Appellate Judge Kent Dixon is in training to replace Aquaman when he retires and can already hold his breath for 42 seconds in the bathtub. Not bad, huh!?!
"Aquaman! Swift and powerful monarch of the ocean. With ability to summon and command all creatures of the deep. Aquaman! Who with his teenage ally Aqualad, guards and defends all that lives in the seas against the forces of evil. Aquaman! King of the seven seas."
Starting out as a second-string superhero when he was first created in 1941, Aquaman grew in popularity to the point where he became a founding member of the Justice League of America in 1962. The character is amazingly simple in his composition, a man who has super strength in water and can command the ocean's multitudes of sea creatures. Perhaps it's that simplicity that makes Aquaman so appealing and almost classical in his mythology. I mean, who wouldn't want to have super strength, communicate telepathically with sea creatures, be able to breathe under water, and be known as the "King of the Seven Seas" or the "Monarch of Atlantis"?
Just as little girls are fascinated with mermaids, little boys have Aquaman to admire beneath the waves. In some ways like Superman, Aquaman serves as a global guardian, watching over Earth's oceans and the creatures that live there. But unlike nearly every other superhero in the Marvel or DC universes, Aquaman has no secret identity to protect; he's just, well…Aquaman.
More recently in his history, Aquaman appeared in an episode of Smallville as the focus of a pilot from Smallville creators Al Gough and Miles Millar for a new live-action TV series for the WB. With the merger of the WB and UPN networks into the CW Network, executives at the new network passed on the show. Ironically, when the unaired pilot was offered for download on iTunes, it quickly became the most downloaded TV show in the iTunes TV catalog, so the mystery remains why CW didn't pick up a show that appears to have a ready made fan base.
I have fond memories of The Adventures of Aquaman on TV as I was growing up. I remember coming home from school at lunch and plunking down for some aquatic goodness before rushing back to school. Doubtless I was watching reruns, as the show first aired two years before I was born. As I rewatched the series in preparation for my review, from the moment I saw the first frame of the show and the opening theme began, vivid childhood memories flooded (sorry!) back to me.
Airing on CBS in 1967, Aquaman was produced by Filmation, an animation company that produced cartoon and live-action shows from the late '60s through the late '80s. For children of the '70s and '80s like me, Filmation means great shows like The Batman/Superman Hour, The Archie Comedy Hour, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, Star Trek: The Animated Series, Shazam!, Isis, Tarzan and the Super 7, and many, many more.
Likely the first appearance of Aquaman in an animated form, Aquaman is relatively standard '60s Saturday morning superhero cartoon fare; the good guys are pretty much minding their own business, when the crazy bad guy comes along with an evil plan and messes things up. Rarely a match for the hero, the bad guys are thwarted and the world is happy again. Throw in the odd exclamation like "holy haddock" and "leapin' lionfish" from Aquaman's teen sidekick Aqualad, and you've got '60s TV animated magic.
All 36 episodes of the series are included on this The Adventures of Aquaman: The Complete Collection release, grouped in pairs of two and spread over two discs. The episodes are listed in the disc menus, but are not accessible other than through a "play" function that starts from the beginning and plays through all the episodes in sequence.
The Adventures of Aquaman: The Complete Collection fares surprisingly well on this first-ever DVD release. There is some damage and dirt visible on the print, but it's surprisingly minimal, considering the age of the show. Colors are nice and vibrant and blacks are solid—an important factor, considering the majority of the show's elements have black borders and shading. The audio presentation isn't particularly dynamic, but it remains clear at all times, and there is a consistently effective balance between dialogue, effects and music.
Yes, that's Ted Knight from The Mary Tyler Moore Show as the show's narrator; I thought I recognized his voice right away and a quick stop at the Internet Movie Database confirmed my suspicions. If you listen carefully, Knight also provides the voices for assorted other characters in the series. Also worth noting is the show's closing theme, which reminds me of a blend of the Looney Tunes theme and a cheesy Broadway show; it's over the top, but it's fun. The sound effects used in the show were also familiar from other Filmation programs I watched as a child.
Found on Disc Two, the retrospective featurette "Aquaman: The Sovereign of the Seas" is the sole extra feature included with this release. If you've possibly just surfaced from the bottom of the ocean and aren't familiar with the character, this feature is an excellent introduction to Aquaman, his history, and the breadth of media he has impacted. If you're already a fan, you'll find yourself justified and renewed in your dedication to the emerald and yellow maritime monarch.
If you grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons in the '60s and '70s, you may fondly remember Aquaman from your childhood. Although the show isn't up to the standards of today's animated superhero TV shows on the writing or production fronts, after forty years it still holds up as a simple show with a great leading character and a whole lot of fun.
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• "Aquaman: Sovereign of the Seas" Retrospective Featurette
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