October 4, 2022

Gabbing Geek

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Slightly Misplaced Comic Book Hero Case Files #104: Aquagirl

For a character people find silly, Aquaman sure has had a lot of sidekicks.

For whatever reason, Aquaman is considered a joke.  As a constant presence on the Superfriends cartoon, the blonde guy in the orange shirt who could talk to fish became prominent enough to geeks everywhere while at the same time mocking his general skill set.  That’s ignoring the fact that Aquaman is also incredibly physically strong and rather tough in order to survive the deepest depths of the ocean.  His New 52 series opened with him stopping an armored truck robbery.  The truck was hijacked by the crooks and he was standing in its path.  First he used his trident to spear the truck through the front grill and then flip it over his shoulder.  Then he went to confront the crooks.  One shot at him with a machine gun.  Most of the bullets bounced off, and the only injury was a thin trickle of blood from his forehead.  After the cops showed up and were making “talking to fish” jokes, Aquaman bounded away with Spider-Man level leaping abilities.  The guy can do more than chat with your goldfish.

Also, like Batman, he seems to attract more than his fair share of sidekicks.  Let’s look at one of the Aquagirls, Lorena Marquez.

Wait, some of you might be saying, what do I mean by “one of” the Aquagirls?  Well, there were a couple.  Two or three lasted only an issue of Aquaman’s Silver Age adventures, where their underwater breathing and such were revealed to be hoaxes or temporary.  Considering what happened with frequent Green Arrow pain-in-the-backside Arrowette, the Aquagirls got off easy.

One Aquagirl lasted for a while there.  Her name was Tula, and she was a young adventurer from Atlantis who was more or less Aqualad’s girlfriend.  She came to a bad end in The Crisis on Infinite Earths, and while more than a few characters came to bad ends in that storyline, I’d have to check but she may be the only heroic one who died that wasn’t killed by one of the Anti-Monitor’s shadow demons.  Nope, she was killed when the heroes of Earths 1 and 2 went to rescue the other three Earths left over that had been conquered by the combined Earths’ supervillains.  Tula suffocated in water when the walking superfund site Chemo dumped a load of toxic chemicals into the water where she was swimming.

Death of an Aquagirl.

For what it is worth, Tula is the Aquagirl people remember if they remember any Aquagirls at all.  She even had a small role in the recent Young Justice animated series as something of a love interest for that show’s Aqualad character.  That show actually seemed to enjoy working with DC continuity, so when season two was set a few years after season one, it was revealed that Tula (no doubt as Aquagirl) had been a member of the Young Justice team but had died on a mission between seasons.

But this is Aquaman’s world.  He goes through sidekicks almost as much as Batman does.  There was the original Aqualad, later renamed Tempest.  Young Justice created a new one that was the son of Aquaman foe Black Manta.  He had an illegitimate son in the form of the half-Inuit Koryak for a while.  He had an octopus called Topo for a period.  Heck, he even had his own version of Mxyzptlk in form of a “water sprite” called Kwisp.  Plus, his wife Mera has often been a partner to the guy.  Aquaman has a lot of friends and allies for a character that isn’t any more ridiculous than Hawkman.

Though Aquaman never appeared in a Baby Ruth commercial.

So, eventually, there was a second Aquagirl, though despite the best efforts of everyone involved, she didn’t seem to catch on as much, particularly with the creative team of the Aquaman book that followed up the ones that created her.

The second Aquagirl was a young woman named Lorena Marquez.  While visiting the San Diego zoo, some sort of weird earthquake hit that caused a section of the city to fall into the Pacific Ocean.  As it turned out, a scientist trying to create a way for humans to survive through potential environmental catastrophes had arranged it in an attempt to make the humans that were in that part of the city water-breathers.  It didn’t completely work.  Most of the people involved drowned with a relative handful surviving to find they could now breathe water instead of air.  Lorena was one of those lucky ones, though the rest of her family was not.

That was a somewhat weird time for Aquaman.  He was at the time a king without a kingdom, so he set up shop in what was soon dubbed “Sub Diego,” and that caused a few ruffles like with how he treated the democratically-elected city councilman who survived the experiment (basically reminded the guy he was a king and not a president), or how the surviving humans had to race around and prevent the surviving dogs from swimming to shore and suffocating, or how a baby born to a pregnant woman who survived was not born with her mom’s ability to breathe underwater and had to be rushed to the surface.  The scientist, for what it was worth, was more of the “well-meaning-but-absent-minded” type and was easily convinced by an angry Aquaman to work on reversing the process for all these people.

Lorena started hanging around, helping Aquman out as he adjusted to dealing with his new subjects, even when Aquaman had his mind switched with his evil half-brother the Ocean Master.  She went on to become a regular sidekick, one who helped out and even showed burgeoning detective skills in tracking down an underwater murderer.

Plus, she rocked the bare midriff.

Well, here’s where it gets weird or typical.  Like Aqualad before her, Lorena eventually joined the Teen Titans.  While there, she seems to have been something of the team flirt, flirting with the likes of teammates Blue Beetle and Superboy.  Eventually, she was bounced off the team between issues because one of her teammates didn’t want to have someone as inexperienced as her on the team.  She’s been mostly kidnapped and hanging out in the background ever since, her only powers being the ability to survive underwater and the enhanced strength that generally comes with that.

Though a Teen Titans storyline did feature some time traveling Titans from the future that included her as “Aquawoman”.  She wasn’t a member of the present-day team at the time, and the future Titans turned out to be, well, corrupt and evil.  She even had some aquatic telepathy in that version.  You’d think that meant the Teen Titans creative team would have gotten more use out of her, but no.

She’s in the bottom lefthand corner.

Who knows?  Maybe if the New 52 hadn’t happened, she would have gotten a lot more exposure.  As it is, she’s probably just been shuffled off and forgotten.

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