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Kelly Sue DeConnick on that wedding and abolishing the Atlantean monarchy in her final 'Aquaman' story
Kelly Sue DeConnick has known for a long time that she wanted to write the marriage of Aquaman and Mera. Along with fleshing out Amnesty Bay as a location in the DC Universe, giving Aquaman a daughter, and emphasizing the fundamental optimism of the title character in general, it's one of the key narrative goals she set for herself when she embarked on her Aquaman run two years ago. That run comes to an end this week, and while it does end with a wedding, DeConnick acknowledged that it's not the wedding she originally envisioned.
Speaking to SYFY WIRE about concluding her epic Aquaman run with #65 — the culmination of nearly two years of stories alongside artist like Robson Rocha and Miguel Mendonça — DeConnick said that her initial plans for Arthur Curry and Mera's nuptials were for a "very personal," intimate affair, just the happy couple and an officiant on a "crappy little fishing boat." Then it became clear that the wedding would coincide with the finale of DeConnick's time on the title, as well as a massive undersea battle for the fate of Atlantis, so the event grew into something bigger.
"I wanted it to be a much more personal thing. I went a little bigger, not because anybody made me — in fact, editorial had nothing to do with this. But I ended up going bigger and having more people there because the wedding also ended up being the end of our run," DeConnick explained. "So, I wanted to use that same moment to also say goodbye to all of those characters. As I’m answering this question for you, I’m second-guessing my choice, because I do remain kind of smitten with the idea that that wedding was a moment just for them. But there you go. So no, it did not end up playing out the way I originally intended, but that was not due to any external pressures. That was due to my deciding, because it was the kind of period on the end of the sentence that was our run, I wanted to say goodbye to more people."
Aquaman #65 does indeed function as the "period on the end of the sentence" of DeConnick's run, but not just because of the way in which it functions as a goodbye to characters that tie all the way back to her very first arc on the title, "Unspoken Water," and everything that's happened since. It's also an issue that has to contend with an even bigger question than whether or not Arthur and Mera will tie the knot, something DeConnick hasn't been shy about promising to readers (and, a few weeks ago, to SYFY WIRE). That question is what becomes of Atlantis and the various undersea factions as DeConnick has devoted a major chunk of her run to Mera's quest to disband the Atlantean monarchy? To find out how DeConnick's final word on that subject plays out, you'll have to read the issue, but DeConnick said the idea to bring it up in the first place came from her own fundamental discomfort with the idea of the monarchy existing at all.
"For me, I didn’t understand how [monarchy could work with] these characters that represent these ideals, and particularly these very American ideals, right? DC characters are red, white, and blue, really. I know we are an international brand, but there is something about the values that are such American values. So, this idea that we have this undersea monarchy that’s always this continual battle for who’s owed the throne? No, that is not how that should work at all," DeConnick explained. "That’s a moral issue. That’s wrong. And I think it’s a problem I have with a lot of contemporary... I’m sure my mentions don’t want this, but this is a problem I have with a lot of contemporary fantasy.
"Game of Thrones, in the end, the thesis, what does Game of Thrones seem to be telling us? 'You’re pretty much born who you are, and you’re the crazy fire lady. You’re going to be the crazy fire lady.' You know what I mean? It was all about what was owed by birth. And some of the stuff they have done with Star Wars, too [referring to Rey's power originating in her bloodline]. I happened to be listening to a thing about Ben Franklin this evening as research for another project, and a line jumped out at me. Professor H.W. Brands makes reference to '...the dawning of a world in which an individual’s ability, not his birthright, would be the yardstick by which his success might be measured.' I think that's what I was trying to get to. Something beyond both birthright and biology.
"I really and truly believe this. I believe that Atlantis being a monarchy in 2020 was a problem. So, that was where we went with it. I don’t know if it will hold. That is not my job. But what felt authentic to me was that once Mera understood that, that she would have to act, because I think that’s who she is."
Who Mera is, even as Arthur has spent much of DeConnick's run finding his way back to who he is, has proven to be a particularly pivotal part of this phase of Aquaman's history. The book's still called Aquaman, and it still follows the adventures of Arthur Curry and his supporting cast, but as the exclusive preview pages in the gallery above emphasize, this has often been just as much Mera's story as his. While DeConnick set out to spend her run highlight what she's called the "upward-facing" character of Arthur, she also spent a lot of time in these stories finding her own vision of Mera that proved key to the run's success.
"Mera is very different than Arthur, although I wouldn’t say she’s downward-facing. Downward-facing characters to me are more like the Batmans of the world, you know? But she is more of a hawk than Arthur is," DeConnick said. "She is very short-tempered, very practical. They’re both strong, but in some ways his is a gentler strength. I always go back to the moment in [Geoff] Johns' run when there is a man in a grocery store that makes an advance on her inappropriately. He is a creep. She breaks his arm, you know? And, look, I don’t think she was wrong, but she is not like, 'Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to break your arm.' She is like, 'Well, yes. He tried to touch me, so I broke his arm. You touch me; I’ll break your arm, too.' She is, in some ways, much more not afraid to use her—and not that Arthur is afraid to use his power, but Arthur would become involved in the complexities of it. And Arthur would always try to take very much the high ground, and Mera is like, 'No, I will break your arm.'"
To get to this final story in her run, DeConnick has taken both Mera and Arthur through a number of major trials. Arthur had to fight to rediscover his memory, then reconcile those memories with the kind of man he wanted to be. Mera had to reckon with who she was and what she really wanted in the aftermath of a devastating encounter with Arthur and her own realization of what monarchy really costs. Both of them had to learn to be parents to a baby girl named Andy while also fighting a different kind of struggle that involved Vulko, Orm, Dagon, Dolphin, and the very core of Atlantis as a great many Aquaman fans know it. It didn't always happen the way she planned it — she cites the importance of the Mother Shark character as a particular example of a surprise in her time on the title — but for DeConnick, looking back on her run, it was all in service to enriching the world Arthur Curry without ever losing sight of why he was compelling in the first place.
"I hope it’s remembered as something that deepened his mythology," DeConnick said of her run. "What I really want to say is I hope that we humanized him a bit and maybe forefronted a bit of his love of life, you know? I think the intention was to make him a little bit of a more playful, a little more of a twinkle-in-his-eye character than maybe had always been the case. But I also don’t want to pretend that every other Aquaman was unlikeable. That’s not what I mean. Aquaman is a fantastic character, and that’s the thing that’s true about all of these really iconic characters. All of these characters that survive -- that hundreds, if not thousands, of artists and writers get to work on over the years -- they transcend us. The things that are important about them find a way of coming through us, whether we mean them to or not, usually. And the runs that stray too far from what is at the core of that character, those are the runs that just get forgotten. So, I hope I was true enough to Arthur’s core that our run is remembered for a bit. That’s really all. I hope he thinks of me fondly, as I think of him."
Aquaman #65 is in stores Tuesday.