Who lives in a kingdom of fish, under the sea? ARTH-UR CUR-RY!
Yes, by now it's very likely that you know all about Aquaman's watery homestead Atlantis, where his mother Queen Atlanna was born and raised before she met his surface-dwelling father Tom Curry. The kindly lighthouse keeper raised Arthur until he was a teenager and eventually realized that his penchant for talking to fish might be a sign of something bigger, so off Arthur went to claim his destiny. But who rules the underwater world? And how on Earth was it established? Well, jump on your fave dolphin and dive below the waves as we explain everything you need to know about the Atlantean monarchy and their home world before the movie hits later this year!
First (properly) introduced in Adventure Comics #260, Aquaman's Atlantis was, like all other comic book versions, inspired by the mythical lost island first mentioned in Plato's Timaeus. DC's version was created by writer Robert Bernstein and superstar Golden Age artist Ramona Fradon. In the lore of the comics, Atlantis is steeped in both science and magic. According to canon, it was first established almost 70,000,000 years ago by an alien race before having a brief brush with Gemworld, the magical surface world section of the DCU. The underwater realm was also at times ruled by the Darkworld before it became an early hub for human civilization... that is, until a meteor sunk it to the depths of the ocean. Thus it became the underwater realm of the Atlanteans that Aquaman and his royal family inhabit.
The hierarchy of Atlantis is hard to pin down, as it's changed over years. But generally it's structured as a traditional monarchy, with Arthur and his family apparently descending from one of the original underwater Atlantean families. Shakalo and Orin were brothers, and Orin was the king of Atlantis. But after the island sunk, the brothers split, with Shakalo taking some of the tribe with him to go and found Tritonis. Shakalo's relatives are said to occasionally have the power of telekinesis, and if they do they allegedly have blonde hair, just like Arthur Curry.
Arthur Curry A.K.A. Aquaman
Depending on the origin you follow, Arthur's parents are Queen Atlanna of Atlantis and Tom Curry, a human lighthouse keeper from the surface world. In other versions of the story, Arthur was named Orin and was born of Atlanna and the powerful undersea wizard Atlan. But no matter what the origin, his mother is always a Queen and that means Arthur is always the rightful heir to the throne of Atlantis. The young prince returns to the underwater realm throughout his life, and he learns of his Atlantean roots either as a child or a young man in most origins.
A renegade warrior from another dimension, Mera isn't royalty until she marries Arthur, making her the queen of Atlantis. Mera and Arthur are notable as the first prominent Superhero couple to wed in the comics. She became a large part of her husband's story as well as an incredibly powerful character in her own right, as Mera has the ability to create hard water structures thanks to her extradimensional origin. She also had a child with Aquaman, who would later be killed during a fight with Black Manta, leading to the couple's eventual separation.
From the trailer, it looks like James Wan's Aquaman will be pulling from the New 52 origin for Atlanna, which sees the young princess fall in love with a brave and kind lighthouse keeper during a storm. The pair have a child together, but Atlanna is threatened by the Atlantean royals, who claim that she must return to her home and leave the proof of her betrayal behind. Something cool that the film seems to be shirking is Atlanna's death, which is a key point of most Aquaman stories. I mean... come on, who could possibly kill Nicole Kidman?
King Orm A.K.A. Ocean Master
Aquaman's half-brother has long been a part of Arthur's backstory. Before Crisis on Infinite Earths, he was Tom Curry's son. But since the late '80s his origin has been that he's the wizard Atlan's child. In the New 52 continuity it was retconned so that he was Queen Atlanna's second son, and it looks like that's where James Wan's upcoming film takes inspiration from. In the comics, before Arthur returns to the sea, Atlanna dies and Orm becomes the rightful king of Atlantis... that is, until his reign is challenged by his half-brother.
The longtime advisor of Queen Atlanna, in the film he'll be training Arthur and acting as his mentor. But in the books his connection to Atlantis is a controversial and often political one. As chief scientist of the underwater realm, Vulko has often had to fight for Atlantis. He befriended Arthur whilst the two were in Atlantean prison, and when Arthur took his throne he made Vulko his regent. Vulko was once even king of Atlantis on Earth-2!
Has this cleared up any questions you had about the power struggles of Atlantis? Just really wanna see Willem Dafoe do his best Toshiro Mifune? Love everything James Wan touches? Let us know below!
Images: DC Comics, Warner Bros., Header image by Esteban Maroto, and Tom McCraw