The PopCult Comix Bookshelf

Aquaman: Deadly Waters The Deluxe Edition
by Steve Skeates, Jim Aparo, Neal Adams
DC Comics
ISBN-13 : 978-1779502940

This is the second volume that collects the acclaimed but underexposed run of Aquaman stories originally published in the late 1960s and early 1970s by DC Comics. Aquaman: Deadly Waters The Deluxe Edition is a great example of “relelvant” comics of the day, that addressed topical and political issues in ways that are not as heavy-handed as some of the more recent comics tend to be.

Steve Skeates was a young writer at the time, DC’s “resident hippie,” and Aquaman‘s new editor, Dick Giordano, had just come over from Charlton Comics, and brought the legendary Jim Aparo with him. While not a major sales success at the time, this run of comics stands as a solid example of DC at one of the most innovative periods, as they made the leap into more modern storytelling.

The first half of this run was collected in Aquaman: The Search for Mera Deluxe Edition, a couple of years ago, and this volume collects the remaining issues of Aquaman’s first solo comic book, including a three-part Deadman back-strip written and drawn by Neal Adams, which told a parallel story that seamlessly integrates into the lead stories featuring Aquaman. It’s a great example of editorial symmetry on the part of Giordano and his storytellers.

Even with the political overtones and innovative work in these stories, they also work as solid superhero adventures. Aquaman does battle with aliens, interdimensional threats, criminal gangs, and such villains as Black Manta, Ocean Master and Thanatos, all while fulfilling his duties as KIng of Atlantis.

Skeates brought a fresh voice to comics, and with his creative plotting and realistic dialogue, helped upgrade DC’s then-stodgy approach to comics. Aparo, who had attracted a lot of attention drawing The Phantom for Charlton, began his long stint at DC with this title, and established himself as a master storyteller and draftsman.

Having Neal Adams guest for twenty-one pages doesn’t hurt any, either. That’s a page from one of his Deadman back-up stories at right.

One bit of information that isn’t mentioned in this volume is that, issue #56, which is included here, was the final issue of Aquaman’s solo comic, and was intended to be the first of a two-part story. Over three years later, at Marvel, Skeates wrote the conclusion as an issue of Marvel’s underwater hero, The Sub-Mariner, in an unofficial crossover. I don’t think we’ll ever get to see those two stories collected together.

A nice touch with this collection (one not listed on the index pages) is that DC has included two text pages, written by Skeates at the time, that give a lot of the background of the creation of some of these stories. It’s a nice bonus, since they did not include any other text material to give us any historical context.

It’s amazing that these crisp, vital supehero stories are half a century old. Aquaman: Deadly Waters The Deluxe Edition is a great collection of stories featuring DC’s most unjustly-maligned superheroes.

You should be able to order it from any bookseller, using the ISBN code.