Sunday, June 13, 2010

The new Aqualad is black, which begs a question.

Friday on DC's The Source blog, the company announced that they would soon be introducing a new Aqualad II character to the fictional DC Universe, and, as is clear from the image of teh character they used to illustrate the announcement, this new Aqualad would have darker skin then the original, Silver Age Aqualad (whom, you no doubt know, eventually changed his name to Tempest, never took the name Aquaman despite his mentor disappearing or seemingly dying multiple times for long stretches and was ultimately killed off in Blackest Night, because someone somewhere at DC thinks the reason fans of their universe and their many characters read their comics is in the hopes of seeing those characters murdered).

That, obviously, is the new Aqualad above. I feel weird typing "the new Aqualad," since it's hard to imagine anyone in the year 2010 wanting to be called "Aqualad." I think Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, Superboy and Robin are pretty silly names that most teenagers would run from, but at least they don't have the word "lad" in them (The Legionnaires all get a pass, since they're from the future). I know that when I was a teenager, I used to feel self-conscious about buying issues of Superboy at the mall, as I didn't want to be seen holding a comic with that title.

Anyway, there's a new Aqualad, he's black, he's got pretty cool hair, pretty dumb necklaces (Say, is that Sgt. Shark's shark tooth pendant?) a super-lame tattoo (how come all of the superheroes with tattoos in the DC Universe only get lame ones? You know, Grace, Roy Harper...those are not cool tattoos) and a pretty decent costume (I think the Teen Titans cartoon's Aqualad is my all-around favorite design for a version of the character though).

So who exactly is this new, black Aqualad? Geoff Johns says only that we'll meet him in Brightest Day #4 and that he's from Silver City, New Mexico. Given the big role that Aquaman villain Black Manta (a black villain who at one point had some plans to create a segregated, underwater kingdom for black folks escape the racism of the surface world for) has played so far in the series, I wonder if he's Manta's long-lost son who joins up with Aquaman just to piss off his dad or soemthing.

Or perhaps he'll simply be the sidekick of Black Aquaman.
That's a stretch, of course. Black Aquaman doesn't appear in DC Comics, but in Brian Sendelbach's alternative comic strip Smell of Steve, which started out in Seattle altweekly The Stranger before being syndicated elsewhere.

If you haven't had the opportunity to enjoy Smell of Steve before, you can check out Dark Horse's collection Planet of Beer. Black Aquaman is on the cover. Here he is in a detail of the cover, double-fisting beers:Who is Black Aquaman? Well, he's basically Aquaman, only black. And he has an afro and a goatee (White Aquaman's changed his hair a lot over the years, and even sported a goatee occasionally, but I don't think he's ever had a full-on blow-out, or that particular sort of goat). And he improves upon White Aquaman's orange and green ensemble with sunglasses. I'm not positive about the current cosmic geography of the DC Mutliverse, but I believe Black Aquaman patrols the seas of Earth-Sendelbach.


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The Atlas Tiger-Man is one of those super-characters that I encountered only stray glimpses of over the years—a cover image here, a paragraph in a comics history there—and, like so many other obscure superheroes, he's been something of an object of fascination for me. Generally actually reading comics with such characters in them ruin my love of them, as it takes away the mystique, and the stories you imagine tend to be better than the ones that actually got put down on paper at some point.

That hasn't been a problem with Tiger-Man so far, since no one's gotten around to collecting he and his peers' adventures into a trade paperback yet. (It's gotta happen sooner or later though, right? I mean, they collect everything these days).

Diversions of The Groovy Kind has made indefinite trade-waiting more of a Plan B than a Plan A though, as the first issue of Tiger-Man is currently scanned and presented there (along with some discussion of the character's real-world origins).

Colon's art is great, the lay-outs jam-packed and excitingly arranged and good God is that a superhero costume—not the best design in the world, certainly not anything I expect to see turning up in a Hollywood movie or cartoon series any time soon, but I dig the all-out weirdness of it. Seeing a guy dressed like Tiger-Man coming at me in a dark alley would certainly scare the beejusus out of me much more quickly and thoroughly than seeing a guy dressed like Batman under the same circumstances.

If you decide to read the story, do note the lettering—did Jack Chick work for Atlas back then? And if you don't, at least read the cover. There is nothing about the cover that is not awesome, from the Tiger-Man logo to Tiger-Man's sad cat face to the bad guy's ridiculous dialogue to the luridly, sexed up portrayal of a dead body (!!!).

That might not be a great superhero comic, but we sure could use more bad superhero comics that are as good as this one is.


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When Marvel announced a new Black Widow ongoing comic, I sort of snickered at the idea and assumed it would not be long for this world. Marvel and DC haven't been doing so hot at launching new series, even ones starring pre-existing, decades-long old characters, and Black Widow seemed a particularly long-shot for long-term survival, let alone success.

