I really enjoyed Aquaman, which TYG and I saw this weekend (I’ll get the review this weekend). But as a Silver Age kid, it struck me as being as much Marvel’s Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner as it was DC’s Aquaman.
In the Silver Age, Aquaman and Prince Namor had a lot in common. Both started out as solo acts (well, Aquaman did have Aqualad) who despite being human/Atlantean eventually became rulers of their respective Atlantises. At the same time, they were very different in style and tone. Aquaman was a straight superhero who happened to be a king. While he fought off threats to Atlantis in several stories, he battled plenty of surface-based villains: O.G.R.E. (Organization for General Revenge and Enslavement), Ocean Master, Black Manta, the Fisherman, the Awesome Threesome, the Huntress, and the dimension-shifting city of Necrus.
Prince Namor, on the other hand, started as a noble villain and worked his way up to anti-hero. In the early issues of Fantastic Four he battled the team in revenge for his (supposedly) destroyed undersea race (who weren’t identified as Atlanteans until well after Aquaman had become an Atlantean) and to win the Invisible Girl as his wife. After he got his own series, he hovered around the anti-hero level, always ready to beat up surface men, but also dedicated to ruling Atlantis well and protecting it.
The kind of political intrigue in the Aquaman movie is much closer to Namor’s style than Aquaman’s. Heck the whole plotline of Arthur searching for the trident of Atlan to prove his right to the throne resembles a Silver Age arc in which Namor had to find Neptune’s trident to prove his right to the throne. Namor constantly had to fight off rivals such as Krang, Attuma and Byrrah; Aquaman’s rule was rarely challenged (I’ve been reading a TPB of Silver Age Namor, which I’ll be reviewing eventually).
Since then, Namor’s often been away from Atlantis, getting exiled or outcast on a semi-regular basis. DC has developed their Atlantis a lot more, with a great many more internal struggles and a lot more hostility to the surface. So it’s not as if the movie’s Atlantean elements were just whipped up when they started on the script.
But like I said, it’s noticeable how much the two fish-men have converged.
#SFWApro. Cover by Nicholas Cardy (Aquaman) and Gene Colan (Subby). All rights remain with current holder.