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The new Aquaman will be more Wonder Woman than Superman

Kelly Sue DeConnick talks about her upcoming run on the Atlantean hero

Variant cover for Aquaman #25, DC Comics (2017). Joshua Middleton/DC Comics

One of the most surprising reveals of San Diego Comic-Con 2018 was that Kelly Sue DeConnick will be tackling a new Aquaman story for DC Comics. Granted, that was at least partially because DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio wasn’t supposed to have mentioned it at the company’s traditional Thursday morning press event.

But the fish is out of the net: DeConnick, who famously relaunched Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel and co-created the women-in-prison-exploitation-film-subverting comic Bitch Planet, will be taking over the Aquaman series soon — so when I sat down with DeConnick this week, I had to ask: Why Aquaman?

Not to diminish the hero, of course — I’m a firm believer that there’s no such thing as a dumb character — but when one has been the butt of as many Justice League jokes as Aquaman, you have to ask.

DeConnick told me that that was part of the attraction to tackling a book described by DC’s chief creative officer, Jim Lee, as a Batman: Year One for the Atlantean.

“Aquaman is this character where ... he is part of the Justice League, so he’s one of the big seven, right? But he’s also kinda considered second-tier. So he’s a little bit under the radar and I think that that makes him an underdog to start with, which is a place I really like to work from.”

It also doesn’t hurt that the current, most visible depiction of Aquaman comes in the form of Jason Momoa and every single one of his well-tanned mussels muscles. But DeConnick wants to stress she’s not writing Momoa’s Aquaman.

“I’m writing my Aquaman. I’ve done my research, and I don’t want to scare anyone: This is not a reboot! We’re not even renumbering! But there was something about the kind of Momoa twinkle in the eye, the little bit of a swagger. I find that really appealing. And then there’s something really visceral about water and primal about the ocean, and I got really interested in that.”

Taking an interest in a character is one thing, but crafting your own unique approach is another. DeConnick didn’t want to give too many details, naturally, but she could talk about her process, and finding her own take on Arthur Curry, superhero and half-human heir to the throne of the lost city of Atlantis.

“The question I always ask when I’m approaching any character is Where does their pain come from? What is their core wound, and how is that played out in their power set? Can you connect their wound to their gift? and How is it played out in their personality? And then What kinds of conflicts does that suggest?”

The cover of Aquaman #1, DC Comics (2011).
The cover of Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis’ Aquaman #1.
Ivan Reis, Rod Reis/DC Comics

She looked at a lot of the traditional themes of the best Aquaman arcs, particularly Geoff Johns’ New 52-era Aquaman ongoing series, which built the canonical foundation for DC’s current version of Aquaman.

“Based on the work that Geoff did,” DeConnick said, “I have a different idea for what the core wound is for Arthur, that I want to play from.”

“The approach for Aquaman has always been that he is essentially mixed race, right? He’s half-Atlantean and half-human, so he doesn’t belong in either place, and the idea is [that] each place rejects him for that. But my feeling is that in contemporary society we cannot play the beautiful, literally bulletproof white boy off as facing bias because of his mixed parentage. I think that is disingenuous at best and, I don’t know, cruel at worst. So, I was like Alright, well, what else have we got to work with?”

Her Aquaman will move the conflicted king closer to Wonder Woman than Superman.

“There’s these different iconic models that we work with in superheroes and he’s always been the alien model, right? Like Superman, [Aquaman] is not of this world. [...] I wanted to shift him from that to more of a mythological grounding. More like ... Wonder Woman or Thor would be myth-based characters, as opposed to the alien model. So that’s the other shift that I’m making. But it isn’t like I’m rewriting his history. It’s rather sort of a tonal shift or an approach shift. I don’t want to scare anyone. Really, I’m not scary and very nice!”

Many details on DeConnick’s Aquaman run remain to be announced, including the artist and release date, but based on upcoming runs, it’s unlikely to hit shelves until early 2019.

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