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The Untold Truth Of Mera

Romance has always been an important part of superhero stories: Superman and Lois, Spider-Man and Mary Jane Watson, Batman and Catwoman (or Vicki Vale or Talia or whoever). In the old days when comic book storytelling was extremely simple (and usually sexist), most superhero love interests were barely fleshed out afterthoughts, unless they were conniving schemers (remember all those Lois Lane "I'll trick Superman into loving me" stories from the Silver Age?).

One notable exception has always been Mera, the longtime wife of Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman. Although Aquaman had been around since 1941, his supporting cast began expanding exponentially when the 1960s began. Along with Aquaman's teenage sidekick Aqualad, the most significant new character of that era was Mera. A redhead in a green catsuit, Mera had a suitably mermaid-esque look while still having four limbs. Originally she even had big flippers on her feet, but in time she transitioned to more tasteful footwear.

Unlike a lot of superhero partners, Mera has her own powers and can stand on equal footing (or swim on equal ... finning) with her man. She's actually unique in a lot of ways, so let's spend some time getting to know her.

Mera's own unique water-powers

Like her husband, Mera is super-strong and can breathe underwater. He'll have to tell her what the mackerel are saying, however, because she lacks his ability to communicate with sea life. Mera has her own water-based power set that complements her husband's, rather than duplicating it. She's hydrokinetic, meaning that she can mentally control water, moving it and shaping it however she wants. She can make it hard enough to stand on, or use as a weapon. She can extract water from other sources, including human bodies, which makes her potentially very dangerous. She can even mentally sense a body of water nearby, or tell if there's anything hidden below the surface.

Mera's hydrokinesis also enables her to propel herself through the water at great speed, without really swimming (although obviously she can also swim — wouldn't it be ridiculous if she couldn't?). For that matter, she can also propel herself through the air if there's enough water nearby to carry her. Given how ubiquitous water is on Planet Earth, Mera's pretty darn powerful when you think about it.

The Queen of Dimension Aqua

Back in the Silver Age of Comics, Aquaman needed a love interest. Not only would getting a girlfriend open up new avenues of storytelling, it would keep any misguided busybodies from getting the wrong idea about his relationship with his teen sidekick, Aqualad. The problem, of course, was that Aquaman spends most of his time underwater, so it's not like he could date some air-breathing reporter like Superman and the Flash did. The only human-ish women in the ocean lived in the domed city of Atlantis, and Aquaman at that time had a rather fraught relationship with the Atlanteans, being their exiled king and all. So that didn't leave him many options, until Jack Miller and Nick Cardy came up with a unique solution in "Aquaman" Vol. 1 #11, back in September 1963.

Mera, who debuted in that issue, was from another world entirely. She was introduced as the Queen of Dimension Aqua, a water world from which she fled in that first story after being deposed by a criminal named Leron. Naturally she found Aquaman, and he helped her regain her throne. But after hanging out with Aquaman, she seemed a lot less interested in being Queen, and kept showing back up in Earth's ocean to hang out. Fortunately Aqualad had Topo the octopus to hang out with, so he didn't feel like too much of a third wheel.

The first on-panel superhero wedding

Aquaman and Mera got married in "Aquaman" #18, just seven issues after they met. By this time Aquaman had accepted his role as King of Atlantis so he didn't need a girlfriend anymore — he needed a queen. Of course Mera already was a queen, but she abdicated her throne in Dimension Aqua to move to Earth and be with Aquaman full time. The wedding was a royal affair, with most of Atlantis in attendance. Aquaman's super-friends from the Justice League came too, even though most of them had to wear fishbowl-looking helmets to breathe under the sea.

"Aquaman" #18 is cover-dated December 1964, which means it probably came out in the fall of that year. That makes Aquaman and Mera the first superhero couple to get married on panel. Mister Fantastic and the Invisible Woman, who most people think of as the original married superheroes, didn't tie the knot until the summer of 1965, in "Fantastic Four Annual" #3. The Silver Age Hawkman and Hawkwoman got married first, but their wedding wasn't on panel. They were introduced as husband and wife in "The Brave and the Bold" #34, back in 1961.

