DC comics’ league of heroes have a mythic quality to them.
It’s exciting to see what creative writers and filmmakers do with the core values that each hero represents. Bruce Wayne, the billionaire 7 year old who chose to spend his life, infinite wealth, and privilege to become Batman represents the heroic potential of humanity when gifted with ultimate freedom. The story of Kal-El making his home on Earth is akin to a science fiction angel who has come to save us from ourselves. His dedication to us despite our foibles is all about hope, and if you’ve seen the Man of Steel trailer you know it even says so on his chest. Wonder Woman, who hails from a culture comprised solely of women, represents the power of Shakti, the divine woman who badly needs to be respected and better integrated into our unbalanced culture.
Where, in all this, does Aquaman fall? He’s a hero whose main flaw is quite possibly his name.
It doesn’t roll of the tongue as pleasantly as “Wonder Woman”. It lacks the majesty of “Superman” and doesn’t have that one-two syllable-consonant punch-attack you get from Bat! Man! In a world where a hero’s name is his identity, this might be an undiagnosed reason as to why Aquaman has failed to gather his deserved respect, and is known to most people through bad fish jokes. A more pessimistic theory is that, in the escapist world of superhero comics, Aquaman represents a force against very real environmental threats that we would rather not talk about.
One point of ridicule against Aquaman is his seemingly useless ability to talk to creatures of the sea. However; it was this gift that allowed him to best his Marvel counterpart Namor in the Marvel vs DC battle of the 90s, where a killer whale flattened the Sub Mariner on Aquaman’s request. Another reason Namor lost the fight is the reason he almost always does, his unparalleled arrogance. Though Aquaman gets angry at us polluting surface dwellers from time to time, he lacks that arrogance of a despotic ruler.
His gift to communicate with animals of the sea shouldn’t be confused with mind control. The creatures obey him because they know that he is a true king, He is not a simple ruler, but the keeper of the oceans. 71% percent of our planet is water. Up to 60 % of our physical makeup is water, and all sentient and non-sentient life that we know cycle water to stay alive. Seemingly plentiful, it is a resource more valuable than diamonds, kryptonite, feminism, and humanity, and almost all of it – 96 per cent – is in Aquaman’s domain. Since 1941 he has been our much needed hero of Earth, more so than the heavy handed and short lived Captain Planet ever was.
It might seem to some that Aquaman only guards the oceans to protect his home of Atlantis, but it is no accident that protecting Atlantis and the oceans is a package deal. DC heroes are irrevocably products of the fictional places they come from. Batman is a product of Gotham, Wonder Woman of Themyscira, Superman of Krypton, Smallville and Metropolis, and Aquaman of Atlantis. Of all these, Atlantis is the most heroic city. By that, I mean it is a city that our real civilizations are or should be striving to become, especially in these more environmentally concerned times. No city wants to be Gotham, where even the most privileged of privileged little boy can lose his parents to random violence. At least half our population would not be able to live in cities modeled after Themiscyra and, for obvious reasons, wouldn’t survive past a second generation. Metropolis is mostly owned by a tyrannical businessman who is a real world representative of the 1%, and many of us see the hardships of that story all around us. As for Krypton, it is either a doomed planet to begin with or, according to the Man of Steel origin, doomed itself because of its obsession with progress. With a simple Doctor Who twist, Man of Steel could easily have been Man of the Future. This makes Aquaman’s upcoming place in DC’s movie series even more intriguing. Atlantis is a city that works in unison with nature. By protecting Atlantis, Aquaman is protecting the idea that civilizations and the environment can work in harmony together. As its keeper, Aquaman and his city are a greater symbol of hope and heroism than DC’s holy trinity combined.
Maybe it is because he comes from this heaven on – or beneath – Earth that Aquaman has found enough balance in his own life to be a hero, husband and father. I am not saying that one must have a family to feel fulfilled and happy, but in the superhero worlds of Marvel and DC, where almost every hero has sacrificed their personal lives to be protectors, it is an additional triumph that the king of Atlantis manages both. Even though we have so many great male role models in superhero comics, we have so few father figures and this hero of our planet is one of them. He is well rounded, a hero and king who respects his domain and subjects, and he is relatable through his fatherhood. He is the greatest hero, for he inspires us to protect the things that matter most – our planet, our fellow creatures and people, and our families.
