Which Sea Creatures Can and Can't Aquaman Talk to?

Dec 20 2018 -- 2:30 PM

Ever since he first appeared in 1941, Aquaman has been famous for one super power above all others: He talks to fish. Or, more accurately, he telepathically communicates with all forms of sea life, often employing them to do his bidding. Sure, Aquaman also has super strength, can swim at incredible speeds, and can kick butt with that cool trident. But thanks to cartoons like the Superman/Aquaman Hour and Super Friends, he's been defined by his propensity to summon octopuses and whales to plug up holes in sinking ships via radar-like circles springing out of his head, accompanied by nifty sound effects. Or just to ride around on the backs of dolphins, because he can! (C'mon, you would too if you had that power!)In short, Aquaman can communicate with a wide variety of sea creatures—fish, sharks, sea mammals, octopuses... but where does the list end? Can Aquaman only talk to sea life? Or can he use his mental powers to tell a lion to attack a big game hunter, or even mind control a human being?

For much of his comic book existence, the answer was no, Arthur Curry only had what is called "marine telepathy." What's more, he could seemingly communicate more easily with smaller fish, and had a slightly harder time making mental connections with seafaring mammals like dolphins and whales (despite certain versions of his origin story saying he was actually raised with a group of dolphins). In other words, the smaller the sea life, the easier he could control it. Yes, even shrimp.So what about sea birds? Or otters? Or for that matter, water based reptiles like alligators, or amphibians like frogs? Well, this is where Aquaman's power set starts to evolve. In the Silver and Bronze Ages ('50s -'70s), DC stories implied that since the aforementioned are animals that mostly live on land or near streams and rivers, they didn't count, as Aquaman was the "King of the Seven Seas." So sorry, fresh water creatures.But in 1982, writers Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn introduced the idea that Aquaman could control non-sea life in DC Comics Presents #48, when he took control of Superman by tapping into the parts of his brain he inherited from his marine ancestors (I guess Aquaman was counting on Kryptonians having similar evolution to humans). Aquaman would occasionally use his powers on non-sea life from there on out, but it's always a strain on him.In the '90s, writers at DC Comics like Peter David and Grant Morrison, who chronicled Aquaman's adventures in JLA, expanded upon his telepathic powers. It was Grant Morrison who gave Arthur his biggest power boost in a single panel in JLA #4 in 1997, in fact; Aquaman explained to a villain (who taunted him as the "talks-to-fish guy") that since all life evolved from marine life-forms, he could then affect the part of the brain that they inherited from those same marine life-forms and use it to induce paralysis, create intense pain, and more. What was once hard to do on Superman in the '80s, he now did with casual ease.When Aquaman got another revamp in the New 52 with writer Geoff Johns, his marine telepathy was defined somewhat differently. As he stated in his first issue of his rebooted series, fish and other lower forms of marine life don't have the mental compatibility for direct communication, so he can't "talk" to them. Basically, he mentally forces his will on these sea creatures.However, when it comes to more intelligent sea life, like whales and dolphins, it's a different story. He has to cajole them into helping. Occasionally they even tell Aquaman where he can go swim to (especially the sharks). But this post-2011 Aquaman seems to not be able to mentally control or communicate with more evolved, sentient lifeforms.In Aquaman #31 in 2015, writer Jeff Parker had Aquaman actually commanding alligators to attack Swamp Thing, which showed that water-based reptiles were absolutely under his domain, even if they lived in swamps and not oceans. Another more recent example of Aquaman showing the extent of his marine telepathy is when he used his powers to summon a giant octopus-crab hybrid sea monster. This Godzilla-sized creature was way too big and way too strong willed to be controlled by any puny human (or half-human, half-Atlantean) and Aquaman strained himself to control the beast. The physical cost of using that much mental power on him actually landed Aquaman in a six-month coma.But DCEU Aquaman might be the most powerful version of the character we've seen yet, as he was able to do something similar with a giant Kraken in the movie, which maybe proves Jason Momoa's version is the strongest Aquaman we've seen yet in any form of media. "My Man!" indeed!

Images: DC Comics / Warner Brothers