Spinner Rack: "The Day Aquaman Lost His Powers" - Part Two

Posted by Joanna Sandsmark on 7/9/2013

This month's story was originally found in World's Finest Comics #137 from November 1963 and later reprinted in Showcase Presents: Aquaman, Volume 2, which is where I read it. It also explains why my scans are in black and white this month.

Part One, which isn’t difficult to find, found Aquaman and Aqualad helping Capt. Toby and his divers. As the Duo of Dampness shows the raiding frogmen who’s boss in the ocean, Aquaman trips over a dragon-head urn and gets a face full of fumes. (Let’s take up the story from here…)

When Aqualad asks what happened, Aquaman says, "I — I don't know! Those strange fumes seemed to rob me of some of my strength! Found it hard to breathe in the water! I feel stronger on land!" This is devastating news because Aquaman cannot stay out of the water for more than an hour. What will happen to him? Going in the water weakens him, but staying out of the water will kill him. Now that is what I call a dilemma of doom!

The only plan Aquaman has involves getting the urn and finding out just exactly what was in those fumes. Aqualad volunteers to go back and get it. Neither of them know that the urn was picked up by the frogmen.

Aqualad finds out in short order. He also gives us another fabulous epithet: "Great guppies!" Guppies are much better than snails (see last month’s write-up) since they are only found in the water. Aqualad needs to have a talk with Aquaman about appropriate exclamations. I promise to stop obsessing about this (unless, of course, I see yet another doozy).

Aqualad doesn't waste any time looking for the urn underwater. He swims right to the frogmen’s boat and sure enough, he sees the mysterious dragon-head urn lying in a coil of rope on deck. "Silent as an eel, Aqualad slips aboard, but…" apparently, the eels he has been emulating aren't quite as silent as he thought. He steps on the creaky deck and the frogmen attack. Aqualad dives into the water and covers his tracks by commanding a whole bunch of fish to fly out of the water right into the gunfire of the frogmen. (That takes a lot of chutzpah. He saves his own skin by having a bunch of fish jump in front of bullets? How many fish gave their lives that day? Who told their families? Did Aqualad explain that his own life was far more important than the lives of their loved ones? Granted, Aqualad is young. You can tell because he is a lad. Still, I think his mentor needs to have a little chat with Mr. "I'll let the fish take the dive." Please note that I am very ashamed of myself for that last sentence.)

Aqualad doesn't waste any time searching for belly-up Pisces. His mind is on the urn. When he surfaces near the boat, one of the frogmen is waiting for him with a deadly surprise. He points the urn at Aqualad, yanks on the handle and shoots the deadly fumes right at the young swimmer.

On the shore of the small island, Aquaman watches with growing trepidation. He thinks to himself, "Great waves!” (Yes, the epithets are even there when it's a mere thought balloon. I just broke my promise, didn't I? Oops.) “Aqualad got a dose of those fumes, too! And he's floundering helplessly in the water!” Floundering? Really, Aquaman, you're busy thinking up bad puns while your sidekick is in danger of dying? “Why doesn’t he summon help again? I'll — I'll have to do it for him!"

Aquaman soon finds out why the fish stopped listening — and it had nothing to do with being sent into a hail of bullets the last time they answered a distress call. Fish are so darned noble! No, the Aquaguys are not just weakened by the water, the fumes also weaken their ability to send telepathic messages. While Aqualad struggles for his life, Aquaman comes up with a quick and daring plan. He spots some sea eagles on the cliffs and because they are close to him he is able to send them signals. I had no idea that their telepathy worked on birds. I always thought it only worked on things that swam for a living. Apparently not.

Aquaman jumps on the backs of a couple of eagles and sends the flock racing toward his "floundering" sidekick. Aquaman grabs Aqualad’s arms and pulls him out of the water onto the backs of a couple more eagles. It's amazing how much weight those eagles can carry.

Aqualad points toward Capt. Toby's boat and says, "Suffering snails!” (This is not my fault. I have to point this out, because I earlier postulated that this was just a one-off expression from Aquaman. Now I find out not only is it a repeated expression, but that they both use it. Somehow, the suffering of the snails is fascinating enough to the Aqua family that they felt compelled to integrate it into their vernacular.) “Look — Capt. Toby is racing full-speed ahead! But he's no match for those gunmen!"

It is at this moment that Aquaman makes a fateful decision. He tells Aqualad to take the eagles to Capt. Toby's boat. He asks the lad to do his best to persuade Capt. Toby to stop. But what will Aquaman do?

"I’m going to try and stop those crooks — if it takes my last ounce of strength!" Although Aqualad does his best to keep Aquaman from this suicide mission, he is unable to keep the man in orange and green from diving into the deadly waters. Carrying out the final wishes of his mentor, Aqualad lands on Capt. Toby's boat, but is unable to persuade him to stop. Capt. Toby is determined not to let Aquaman down.

Capt. Toby's bravery will not go unpunished. The frogmen see him coming and get ready to shoot. Aquaman knows he has but one chance to save his friend and recover the urn. With the last of his strength he leaps out of the water and spoils the shot of the two armed frogmen. A third frogman hangs back, the urn pointed toward Aquaman. Before the King of the Seas can get back in the water the gas is once more released from the dragon-head urn. Aquaman falls overboard while Capt. Toby and Aqualad fear the worst.

The frogmen start racing toward Capt. Toby's boat from just a few feet away. I am unsure of why their guns only work if they are inches away. That appears to be the case. Aqualad is upset that they are speeding toward them (as much as one can speed in a boat across a few feet of water) about to finish them off and yet he cannot call any of his fishy friends to stop these bullets.

Suddenly, the raiders' boat is attacked by hammerhead sharks. The hammerheads wreck the boat by hammering it. How did this happen when we just heard Aqualad bemoan his lack of fish telepathy? The answer instantly becomes clear as Aquaman leaps from the water knocking out the frogmen and grabbing the urn.

And now my favorite sentence in the entire story and one I hope you, too, will find equally as delightful: "As obedient fish swiftly take prisoners…" What a marvelous sentence this is. Made even more so by a panel that shows an octopus grabbing all three frogmen. This is the sort of panel that makes me wish I owned every Silver Age Aquaman story that exists — in their original living color! The last time I wrote about an Aquaman story, I found a panel that showed Aquaman's undersea lair that had a goldfish bowl on the ledge with a goldfish and a water line. It's almost impossible not to adore this character for insanity like that.

Oh, right. Get to the end of the story. Aquaman points the dragon-head urn at Aqualad, restoring his powers. He then breaks the urn so that no other underwater heroes accidentally get fumed by it. He then offers to bring the treasure to Capt. Toby, and that brings this story to an end.

I hope you’ll come back next month for more amazing Silver Age fun. Until then, keep reading!

If you'd like to learn more, including a detailed bio and more information about Joanna's books, please visit her website.

This is a guest article. The thoughts and opinions in this piece are those of their author and are not necessarily the thoughts of the Certified Collectibles Group.

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