“The surface world needs him, they [Atlantis] need him. He tries mightily to do it all, but you know what happens when you try to please everybody.”
And Aquaman won’t be the only one doing a balancing act. Parker promises to give readers plenty of the king fighting bad guys above the waves even as he contends with detractors below.
“We do continue to see him doing good work up on land, which doesn’t sit well with most Atlanteans,” Parker said. “They don’t seem to get that he functions as their ambassador to the surface, otherwise they’d be treated as a completely hostile nation.”
This tension between Atlantis and the land-lubbing world goes both ways as the U.S. government is also trying to reconcile the sudden emergence of Arthur Curry as sovereign king of a mysterious underwater nation with Aquaman the superhero.
“They don’t know what to make of him. By his very nature, many people can’t relate to him, and most people in charge assume he has an agenda,” Parker explained. “You don’t see the Atlanteans, you just know they’re down there with military forces able to surface at any time.”
But though Aquaman the King might represent a political and military threat, Arthur Curry is still, first and foremost, a hero. “Aquaman’s reputation is growing among regular folks, particularly those who have been rescued by him. They don’t care about the politics, they just know someone is looking out for them — much the way his dad did as a lighthouse keeper.”
While the “Seven Seas” story set up in the last pages of issue #25 will primarily cross over into Johns’ “Justice League” in 2014, Parker worked closely with the “Aquaman” editorial team on handling the December creative transition, coordinating exactly how involved the series will be in the larger story.
“Geoff’s juggling a lot of plates, so Matt Idelson and Chris Conroy have been helping me with that, mostly,'” Parker said. “They’re very proud of the book and want to keep the quality nice and high, so we’ve all been pretty thorough about staying on track. Keeping Paul Pelletier in the art seat does a lot, in my mind. He’s just perfect for ‘Aquaman.”
Praising Pelletier, who joined the book last year, the writer also promised readers will see more of Pelletier’s design work as the two create new and redesign returning classic characters.
“First, we’re going to bring in some new foes, reinvent some from the distant past. It feels like a perfect time to be experimental,” Parker said. “Paul is so incredibly pro, and very patient with me as I’m the one who has to synch up with the team. I love his designs. He envisions the best stuff and makes you want to create new characters all day. He also has that range from doing normal life scenarios to epic scale, all the kind of demanding skill a book like ‘Aquaman’ requires.”
Beyond simply picking up the threads of Johns’ run, Parker explained that his emphasis moving forward centers on the conflict between how Arthur is viewed by those on land and those under the sea — and the difference between being a hero and being a king.
“We build on that — one of things we show in this first issue is how Aquaman is regarded by the people of Amnesty Bay now. They don’t necessarily ‘get’ him much more than the rest of the world, but dammit, he’s one of theirs and they look out for him! When outsiders like reporters come snooping around asking about the sea hero, practically the whole town plays dumb, like if you go to Chagrin Falls, Ohio asking about Bill Watterson.
“We’ll also finally get to see some of the people he went to school with,” Parker continued. “That police officer Geoff introduced back in #18 was a great thread that I wanted to run with.”
As the writer for the television show-inspired “Batman ’66,” it should come as no surprise Parker named that time period as one of the most important to his concept of who Aquaman is. As far as his “Aquaman” era influences go, “Maybe — the entire ’60s, with a bit of ’50s and ’70s for good measure. I love [writer Steve] Skeates and [artist Jim] Aparo, and I can stare at [artist Nick] Cardy or [artist Ramona] Fradon’s issues all day — all full of stuff that works for Aquaman, keeps him iconic. To me, what doesn’t work, or rather works at the time but doesn’t stick, is when you alter him to fit other types of stories. Aquaman has to be the pivotal element that shapes the kinds of stories you tell, and it results in a book that doesn’t feel like so many others.”
But for all the threads left from Johns’ final issue, there is one major change the new “Aquaman” scribe stated he dared not allow, lest he incur the wrath of the sea king’s wife — having Arthur grow out his beard again.
“I really wouldn’t want to challenge Mera on one of her edicts like that,” Parker said. “Stay smooth, Arthur.”
Jeff Parker’s run begins with “Aquaman” issue #26, out December 31.