The tragically brief life of Aquababy

Once Aquaman and Mera were King and Queen, it was time to start working on producing an heir, and they wasted no time on that project either. Arthur Curry Jr., affectionately called Aquababy, was born in "Aquaman" #23. In true comic book fashion, that first story was about Aquaman having to journey to somewhere called the Gulf of Terrors to find an antidote for a genetic condition that would otherwise cause Mera and the child to die, but it all worked out in the end. Few superheroes ever had such a happy family, but alas, it was not to last.

"Adventure Comics" #452 came out in 1977, but because comic book time is slow-moving if not entirely static, Aquababy was still a toddler in this story. He was kidnapped by Aquaman's archenemy, Black Manta, and put in a time-release deathtrap so Manta could force Aquaman and Aqualad to fight to the death. In a lot of ways, it was a pretty standard old superhero story, but then it went somewhere unforeseen. Aquaman seemingly found the solution, stopped fighting his sidekick, and broke open the sphere holding his son. But it was too late. Aquababy was dead, and neither of his parents would ever be the same.

Mera bugs out (can you blame her?)

Mera was actually back in Dimension Aqua at the time, dealing with Leron, who had once again seized power in her absence. When she returned to Atlantis and found her son dead, she was naturally devastated. From her perspective, Aquaman failed to save their son. From Aquaman's perspective, Mera wasn't there when it happened, and things might have been different if she had been. Inevitably, a rift grew between them.

Attempting to save their marriage and get a fresh start, Aquaman and Mera left Atlantis together and found a new home in a flooded city just off the east coast of the United States. That fresh start was short-lived, however. Aquaman threw himself into leading the Justice League, which was based in Detroit at the time, and in his absence Mera had a breakdown that landed her in an Atlantean mental institution.

The next time the pair saw each other, Mera savagely attacked Aquaman and blamed him for their child's death. Then she left for Dimension Aqua, seeing no more reason to remain on Earth.

Return of the Queen

Aquaman soldiered on in Mera's absence, but he became a much darker hero (which was appropriate, since it was becoming the '90s). He grew his hair long, grew a beard, lost his hand and replaced it with a harpoon, and started running around with no shirt on. He even started a new relationship, with an aquatic super-heroine named Dolphin. Then one day, quite suddenly, Mera reappeared in Atlantis. At first, she didn't even realize she'd been gone all that long: It turned out an old enemy of Aquaman's, Thanatos, had trapped her in another dimension where time moved differently.

Things were awkward for a while, but ultimately Aquaman and Mera reignited their feelings for each other, and came to live as husband and wife again. Thanatos was defeated, Aquababy remained a cherished memory, and Dolphin ended up getting together with the grown-up Aqualad, who'd changed his name to Tempest. Outside of the occasional shift in continuity or storyline-specific drama, Mera and Aquaman have pretty much stayed together ever since.

Mera as a superhero in her own right

Even though she always had superpowers of her own, Mera was never really treated as a superhero in her own right in the old days. She was there to be Aquaman's love interest, a supporting character in her husband's book. As the decades wore on, however, and the culture of comic books became gradually less sexist, later writers came to realize that Mera had potential to be much more.

Mera didn't officially join the Justice League until 2017, but she'd already taken part in a number of big superhero adventures by then. Her hydrokinetic powers are quite formidable, even on land (maybe not in a sun-parched desert, but that rarely comes up), and there are few super-people in the DC Universe who she can't bravely stand against, or proudly stand beside. Plus, being part of the superhero community makes her seem less isolated, less dependent on her husband, and all-around less likely to have the kind of mental breakdown she previously suffered.

Red Lantern, Queen of Rage

The Blackest Night crossover revolved around an epic conflict involving all the different colors of Lanterns (it turns out there are more than just green) coming together to deal with Black Hand, a villain who was using Black power rings to revive the dead as Black Lanterns under his control. Aquaman was temporarily dead at the time (it happens quite a bit in comic books), so he was one of the Black Lanterns.

The event saw many heroes take up power rings and join the various Lantern groups. Flash, for example, became a Blue Lantern (powered by hope), and Wonder Woman became a Star Sapphire (aka a Violet Lantern, powered by love). In the absence of her husband (or rather, in light of his undead presence), Mera became a Red Lantern. The Red Lanterns are powered by endless rage, which is just as unhealthy as it sounds (never use a power ring that makes you bleed from the mouth). When Aquaman came back to life for real, Mera nearly died when her red ring rejected her for being full of love. Fortunately, there were plenty of other Lanterns around to save her, and she and her husband were happily reunited.

