One of my favorite comic book writers to come out of the past ten years, Jeff Parker made Hulk cool, Incredible Hercules mythic and Agents of Atlas a must read cult hit. Now he is taking over the reigns of Aquaman from outgoing writer Geoff Johns who has done a great job at making the King of the Seven Seas a hit hero again (for the first time in a long while).
This week, Parker’s Aquaman hits the stands. If you are unfamiliar with the tangled history of Aquaman, you may want to read this old article.
He’s just in the beginning of his run on DC Comics’ Aquaman comic book, and Jeff Parker’s already in the deep end when it comes to using water metaphors.
With previous writer Geoff Johns driving the ship, Arthur Curry had to deal with a Dead King coming back to reclaim the throne of Atlantis, learned he wasn’t of the royal lineage he long thought, and discovered the existence of the kingdoms of the Seven Seas.
Parker says he’s not throwing him back into all that quite yet. Instead, “there’s shark punching, monster fighting and, the most deadly of all, the high school reunion.”
Out Tuesday, Aquaman issue 26 begins Parker’s creative reign with artists Paul Pelletier and Netho Diaz with some time passing since the last issue, when Aquaman and Mera took the thrones as rulers of Atlantis.
Arthur’s trying to make some changes in the Atlantean government yet he also feels the calling for being a superhero on the surface while what he has learned about his underwater city is still weighing on him.
“Ironically, he’s a fish out of water with the Atlanteans because he wasn’t raised there,” Parker says. “He’s caught up as fast as he can, he’s a smart guy, but at the same time he always has a little trouble with people because it’s not his culture.
“It’s literally like if you were raised in a lighthouse in Maine and then later on someone told you you’re the king of a country and you have no idea what to do.”
His mother’s role would have been teaching him all the royalty stuff, the writer adds. But because his dad, a lighthouse keeper, was the one who raised him, “what he takes away is you’re supposed to watch out for people and protect them, and that’s what he’s really good at.”
Being a member of the Justice League has earned him some goodwill among those on land. However, while he’s loved among the sailors and others whom he has saved, most of the general population doesn’t understand him.
Also, the rest of the world feels under threat by the Atlanteans since they are this mysterious force underneath them, and in turn the Atlanteans also feel constantly on the defensive from those up above.
So even though the rule of Atlantis isn’t technically his birthright, Aquaman takes the responsibility anyway.
“I don’t think he even thinks he’s necessarily the best person for it, but he’s the best person around,” Parker says. “And more importantly, and Mera helps him a lot with this, he’s the only person who cares about the surface world and the underwater world and that’s the key to their success.”
The new issue has Mera finding new ways to use her powers of moving water around — she’s the one responsible for Aquaman being launched nearly into space on the cover of issue 26, according to Parker — and the writer will continue to focus on their relationship and the typical stresses any couple has, though played on a larger scale.
Mera was starting to like the surface world and wants to spend more time up there, and she also wants to learn more about Arthur’s past. She’s the one who pushes him to go to his high school reunion because “she’s in love with him and wants to know what his adolescence was like,” Parker says.
In cherrypicking the threads Johns set up, Parker liked the moment where Mera met Officer Watson, who mentioned to her she went to school with Arthur in Amnesty Bay, and Parker liked the idea of seeing more of his classmates because everybody knows his identity as opposed to Batman or Superman.
A reunion is something readers old and new can relate to “because a lot of people stress over it, especially now that you get hammered on Facebook by everybody from high school,” Parker says. “You try to get away from them, and they’re like, ‘Come on, come back to this thing!’
“It give us a chance to reveal some stuff about him growing up, which you haven’t been able to see that much.”
The fan-favorite Aquadog, a canine named Salty, will be appearing in upcoming issues as well as Swamp Thing, who drops by for a team-up story line involving the environment and the ocean.
Black Manta and other familiar faces will be on the sideline, though, and Parker aims to touch on some but not all of the bigger Aquaman mythology that Johns picks up next year in his “Rise of the Seven Seas” Justice League story arc.
“It’s best to get back to the basics for a while and pick up those threads further in,” says Parker, who’s infusing some humor but not changing the tone or direction of the book all that much.
“Unless I screw up, it should feel like the Arthur you’ve been reading. What I’m doing really is what Geoff was doing: updating ’60s types of stories with modern storytelling approaches. In that sense, we’re kind of the same.”
People probably joke a lot less about Aquaman after Johns spent two years making him cool again, but for Parker, who grew up near the North Carolina coast and enjoyed “beach stuff,” the character’s always been a favorite.
“His comic book didn’t feel like anybody else’s comic book. You’d see people from the aquatic dimension and things like that — it was always really wild and sci-fi and magic all over the place.”
Some folks enjoy Aquaman in a “hipster-y way,” Parker says — “like, ‘I was always into Aquaman while you were into the typical superheroes.’ ” The reason why people can poke fun, though, is because they get him on a visceral level.
“As someone who’s worked on a lot of obscure characters over the years, this is a huge relief to me,” Parker admits. “I can say ‘Aquaman,’ and right away, no matter how much people have read, they know what he is. It’s all right there in his name. He’s the water superhero. And we just, so to speak, dive right into that.”