February 25, 2015 | by Andy Waterfield

On Wednesdays We Wear Ink is a weekly column about comics and comics culture. For past columns, click here.

In honour of the utterly badass image of Jason Momoa as Aquaman posted by Zack Snyder last week, we’re gonna spend this week’s column looking at the King of Atlantis, and how you’re all mean to him.

It’s fashionable to mock Aquaman. Well, actually, fashionable is probably the wrong word. Fashion, after all, suggests a relatively short trend, but taking the piss out of the King of the Seas has carried a certain social currency for at least a decade now.

It’s become a comedic shorthand for mocking comics culture. You take an already maligned medium, approach it as if its dominant genre, superhero fiction, is its entirety, and then you mock the character popular enough to be a household name, but superficially silly enough to be an easy target for humour. In fact, I’d argue that Aquaman is primarily known by non-comics readers precisely because he’s the butt of so many jokes about comics and their readership.

Look what you’ve done! (Batman: The Brave and the Bold)

It’s always the same old crap, too. He talks to fish. He rides a seahorse. He wears a skintight orange and green leotard. This stuff is funny, I’ll grant you, but it was a hell of a lot funnier the first couple of hundred times.

With notable exceptions (Robot Chicken, The Simpsons, and a couple of others), when the Aquaman gags show up in TV and film, it’s a sign that the writers are running on fumes. At best, they’re picking the low hanging fruit, and at worst, it’s a convenient shorthand for mocking comics readers in general.

Aquaman is tired of your shit (art by Paul Pelletier)

As I say, Aquaman is funny, but seriously, get some new material. Plus, it’s not like the other household name superheroes are any less stupid. Regard!

Bruce Wayne is a genius with several university degrees and near-inexhaustible resources, but he decides the best way to combat injustice is to dress orphans up in bright leotards and beat up the mentally ill.

Iron Man somehow manages to be the most popular hero Marvel has, despite just being the drunken bore Bruce Wayne pretends to be, dressed in a flying suit of armour, and wearing a goatee better left in the ‘90s.

Wonder Woman comes to ‘Man’s World’ to espouse the Amazonian ideals of feminism, cooperation, and peace, but spends most of her time dressed in the colours of an economically imperialist superpower, while hanging out on a satellite with the Justice League, a boys’ club overflowing with white, male, economic privilege.

Superman? Space Moses.

If you look at superheroes too closely, they don’t make any sense, and they look silly. You know why that is? Because they’re not fucking real! Aquaman is the scapegoat people use to reassure themselves that they’re not one of those nerdy people, because nerds like silly character, they only like sensible, ‘realistic’ heroes like Batman.

Because nothing says realism like a family of famous billionaires who go to the cinema without a security detail in the most crime-ridden city in America.

More to the point, Aquaman is a total badass. Yeah, he has a silly costume, and he talks to fish, but he’s also the ruler of two-thirds of the Earth’s surface. That’s rad, and even better, it’s interesting. Arthur Curry, raised as a human, is the ruler of a huge and diverse civilisation he isn’t from and doesn’t completely understand. He doesn’t want to be their monarch, but he bares that burden because he considers it to be better than the alternative, which is either civil war, or a war with the surface world. In dramatic terms, Aquaman has so much more scope, right off the bat, than any of the largely interchangeable ‘my life was irrevocably altered by crime so now I dress up and punch people’ brigade.

Aquaman could level your precious country in twenty minutes. (JLA by Grant Morrison and Howard Porter)

I hate the concept of monarchy, especially absolute monarchy, but the idea of someone voluntarily taking on that role, because they think the outcome if they don’t will be catastrophic? That’s fascinating. You don’t have to agree with a character’s position to relate to them, anyway. That’s the great thing about drama; it asks you to put yourself in the position of people who are utterly, irrevocably different to yourself. You are not Aquaman, because if you were, you’d be off being a badass instead of reading this stupid column.

Add to all of that the fact that dude can communicate with the parts of human brains we inherited from our aquatic ancestors, and can and does ride massive bloody sharks into battle, and you’ve got a lot to work with, both dramatically and visually.

Be honest, you’d love to have a ride like that.

Superheroes are inherently fucking silly. That doesn’t stop them being awesome. Aquaman is especially silly, but he’s especially awesome too. That doesn’t mean you can’t crack jokes about him, but for god’s sake tell us one we haven’t heard a hundred times before.

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