The ’90s hook hand defined Aquaman for a generation of comic book readers, but it eventually disappeared in a literally watery grave.
Before he was the star of a hit billion dollar blockbuster movie, Aquaman was best known for his unique weapon. The ’90s era King of Atlantis grew out his blond tresses into a luscious beard and mane and eschewed the shirt and attitude of his traditional superhero persona. An even more pointed change was the loss of his left hand, which was then replaced with a gnarly, pirate-esque harpoon.
This look lasted for much of the decade, with the design choice commonly being referred to as ’90s Aquaman. It was also later adapted for the DCAU Justice League cartoons, cementing the look as being as iconic as the character’s classic duds. The ’90s didn’t last forever, though, with Aquaman’s hook hand eventually giving way to a more aquatic apparatus. Here’s the story behind what happened to Aquaman’s sharpest look yet.
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The “Time and Tide” story arc began Peter David’s acclaimed run on the Aquaman ongoing comic book, and would signal incredible changes in the life of Arthur Curry. Beginning as a sort of thematic sequel to Peter David’s The Atlantis Chronicles, Aquaman, who began going more by his Atlantean name of Orin, sunk further and further into despair. Having taken his mother’s former role as the writer of the Atlantis Chronicles, he discovers the tragedy behind many of his life’s events — namely his theretofore unknown relation to Ocean Master. When Tempest tries to help his former mentor out of his depression, they’re caught in a trap set by the villainous Charybdis.
Their fight results in Aquaman’s left hand being mauled by a pool of piranhas, forcing him to flee after defeating his opponent. His allies Tempest (the first Aqualad) and Vulko eventually find Aquaman in his cave hideout, having now covered the stump where his hand once was with a deadly hook weapon. This new look reflected a shifting attitude for the King of Atlantis, who was far more argumentative and antagonistic than ever before. Anyone who stood in his way would now face his wrath, be it humans involved in illegal fishing or fellow heroes such as the young Superboy. Aquaman would become known for this drastic change in his attitude and appearance, with comic book fans paying more attention to him than ever before.
Aquaman would continue to use the hook hand as a weapon, though it was eventually replaced with a cybernetic variant when it was destroyed in a battle with brief rival Noble. After “Our Worlds at War,” however, both it and Atlantis itself was gone. Atlantis had vanished following the crossover event, and Aquaman’s former sidekick Tempest had to call upon his new magical abilities to transport the Justice League back in time to see what had happened to it.
The villainous Gamemnae had enslaved the Atlanteans who had been sent back in time, as well as trapping Aquaman’s consciousness in a pool of water. When the battle is brought back to the present, Zatanna empowers the Aquapool to control all of the Earth’s water. Despite his heroism, the people of Atlantis blame him for their previous fate and exile their former king. Sent to die out on Traitor’s Reef, he instead finds the mysterious Secret Sea. There, he meets the Lady of the Lake, who decides to take mercy on the tragedy-laden man.
She names him the new Waterbearer, bequeathing him with a mystical hand made out of water. This officially replaces his former hook hand and allows him incredible control over his native element. Aquaman would retain this power-up until his mutation into the Dweller in the Depths and subsequent death, with his resurrection after Blackest Night giving him two normal hands again.
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