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Why Aquababy Might Be The Darkest Part Of Aquaman's Story

Like most superheroes who arrived during the Golden Age of comics, Aquaman has had some pretty bizarre adventures over the years. In the decades since the hero's debut in March 1939's More Fun Comics #41, various writers have put their own spin on Arthur Curry's life and powers. More recent stories in the DC Rebirth era have deconstructed Aquaman's place in the universe, asking how the real world would deal with a new society joining the United Nations. Sure, he can speak to fish, but how does Arthur's political relationships affect his status as a hero? 

It's safe to say that Aquaman isn't the goofy member of the Justice League that early animated shows made him out to be. If anything, Aquaman's stories have actually been quite dark in the last few decades — remember that time a pool of bloodthirsty piranhas ate his hand clean off? However, though the Modern Age of comics added a realistic tone to the adventures of most Caped Crusaders, back in the 1970s, Aquaman's story sunk to depths never before reached with the horribly shocking death of Aquababy.

It was all part of Black Manta's plan

In the Bronze era of DC Comics, Aquaman's arch-nemesis Black Manta took aim at those closest to Arthur in an attempt to break his spirit — specifically Aquababy, the son he had with Mera. The villain held a grudge against the hero for not saving him from being forced into serving pirates as a young boy, hence all his rage. In August 1977's Adventure Comics #452, Black Manta took Aquababy and held him hostage in a spherical cage that he was slowly filling with air. Unlike Arthur, the Atlantean baby couldn't breathe out of the water. To make matters worse, Black Manta forced Aquaman and his side-kick Aqualad to fight each other to save Aquababy.

The entire setup is incredibly dark, but because it's framed in child-slash-teen-friendly art and dialogue, it doesn't look visually horrific. But thematically, forcing a pair of friends to fight while a baby suffocates is just awful. Unfortunately, the Aquaman-versus-Aqualad fight went on for too long. By the time Aquababy was freed, he'd already died. It was a moment that would forever change Arthur Curry, forcing him to carry the weight of his son's death on his shoulders for decades — although he never apologized to Mera that his fight with Black Manta is what really killed their son.

But wait, it gets worse. In the 2009 Blackest Night event, all the dead characters in the DC Universe were resurrected as part of the Black Lantern Corps – including Aquaman himself, who was killed after making a deal with some Sea Gods (but that's another story). When zombie-Arthur faced off with his beloved Mera, he whipped out Aquababy's undead corpse for no other reason than to taunt her. Comic storylines can be pretty messed up at times, even ones involving a hero like Aquaman.