The ‘Superhero Family’ is another key element in DC comics, and I would do it an injustice if I didn’t attach the adopted second generation of DC heroes in this argument. Each of the Justice League members have taken up an array of superhero sidekicks in their fight against injustice. With Superman, there is Superboy and Supergirl. With Wonder Woman there is Donna Troy and Wonder Girl Cassie Sandsmark. Flash’s family includes Kid Flash and Impulse; Green Arrow has been a mentor to Red Arrow, his own son (also known as Green Arrow) and Speedy; and, of course, Batman in his time has trained 3 Robins, Batgirl and is an inspiration for other heroes who have a ‘Bat’ in their name.
My new favorite, and admittedly the only reason I have extended the essay this far, is Kaldur’ahm – also known as “Aqualad” from the animated show Young Justice.
There will be spoilers for anyone who hasn’t seen the show yet.
Watch the show; if you care enough to read an essay about Aquaman you will definitely care about this show!
Kaldur’ahm has Atlantean strength and has a Green Lantern:ish ability to make constructs out of water. With the temperance that one would expect from Superman, Kaldur reluctantly becomes the leader of the team in the first season. In the second, because of a cunning worthy of Batman, he deeply and convincingly infiltrates the enemy ranks, which leads to the climactic triumph of good over evil. Throughout this show, where adolescents are the stars, Aqualad displays a level of maturity that surpasses the other members of his team. Aside from being the oldest, Kaldur has an advantage here because of his healthy childhood. Apart from Kid Flash, a healthy childhood is something that all the other sidekicks lack. It becomes apparent that Kaldur was saved from a trauma similar to his ally and friend Artemis received, when we discover that Kaldur’s true father is the villain Black Manta. In spite of knowing Kaldur’ahms true blood line, Aquaman took him in and trusted him to become Aqualad. It’s a noble action that we have not seen done by any of the other heroes.
Another scale in Aquaman’s fishnet (I couldn’t resist) through this association, is that Kaldur’ahm is black. He is an African-Atlantean. The comic book culture is still largely dominated by white males, many of whom came to be sometime between 1938 and 1975. Although almost all the sidekicks are orphans that don’t share a bloodline to the main heroes, all of them, from Dick Grayson to Tim Drake to Donna Troy to Cassie Sandsmark to Supergirl to Krypto, are white. I love comic book heroes, and I grew up seeing myself in the boots of Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Peter Parker, and Gambit. Still, I remember how I felt when Neal Sharra was introduced to the X-Men. Sharra was a person of color; East Indian like myself. I could envision myself in his boots without having to alter my heritage. Superheroes are largely popular because they embody the wannabe hero in all of us, and it is important to see that spirit represented in a wider spectrum of diversity.
Ultimately, Aquaman’s acceptance and nurture of his enemy’s son, which arguably leads Kaldur into becoming a hero that is better than Aquaman himself is yet another reason why Aquaman is one of the greatest superheroes in comic book culture.
Before the release of both consoles last year, most analysts were predicting low interest and poor sales due to the rise of mobile gaming, some even theorizing that this would probably be the final console generation. The ho-hum reaction to the Wii U, released a few months prior to that, seemed to be a warning sign that the analysts could be right. Fortunately for gamers, none of these things have come true. While there is definitely a clear frontrunner this generation, “The Big Three” are still here and console sales have jumped considerably year over year. Big budget multi platform games such as Destiny and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare are right around the corner, and 2015 is set to bring us a sizable list of attractive exclusives for all platforms. But where are we now? Which company has the momentum? Which one is struggling the most? Who is poised to take the generation crown at this point in time?
Disclaimer: This is only my opinion based on overall console sales, and where I feel the mindshare resides currently. The console market is very fluid, and I acknowledge that things can change unexpectedly.
Nintendo has been on quite a tear in recent weeks. Super Mario Kart 8 was the catalyst that the Wii U needed to jump start sales. The problem is that even a 200% increase in sales does not automatically mean that the Wii U is now a hit product. In fact, it seems to be exactly the opposite. Mario Kart 8 and the upcoming Hyrule Warriors may well be the new killer apps for the Wii U, but mindshare just doesn’t seem to be on Nintendo’s side this time around.
