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When Did Aquaman Become The Sub-Mariner?

Ever since DC Comics revamped their entire universe with the New 52, Aquaman has gone from a second stringer to become one of DC's big fish— Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Aquaman has gone from second string to top dog with DC's New 52 relaunch.
DC Comics, Jim Lee

For years, Aquaman has languished as a second stringer, never really breaking out until now. Now Aquaman has a creative team working on the monthly title, fit for a king and he's never been more popular (Parade Magazine's reader poll ranked Aquaman among the top 10 super heroes of all time). Not only is the comic book a top seller, but fans are really excited about the possibility of the Sea King showing up in the upcoming Batman vs Superman; Dawn of Justice movie, and may even get his own solo flick.

The transformation has been quite an accomplishment, thanks to comic book scribe Geoff Johns and artist Ivan Reis. Now I don't want to take anything away from their achievement, but it seems to me that the new and improved Aquaman shares quite a bit in common with another Atlantean monarch published by Marvel— Prince Namor, The Sub-Mariner.

This transformation has been long in the making, and in fact was first tinkered with back in the 1990's when longtime Marvel writer, Peter David went over to DC and put his mark on Aquaman. During this period, Aquaman grew a beard and lost a hand for a hook, making him look like a cross between Long John Silver and the Mighty Thor. However it was the Sea King's new attitude that was very similar to Namor's.

Namor is super-strong, often going head-to-head with Marvel heavyweights like The Incredible Hulk, The Avengers and The Fantastic Four. He is also short tempered and quick to use his fists before using any form of diplomacy to solve problems. Both can breath underwater and live on land, becoming weaker the more time they spent on land (The Silver Age Aquaman could only stay out of the water for an hour.) Namor also has a chip on his shoulder when it comes to the surface world, which he has little love for. Sound familiar? Although the change in Aquaman worked for a time, readers soon began to lose interest in the character, partly because he was becoming more and more like Namor and less like the character we all grew up with on the old Aquaman cartoon by Filmation or the Super Friends cartoons.

It seemed like Aquaman was going to be trapped in the role of a cheap imitation of the Sub-Mariner. Realizing this DC put Aquaman through the mill, churning out several incarnations soon after his Namorization, until DC's New 52 relaunch in 2011. Aquaman was now looking more like the original, silver age Sea King, with a few modern tweaks to his outfit and the addition of a Trident. However he still retained the badass Namorish attitude that was born in the 90's, although toned down a bit—just a small bit. The new Aquman was also now depicted with enough muscle to give Superman a run for his money. In fact, in the relaunch of the Justice League, Aquaman is so badass, he actually blinds the Dark God, Darkseid, with his trident— something the Man of Steel couldn't even come close to doing.

I like the new Aquaman, although I still see a hint of Namor The Sub-Mariner in him every now and then. Hey, the ocean's a big place and I guess there's room for two bad-ass Atlanteans.

Has Aquaman become just a Sub-Mariner knockoff? Let us know what you think.

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