FAN-ticizing: If I Was Making...AQUAMAN!
A new year, a new "If I Was Making..." and for this one I talk about the most awesome character of awesomeness ever to be awesome....Aquaman!!!
Aquaman sucks. Right? He's useless out of the water and he talks to fish. Many a joke has been made about how useless he is. However the Aquaman of the New 52 has garnered a lot of praise, even addressing the perception of Aquaman's apparent awfulness. I'm not doing that here. In my DCU, Aquaman doesn't suck. He's a hero and a king with a hot wife. So this is a straight up origin story that plays it straight. Everything from telepathically communicating with sea creatures to being a sea-faring hero is being taken seriously.
If you've read my articles before you will know that they can be sizable reads. A couple of people have complained in comments in the past so let me address this now. If you don't like a long read, you may as well leave the page. I won't be splitting the articles up into multiple parts. You're free to read or not read. It's up to you.
With that said, let's get on with Aquaman. The first thing you will notice is that I have altered the origin story of the Atlanteans. None of this alien crap. I'm going right back to Plato for the story of Atlantis. Thus the back story is not necessarily what's in the comics. By going the Plato route, tying in Poseidon and the general mythological aspects, it allows me to connect Aquaman to the same universe as Wonder Woman, which is how Aquaman teams up with the Amazons in my Justice League plot. Oh there is a master plan here. All of these DC "What if's" are connected. Some day I will lay out the timeline and share how it all fits.
Long ago, in the ancient world, primitive man migrated from Africa and spread across Europe and Asia. They also spread west across the sea to an island sub-continent. These people were blessed by the gods and were meant to reflect the glory of the gods in their mortal existence. Their civilisation flourished, developing at a far quicker rate than any other civilisation. Their capital city was Atlantis and they were primarily explorers, spreading east and west across the sea, sharing their culture and advances with people on both sides of the Atlantic. As sea farers, the Atlanteans held Poseidon as their patron and with his blessings, they flourished. But their thirst for knowledge became their undoing. They began to question the need for gods. Perhaps the gods didn't make the sun rise and set, perhaps the taming of the seas wasn't down to Poseidon's blessings but their own skill on the water, their mastery of ship building. The Atlanteans began to dismiss the gods as meddlers in human affairs, preferring to realise their own destinies. And so Poseidon, angered by their insolence, lay his wrath upon them. He would destroy Atlantis, see it swallowed by the sea in 40 days of hurricanes, tidal waves and earthquakes. It was an event that would spawn the myth of the great Deluge, the flooding of the world. Atlantis was doomed.
But as the civilisation fell beneath the waves, Poseidon's rage was tempered. He took pity on the Atlanteans. They would live in the sea itself, never to forsake Poseidon again as he blessed them with the ability to survive, to breathe under water. But there was a price for his pity. They could never again live on land. Being away from the water for too long would see them die. They were now bound to the sea. And so deep beneath the Atlantic ocean, the Atlantean lived, away from the world above, adapting to their new home, rebuilding Atlantis. And there they stayed.
And that's the backstory. Some is from Plato, some is from different iterations of the comic and there are my own ideas in there too. The backstory is explained through exposition at different points in the film. The movie itself begins with a storm. it's dark, waves are crashing against the reef, lightning flashes across the sky. Out of the water comes two hands carrying an infant child. The hands belong to Atlanna. She places the child on the reef and ducks back under the water as a small boat comes by, heading for shore. The man in the boat, Thomas Curry, finds the child and takes him home. Curry, a lighthouse keeper raises the child as his own, naming him Arthur. It's soon apparent that Arthur is a very gifted swimmer and very strong for his age, getting stronger as he grows older. A more disturbing revelation comes when Thomas realises that his adopted son gets sick any time he is away from the sea.
Then, when Arthur is 14 years old, Thomas and Arthur are out fishing when Thomas is swept overboard. Arthur swims after him, searching beneath the waves. Strange sounds, almost like voices, fill his head every time he dips his head under the water. He holds his breath longer and longer and eventually reaches his father but he can no longer keep his mouth closed to the water. It fills his lungs and he begins to drown...then suddenly the water is pushed right back out but his lungs are now filled with air. Shocked and amazed, Arthur drags his father back to the surface and into the boat, performing CPR to save his life. he begins to realise what happened to him and starts to experiment, filling a basin with water and dunking his head into it, letting the water into his mouth only for it to be forced back out every time. He realises he's somehow breathing, extracting the oxygen from the water and forcing the liquid back out before he can drown.
Arthur begins to spend much more time in the sea, swimming faster, increasing strength but always hearing the strange sounds and voices. At some point, a cruise ship coming into port gets caught on the same reef that Arthur was found on. Acting without thinking of consequences, Arthur springs into action, saving people from drowning, swimming with survivors to the shore, never tiring, never needing to take a breath. Almost as soon as his heroics are complete, the media get wind of his existence and descend upon him in waves, wanting the scoop, wanting to hear his story. Arthur does his best to keep his father away from the media spotlight as they dub him "Aquaman." Events on the surface are also being watched closely far beneath the waves and Queen Atlanna, a prisoner in her own kingdom, realises her son is alive and secretly sends one of her servants, Mera (yeah I'm ignoring her comic book history) to the surface to find and protect her son, knowing that her step-son, Orm will want to see this "Aquaman" dead.
