Monday, June 20, 2011


King Orin, the Weeping King, rules the Undersea Kingdom of Atlantis from atop the Coral Throne. Though the currents carry his tears away, it is said that they permeate all of the capitol city, infecting it with the king's great melancholy over the death of his son at the hands of his brother, Prince Orm the Betrayer. Queen Mera tries in vain to rouse her husband from his sorrow, but it seems hopeless. Only word that the Betrayer, having taken the name Ocean Master when he went into hiding to avoid his brother's wrath, has resurfaced is enough to stir Orin's passions and send him howling into the depths, his fury for revenge implacable as a tsunami.

Queen Mera struggles to hold the Atlantean court together, her power undermined at every turn by the machinations of her half-brother Orm. The Undersea Kingdom is an empire in decline, its far flung outposts and provinces become more and more accustomed to ruling themselves without interference from Atlantis proper. Is Orm really the serpent coiling about the foundations of the kingdom, slowly and carefully eroding what took generations to forge? Or does the decay come from Above, from the surface world turning its greedy eyes and grasping hands towards the riches of the ocean depths?

Well, both, obviously.

The War Between Brothers has been ongoing for over a generation now. Orm's attempted palace coup failed, but not before he murdered Orin's son and heir in a hostage situation gone horribly wrong. Orm knew the death of his nephew was unforgivable and fled into hiding immediately after escaping the city. Years later, he knows he cannot return and would never be accepted as King, so he works from afar to undermine the central authority of Atlantis. If he can't be king, nobody can.

Meanwhile, the surface world continues its encroachment on the Undersea Kingdom. More than just pollution and over fishing, the surface dwellers want access to the vast resources of the sea. From oil to minerals to exotic compounds that can be extruded from the most alien of undersea life, the surface seems to want it all. "If they could drink us dry, they would," goes the Atlantean saying. Without the help from a strong central government, many of the provinces have been forced to defend themselves and their way of life against the greedy surfacers. In order to survive, some provinces have even fallen in league with them, assisting surfacers at the expense of their own undersea neighbors.

Into this crumbling kingdom at the cusp of civil war swims our Aquaman.

Now, you ask your average person who Aquaman is and they'll probably make a joke about talking to the fish or being the most useless of the Superfriends (behind even the dog), so this is one of those opportunities where we don't really have to be entirely faithful to the character. So blonde haired, blue eyed Arthur Curry is gone, replaced by the sunken, haunted Weeping King. Our Aquaman is from one of the more upwardly mobile provinces, Mu, located off the coasts of Japan and China. Mu was once a great undersea city-state in its own right before it was conquered by Atlantis back in the mists of history.

Our Aquaman was raised an orphan, having been left to die at the mouth of Deepwater Cavern when just a baby. Named Arata, he was found by the occupant of the Cavern, the water spirit/dragon Mizuchi. Back in the Golden Age of Mu, families would bring their first born to the Cavern to be trained by the dragon, a practice that had been long lost to time, its myth even corrupted to being a sacrificial act. So why did Arata's mother feel the need to sacrifice him?

Because he is Orm's son.

Back before the failed coup, when Orm was building his powerbase by touring the provinces and making sure that if there was a change in occupancy on the Coral Throne enough people would be cool with it, the Prince had a dalliance with a local girl in a village not far outside of Mu's capitol. He moved on before he learned that he was a father, but small towns being small towns, pretty much everyone else in the village knew. At first, they were okay with the idea of a royal bastard being brought up in the village. In time he would go to Atlantis and claim his birthright, probably a minor noble title or something, which would help the locals. But after the coup and King Orin's reaction, the villagers figured out pretty quickly that having Orm's son kicking around would be a great liability. So the village elders demanded the boy's mother sacrifice him in the Old Way in order to keep everyone appeased and the village off the King's wrathful radar.

So Arata grew up under the dragon's tutelage until he reached the age of eighteen, conveniently at the start of Issue #1, at which point he embarks on his quest to find out about his heritage, right wrongs, and generally swim the Earth like Caine from Kung-Fu. Given that Arata is able to communicate with all undersea life, a trait common to all descendants of Atlan, the semi-mythical first Wizard-King of Atlantis, word will begin to slip out that a new member of the royal family has surfaced. This will draw the attention of the warring brothers Orin and Orm, one out of some semi-twisted desire to rebuild his lost family, the other out of a desire to make sure there is no heir to the throne thus hastening the dynasty's collapse. Of course, once the truth of Arata's heritage comes out, the brother's feelings towards him will probably reverse, with Orm wanting to use his son in another powergrab and Orin wanting to kill his brother's kid the same way his own was killed.

So it won't be easy times for young Arata. Luckily, he's been trained pretty much since birth by a mystical force of nature, the Dragon Mizuchi. He's stronger and faster than your typical Atlantean, able to communicate (not command, that's for the King only) with all aquatic life, and has with him the water spirit Jiao who uses her abilities to assist her friend (think waterbending ala Avatar the Last Airbender (show not movie, natch)). Arata travels the seven seas following a trail of clues, a trail that will lead him through the Provinces as civil war ferments and eventually to the capitol city of Atlantis itself in order to confront the family he never knew he had. Along the way, he'll have to fight Atlantean ninjas, the savage King Shark, and even a black clad pirate who may or may not be a ghost.

Will he succeed? Only time and tide will tell. (11/52)

7/22/11 Edit - Here's a crudely drawn sketch made on my iPad with SketchBook Pro!
Aquaman, Son of the Seas

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