When Aquaman relaunches as a twice-a-month book in June, Dan Abnett says he'll be applying his experience with cosmic characters like Guardians of the Galaxi, but this time to the ocean — playing with "fantasy, science fiction and horror themes that work particularly well in that environment."
The DC exclusive writer will also be following up on the wedding proposal readers were shown in DC Universe: Rebirth #1, as well as incorporating a couple former Aqualads into the title. And he promises to bring back Black Manta "bigger and better than ever." And further down the road, Abnett and DC Chief Creative Office Geoff Johns will be working together on "Rise of the Seven Seas," a storyline Johns teased when he was on "New 52"'s Aquaman title.
Abnett is working with artist Brad Walker on Aquaman, one of three titles he's currently writing for DC (the other two being Titans and Earth 2). And although he's been working on Aquaman for a few months before the Rebirth relaunch, he's making sure this new #1 issue is a great jumping-on point for new readers.
Newsarama talked with Abnett to find out more about his plans for Aquaman.
Newsarama: Dan, we just saw a scene in DC Universe: Rebirth #1 where Aquaman got down on one knee to ask Mera to marry him. How does the wedding proposal affect the new Aquaman book?
Dan Abnett: Well, it's not ignored. It's a fairly major plot point that will come to the fore... especially in the second arc. I guess you could say it's one of the big plot threads going on through the opening run.
Nrama: We also said a couple former Aqualads in DC Universe: Rebirth #1. Will either of those characters be showing up in Aquaman?
Abnett: Garth, for sure (and Aquaman in Titans too!). As for the "other" Aqualad (Garth is Tempest now, of course), well mysteries open into mysteries. And one of my goals with the book is to open out and diversify Arthur's supporting cast, both on land and in the sea.
Nrama: We spoke yesterday about how greatly your Titans book is affected by Rebirth. Will Aquaman also be picking up the story introduced in Rebirth, or will it be affected in any other ways?
Abnett: Aquaman isn't quite so directly affected by the Rebirth event as other books, but sooner or later the implications will be felt.
Nrama: How much is Aquaman a new book with #1, since you were on the book before Rebirth?
Abnett: With Aquaman, there is definitely a sense of a new beginning, a new issue #1. It's a major character, and we want people to have a point where they can start reading. However, if you've been reading my run up to that point, the three or four issues I did at the end of the "New 52" run, there are characters and storylines that will continue through, they will be reintroduced for new readers. So there will be a consistency there.
It's on that twice a month schedule, so it feels like there's been this enormous fury of storytelling. I've been impressed with the cycling art team, how they're working together, all supporting each other and feeding each other continuity. It's seamless.
Nrama: How would you describe the Aquaman as we pick up his story for Rebirth?
Abnett: Aquaman is one of the sort of big six of DC. He's not a Batman or Superman, but he's absolutely one of the first division heroes. And I've always liked him for that reason. And I like him for the same reason, I think, that I like a lot of cosmic characters, because he's not just a guy who puts on a costume — he's a guy from another world. He's a guy from Atlantis.
He's not wearing a superhero costume. He's wearing royal chain mail.
And he's not just a hero who saves people and does good deeds. He's got this responsibility. He rules Atlantis. He rules a whole nation. He controls the sea, which is two-thirds of the planet. He's the most global hero. Dismiss him, if you like, as a fish-talking guy, but he's incredibly important and he's also much more powerful than people realize.
So what I'm doing with Aquaman doesn't change much of what Geoff was doing since the beginning of the "New 52" — I think Geoff did a brilliant run on Aquaman and then Jeff Parker after that, and that was something I was picking up on when I took the book over. And of course, we've got the "Rise of the Seven Seas" storyline coming up.
Nrama: So how would you describe the first storyline, and how it ties into this idea of Aquaman as a character, the one you just described?
Abnett: With Rebirth, we're starting to really explore that Aquaman has got particularly unusual responsibilities when it comes to being a superhero. He's got a whole nation who depends upon him. He's a man of both dry land and the sea, because his parents come from both places. These two places have constantly been at war. So he's caught in the middle of an ongoing struggle.
He makes it his quest to redefine his own reputation, to get the world to take him seriously, not just as the guy who talks to fish, or the "other guy" in the Justice League.
