Here is another in my ongoing series of reviews on the 1968 Big Little Book series. You can find others by clicking on "BLB" at the bottom of this post.
This time, to help celebrate Aquaman's "birthday" on January 29 I want to talk about one of my favorite BLBs, Aquaman in Scourge of the Sea, written by Paul S. Newman and published in 1968. It is number 17 in the 1968 Big Little Book series. It follows Space Ghost but is before Daktari. Does anybody here even know and/or remember Daktari?
Big Little Books were a series of story-books published by Whitman Publishers from the 1920s thru the 1980s. The books I have are 250 pages but very compact, only 10 cm x 13 cm x 2 cm (approx 4 inches x 5 3/4 inches x 1 inch). There is text on one page and an illustration on the other. Although the writers were always credited, the artist never was. From 1967 thru the early 1970s such then-popular TV celebrities as Lassie, Flipper, the Lone Ranger, Bonanza, Shazzan, Frankenstein JR, and, yes, Aquaman, were featured. Eventually the TV series' stars fell by the way-side and were replaced with perennial favorites like Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, and Woody Woodpecker.
In Pisces' underwater base, he turns on the quake-activator, targeting Boston. Fifty miles off-shore, the sea floor begins to tremble. The Coast Guard stationed in New England notes two 40 foot high waves heading their way, and warns the city to evacuate the coastline. Thanks to the advanced warning, when the two waves hit millions of dollars worth of damage occurs, and dozens are injured, but no one is killed.
Of all of the Big Little Books that I ever had, this was one of my top three favorites. (The other two were the Fantastic Four and Batman.) I don't remember ever watching the Filmation AQUAMAN cartoon as a kid (I would have been about 2 or 3 years old) but my guess is that the existance of this book has everything to do with that cartoon. When BATMAN came to TV in 1966 and kick-started the super-hero boom, Aquaman benefited from that extra exposure with his cartoon. Superman's rights I believe were already tied up, so Whitman Publishing picked up Batman and Aquaman when they went to DC. Oddly enough, there were no Flash or Green Lantern Big Little Books, and the Fantastic Four was the only Marvel book for more than ten years.
This book was always in my house. I remember reading and re-reading it over and over again until I broke the spine. As I got older I cut out some of the pages to put the pictures up in my room. I still have that copy of this book, but bought another in order to have the whole story.
This book really treats its characters right. The story begins as a science fiction UFO story, then morphs into a "monster invasion" story, then becomes a disaster film, becomes a mystery for a chapter or two, and then ends as a straight super-hero drama. That's a lot of story to cram into such a small package!
I especially love the way Aquaman, Mera, and Aqualad interact in this story. They are clearly a family that loves each other. It is never explained who Aqualad is or how he is related to them, so I imagine some people may have thought he was their son. On the other hand, at this time teen side-kicks were all the range, so maybe nobody thought anything about it....! I also like how each character gets something exciting to do: Aqualad saves the others' lives, and Mera is directly responsible for getting them into Pisces' base and freeing them from his traps.
As mentioned above, the writing is credited to Paul S. Newman, but the illustrator is uncredited. This is a shame, as the fish-men are appropriately creepy and the undersea scenes very atmospheric. Aquaman's undersea friends are also drawn very well. Special cheers to having Topo appear (and named!) as well as the sea-horses from the Filmation series, although their names are not used.
If you are a fan of Aquaman, you owe it to yourself to track down a copy of this book. You will not be disappointed.