How 'Peacemaker' Is The Culmination Of Decades Of Aquaman Disrespect
Peacemaker season one spoilers: the final episode reveals that Aquaman has sexual intercourse with fish. Or, at least, it reveals that other characters think Aquaman has sexual intercourse with fish, including his Justice League teammate, The Flash. If you're surprised that an official DC production featuring the official Aquaman actor would make such a joke, then you haven't been paying much attention. Because this is only part of a long history of DC and parent company Warner Bros. disrespecting their foremost amphibious character after the "Hello, my darling" frog.
Aquaman had plenty of silly stories during the '50s and '60s, like all superheroes who were around back then, but the true indignities started with the Super Friends cartoon in 1973. While other characters like Superman or Wonder Woman got their moments to shine, Aquaman was useless at worst or looked ridiculous at best.
This Aquaman was constantly getting caught by villains or even parts of the scenery and having to be bailed out by other heroes. Even worse, this was the show that cemented the idea that all he can do is talk to fish. During one of the multiple instances where he's hypnotized, Aquaman sends some fish after Batman and Robin, and they easily deflect them with some blow-up dolls of themselves.
But even if the Dynamic Duo had forgotten to pack their sex toys that day, we're pretty sure they could have just swatted those fish away.
Super Friends went off the air in the '80s but remained popular with kids via reruns. When Cartoon Network (which is part of Warner Bros.) started airing it in the '90s, they turned Aquaman into even more of a running joke via ads where he'd do stuff like try to talk to fish products at the supermarket ...
Or where he's saved by the Powerpuff Girls (after admitting that "My ability to talk to fish is no help" while Wonder Woman rolls her eyes) ...
While the Justice League cartoon was trying its hardest to get audiences to take its bearded, hook-handed Aquaman seriously, Cartoon Network gave him his first solo animated series in 40 years: The Aquaman & Friends Action Hour, which depicts him as a has-been celebrity who has been reduced to hosting a low budget kids' show. He's basically Krusty the Clown with even sillier clothes.
Adult Swim picked up the Aqua-bullying tradition in the 2000s, first via its "Aquaman Dance Party" bumpers, which show him performing proto-twerking moves in front of random backgrounds ...
And then via Aquaman's appearances in Robot Chicken. Yes, every single character in fiction got a raw deal on that show, but Aquaman's treatment was especially demeaning: we find out that the rest of the Super Friends regularly bully him, so he tries to defect to the Legion of Doom, but they're not exactly thrilled to have him either.
The character wasn't faring much better in the live-action front. In 2006, the makers of Smallville shot an Aquaman pilot called Mercy Reef, but even they couldn't take the premise seriously -- the trailer includes lines like "What, you can talk to fish now?" and "Say hi to Captain Nemo and the Little Mermaid for me."
It was not picked up to series.
One of the lowest moments in Aquaman's career was becoming a recurrent plot point in HBO's Entourage, where the Hollywood pretty boy main character is signed up to star in an Aquaman movie also featuring Mandy Moore, James Woods, and Ray Liotta. The fact that WB cleared that plotline is basically an admission that they never expected an Aquaman film to actually happen.
He was also featured in The Big Bang Theory (another WB-owned show), where "Aquaman sucks" was a recurrent sentiment.
Back to animation, we have to give a shout-out to the outrageous version of Aquaman in Batman: The Brave and the Bold, which was one of the highlights of the show. That said, segments like the one where he's starring in a sitcom with his family didn't exactly contradict the perception of Aquaman as a joke character.
For a long time, DC Comics simply ignored that perception and focused on giving Aquaman interesting stories and fascinating lore, which was probably the best approach. But when the character was revamped in 2011, they started with a comic where everyone's making fish jokes around him until he shows them how "badass" he is in true nerd fantasy fashion.
The whole thing comes off as weirdly defensive and arguably even sadder than Aquaman shaking his butt in front of some cows.
All of this reached its climax this month when Jason Momoa, hired to (at last) portray Aquaman as an actual badass, showed in Peacemaker for an "Aquaman f#$%s fish" gag. (The clip below has very NSFW language, in case you hadn't guessed it already.)
But look at it this way, Aqua-fans: the character can't possibly sink any lower now! Until we made that pun. Sorry.
Top image: HBO, Warner Bros. Television