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Characters In Aquaman With More Meaning Than You Realized

Aquaman has surged onto the big screen with all the color and excitement of a comic book brought to life, and that's just what fans expected from a hero who rules a magical neon ocean city. From the glare of the Sahara to the murky depths of the Trench, Aquaman sweeps viewers away on a whirlwind adventure with plenty of fan-favorite comic book heroes and villains along for the ride.

But with such a massive cast of characters, Aquaman's undersea outing only has time to splash the surface of some of these characters' incredibly detailed backstories. As it turns out, a lot of the names and faces in the movie have far greater importance in the annals of Aquaman comics. Some of the best characters were relegated to mere cameos, while others received huge changes in design and motivation. Here are some of the characters in Aquaman with more meaning than you realized. Spoilers ahoy.


It probably comes as a surprise to non-comics fans that not all Atlanteans are created equal. For example, only the high-borns can breathe air, and almost nobody can talk to fish. For her part, Mera's unique power is the control of water, which she inherited as a Xebel princess. The movie hints at her power by having her hold back a tidal wave to save Aquaman's father, but that only touches on the true strength of her ability.

In Justice League #24, Mera went head to head against the Justice League — not just one member, but all of them — and H2-owned them without breaking a sweat. And remember that time Frank Miller had Superman come within inches of death after a nuclear bomb filled the atmosphere with dust? Mera went up against a nuke and saved herself and Aquaman by putting them both in a bubble. Easy.

Then in the Mera: Queen of Atlantis storyline, she became — you guessed it — the queen of Atlantis after throwing down against Ocean Master for the throne. Basically, she did what Aquaman did, but it didn't take her as long. Whether the DCEU incorporates the full heights of Mera's powers in the future is anyone's guess, but she could easily be a game changer in upcoming films.


Aquaman was largely inspired by the Geoff Johns run on the character's comics, but the film made one major character change. Dolph Lundgren plays King Nereus, leader of the Xebel tribe and father of Mera. In the comic series, however, Nereus isn't Mera's dad — he's her fiance. At least, he is until she falls in love with Aquaman, at which point he becomes her lifelong enemy.

Surprisingly, ol' Captain Redbeard hasn't been a fixture of DC Comics for very long. His first appearance was in the same Geoff Johns-penned storyline, and he later emerged from the comic book depths again to work with Atlan to destroy Atlantis in the "Death of a King" storyline. Despite being more of a sidekick to the villains than the main villain himself, Nereus has spent a lot of time trying to get rid of Aquaman. Guess having his fiance leave him really got under his skin.


Like most comics characters, Orm has gone through a lot of changes over the years. His Prime Earth continuity mirrors what we saw in the film — he's Aquaman's half-brother who wants to be king of Atlantis, and he hates garbage. Pretty standard stuff for the fish people. But travel back in time to his New Earth incarnation, and things get a lot more fun. In 2005's "Retroverse" storyline, for example, Orm uses some of Arthur's bones to cast a spell that reverses reality and turns Orm into Aquaman. That's right — Orm has magical powers, and he's not afraid to use them on his half-brother's disembodied hand.

In the earlier "Underworld Unleashed" story arc, Orm goes even further by selling his soul to a demon in exchange for a magical trident (the Joker, meanwhile, sells his for a box of cigars). That's a version of Orm we would have loved to see, but apparently it was all just a little too crazy for a movie where people go to war riding on fish.

Black Manta

For all the screentime Black Manta got in the Aquaman trailers, the black-suited villain showed up for precious little of the actual film. After spending much of the beginning focusing on Black Manta's origins and the start of his quest for revenge against Aquaman, the movie shifts gears to the main Orm vs. Arthur plot, sidelining Black Manta as a paid flunky of Orm's. Once Aquaman tosses him off a cliff, Black Manta is once again out of the picture.

And while that mid-credits scene teased more Black Manta in the future, the film doesn't come close to exploring the true relationship between Manta and Arthur. A dig through comics history reveals that Black Manta has been terrorizing Aquaman since 1967, concocting schemes up to and including collapsing the Earth to create his own underworld kingdom. If there's one character we would have loved to see more in Aquaman, it would definitely be Black Manta. Oh well, there's always the sequel!


This big daddy Atlantean lived onscreen mostly through flashbacks that showed the rise and fall of Atlantis, but like just about everybody in a comic book movie, there's a lot more to him than that. In some of the since-retconned origin stories, Atlan is actually Arthur's biological father, but even if you ignore all that and focus on the Geoff Johns run of Aquaman, Atlan is way more than a mere prop that holds a shiny trident.

As the Dead King, Atlan spent thousands of years in hibernation before rising again to destroy Atlantis. There are a lot of similarities between that story and what we saw in the movie — Aquaman uses Atlan's trident to summon the armies of the Trench and save Atlantis, and Arthur takes his rightful place as king. But the role of Atlan was pretty much reduced to little more than a decorative umbrella stand. He hung around just long enough to give Aquaman the trident before fading away to an aquagrave.


It was a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment, but there was one long-time comics favorite hiding out in Atlantis: Topo, Aquaman's trusty octopus sidekick. Just before Orm and Arthur begin their duel, the camera pans over an octopus going to town on a set of drums. Normally, a random aquatic creature in an ocean city wouldn't be any reason to stop the presses, but director James Wan himself confirmed that this is indeed Topo.

There honestly isn't much about Topo's past adventures that made any real difference to anything. For example, in the somewhat goofy Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis series ("The cutting edge of adventure!"), he shows up just long enough to get captured and then saved by Aquaman. The DC Wiki lists his weakness as "asphyxiation," so apparently he's... you know, just like everyone else. It isn't until the 2011 Aquaman run that Topo is reimagined as a massive, hyper-intelligent creature that actually pulls his weight in a storyline.


There's no end to the debates about how comic book characters stack up against each other. Could Superman beat the Flash in a race? Would Asbestos Lady be a worthy opponent for Matter-Eater Lad? These are classic dinner table conversations, and none of them matter anymore, because director James Wan has apparently given the definitive answer to the question of who's the strongest being on the planet: the Karathen.

Doesn't ring a bell? It's the giant tentacle monster that Aquaman has to face before he can get to Atlan's trident. In a tweet referencing Julie Andrews' casting as the voice of the Karathen, Wan said, "The most powerful creature on Earth is a dame."

In the climactic battle, we see the Karathen in action as it goes to work on Orm's army, and yeah, we can buy that it's pretty strong. Unfortunately, as a brand new character without any comics history, it's hard to gauge just how strong.