Fortunately, people are starting to pay enough attention to the Wii U to keep it alive for the foreseeable future. For gamers who already have a Playstation 4 or Xbox One (there is little reason to own both at this point in time), the Wii U is now the perfect solution for gamers who would like to own a second console. It has a unique ecosystem, good exclusives (finally), and if tablets-as-controllers are your thing, it has that too. Nintendo may be down, and they are well into third place at this point as far as sales momentum, but don’t count them out. After all, they are technically still ahead of the Xbox One in overall sales. There is still time.
The last few months of the existence of the Xbox One have been one of the oddest launch years I’ve ever seen. We all know the story at this point: the reveal of the hardware was packed with features, gamers were outraged by shady DRM policies and the push for digital-only content, Microsoft reversed almost all their decisions, and here we are today. The Xbox One is now essentially a shadow of its original self. Microsoft decided to go back on its original strategy and now have a sales strategy similar to Sony’s: you can still buy disc copies of a game at the store, or you can download them with the option to preload the game to your Xbox One’s hard drive if you pre-order. They have also recently given gamers the option to purchase an Xbox One without Kinect, another pillar of their original feature set. The Xbox One’s original reveal was simply too forward thinking for most gamers.
In my opinion, the features originally on offer had far more advantages than disadvantages, but I seem to be in the minority. Simply put, the Xbox One has been hurt by bad PR and high pricing. Even Titanfall, the projected killer app for the system, was not enough to put it ahead of the Playstation 4 in the March NPD sales numbers. The Xbox One is being beaten on its home turf and abroad by Sony’s hardware, and it’s very telling that lately, on the rare occasion that Microsoft reports sales numbers, they are usually only the sell-in numbers, not the sell-through numbers. Also telling? The almost complete omission of the Kinect at any of the big gaming conferences this year.
That’s not to say all is lost for the Xbox One. Sales of the Xbox One are only half that of the Playstation 4, but 5 million sold is not bad by any stretch. The fact that there is a new Halo game looming on the horizon can also not be discounted as a catalyst for sales. Also, the Xbox brand still seems to be a strong household name, at least in the US. While the NPD is reporting Sony as the winner every single month, they are not reporting by how much. These leaves many to speculate that the console war in North America might possibly be more of a statiscal dead heat than a blow out. There is hope for Xbox One, even if it does finish in second place at the end of the generation.
Coming up on one year later, Sony is the clear leader this generation. In fact, it’s probably one of the biggest gaming comeback stories of all time. For much of the last generation, the Playstation 3 was far behind the Xbox 360 in sales due to pricing gaffs, overconfidence in gamers’ loyalty, and a later launch date. This generation has been a complete turnaround. The launch day price of $399 (without a camera included) has been the main catalyst, but gamers are also acutely aware that the Playstation 4 simply seems to pack more of a punch than the Xbox 360. Multiplatform games generally look better and run smoother than their Xbox One counterparts, and 2015 is loaded with amazing looking exclusives, many of which were promised to launch in 2014. There’s not much else than can be said about Sony other than that for now, they’re winning handily. The one warning sign is that Sony as a company is not doing well at all. Almost none of their other businesses other than the Playstation division and Sony Entertainment are making any money, and it’s definitely possible that in the future they could spin off the Playstation brand altogether to keep it running smoothly and free of the dead weight of all the rest of Sony.
So where does this all leave me, the gamer? As an early adopter of the Playstation 4, it feels great to own the clear frontrunner in hardware. Nobody likes to spend several hundred dollars on a piece of tech only to have it fail a year later. Speaking selfishly, I am ecstatic to have chosen the winner. As gamers, however, none of us should be rooting for any of these three companies to fail. We need Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony in the game and to be successful. Instead of taking to NeoGAF and fighting for team Sony or team Microsoft, we need to be rooting for both. If even one of the big three companies fails at their current hardware endeavors, the analysts will continue to beat the “consoles are dead” drum, and the landscape becomes less competitive. If Nintendo decided to call it quits and cut their losses and if Xbox One continues on its current trajectory, this would leave Sony in the driver’s seat for the next few years. No competition for Sony means less quality products for gamers.
So do us all a favor: The next time you’re thinking about getting on your favorite gaming forum and raging at your fellow gamer, consider reversing course. Let’s support all three of these companies so that our future options for gaming are not limited to iPhones and iPads.
Let’s keep the console war alive and kicking by supporting as many of these machines as we can. As gamers who care about gaming in general, it’s our duty.