this blog chugging along and to keep me reading as much as possible, since I’d like to get through as much of my Library in as short a time as I can manage. But enough carrying on about that, let’s take a look at some of the stories, shall we?
I feel like I’ve gone into obscene amounts of detail for this volume, so I’ll try not to be as wordy here as not to spoil the entire book. The first story I picked up of course was “Aqualad Goes to School,” which is exactly as it sounds, Aquaman decides his protégé needs an education and takes him to an elementary school on an island. Aqualad shows amazing aptitude for a boy his age, especially when it comes to knowledge about the sea. On the way to his placement exam, Aqualad stops to help some people when their boat gets capsized. While helping them, Aqualad gets cracked on the head by the bow of the ship and loses his memory. Aquaman and Aqualad try to reschedule the test to no avail, as the school officials refuse. So Aquaman actually helps Aqualad cheat on the test as Aqualad got a perfect score on the same test a day before. The cheating is done by Aquaman getting his fishy friends to assemble as hints just outside the school window. Yes, that means electric eels assembling as a picture frame to form the Mona Lisa, the answer to a question; the fish then form in the shape of a boot to remind Aqualad about Italy for another question. Aqualad later wonders why the fish were helping him do that spontaneously with every question. Gee, I wonder?
Then there’s “The Silly Sailors of the Sea” where a bunch of young punks take a sail boat for a joy ride without actually knowing how to sail. Aquaman doesn’t like this and decides to teach these teens a lesson in the value of sea safety! Uh oh! So basically, with the help of his aquatic pals, Aquaman stages a whirlpool, a storm, and sea monsters each freaking out the teen boat hustlers to where they want to go home, but as soon as the threat subsides, they get more confident of their sailing prowess since they overcame the emergencies making them decide to keep going.
Finally, Aquaman has had enough and gets a pirate ship from the ocean floor as well as some dummies and costumes that “sank recently” to stage a pirate ship attacking the young toughs. The youths cry and wet their pants (well, just about) and beg to be let go, and Aquaman the pirate of course lets them go making them promise they will learn how to become sailors before they set out to sea again. Staging natural disasters to teach a bunch of kids a lesson seems a little extreme to me, but we’ve all know Superman to be equally jerkish to extremes in the Silver Age, so why not Aquaman?
Another story has Aquaman playing mailman to an old man running a lighthouse who invites Aquaman to watch his favorite show with him, “Sea Chase” starring an actor named Jim Flood and his brother Ted. The old man begins to taunt Aquaman that he couldn’t do the things that Jim Flood can. Then, before you know it, Aquaman and Aqualad are starring in the same show when the real actors get the bends. “You needn’t even change your costume!” says the director, “Our special effects man will retouch the films so that the TV public will think Jim and Ted Flood starred!” which makes me wonder how they did it pre-CGI. Another Hollywood mystery I suppose…
The story ends with Aquaman revisiting the lighthouse and watching the episode he and Aqualad filled in for with the old man, though now with the Hollywood magic making it look like the real Jim and Ted Flood in action. The old man boasts again that Aquaman could never do what Jim Flood does and Aquaman and Aqualad decide not to humiliate the old fool by revealing the truth then summoning fish to do horrible things to him and just share a wink. Oh you silly old man!
Another story is all about how Aquaman and Aqualad can only stay out of water for an hour or they die, because I guess this is common knowledge to the world at large, and one criminal exploits the hell outta this weakness. The crook in question does this by fleeing inland and daring Aquaman to come find him. Aquaman takes his challenge, though Aqualad is nervous—how will they survive without water? Aquaman tells Aqualad it’s time to train for just this situation. So using all kinds of last minute solutions to stay wet, be it rolling around in snow on a mountaintop or spraying goat’s milk that they milked onto their faces, the pair survive. However, their nemesis keeps luring them onto land, and each time is more precarious than the last for our heroes. A couple solutions are pretty clever, but one wonders why every Aquaman villain doesn’t use this strategy?!? Incidentally, this story, from Adventure Comics #282 was Ramona Fradon’s last Aquaman story she illustrated.
The highlight of the volume is the second to last Fradon story, “The Creatures From Atlantis.” In this story, Aquaman is brought back to Atlantis only to find it enslaved by strange creatures. This story appeared in Showcase #30 and therefore, is a bit longer than the other stories, having three parts to it. It is hands down my favorite story in the volume, simply because Fradon’s depiction of the creatures and Aquaman at their mercy looks just spectacular. The other reason I like it is that things come full circle with Aquaman and his relationship with Atlantis from the first story. Since I’ve gone into detail with every story, I’d rather let you savor this one on your own should you pick up the volume. Same thing for the last story “The Sea Beasts from One Million B.C.!” though I will say that story appeared in Showcase #31 and therefore also has three parts, and that it is the first Aquaman story by artist Nick Cardy who also had a long association with Aquaman.
Whew! And that’s the Aquaman Archives Volume 1! I really enjoyed this book, but am a little disappointed at how long it took me to get through it. I mean, I read Action Heroes Archives Volume 1 and did a write up in one single afternoon! Again, with work being so hectic it’s been hard to find time to read and write, but I gotta keep going somehow. About the book, it’s so bad it’s good and with fantastic art by one of the few female artists of the Silver Age. If you want to see why Aquaman is the butt of so many jokes, take a look here but also you’ll find a bunch of fun in all the silliness. It’s a great book for children, or those (like me) morbidly curious to find out what early Aquaman comics are like. But I’m glad I did and ended up liking what I saw more than I thought. The biggest draw of all however is not the laughs but Fradon’s art. It’s vibrant, cartoony yet serious. Her art is certainly more expressive than Cardy’s Aquaman, at least in Cardy’s first story anyway. I guess the comparison isn’t fair as Fradon had honed her look of Aquaman while Cardy was just getting to know the character, but still… Ramona Fradon rules. Get this book just to see her work in color on high quality paper. Unless you hate Aquaman or something. Just be prepared for Silver Age corniness galore.
There are really awe inspiring scenes done by Fradon, such as when Aquaman introduces himself to every sea creature and they are lining up for miles to meet him. Her Aqualad looks perfectly in step with the period and is a look I actually prefer for the character—but he’s all grown and dead now, so whatever (or maybe not because of the New 52? Who knows?). Then there’s the level of expressions Fradon brings to her characters. Her art is just great.
I want to get more of her art soon, and the most likely place is in Metamorpho comics, as Fradon co-created Metamorpho and illustrated his initial appearances, which I have a Showcase of. I may also look up all my old Freedom Fighters issues and see which ones of those she did. At any rate, I leave Aquaman Archives Volume 1 a big Fradon fan.
So more Aquaman is next (in my reading order), and although I almost want to take a break from the character, I should press on. The next stuff up is some serious stuff! So stay tuned…
NOTES FROM NOW (12/6/12): Great sea snakes! This took me awhile to complete. Once again, I only scanned images for the entry today, so The Aquaman Archives Vol. 1 can safely go back on the shelf now after being read, referenced and scanned on and off for quite a while now. No book before or since took me this long to cover! Oh well though, it happens, and although there are other Aquaman entries coming up (covering Aquaman graphic novels with material in the 70s up till today’s New 52 version. I gotta say though, all the Aquaman coverage will be broken up, and in fact next week’s entry will cover a couple things, including a non-DC, indie comic that is rapidly on the rise. Stay tuned for that! In fact, all this Aquaman coverage got me itching to abandon my reading order altogether—something I have already done by now. So yeah, more Aquaman’s coming up, but they’ll be other stuff intermixed too and the blog should become increasingly more diverse as time goes on.