Aquaman: A Deep Dive Into His One-Handed History

Recently, Aquaman director James Wan responded to a Patrick Wilson tweet (Wilson plays the villainous Ocean Master in the upcoming film) where Wilson himself responded to actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Black Manta) sharing an image of Aquaman having his hand sliced off by Manta, saying, “Yes. Bad guys rule.” Wan’s response to Wilson was, “Whoa. Spoiler, dude.” This, of course, got the fan community buzzing about whether this was a hint by Wan that Aquaman might lose his hand in the film. The reason why that is a realistic possibility is because Aquaman famously lost his hand in the 1990s and went “hand-less” for over a decade after first losing it. Read on for the history of Aquaman’s missing hand and what kind of substitutes it had over the years.

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It all started when Peter David finally got a chance to take over Aquaman for DC Comics in 1994. David had previously done the critically acclaimed maxiseries Atlantis Chronicles with artist Esteban Maroto in 1990 (which will finally be collected for the first time in the United States this November) but then a different writer launched a new Aquaman series in 1991 instead of David.

Towards the end of that series, David was originally going to come on as the new writer, but then DC decided instead to make David’s first arc on the series a stand-alone miniseries, Aquaman: Time and Tide, and then David would launch a brand-new Aquaman series in 1994. David knew that Aquaman was obviously a bit of a hard sell, so he felt that he had to do something dramatic to draw attention to the book.

He later recalled, “I feel there is some obligation to develop storylines which will make people feel they must purchase a book. Aquaman had a reputation as being a sales lightweight, so much so that when my taking on the series was announced, the response wasn’t, “Oh, boy, we’re looking forward to seeing Peter David write Aquaman!” Instead it was, “Geez, why is Peter David wasting his time on that undersea loser?” With that negative a reputation, I had to do something extremely drastic just to get people to sample it. It wasn’t an easy sell to the DC powers-that-be. I had to jump through a lot of memo-writing hoops explaining it before it was okayed.”

In his opening story arc (with art by Martin Egeland and Brad Vancata), David had Aquaman withdraw from society due to some revelations about Aquaman’s and Atlantis’ past that he discovered during the Time and Tide miniseries, growing his hair and beard out while in isolation. Eventually, Aqualad drags him out of his hibernation to go on a mission for the government. They run across a new villain who called himself Charybdis.

Charybdis had already captured the hero known as Dolphin (She had a long-ago solo feature in Showcase that went nowhere) and he was using some fancy technology to transmit Aquaman and Dolphin’s powers to him. This gave him some control over fish life.

In Aquaman #2, Aquaman confronted Charybdis, but in a battle, Charybdis stuck Aquaman’s hand into a small river where a group of piranha (driven mad and willing to devour human flesh through Charybdis using his powers on them) attacked him…

After Dolphin then shot Charybdis and watched him fall into the river and get devoured by the piranha, Dolphin wanted to look at the damage to Aquaman’s hand and, well, it was pretty much complete destruction…

Oddly enough, Aquaman launched right before DC then did their big 1995 crossover event, Zero Hour, so Aquaman amusingly spends a good deal of that crossover just running around without a hand.

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After Zero Hour, every DC title had a #0 issue that served as a jumping-on point for the title. Aquaman‘s jumping-on point, of course, happened after just two issues of the series had actually been released!

In any event, in Aquaman #0 (by David, Egeland and Vancata), Aquaman is dealing with a bunch of dreams while he recovers from his injury and at the end of the issue, he decides to put a harpoon where his hand used to be….

After a number of issues with just a harpoon for a hand, Aquaman eventually lost the use of his harpoon, even, when it was crushed in battle. So in Aquaman #9 (by Peter David, Joe St. Pierre, Howard Shum and Rod Ramos), Aquaman upgraded to a high-tech harpoon that responded to his own thoughts…

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In Aquaman #51 (by then-new writer Erik Larsen and artists Eric Battle and Norm Rapmund), Aquaman finally buckles down and decides to get a robotic hand to replace the harpoon (he would still keep the harpoon hand as a possible option)…

After the Aquaman series ended with #75, Aquaman (and all of Atlantis) was seemingly destroyed during the Our Worlds at War crossover, but in a later JLA storyline, it turned out that what Aquaman had done was actually magically transport all of Atlantis back in time to the early days of Atlantis. However, this did not turn out well for anyone, with the people of Atlantis ending up enslaved for 15 years and Aquaman transformed into a water wraith for the same amount of time (as seen in JLA #75 by Joe Kelly, Yvel Guichet and Mark Propst)….

When everything was fixed and everyone returned to the present (and Aquaman returned to his physical body), those 15 years in slavery had still passed for everyone, so the people of Atlantis banished Aquaman.

That led into a new Aquaman series by Rick Veitch, Yvel Guichet and Mark Propst, which opened with the now banished Aquaman finding his way to the Lady of the Lake (from the legend of King Arthur) who renews Aquaman and also gives him a hand made out of solid water…

That hand lasted for the next 39 issues, in which time Atlantis was mostly destroyed by the Spectre during Infinite Crisis. Aquaman then mutated himself into a strange aquatic-like creature known as the Dweller of the Depths and a new Aquaman took over the series, which was now called Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis. In the 50th issue of this re-named series (by Tad Williams, Shawn McManus and Walden Wong), the Dweller of the Depths (the original Aquaman) was killed…

A few years later, during the Blackest Night crossover event, Aquaman was one of a number of heroes and villains who were resurrected in the final issue of the series (by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, Oclair Albert and Joe Prado)…

When he was brought back to life, his hand was restored along with the rest of his body.

So that’s how Aquaman’s hand was lost and returned. How much of this ever makes it into the Aquaman film series is anyone’s guess.

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