onsdag 16 mars 2011

Showcase Presents: Aquaman vol 1

I'm not one to say that it's a waste of time to read comics – a tradition that I uphold by not talking about the terrible "Dredger" – but I came close with this.

I'm being a bit unfair here, because this clearly isn't a comic for grown-ups, or even for teenagers. The stories are at first mainly about finding new (or not so new) ways of having various sea creatures stop criminals – like having Aquaman's pet octopus Topo and his octopi pals use lots of bows and shoot arrows at them, or using a swordfish to puncture something, etc. It's all based on the rather weak gimmick of Aquaman being able to use "fish telepathy" – which isn't even much of a superpower, since apparently almost any human who needs the help of fish can use it if they concentrate hard enough (or if the scriptwriter is sufficiently stuck for a solution, and sufficiently lazy) – and after a short while, it becomes rather tedious.

This schtick was sufficiently similar to what I'd seen in early sixties Superman stories that I had to look who was writing this stuff, but the name Robert Bernstein was unknown to me (turned out he was a "Superman" writer, though). Then I learned that the editor was Mort Weisinger, at which point I went "say no more!".

Anyway, there is development. Aquaman gets a sidekick – Aqualad – who wants them to have a home, so he turns an underwater cave into a home, complete with trophies. Also, Aqualad says stuff like "Leaping sea lions!" a lot, and Aquaman starts being referred to as the "Sea sleuth". Holy derivative, Batman! Also, the daring duo gets a recurring character, a sea sprite with magical powers and a somewhat wicked sense of humor...

The first half of this collection is drawn in a somewhat cartoons-influenced style by Metamorpho co-creator Ramona Fradon, who leaves the comic in 1961 (and later in the sixties takes break from comics to raise her daughter) and is replaced by Nick Cardy, for those who like that sort of thing – and Cardy does have a strong style and handles posing the characters well. He's not a Joe Kubert, bit when the inking is good, his art looks good.

This is, in the end, a kiddie comic. I'd say that "Adam Strange" is for kids up to 12-13 years old; this is for kids up to maybe 9-10. Us adults... Well, unless you can rationalize it by pretending that "I'm reading this to learn more about comics history", this one's not something you should spend any time reading, and it doesn't have the excellent art or fun creativity of some other old DC comics to recommend it – so I'm not going to recommend it, either.

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