So I guess I've got more explaining to do here since I'm changing things around...in this version, Atlanna is the rightful Queen of Atlantis. She has royal blood. Before she became Queen, a young Atlanna had a secret relationship with an outcast named Atlan. Atlan was a "wizard" who had been exiled for trying to find a way for Atlanteans to break the curse of dry land and return them to the surface. Fearing Poseidon's wrath, they banished him. Atlanna fell pregnant by him and gave birth to Orin, a child with blonde hair, the mark of Kings (I know blonde hair is supposed to be a curse in the comic, I'm kinda ignoring that aspect). Atlanna is betrayed by one of her closest advisors and forced to marry him, making him king and his son, Orm, heir to the throne through marraige. Knowing that Orin would be killed, she gave him up to the sea and when she saw the reports from the surface about Aquaman, she knew her son had survived and sought to protect him from her step-son's wrath.
So Mera is sent to the surface to find Arthur with Orm's loyal soldiers hot on her heels. When she finds Arthur, she is stunned by his blonde hair. She has never seen it on a male before. She is also taken by his courage and will to save people. She explains Arthur's true heritage to him and tells him that Orm is set to be crowned king. Once that happens, Atlanna will be killed and Orm will send the full force of Atlantis to kill him. When Tom Curry is killed by Orm's men, Arthur resolves to return to the home he never knew, to the mother he didn't know he had, determined to save her. There's also a subplot about surface dwellers polluting the seas and Orm wanting to strike back so you know...he's fighting for us too.
When Arthur returns to Atlantis, many are amazed to see him. Orm greets him first as a lost Atlantean returned home, but when people start to wonder about Orin/Arthur's blonde hair, they begin to wonder if Arthur is in fact the true heir. Orm declares that he is an imposter and has him thrown in prison, where Atlanna is also being held until after the coronation of Orm. As Arthur sits in his cell, the strange sounds and voices in his head are getting louder. He tries to shut them out as he has a heart to heart with his long lost mother but eventually collapses in agony. He's never been under the sea for this long (even though he is dry in the domed city of Atlantis) and as Mera sneaks into the prison to free him and Atlanna, she believes that he simply isn't used to it. But Atlanna knows better. She tells her son to stop trying to shut the noises out, to listen to them.
So Arthur and Mera go to try to stop Orm being crowned king (he killed his father and blamed Atlanna, which is how he justified putting her in prison) but they can't get through to the throne room and end up outside the safety of the dome, in the water. They fight Orm's guards under water, but they are severely outnumbered. Arthur receives a heavy blow and is knocked out. And then he hears the noises again, much clearer. They're not voices as we would think of them, there is no language. He sees images of fish, swimming away, feels his teeth grabbing them, tastes the flesh of his prey...no not his prey...a sharks prey. He opens his eyes, confused, not sure what's happening to him. He sees Mera. She's in trouble, She's fighting off guards but there's too many. He swims to get to her. All he is thinking of is saving her...his thoughts on one clear purpose...and then the shark swims past him. It attacks...not Mera...it attacks the guards...two more sharks join in, the guards swim for safety, the sharks swim around Mera, not biting, not attacking...protecting. And Mera sees Arthur, sees marine life swimming near him also. Sharks, dolphins, whales, creatures large and small. She sees it and she knows. She is sure. He is the king. He commands the sea.
Inside the dome, the coronation is underway, the final ceremonies are almost complete and Orm is almost ready to be crowned. But then something unfathomable happens. The dome comes under attack by the creatures that surrounded Arthur. Whales slam against it, cracking it. Sharks keep guards from interfering. In the middle of it all, Arthur and Mera wait, almost hovering beneath the water. A small hole is created, enough for them to swim through. Water cascades down into the chamber. People fear that it will flood. Arthur though looks up at the hole and another sea creature is there to cover it, preventing more water from coming through. The Atlanteans begin to see what Mera has seen, what Atlanna knew. The lost child of Atlantis, a male with blonde hair, royal blood and command of the sea. He is the true king. All of Atlantis bows to him...all but one. Orm is having none of it. He challenges Arthur before the people of Atlantis. They will fight. The victor will become king and decide the losers fate. And after an epic final encounter, Arthur, or Orin son of Atlanna, is victorious. Rather than kill his step-brother though, he banishes him. His reign will not begin with bloodshed.
So Arthur becomes King of Atlantis, Mera becomes his Queen. Orm is left to seek new allies to get his revenge...he won't be king of the ocean, he will become its master (Ocean Master for the win ).
And that's essentially it. That's what I'd do with Aquaman. It's not as concise as other ideas and needs a bit of work. I've probably also pissed off a lot of Aquaman fans...oops. But hopefully there is a bit of everything in there. You do get the more traditional superhero stuff with Aquaman saving people from a sinking ship, and I tried to deal with the psychic link with sea creatures in a way that would hopefully provide a decent pay off. I have changed Ocean Master's back story significantly. It's actually closer to the DCAU version than the comics.
What I've posted above is just the bare bones of the plot. As I mentioned, there are superhero exploits that occur before Arthur goes to Atlantis. I also have an idea of Orm gathering military strength to prepare for an attack on the surface and we may even see a few of these attacks.
Those attacks would frame the plot for a sequel which would see Arthur seek to bring Atlantis into the global community while dealing with the politics of being king. Tensions would rise, with all out war being a seemingly inevitable result. Aquaman tries desperately to protect the seas from surface threats while trying to secure peace, unaware that both sides are being manipulated by forces unknown. This may or may not include Arthur cutting off his own hand at some point...
With Aquaman and a proposed sequel, it has as much in common with Game Of Thrones as it does with the Aquaman comics. The first film, outlined above, is about birthrights and rising to power and a second film would deal with what it actually means to be a king and the struggles that go with that.
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