Aquaman is having a moment. The character will make his solo movie debut in December, Dan Abnett’s recent tenure as writer has been politically prescient, and interest in the character is at an all-time high. This makes the arrival of writer Kelly Sue DeConnick (Captain Marvel, Bitch Planet) and artist Robson Rocha (Green Lanterns) all the more exciting.
To be clear, DeConnick’s run is not a reboot. “Unspoken Water” will pick up with Aquaman #43 in December, launching out of Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV’s “Drowned Earth” Justice League/Aquaman crossover.
“80 percent of life on Earth is in the ocean,” DeConnick says. “He is the ocean’s protector. If the ocean dies, everything else dies.” But before you start picturing Arthur Curry in Al Gore’s khakis, DeConnick thinks of each of her books in terms of music, and Aquaman is Led Zeppelin, “big, mythic, and the kind of thing you’d have on the side of a van.”
Speaking of art, DeConnick is excited about working with Robson Rocha. “The art that’s coming in is phenomenal,” she says. “It’s mystic and huge.”
The story begins as Aquaman and water gods from other cultures wash ashore for reasons unknown. This move toward land means the typical mixed-heritage-outsider model doesn’t work as well to motivate the story. As DeConnick points out, “there’s no real cost to him for being half-Atlantean on dry land. He’s a handsome member of the Justice League who’s literally bulletproof.”
DeConnick looked to the character’s history for inspiration. In Geoff Johns’ run, Arthur’s Atlantean mother made the difficult decision to leave her human husband and their child to fulfill her royal duties in Atlantis. This trauma is distilled in the daily trips father and son took to the water in search of his mother, something DeConnick refers to as, “about as foundational a pain as I can come up with. That is extraordinarily traumatic.”
From there, the important point for DeConnick is how to connect Aquaman’s pain to his power. “He has the power to pull every creature in the ocean back to him, except his mom,” she says.
DeConnick posits that people who have been abandoned are often overachievers, because they’re trying to prove to the parents who left them that they made a mistake. But since Arthur’s mother left out of a sense of duty, it instills in him a similar sense of responsibility and stewardship. So she’s not actually doing stories about, “Aquaman wanting his mommy,” but rather looking at how the foundational pain in his life influenced his character traits.
Lest you think Aquaman is about to become all doom and gloom or high-minded meditation, DeConnick assures us otherwise. “Superheroes, when they work best, bring us hope,” she says. “That’s ultimately what we’re trying to do. A big, cool story about saving the ocean and overcoming challenges.”
Kelly Sue DeConnick will appear as part of the “DC World’s Finest” panel on Saturday at 12:15 in Room 1A24.
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