He wants to be taken seriously. And he wants Atlantis to be accepted as a nation of the planet. It just happens to be the one that's under water. He wants to make a really serious effort to connect it.
We're going to show how difficult it is, how much resistance there is from the surface, how much resistance there is from Atlantis, how incredibly difficult the line is that he has to walk.
And we'll put some spectacular threats against him.
Nrama: Rebirth also put a spotlight on Aquaman's relationship with Mera. I assume she'll still be a big part of the book?
Abnett: Absolutely. She's a huge part of the book. One of the great strengths of Aquaman, I've always felt, is Mera, his beloved. She is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated characters in comics.
And although it is Aquaman's comic, Mera has an incredibly important role to play. That partnership between them, I just enjoy writing it.
Nrama: You do sound really excited about the book.
Abnett: It's such fun. It's been fantastic. Obviously, if DC had said to me, would you like to write Superman or would you like to write Batman or would you like to write Wonder Woman, I would have been delighted. These are iconic characters. But when they said, would you like to write Aquaman, I couldn't have been more pleased, because it's the one I felt I had things to say about.
I think he plays to my strengths as a writer.
People do associate me, I think, very much with cosmic superheroes — Legion of Super-Heroes, Guardians of the Galaxy, stuff like that — and although this is not space, it's in the sea, I think it's got a lot of those things in common. It allows me to play with fantasy, science fiction and horror themes that work particularly well in that kind of environment.
And because it's coming out twice a month, there's a lot of story going on. It's going to become complex and dynastic. There's a lot of intrigue and power playing. I'm not saying it's going as far as Game of Thrones, but it is very much about, how does he keep his nation safe and in control while he's trying to deal with foreign countries, and when he has significant individual enemies?
Nrama: We saw Black Mantis in the splash page of the Rebirth issue, and on the cover to an upcoming issue. How are you framing him in your run?
Abnett: Yes. He's sort of the anti-Aquaman. He's actively gunning for Aquaman.
Black Manta is this wonderful mirror, dark mirror of Aquaman. And his sole purpose is to destroy Aquaman.
And I want to make Manta not just one of his great villains. Manta previously was a guy who cropped up for six or seven issues every now and then as one of his arch foes. But this is much more.
Aquaman is the key character in the comic book, but Mera and Black Manta are the other absolute co-stars. If it was a TV show, their faces would be in the credits too, because this is so much about those characters.
Nrama: The Rebirth mandate for so many of the characters has been to really highlight what's at the core of these characters. It sounds like your first storyline does that not only for Aquaman, but his support cast as well.
Abnett: That's my intention. The stories about Aquaman that readers seem to like the most are the ones where he's on dry land. They like those stories where Aquaman comes from the sea to dry land, like a fish out of water, so to speak. So there's quite a lot of that. You're going to see him in some unusual situations.
And also, when I take him to the sea, I want to make Atlantis as fascinating as possible. It's always been depicted pretty well, and it has a nice lore and heritage to it, but I really want to make it a distinctive environment, like Dune or King's Landing or the Klingon homeworld. I want it not to just be a cliche city under the sea. It's going to have its structure and intrigue.
So I hope that wherever you follow Aquaman in the book, you go somewhere that you find interesting, and you find this new direction interesting.
Nrama: You're continuing to do Earth 2 along with all this, right?
Abnett: Yes. It's not strictly speaking part of Rebirth, but I'm continuing to write it. Obviously, it's on a slightly separate stream, although we're doing some very big stories there.
Nrama: You've done it for a little while. Does it continue?
Abnett: I took it over on issue #9, where there was a sense that the readers didn't quite like what was going on, and could I do something to sort of revamp it? And the response to that has been tremendous, so I'm buoyed up by the enthusiasm for what I'm doing.
So although Earth 2, strictly speaking, isn't part of Rebirth, but you know what? I'm trying to inject into it that sense of rejuvenation.
I was working on it a bit today, and my editor and I have come up with a storyline that I think is not only going to blow people's socks off, but also will put right — I hope — put right some of the things that people thought was not right about Earth 2 as a book.
I think I've found internal, in-universe story reasons to fix them. So if nothing else, it's going to be exciting.
Nrama: You found story reasons to bring back the Titans, and now you're finding story reasons to fix Earth 2. You're getting good at that fixing stuff.
Abnett: It should be on my business card!