BIZARRO BREAK #10 (Aquaman)
Story – Mike Doughty
Art – Danny Hellman
Edits – Joey Cavalieri
Time for another BizarroBreak… and, we’re breaking into the double-digits! Odd that I was using these short-bits as a “break”, when this one felt like it took me forever to write up!
It should go without saying, it’s going to be weird… let’s get into it!
Our story opens with Aquaman (with guitar) about to enter a subway car. As he approaches the train, a newspaper with the headline “Batman Smashes Dope Ring” floats past. After taking his seat, we learn that he’s heading to a bar so he can take part in an “open mic night” sort of situation. He relishes in the fans’ adoration of his music… but, it always comes back to feelings of uncertainty and self-doubt. His mental monologue is interrupted by a voice. He turns, and realizes that it was a… wait for it… fish chatting him up about whether or not he knows Batman. Wonk, wonk. I’d usually go into my “c’mon [insert writer name] a ‘talks to fish’ gag in an Aquaman story? You’re better than this!”, however… it’s a Bizarro story, which might be the only place I’m kind of cool with it.
Before long, we arrive at the bar… and it looks a bit like dollar-store version of the Star Wars cantina scene. We’ve got humans, robots, sea creaturs… probably an alien or two… all there to perform on stage. Aquaman spies the “competition”, and realizes they’re basically all a bunch of losers with limited performance options… just like him.
After suffering through a plethora of crappy acts, our man finally takes the stage. He’s got a song called “Mera” he’d really like to share with the crowd… and, woof… it doesn’t sound like it’ll be a “Top 40” hit. Anyhoo, just as he’s getting into it, Aquaman’s song is interrupted…
… by Robin, the Boy Wonder! He immediately takes command of the crowd… and, much to the chagrin of our feature character, the stage as well! The peanut gallery really wants to know what it’s like to hang out with the vaunted caped crusader… which, poor Artie can’t even hope to compete with… and so, he retires to one of the tables on the floor, lamenting the fact that he ever told Robin about these “Open Mic Nights”.
His pity-party is interrupted (wow, lots of interruptions in this one!) by a woman… who really seemed to dig his music! Artie doesn’t seem to be buyin’ it for one second (and I can’t blame him!), but plays along anyway (and, again, I can’t blame him!). He informs the gal that this is just a hobby… something he does as a “release”. In reality, he’s a crime-fighter. She brushes that aside and tells him how sexy he is when he sings. How much has she had to drink?
Before we know it, Arthur and whatsherface are at a Chinese restaurant. The live eels in the tank are talking… unfortunately, it’s not in English. There, the couple chat about Mera… and Aquaman waxes poetic about how he ought to create a “Black Box Recorder of Love”. Da hell?
Despite all this, the gal invites Arthur back to her place… and, upon arrival, we can see that she’s sort of a superhero groupie! Or, at least, a very passionate comic book fan. Aquaman checks out her photo wall, and sees the Batman and Robin pic from the Tony Millionaire story in this very book (ooh, meta!).
Upon seeing this… and learning how “into” the Dynamic Duo his date is, Aquaman starts getting a bit skittish, and decides it’s time for him to split. He excuses himself and heads home much to the astonishment of this girl who was probably expecting an eventful evening.
We rejoin Aquaman back at his apartment wallowing in self-pity, when… get this, he’s interrupted by the arrival of his roommate, Green Arrow! He’s got a weird vampire-looking girl with him, and they both have a good laugh at the sad-sack.
After Ollie and the Vamp excuse themselves to go bang in the next room over, Aquaman pikcs up his guitar and proceeds to pluckin’. Outside his apartment, we can see the Bat-Signal illuminating in the night.
I can’t help but to feel like I didn’t quite “receive” this one the way it was intended. I can’t shake the sensation that I was supposed to find this incredibly deep and meaningful… like, as in we were actually getting “into the head” of Aquaman, and getting a close look at all of his hang-ups (emotional, romantic, self-esteem). And, don’t get me wrong, that’s all in here… but, I dunno… there’s an odd “preciousness” to it as well, which really turns me off.
Now Aquaman has been sort of a “punching bag” in the comics pantheon for friggin’ ever, right? In fact, I’m convinced there are only two kinds of Aquaman stories ever told nowadays. The first, plays Aquaman off as a joke character… the second, is him proving he’s not a joke character. I like him as a serious character, however, anytime it’s done… the specter of “Ya see? Aquaman’s no joke!” is always there. It never feels intrinsic, natural, or organic… it’s always in a “point to prove” sort of way.
Here… it’s like we’re playing this weird analogy game. The jokier aspects of his character and power set have effected his self-esteem… and it seems like he really feels inadequate when compared to Batman. Well, fair enough I guess… that I can work with, if only the entire tone wasn’t so “cute”.
Worth noting, I really dug the art here… and, ya know what… despite it going against basically everything I stand for when it comes to Aquaman (which admittedly, isn’t much), I was even okay with the “talks to fish” bits.