Aquaman is a movie with many fabulous sights — armored sharks, laser-blasting helmets, Willem Defoe’s tiny ponytail — but there was one quick moment that had Polygon’s entertainment team fixated.
Could the appearance of this particularly talented sea creature be something even greater? Could it, in fact, be one of Aquaman’s oldest and most loyal allies?
[Ed. note: This post contains mild, mild spoilers for Aquaman.]
A single shot in Aquaman’s “Ring of Fire” sequence, in which Aquaman and his half-brother Orm engage in gladiatorial combat for the throne of Atlantis, seems to feature a massive octopus rocking out on what seems like a dozen huge drums. Could it be Aquaman’s friend Topo?
Aquaman’s director, James Wan, confirmed our suspicion.
”My inspiration came from the comic books,” he told Polygon by phone, “and I went as far back as the Silver Age. And one of the characters I love from the Silver Age is Topo!”
According to Wan, Topo was once a very big part of Aquaman, but his appearances became slimmer and slimmer as work on the script progressed.
“I loved this character so much that I kept him around more as a cameo, like an Easter egg. But Topo is someone that I love and in my version, he’s this ancient sea creature who beats these giant drums.”
Topo first appeared in the story “Aquaman’s Undersea Partner” in Adventure Comics #229, as drawn by longtime Aquaman artist Ramona Fradon, and he first exhibited his impressive musical talents in Adventure Comics #266, as you can see above. He’s had a couple other incarnations throughout the years; in DC’s Post-Crisis continuity he was reimagined as an anthropomorphic squid/cuttlefish, the subject of genetic engineering, and after the publisher’s New 52 relaunch he was reintroduced ... somewhat differently.
This New 52 version may have been fresh in Wan’s mind when he initially brought Topo to the script process.
“He was going to be a sea monster that Arthur met,” Wan told Polygon, “and you don’t quite know it’s Topo until you were like, ‘Oh, OK!’ [...] Making this movie, I wasn’t afraid to embrace this sorta cheeky aspect of the comic book and have fun with it.”
So when you see that octopus drummer in all his glory, hyping up the crowds of Atlantis, take note. You’re looking at a piece of Aquaman history.