THE STORY OF AQUALAD

On an ominous day more than twenty years ago, a dark-haired infant boy was sentenced to death by the authorities of Poseidonis. The order had come: exterminate any child born with purple eyes, for the xenophobic Poseidonians thought that such a child was indeed a sinister birth. Some members of the sect who follow the ancient beliefs of Shalako believed that such a child could be the return of Arion's brother, the evil wizard Garn Danu'uth, who was spawned when the Earth was new. Yet others believed this unusual malady to be a sign of an inferior being, the symbol that such a child was mentally and physically incapable of surviving in their world. In keeping with this hateful practice, tiny Garth, the son of the exiled queen of the Idylists, was taken to Mercy Reef within days of his birth and left to die from exposure. Instead of succumming to this most harsh of environments, the boy lived and a legend was born.

The Original Story:

The firm of Aquaman and Aqualad was created on a day when Aquaman came upon a curious sight during one of his routine patrols (Adventure Comics 269). A strange little pod containing a sleeping small boy floated on the surface of the ocean, and as Aquaman opened the lid, the child awoke. It didn't take long to discern that the child was a reject from Atlantis; his unusual purple-hued eyes were the visible sign of his tragic origin. In cases of such rare births, it was the practice of the authorities in Atlantis to send the afflicted child to the surface in hopes that a passing boat might find it, for the eye color signified the child to be a throwback to the air-breathing ancestors of the pre-submerged continent. These children rarely lived longer than a few days, but this little boy (clearly at least eleven years old) was an exception to the rule.

Startled by Aquaman's sea creature friends, the boy cried for his protection, for though he could breathe oxygen through water as all Atlanteans can, he suffered from a curious malady which resulted in his exile: he was a afraid of fish! Aquaman had a grand time using his finny friends to teach the young boy that sea creatures were his friends and certainly no threat to him, and, having done so, ordered the "Minnow" to return home. The nameless orphan had other ideas, for he had no one to return to; instead, he had decided to make Aquaman his family. The lonely Sea King didn't take too much convincing, for the next day he agreed to allow the boy to stay with him, and (outside of the story) the child is dubbed "Aqualad."
(Note: The cover refers to him as "Aquaboy," and "Aqualad" is named in the editor's note at the end of the story).

My, How Things Change:

For all its charm, this version of Aqualad's origin has become hopelessly outdated in these days of darker-themed comics, and the "pod foundling" scenario no longer fit the Poseidonis Aquaman readers have come to know. It made no sense that this child (who, by the way, didn't receive a proper name until twenty years later) hadn't been banished as an infant if he were believed to be susceptible to drowning soon after birth, and fear of fish would most certainly have driven the boy insane in watery Poseidonis long before he was eleven years old. So slowly but surely, Aqualad's origin began to come of age.

By the time of the second edition of "Who's Who In The DC Universe" was printed, the Poseidonians were no longer the benevolent society pictured in the early Aquaman tales, and the revised Aqualad origin helped to reveal a nation rife with superstitions and prejudices. These watery denizens became the kind of people who sentenced babies to death by exposure to the elements based on a belief system of pretzel logic and mysticism. Both Aquaman and Aqualad had fallen victim to this practice in infancy, and each had a bruised psyche to prove it.

The current origin is a darker, far more sad one. The tiny purple-eyed babe somehow managed to survive on his own in the wild for more than ten years following his abandonment on Mercy Reef, though now we know that the Idylists deliberately played a hand in the propaganda campaign which lead the Poseidonians to destroy him. Arthur found the child at around age 11, and they formed a strong and enduring friendship. The boy, assumed to be an orphan, eventually came to be called by the hero-name, "Aqualad," though at some point an apparent search of birth records revealed that the boy had been named "Garth" by his mother. (The name does not appear until "Tales Of The Teen Titans #45, more than twenty years after his debut).

For a brief couple of years, Aqualad had a life of freedom and adventure which most children would envy. Daily patrols of the seas, chasing pirates and rescuing shipwreck victims were just a few of the tasks he shared with his mentor, and the young boy had even cleaned and decorated a home for them which he dubbed "The Aquacave." It was also during this time that Aqualad began to venture to the surface on his own to join his fellow young heroes in a group they named The Teen Titans.

The joy of this unfettered lifestyle ended on the day that King Juvor of Poseidonis died. Arthur, born the son of a previous king and hailed as the heroic protector of the city, was offered the throne, and upon accepting it he and Aqualad moved from their cave dwelling on the outskirts of the continent and into the royal palace. Adding to the complications: Aquaman was madly in love with a beautiful queen from an other-dimensional water world. In short order, Aqualad had to cope with his new surroundings, the suspicions of the xenophobic Poseidonians and the competition for Arthur's time and attention, first from Mera and the duties of the crown, and soon from the royal offspring, Arthur, Jr. (AJ), called "Aquababy."

