With Ocean Master’s striking similarity to Marvel’s Loki, DC leaves its imaginative roster of aquatic villains untapped.
It was recently announced that professional horror movie dad Patrick Wilson will star in James Wan’s Aquaman as the villainous Ocean Master. Wilson joins Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, and Jason Momoa in what is rounding out to be a talented and promising cast. While the plot itself remains mysterious, Wan has hyped it as “a quest story in the spirit of Raiders of the Lost Ark meets Romancing the Stone.” Aquaman is scheduled for an October 2018 release, with its titular hero making an appearance in next year’s Justice League.
Now let’s be clear: Wilson is a capable actor with Tony, Emmy and Golden Globe nominations, and given the authority I would cast him in every superhero film, because look at him:
— patrick wilson (@patrickwilson73) December 12, 2016
But as many outlets are pointing out, the sibling rivalry between Aquaman and Ocean Master bears more than a passing resemblance to that of Thor and Loki. Deadline remarks on the similarity as does Collider, who calls Aquaman “the Thor of the DC Extended Universe.” CNET jokes that the characters “should get together at an underwater pub to commiserate about family issues.”
The comparison is justified. Both villains resent their half/adopted sibling’s claim to the throne of their respective fantastical kingdoms, wield a spear-like weapon with mystical properties, and, unlike their heroic brothers, hold the human race in contempt. While Thor does not have exclusive rights to the “brothers being competitive” narrative, the shared genre coupled with Loki’s currently uncontested status as Marvel’s best, and most popular villain forcefully invites the comparison.
Some would argue that playing to a story arc with a proven track record will pay off in Aquaman’s favour. And while there may be some truth in this, it feels like a missed opportunity on the part of DC to highlight the particularity and uniqueness of their property. After all, the DCEU is teeming with strange and unique villains that have the potential to set an Aquaman film adaption apart.
For your consideration here ‐ in no particular order ‐ are a few Aquaman villains begging for their shot at the big screen:
First introduced in 1967, Black Manta is one of Aquaman’s most persistent and recognizable baddies. While the origin of Manta’s beef with the fish whisperer has shifted over the years, their feud tends to begin early in life and slowly consume him. Since the New 52 continuity reboot, the animosity has become pretty personal (read: a daisy chain of revenge killings). What’s fun about Black Manta is he’s just a dude in a suit who is driven by pure vendetta and animosity. While there have been murmurs that Black Manta might feature as the primary antagonist in the upcoming Aquaman film, Wan has firmly denied this rumour. And while, sure, he might be lying ‐ it seems unlikely. Which is kind of a shame because the gossip pegged the incomparable Michael K. Williams (12 Years a Slave) for the role. Some day, perhaps.
A horrible golem-like entity made up of dry mud, for a million years the Thirst survived by draining the life force of whichever deity was protecting the metaphysical ocean known as the Secret Sea. Naturally, when Aquaman becomes the Sea’s temporary guardian, the two butt heads. The Thirst sucks its victims dry, turning them into mind-controlled husks which is scary as all hell; it’s like Imhotep from The Mummy but it never gets to turn into Arnold Vosloo. Also, the Thirst wants to take the Earth’s water which is both topical and decidedly more horrifying.
The Dead King
The Dead King was once known as Atlan, the first, and greatest leader of Atlantis. He’s also the one who freaking sunk Atlantis into the sea (to be fair, his brother murdered his wife and children and stole his kingdom ‐ which is a pretty rough deal). A couple centuries later, Aquaman is messing around with global telepathy (as you do), and the Dead King wakes up in Antarctica hell-bent on showing this royal pretender what’s what. The Dead King has it all: arcane ice powers, revenge, and a really strong claim to the Atlantean throne.
Night Gods aka “Off-Brand Cthulhu”
Okay look guys, if I have to go through Aquaman to get my big-budget Cthulhu movie, so be it. The above image is from 2010’s “The Brave and the Bold” #32, where Aquaman teams up with a demon to stop a Lovecraftian invasion of Earth before it can even make it to land. While Daredevil’s fussing over one block in New York City, Aquaman’s keeping the Earth safe from freaking Dagon. Sign! Me! Up!
Shine on Aquaman villains you crazy, terrifying, diamonds.