The motivating factor in giving her an ongoing monthly seems to be that she plays a supporting role in Iron Man 2, but boy is it hard to gauge how movies influence comics sales. Blade starred in three movies, and his 2006 attempt at an ongoing monthly only lasted 12 issues. On the otherhand, Deadpool kind of sort of had a minor role in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and a movie featuring the character was announced, and it coincided with the character suddenly becoming red hot (Well, "red hot" by today's direct market standards, anyway).

Well, Marvel hasn't canceled Black Widow yet, but they are changing the creative team only one story arc in. Is that a record? It seems like it might be some kind of record.

Anyway, I'm not surprised that Daniel Acuna isn't drawing the next story arc, as he's slow-ish and few artists seem to stick around on any title very long these days anyway, but Liu leaving so quickly is a surprise, particularly since her replacement isn't someone like, say, Mark Millar, who would guarantee the book started selling more copies.

Now a fumetti comic starring Scarlet Johansson on the other hand, that's a Black Widow comic I could see lasting a couple years...

10 comments:

Jeremy said...

I think they're going for more of a dreadlocks thing than an afro, though looking at the picture up close, it does look a bit more Huey Freeman on a humid day than full on dreads.

It isn't only DC characters that get awful tattoos, by the way: whoever designed Daken's ink over at Marvel (hell, Daken's entire look) should lose all rights to create design characters in the future.

I suppose it's to make them easier to draw, but do comic artists realize that you can get tattoos in more than one color?

Randal said...

Tempest, as a name and character, wasn't a bad evolutionary move for Aqualad, I must say.

However...a minority character replaces a mainstay in the DC universe. He'll be dead in two years.

Kid Kyoto said...

"Well, Marvel hasn't canceled Black Widow yet, but they are changing the creative team only one story arc in. Is that a record? It seems like it might be some kind of record."

Well IIRC DC fired the creative team on the Outsides before issue 1 came out. That's a tough record to top.

Jacob T. Levy said...

It's kind of surprising that the current Outsiders series has lasted so long-- as Kid Kyoto says, creative team overhauls from the very beginning; a huge miniseries setup for who would be on the team followed by lots of members becoming immediately unavailable; no stable membership or raison d'etre; eventually no Batman; existing on the periphery of one major DCU event (Batman RIP) or another (New Krypton).

All kind of resembles the post-OYL JLA, and especially the McDuffie-era JLA that was constantly hostage to Countdown and assorted nonsense. But even with all of those problems, a JLA title will go on selling enough to get by. Can't figure out how Outsiders is managing.

ealgylden said...

Wait, New Mexico? That seems like an odd place of origin for an aquatic hero.

Laplace Zombie said...

Outsiders, written by the man who said Countdown was 52 done right, who has the Teen Titans and JLA comics like they were last year (and this one, for TT) for his known dislike of Young Justice and JLI...

I'm surprised as well that Outsiders is still running

notintheface said...

"how come all of the superheroes with tattoos in the DC Universe only get lame ones?"

Did you forget about Jack Knight?

New Rule: Only Tony Harris can desigh tattoos for DC superheroes.

David said...

They're introducing a black Aqualad because the producers of the new Young Justice cartoon are including a black Aqualad rather than using Empress.

I'm conflicted though. On the one hand, I love Empress as a character. On the other hand, I'm really sick of Cree Summers' voice, and she'd definitely voice Empress in any cartoon.

Also find it odd that the Teen Titans cartoon was similar to Young Justice and the Young Justice cartoon is aping the current Teen Titans.

Jacob T. Levy said...

oh-- right. I forgot who writes Outsiders now. That does take the surprise out of the book's continued survival, I guess.

Caleb said...

I think they're going for more of a dreadlocks thing than an afro, though looking at the picture up close, it does look a bit more Huey Freeman on a humid day than full on dreads.

I was referring to Black Aquaman as having an afro, not the new Aqualad, who, yeah, seems to have dreads.


It isn't only DC characters that get awful tattoos, by the way: whoever designed Daken's ink over at Marvel (hell, Daken's entire look) should lose all rights to create design characters in the future.

Yeah, I hate everything about Daken's look (well, Steve Dillon made his hair look cool). He has a healing factor, right? How do you get tattoos with a healing factor?


Tempest, as a name and character, wasn't a bad evolutionary move for Aqualad, I must say.

However...a minority character replaces a mainstay in the DC universe. He'll be dead in two years.


I don't understand why they killed off Tempest. He's got a completely different name and powerset now, so it's not like they had to get rid of him before they could introduce an Aqualad.


Well IIRC DC fired the creative team on the Outsides before issue 1 came out. That's a tough record to top.

Yeah, I think similar things have happened before—my memory's pretty fuzzy, but I thought Todd Dezago was announced as the writer of Young Justice before the series started, but David ended up writing the first issue--but the Outsiders thing is completely insane in that they did a big five-part miniseries leading up to it in which Tony Bedard (that's who it was that Dixon took over for, right?) introduced his line-up, and then he never wrote the series and some of those characters never ended up in it anyway.


Did you forget about Jack Knight?

Yes. Even now that I'm thinking about it, I can't recall specific tattoos of his.

The Tatooed Mans both have colorful tattoos, but they're all generic ones like snakes and skulls and shit, right?