This was Aquaman's final appearance in Adventure Comics. And I've always hated it. SPOILERS follow below.
This issue would have hit the racks at Gold Star Pharmacy in North Syracuse in June of 1977. I was 17, soon to graduate from high school. I was still reading and loving my comic books, though my burgeoning interest in rock 'n' roll was beginning to outpace my ongoing
passion for superheroes. I was about to discover punk rock, and I was about to get a girl (and then another girl, but that's a story for elsewhere). I didn't know it at the time, but I was about a year or so away from giving up on comics entirely. That's also a story for elsewhere.
Adventure Comics # 452 didn't really factor into my eventual estrangement from comics; I hated it on its own merit. This was the issue where Aquaman's infant son Arthur Curry, Jr.--Aquababy--perished at the hands of Aquaman's arch enemy Black Manta.
A baby dying in a freakin' escapist superhero comic book? Sorry. The hell with that.
Jim Aparo's artwork was gorgeous. Jim Aparo's artwork was always gorgeous. But I found the story's result so unpalatable, so wrong, that I could never embrace it on any level. I tried to address this make-believe tragedy in my own years-later sequel The Undersea World Of Mr. Freeze, but I couldn't undo it. I hated this story. I don't remember whether or not I followed Aquaman into his own solo title afterward--perhaps hoping that DC would erase this stupid plot decision--but if I did, I didn't stick around for long.
Which makes me something of a hypocrite. About a year before this, I'd written an absolutely awful Batman story called "Nightmare Resurrection," which also included the death of a child, and concluded with The Batman standing by in cold observance as the killer met a painful and grisly end. Brrr. Edgy. I beat the mad parade of grim 'n' gritty comics by several years.
I disavow it now.
Because superheroes should be wish fulfillment. Win or lose, one would expect justice to triumph to some degree, one would expect the innocent to be saved, for innocence to be saved. There will be exceptions--Roger Stern's brilliant 1984 story "The Kid Who Collected Spider-Man" springs to mind as a particularly emotional and effective example--but c'mon...! In superhero stories, we're asked to believe a man can fly, that a guy in an orange and green costume can breath and even speak naturally under water, that the fantastic and the impossible are everyday occurrences, but it's a stretch to think these fairy tales could have a happily ever after? Bah. I'm aware of how the origins of many of our favorite heroes were rooted in tragedy--the destruction of Krypton and the subsequent deaths of Ma and Pa Kent, the murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne, et al.--but I still think a super-villain murdering an infant does not fall within my parameters for entertainment.
Yeah. I hated this issue.
Let's rearrange those Titanic deck chairs with the addition of some reprints starring various characters who appeared in Adventure Comics over the years: Supergirl, Bizarro, The Shining Knight (drawn by Frank Frazetta), and Superboy, who reclaims the top spot in Adventure Comics with the next issue. A Super-centric (Krypto-centric?) selection leaves no room for Green Arrow, Starman, Johnny Quick, Manhunter, The Spectre, Sandman and Sandy, The Vigilante, Hourman, Genius Jones, Black Canary, or any of the other stars of Adventure Comics, but I hope you enjoy it nonetheless. Roll credits:
Aquaman and Aqualad in "Dark Destiny, Deadly Dreams," Adventure Comics # 452 (July-August 1977)
Supergirl in "Now...Comes Zond," Adventure Comics # 397 (September 1970)
The Shining Knight in "The Flying Horse Swindle!," Adventure Comics # 161 (February 1951)
Bizarro in "Bizarro's Secret Identity!," Adventure Comics # 288 (September 1961)The Legion Of Super-Heroes in "The Stolen Super-Powers!," Adventure Comics # 304 (January 1963)Superboy in "The End Of The Kent Family," Adventure Comics # 229 (October 1956)
All characters copyright DC Comics Inc., and depicted here only in sample pages. I share the whole book with my subscribers. A tip of the Boppin' lid to Steven Thompson's fab Days Of Adventure blog as a resource for this edition's Supergirl, Shining Knight, Legion Of Super-Heroes stories. And as we leave Aquaman and Adventure Comics behind, 100-Page FAKES! will turn its spotlight back to Detective Comics, and one of the single greatest Batman stories ever published.