Since he’s soon to be a star on the big-screen, but somehow still ends up the target of mindless mockery, it’s time to scope out the first appearance of the King of the Seas… Aquaman! Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of More Fun Comics #73 awaits!
Writer: Gardner Fox/Mort Weisinger/Jerry Siegel
Penciler: Howard Sherman/George Papp/Ed Moore/Bernard Baily/Paul Norris
Inker: Howard Sherman/George Papp/Chad Grothkopf/Bernard Baily/Paul Norris
Letterer: Howard Sherman/Bernard Baily/Chad Grothkopf
Editor: Mort Weisinger
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: 10 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $258,000.00
Previously in More Fun Comics: First hitting newsstands in 1935, a full THREE YEARS before the first appearance of Superman, New Fun #1 was the first publication of the company/companies that would become DC Comics. (Short version: This is the first DC title! Sort of!) New Fun #1 was also the first comic book to consist of all-new material. The format of the book changed, as did the title; first to More Fun then to More Fun Comics, but by 1941 it was the home title of the Justice Society’s biggest mystical heavy hitters.
By this time, both heroes were seriously powered down from their peak crazy-pants levels, with Doctor Fate wearing his half-face helmet for the first time (which was later retconned as a major loss in magical power thanks to the loss of Lord of Order Nabu) and The Spectre’s feature in More Fun #73 ending with a blurb/warning that next issue would herald the debut of Percival Popp, The Super-Cop! Percy would eventually eclipse The Spectre entirely, turning him from giant mystical being to comic-relief guardian angel. But other than the on-going defanging of two uber-powerful Golden Agers, this issue also gives us the first appearance of Arthur Curry, the orange-scale-mail-wearing monarch of the sea known as Aquaman, saving a lifeboat full of castaways from a U-Boat attack. With his two strong fists and a pod of helpful porpoises, he brings the innocents to safety, and when asked who and what he is, Aquaman takes a moment to give the Cliff Notes version of his origin.
Explaining that his father was a “famous undersea explorer” whose name you would certainly recognize (with little or no mention of his mother, by the way), Aquaman leaps off to find the attacking submarine and deliver justice to its N*zi crew. Arising from the sea like an avenging orange angel, Aquaman punches a hole in the sub, scuttling it, then confronts the commander about his war crimes. Like all Golden Age heroes, though, his head is his weak spot, and he is knocked unconscious by a man with a sledgehammer (!!) and chucked into the ocean. It’s a real “Br’er Rabbit in the briar patch” situation…
As the last feature in More Fun Comics #73, Aquaman’s debut is only 8 pages long (lead feature Dr. Fate got 10, with the other stories running about the same) and so has to wrap up pretty quickly. Returning to the surface to confront the evil U-Boat crew, Aquaman goes hand-to-hand.
Even though he says that he doesn’t know what the grenade is, it’s a little startling to see our hero murder a bunch of people in his first appearance. What’s actually most impressive to me is the fact that, unlike Superman or Batman, Aquaman’s traditional look is established here and doesn’t really change for several decades, with the only real alteration being small changes to the shape of his belt-buckle ‘A’. It’s a quick and entertaining story, one that takes pains to differentiate him from Timely Comics’ Sub-Mariner, the original amphibious hero from a couple of years earlier. I think the most impressive part about More Fun Comics #73, though, is the fact that it’s not just the first appearance of ONE important Justice League character with a high media profile circa 2018…
Yes, friends, Aquaman’s first appearance is also the first appearance of Oliver “Green Arrow” Queen, As Seen On TV! With the alterations to The Spectre and Doctor Fate and an appearance by Johnny Quick (the only hero other than Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman to keep appearing consistently even after the superhero bubble collapsed in the late 1940s), this issue is really the shape of things to come for what would become DC Comics. More Fun Comics #73 is a big anthology book, but every story, even the Clip Carson short, is solidly written with fun art, and the twin debuts make it culturally VERY important, earning 4 out of 5 stars overall. I’m hard pressed to think of another single issue that include two such important first appearances, at least of characters who don’t work as a team.
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Look, don't make any "Talks To Fish" jokes around these parts, as this is a really strong comic book, one that is not only exciting but culturally and canonically relevant on multiple levels.