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With the character set for his solo cinematic debut in a few years, it’s about time that DC Entertainment’s Aquaman got some recognition for his constant, under the radar (well, under the sonar, technically speaking), onscreen appeal over the last few decades.
“Wait,” you’re doubtlessly saying. “Onscreen appeal? Aquaman? The guy who talks to fishes?” Yes, dear reader — despite (or, perhaps, because of) the character’s constant position as the butt of many jokes about the lameness of his powers or his many finny friends, the underwater Justice Leaguer has had almost as extensive a television career as his pals Batman and Superman… and one that puts Wonder Woman and Green Lantern to shame.
Before Jason Momoa puts on the orange-and-green costume for 2018’s Aquaman — although he is rumored to be making his debut in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice — let’s remind ourselves of some of the greatest TV hits of Arthur Curry’s alter ego.
The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure (1967-1968)
It took almost three decades for Aquaman to cross over from page to screen (He first appeared in 1941’s More Fun Comics No. 73), but this Saturday morning CBS show was pretty faithful to his comic book exploits of the time, complete with appearances from love interest Mera and faithful sidekick Aqualad. The less said about cuddly pet walrus Tusky the better, admittedly.
Super Friends (1973-1986)
There are those amongst the Aquafan faithfuls who believe that this long-running Saturday morning series, which ran in various incarnations — who could forget The World’s Greatest Super Friends or The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians? — for more than a decade on ABC is primarily responsible for ruining the reputation of Aquaman, claiming that he was reduced to a simplistic, lightweight character during its run. Such claims seem to miss the point that the same could also be said of every other character on the show.
The Bruce Timm-verse Animated Shows (1999-2006)
While Aquaman was never a major player in the complicated continuity that ran through Bruce Timm’s Batman: The Animated Series to Justice League Unlimited, he was a recurring character, debuting in a 1999 episode of Superman: The Animated Series before making appearances in Batman Beyond, Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. With each successive appearance, he became more misanthropic and surly, with his character design changing from the classic orange-and-green look to his 1990s comic book look of pants-only, beard and a hook replacing his hand. Of course, if you lost a hand and replaced it with a hook, you’d probably become grumpier, as well.
The Aquaman & Friends Action Hour (2003)
The first live-action Aquaman made his appearance in the long-running CW series during its fifth season, appropriately saving Lois Lane from drowning because Tom Welling’s Clark Kent hadn’t quite gotten around to working out his Superman future just yet. Alan Ritchson played the former marine biology student known as “A.C.” (because “Arthur Curry” didn’t exactly appeal to the youth demographic of the show), who reappeared periodically throughout the show’s run until its finale.
Technically speaking, of course, Aquaman didn’t really appear on Doug Ellin’s HBO series. Instead, he was a character played by Adrian Grenier’s Vincent Chase in a big budget movie directed by none other than James Cameron. Maybe someone should see if the real Cameron has any time in his schedule for Momoa’s 2018 effort…
Mercy Reef (2006)
Batman: The Brave and The Bold (2008-2011)
Inarguably the greatest version of Aquaman ever created — and potentially the greatest version of any superhero ever to appear on screen — the King of the Seas that appeared in this Cartoon Network series had it all: A loving family, an upbeat outlook on life and a wholehearted love of adventure. If Momoa somehow ends up playing a live-action version of this Aquaman, then every other superhero movie might as well just give up now; the peak will have been reached.
The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (2008-2014)
When Craig Ferguson’s time on CBS’ The Late Late Show ends at the end of the year, it’ll likely mean the end of Aquaman’s part-time career as the world’s worst agony uncle (The skit has been irregularly appearing since 2008) — although it’s possible that the world might be better off as a result should that happen. Maybe Tusky the pet walrus can take over; he’s not had anything much to do since 1968, I believe.
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Santa Barbara International Film Festival