The days of Aquaman not being taken seriously may be over thanks to Jason Momoa's role in the DCEU, but Geoff Johns gets the credit for making it his mission years earlier, with the launch of DC's New 52. Often ridiculed as "the guy who talks to fish" by casual comic book fans, Many raised an eyebrow when DC's Chief Creative Officer selected Arthur Curry, the Aquaman as the New 52 reboot he would handle personally. And with the hero now making the leap into a movie universe overseen by Johns, the writer/producer has shed some light on his motivations.
During a spotlight panel on Johns's career at San Diego Comic-Con - the same one in which he dropped new secrets about his upcoming Doomsday Clock series - his selection of certain characters over others was raised by DC co-publisher Dan DiDio. There was the Teen Titans relaunch Johns made work despite critics, and his efforts to remake Hal Jordan a hero, and resurrect Barry Allen, too. Every move was against the experts' advice, and no surprise - Aquaman came up, too.
Specifically, the questions were asked within a larger context of Johns's shift from comics to films, but maintaining his view of DC's greatest characters. And most importantly, what makes each of them, even "the guy who talks to fish," so important. When Dan DiDio noted that Johns had never requested a run on the main Batman book (a dream job for almost every writer), Johns explained why it's the underdogs he favors:
"To me, I love taking characters that don't work. Batman, he's great, he works, you can tell great stories with him. But for some reason when someone says to me, like 'Aquaman sucks,' I get really bothered by it [Laughter]. Then I want to write the book... Characters that kind of need help. I like helping. Helping to illustrate or clean up characters that people might not give a second look at. And it's how I connect with people, because if I like Aquaman and someone else says 'Oh my God I like Aquaman too' it's cooler. If someone says 'I like Batman' well everyone likes Batman."
The devoted fans of not just comic books, but almost any geeky property-- or any property know the truth in Johns's sentiments. More people may have bonded over love of an icon like Batman or Superman than Aquaman Plastic Man, or Booster Gold... but when a niche obsession for the latter strikes, the connections grow that much stronger. And with the Aquaman movie the first non-Trinity DC superhero to get a movie of their own, both Zack Snyder and Geoff Johns seem to take a personal investment in the aquatic hero being taken seriously.
The longtime fans will remember the time Snyder called a radio show to defend Aquaman from the Dawn of Justice set, and Johns gave his own view of why he gets bothered by Aquaman haters. Specifically, when it comes time for him to explain why a character like Arthur Curry isn't just worthwhile, but able to tell stories that speak to downright mythic tropes and traditions:
"Why is Aquaman interesting? Well, I can tell you from my perspective, emotionally, why it's interesting. It's because his father was a human, his mother was Atlantean, and he thinks he's a half-breed, and he doesn't belong to either world: surface or the oceans, or Atlantis. And he kind of considers himself a man with no world, and it's not until he really finds and meets Mera that he finds a place in life. His brother Orm is full Altantean, he believes they should just destroy the surface. And ultimately it's Arthur's job to bring those worlds together.
"Also, the fact that I've written all his comic books gives me a lot of credibility coming into the room because it's hard to argue sometimes. Like people can tell me what they think Aquaman is, but if I've written the book - literally - it helps me out."
It's unclear if either Zack Snyder or Aquaman director James Wan actually needed convincing, or if they were already on Johns's side. We know that Momoa's choice of Aquaman director was Snyder himself, but the actor's casting casting sent the clearest message possible - one sure to be amplified when Justice League sets the tone for his story.
- Justice League (2017) release date: Nov 17, 2017
- Aquaman (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018