Introduced in More Fun Comics #73 (November 1941), Aquaman was often a backup feature before he swam his way into starring roles. As DC Comics’ underwater superhero celebrates his 80th anniversary, we dive into his early days in the Golden and Silver Ages.
Arthur Curry was created by Paul Norris (Adventure Comics) and Mort Weisinger (Superman editor, creator of Green Arrow). His original origins, as told in a flashback in his first appearance, differed wildly from what they are today. His Golden Age origins put him as the son of a famous undersea explorer who grew up in the ruins of Atlantis in a water-tight home, and he became powerful by “training and a hundred scientific secrets.” His powers during this time were fairly limited – he could control undersea creatures for up to a minute by speaking to them “in their own language” rather than telepathically, and he could breathe underwater. His base was an old shipwreck, and most of his battles (like many other comic heroes of the time) were against the Nazi forces, specifically defeating their U-boats underwater.
In the Silver Age, like many of DC’s heroes, Aquaman’s backstory changed (though this would later be attributed to the DC multiverse’s existence). As of Adventure Comics #260 in May of ’59, he now was the son of Tom Curry, a lighthouse keeper, and Atlanna, an outcast from Atlantis. Due to his heritage, Arthur possesses superhuman swimming abilities and the power to communicate with sea life. Later, writers retroactively introduced a key weakness to Aquaman: he had to come into contact with water at least once an hour, or else he would die.
Aquaman was later a founding member of the Justice League of America and was involved with the team throughout the 1960s. This was also the decade that saw the Atlantean truly rise to prominence, as his own rogues gallery expanded to include the Ocean Master (his amnesiac half-brother), Black Manta, and the O.G.R.E. organization. It also expanded Aquaman’s own family to include Aqualad, Dr. Vulko, and Mera, his wife.