Because of Garth's purple eyes, he became a target of ridicule and suspicion, though his heroic deeds slowly began to win him respect from the citizenry. They rewarded him with his own sea pony, Imp, and built a new palace for Arthur and his new family. Unfortunately, lingering concerns about the boy made him uncomfortable, for having once been rejected as an inferior being---physically, mentally and emotionally---had a continual effect on his already low self-esteem. It was even suggested by a certain radical religious sect that the boy might be the embodiment of an evil wizard from the distant past, returned to wreak havoc on modern Atlantis. With all of this, plus feelings of inadequacy (due to his dependency on water) when among his surface-dwelling Titanic peers, it was little wonder that Garth desired to escape his surroundings, especially when his anxieties began to take the form of fainting spells and seizures. He withdrew from active membership as a Titan and left the ocean to receive a formal education in Scotland.

By the time Garth reached the age of twenty, the homelife he had known had taken a dramatic turn. The political climate had soured, and Aquaman had fallen out of favor with his people (albeit with some help from a scheming villain), and from then on it seemed there was one crisis after another in the once idyllic lives of Aquaman and Aqualad. Eventually, all things lead to one fateful day on which Garth and Arthur had to face each other as enemies.

Having been approached by a local farmer who was in search of his son, a boy who had run away years before to follow a missionary from the far away Hidden Valley, Garth was fascinated to learn that there existed a race of people, The Idylists---colonists originally from Poseidonis---some of whom also exhibited his eye color. Garth and Mcaan journeyed to the far away valley in search of Syan and the pacifist nation, but instead found that their capital city was under siege by the evil Black Manta. At the same time, unknown to Garth, two members of the council of Crastinus had gone in search of Aquaman, begging him to liberate their city and "their hero," the now captured Aqualad.

As Aquaman came to the rescue, he too was captured, and he and Garth were forced to fight for the life of a third prisoner, little AJ (Adventure Comic #452). The babe suffered a cruel fate, as did Aqualad, for Arthur chose to attempt to kill his junior partner rather than unite to fight Black Manta. At the conclusion of their duel, Aqualad parted company with the only family he had ever known and searched the city to find some clue as to his origin. The ministers Sett and Thoran thwarted his every move to uncover the truth: that Garth had been born the son of the murdered king Thar. The unstoppable youth eventually discovered a cave filled with the implements of war his supposedly insane father had been killed for having created, and records there revealed the events which had lead to regicide and the exile of Queen Berra.

In the year which followed, Garth rejoined his friends on the surface from time to time, helping them to recover sea-buried objects. Then, during the Crisis On Infinite Earths, Garth lost the love of his life, the effervescent Tula, and he began a period of intense sadness and introspection. He made personal decisions which exhibited suicidal tendencies, culminating with his capture by Mento (Steve Dayton) and his criminal creations, The Hybrid. The boy was cruelly tortured and murdered by Mento, though his ashes were "reassembled" by the rogue millionaire scientist. Following a bizarre psionic battle, Mento relented and allowed Garth to leave, vowing that if the boy were to ever come near him again, an implanted mental signal would trick his body into believing that he'd been without water long enough to die.

Garth and Arthur's adventures together were few and far between for a while; they almost seemed to have lost contact with each other completely. Then, as a member of the Titans, Garth fell to the attack of the Wildebeest Society (Titans Hunt I), and he was left in a coma for months on end. When the doctors at S.T.A.R. Labs could do little but sustain Aqualad in stasis, his Titans teammates contacted Arthur (then Ambassador to the UN representing Poseidonis) and asked for his help. Knowing that the hospitals in his homeland were filled due to a recent war, Aquaman opted to return the near-death Garth to his own people, the Idylists. There, the fabled faithhealers prayed for the life of their prince, but it was the combination of Arthur's voice and Tusky's touch (plus a vision of Tula) which brought Garth back to the land of the living. Before leaving the Valley, Garth was given a magical new version of his traditional attire, one which the Idylists endowed with special healing abilities to protect their young hero.

It was Garth's connection with the Titans which lead to his next deadly encounter. A message passed through the group from a US military leader sent him in search of his old mentor, but Arthur was a darkened, almost deranged, shadow of his youth. Hiding in the shadows of the Aquacave, the mentor attacked his former partner when Garth became enraged at finding him indulging in yet another bout of apathy. As they came to terms with each other, Garth lead Arthur to their military contact, little knowing they were being lead into a trap. As they explored a sunken nuclear submarine, Aqualad was seriously wounded by the villainous Charybdis, the same criminal who forced Aquaman's hand into a pool stocked with piranhas. Aquaman's new ally, Dolphin, rescued the two former partners and returned them to Poseidonis for help, but not before Garth met a young merwoman he believed to be a revived Tula. It was this encounter with Letifos which lead to his "death" at the hands of her people and his abduction by Aquaman's father, the wizard Atlan. In Atlan's realm, Garth discovered latent powers inherited from his father, and his path to his new heroic identity, Tempest, was set. (For this portion of Garth's life, see "Tempest 101").

"Cover: Showcase 31, Aquaman & Aqualad"

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