Wait, she was a what? From where?

As Mera proved herself more and more of a fiery badass over the years, it made sense to alter her origin to better fit who she turned out to be. In the aftermath of Blackest Night, it was revealed for the first time that Mera wasn't really the Queen of Dimension Aqua. She was actually a princess from Xebel, a dimension inhabited by a group of forgotten long-exiled Atlanteans. She'd been trained from birth to be a warrior and assassin, and was sent by the King of Xebel to kill the King of Atlantis. "Dimension Aqua" was a cover story she used to get close to Aquaman, but then she fell for him for real, so she just kept lying.

This new origin accomplished several things, beyond just giving Mera's homeworld a less silly name. It meant she was an Atlantean by blood despite being born in another dimension. In addition to explaining her considerable martial prowess, it also meant she had a deeply instilled hatred of Atlantis and its ruler long before she ever visited there or met him. In the new understanding of their saga, this is what emerged in the wake of Arthur Jr's death, when she lashed out at Aquaman and his city.

The many Meras of animation

Mera has been appearing in animated adaptations for almost as long as she's existed. "The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure" premiered in 1967, and Mera was a regular in the Aquaman segments, voiced by Diane Maddox. The cartoon glossed over her comics origin and powers, with narration describing her as "an Atlantean woman."

Mera also appeared in the early-2000s "Justice League" animated series, voiced by Kristin Bauer. She was only in a few episodes, and never displayed any hydrokinetic powers or really acted as a superhero in her own right. On the other hand, she got a redesign by Bruce Timm, so at least she looked amazing.

Sirena Irwin played Mera in "Batman: The Brave and the Bold," a relatively lighthearted take on Batman and his superhero friends. Her biggest role was in "Aquaman's Outrageous Adventure," in which her husband took her and their son (who lived long enough in this world to become a sarcastic tween) on a land vacation in an RV. Once again her hydrokinesis was ignored, but she did show off her super-strength and help fight off some henchmen of the Penguin.

In the "Young Justice" animated series, Mera was voiced by Kath Soucie and finally got to display some of her own unique powers. In addition to being Aquaman's wife and Queen of Atlantis, she was also an instructor at the Atlantean Conservatory of Sorcery. Rather than being from another dimension, her hydrokinetic powers were attributed to magic.

Gillian Jacobs voiced Mera in "Aquaman: King of Atlantis," a three-part animated miniseries that aired in 2021. The style of this cartoon was extremely exaggerated and humorous, but Mera did come off as a badass.

Mera at the movies

Mera played a small role in the theatrical version of "Justice League," in which she was played by Amber Heard. Mera meets Aquaman for the first time when they're attempting to stop the villain Steppenwolf from obtaining a Mother Box (it's an alien computer, best not to worry about it) kept in Atlantis. Mera is a warrior, a sorceress, and an Atlantean princess, and Heard also looks pretty much identical to the comics version of the character. Her role was expanded a bit in the later Snyder Cut of "Justice League," in which she's shown wielding Aquaman's trident as one of Batman's freedom fighters in the weird future sequence.

She got a lot more to do, unsurprisingly, in James Wan's 2018 "Aquaman" film. Here she's betrothed to Aquaman's half-brother Orm, the tyrannical ruler of Atlantis. She seeks out Aquaman on the surface and encourages him to take his rightful throne. After an initial failed challenge of Orm, Mera helps Aquaman find the trident and armor of Atlan, the first Atlantean king, which enables him to defeat his brother and take the throne. In this version, Xebel is a sub-kingdom of Atlantis, rather than another dimension, and Mera is the daughter of Xebel's king.

Amber Heard returned as Mera for 2023's "Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom," and potentially more DC movies beyond that. Although they spent the 1980s apart, Aquaman and Mera have otherwise been pretty inseparable for about a half century of real-world time, and it's clear now that wherever he appears, she'll be there too, and occasionally get to have her own adventures besides.