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Superhero Origins: Aquaman

VO: Dan
One of the first true superheroes, Aquaman’s backstory has been retold several times since his debut in 1941. Most notably as Arthur Curry, the son of an ex-sailor turned lighthouse operator and mysterious woman who had washed ashore. Gifted with superpowers, Arthur eventually learned that he was the son of Atlantis and destined to become the king of the Seas! He even joined the Justice League of America, fighting along such superheroes as Batman, Superman, Wonderwoman and The Flash. Join as we explore the comic book origins of Arthur Curry, otherwise known as Aquaman.

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Superhero Origins: Aquaman

He is the son of Atlantis, and the king of the seven seas! Welcome to and today we’ll be exploring the comic book origins of Arthur Curry, otherwise known as Aquaman.

As with most comic book characters, there are often re-imaginings and different versions to a character’s past. We have chosen to primarily follow the storyline that unfolded in 1959’s Adventure Comics #260, which was expanded upon in 1989’s “The Legend of Aquaman #1.

One of the first true superheroes, Aquaman’s backstory has been retconned several times since his debut in 1941. Most notable among these was his 1959 re-introduction as Arthur Curry, the son of an ex-sailor turned lighthouse operator, who saved and fell in love with a mysterious woman who had washed ashore in a hurricane.

Keeping her past a mystery, the woman’s secrets began to unravel soon after she gave birth to Arthur. When the baby was only ten months old, he fell off the side of a boat and miraculously began to swim.

At the age of two, he accidentally struck his head while in the water and was thought to have drowned. His father searched the water tirelessly, only to discover the submerged boy happily playing with a turtle.

This uncanny ability was just the beginning, and Arthur soon began interacting with other sea creatures. The long-sought truth was finally revealed when Arthur’s mother lay on her deathbed. There she told her husband and son that she had come from the lost city of Atlantis, having been exiled when attempting visit the outside world.

Following her death, Arthur discovered that he had the power to control sea creatures, and sought to fulfill his destiny as the ruler of the oceans with the help of his father, who in turn devoted himself to mentoring Arthur, even going so far as to build a training aquarium. Within, Arthur uncovered the power of telepathy, using it to soon guide sea life to safety and emerge as their leader.

In the 1989 special “The Legend of Atlantis”, Arthur was ret-conned to not only have found the lost city, but become imprisoned there, forced to wear their Atlantean prison garb. This was made up of his iconic orange tunic, yellow belt and green trunks. In that story, he likewise met a professor named Vulko, who taught him the Atlantean language and explained how Atlantis had become a totalitarian civilization. Meanwhile, he was nicknamed “Aqua-Man”, which was meant as an insult by the other inmates.

Eventually, Aqua-Man learned all that he wanted to know of Atlantis, and escaped, continuing to wear the prison uniform as a symbol of his heritage.

He since defended Earth’s Oceans, and interfered with underwater military testing. He likewise opened an undersea Hospital where he spent his time mending injured sea life, who would heal him in return after deadly struggles with those who attempted to destroy their habitat.

Aquaman likewise befriended a young exiled Atlantean named Aqualad, and returned to the underwater city to learn that his friend had overthrown the totalitarian regime. Aquaman was in turn made a citizen of Atlantis, and learned that he was destined to inherit the throne.

Following this, he took on the responsibilities of king, before eventually returning to the surface to fight evildoers, such as the dive-suit clad Black Manta. He likewise became a founding member of the Justice League of America.

Aquaman has since appeared in various media and found himself as the butt of countless superhero jokes on comedy programs such as Robot Chicken, despite having been recast as a serious comic character forced to deal with environmental issues and the weight of his crown.

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