Monday morning confession? The first man to ever capture my heart wore orange and green spandex and lived under the sea. Now as a six-year-old in the late 70’s, I wasn’t exactly sexually “woke.” I just knew on some level that Aquaman, this hunky, blonde often seen riding abnormally large seahorses around, was my “favorite.” Sure, he’s often made fun of for being useless and if you made me pinpoint his exact powers I’d fail miserably. But on some level my childhood heart knew that out of the Super Friends men he’d probably be the best boyfriend. I mean Batman? That dude has too many issues. And let’s be honest, Superman is a snoozefest. After one spin on his super human penis, you’d probably get bored and want him to shut up. At least Aquaman could communicate with dolphins and is too cool to live among terrible landlocked humans. Plus, he wasn’t in too many episodes of The Super Friends incarnation I watched (technically Challenge of the Super Friends if we’re going to get really nerdy here) which made him feel more rare and exotic. He just seemed sort of dreamy to my childhood self and I really couldn’t explain it. So when the internet starting freaking out again out Aquaman, I couldn’t help feel like my forbidden feelings for this fishman were finally vindicated.
A whole lot edgier and more in your face, the current incarnation of Aquaman looks just like my childhood crush. That is if my childhood crush went to The Warped Tour, opened a tattoo studio on Venice Beach and smoked weed everyday. Folks from all over comic book fandom have been drooling over the new Aquaman, played by Game of Thrones super hunk Jason Momoa. The fanning and fainting hit a fever pitch last week when a new Justice League teaser was dropped online. “Finally, Aquaman is cool!” is one of the comments I read from some blog most certainly more qualified than I to yammer about anything comic book related. But to me, he’d always been cool.
First of all, I was always obsessed with mermaids and people who lived underwater. In a pre-Ariel world, it seemed exotic. Like here were humanlike species who lived a better and more peaceful existence underwater away from all of our bullshit and baggage. In fact, sounds pretty damn appealing in the post-Trump world too. Later on Splash with Darryl Hannah would send my mermaid obsession into complete overdrive. But with Aquaman it was always a just a glimpse into that world and a shoddily animated and brief glimpse, at that. Still it felt romantic and innocent. Though later animated versions of Aquaman were definitely more overtly sexy and daddy-ish. Like this one from the early 2000’s Justice League:
or this studly 2008 re-imagining from Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
Other than a lifelong obsession with Wonder Woman, one of which included me dressing up as her in kindergarten and lead to a tattoo of the goddess in my late twenties, my comic book knowledge is limited. Therefore I can’t really speak of Aquaman’s literary world and what it looks like beyond what I saw as a kid on The Superfriends. But as a cartoon pretend boyfriend, he fit the bill nicely, as odd as that might sound.
Talk to any gay man, however and you’ll discover that nearly all of them had a cartoon man crush growing up. For a certain generation, He-Man did the trick. With the muscles, loin cloth and very gay tiger, it’s easy to see why. However, if I was going to go there with someone from that universe, there’s no question it would have to be Bow from She-Ra. With his Tom of Finland moustache and kinky outfits, he’s kind of the most out of the closet 80’s cartoon character ever. May I submit exhibit A, a photo of Bow with He-Man.
Likewise, I’ve heard Aladdin or Trent Lane from Daria.
Both completely crushable and perfect imaginary boyfriend material. Peter Pan, Scooby Doo’s Fred, Gambit, John Smith from Pocahontas, Johnny Bravo and of course Gaston of Beauty and the Beast who’s momentary shirtlessness caused many a sexual awakening for gay boys of certain era.
Even my own husband confessed to having a pre-pubescent crush on Captain Planet. Clearly, there’s an age gap between me and the mister. I guess the thing about cartoon boyfriends is that they seem safe. We know they’re not real but their looks and personalities are something aspirational. #BoyfriendGoals, if you will.
For me and my boo Aquaman, it was on a subliminal level. Like I had these feelings about him and I was too young and naive and too Catholic to understand them but making him my favorite was sufficient enough in the romance department. My non-romance with Aquaman later lead way to a “funny feeling” at age 11 when I watched Adam Ant in leather pants perform “Strip” on Saturday Night Live which opened the door to future crushes on Billy Idol, George Michael and every male gymnast, swimmer or diver at the 1984 Summer Olympics. And while I didn’t exactly wind up with a blonde who hangs out with dolphins and lives under the sea, I did marry somebody who is incredibly kind and compassionate, things cartoon heroes like Aquaman always were.
All of which is to say, I’m ready to relinquish my imaginary boyfriend Aquaman to a new generation of sexually naive gay boys across the globe with the slight satisfaction that he was mine first.