For Your Consideration: DC’s Aquaman: Tempest SC

Robert Greenberger

Robert Greenberger


by Robert Greenberger

One of the most challenging aspects of writing a water-based character in a team book is finding things for them to do on land. It was a problem throughout Aquaman’s tenure in the Justice League and in some ways even more of a problem for Aqualad with the Teen Titans’ smaller roster. Oft-overlooked, he was still a popular enough character with fans that he was never gone for long.

Aquaman: Tempest SC

Aquaman: Tempest SC


It really wasn’t until the late 1980s and early 1990s that the character finally gained enough gravitas to force his way into a larger role. Those fundamental stories are now being collected in Aquaman: Tempest, another treat for readers even though the character will not be in the Aquaman feature film due in December.

Teen Titans Spotlight #10

Teen Titans Spotlight #10


A young boy named Garth arrived in Adventure Comics #269 (1960), from writer Robert Bernstein and artist Ramona Fradon. He was the last of the teen sidekicks to be introduced but was there to help Kid Flash and Robin form the Titans. By 1987, he was a regular player in the Marv Wolfman written Teen Titans but editorial saw more potential for him. The first dip of a toe in those untested waters was in Teen Titans Spotlight #10, May 1987. That series focused on various members of the team and this offering came from writer John Ostrander and artists Erik Larsen and Romeo Tanghal. Under a Bill Sienkiewicz cover, Mento, then plaguing the team as a deranged bad guy, subjected Aqualad to a telepathic assault. One result was that the Atlantean temporarily lost his own telepathic abilities.

Teen Titans Spotlight #18

Teen Titans Spotlight #18


That all was cleaned up the following year during the Millennium crossover event. Spotlight #18, January 1988, shows how heroic Garth could be even deprived of those skills. He’s attacked by an octopus in this story from writers Dan Mishkin & Gary Cohn and artist Art Thibert. Aquaman comes to his rescue and together they learn that the Oan-constructed Manhunter androids had brought their menace beneath the surface with jellyfish-like submarines.

Shortly after this, twentysomething artist Phil Jimenez began working for DC, stylistically modeled after Titans’ artist George Pérez. Under Creative Director Neal Pozner’s guidance, Jimenez grew as a talent, refining his style and adding writing to his repertoire. Pozner and Jimenez were also romantically involved until Pozner died from AIDS in 1994.

Jimenez first soloed with Aqualad in Showcase ’96 #1, penning a short story for Scott Kolins. Around that time, he had been approached by Editor Kerri Kowalski about doing more with the character, increasing the character’s profile in the DC Universe. She left soon after so Jimenez wrote and drew the 1996-1997 Tempest miniseries for Eddie Berganza.

Tempest #1

Tempest #1


The appeal of Garth, Jimenez told Glen Cadigan in The Titans Companion Vol. 2, “At first it was simply because he was the last Titan to grow up. Secondly, it’s that I liked the fact that he’s a fairly defensive, passive character. He’s not overly aggressive; he’s a relatively sweet guy who lost the great love of his life in a really tragic way, and I think he’s a guy that, in my head, the way I identify the character is he’s not someone like Arsenal who’s probably sleeping with half the women in Metropolis. He’s probably one of those guys who has one long-term girlfriend and then breaks up, and then one long-term girlfriend and beaks up – He’s a sweet, committed pacifist, and I found those traits endearing, particularly during the Nineties, when there were no characters like him.”

With little backstory established over the preceding decades, Jimenez felt he had a fairly clean slate to work with. As a result, he explored what his parents had been up to and why he was really abandoned (not just because he had purple eyes, seen as a bad omen by his people). When Garth encountered merpeople with occult abilities, he wound up transported to another dimension where Atlan, the mythic figure prominent in The Atlantis Chronicles, greeted him.

Tempest #2

Tempest #2


Over months or years, Atlan trained Garth, who tapped heretofore-unknown elemental powers, allowing him to heat and cool water, create whirlpools, and emit energy from his eyes. During this period, he suffered an injury over his right eye that healed into distinctive tattoos. To complete his training, Atlan said Garth had to return to his family home of Shayeris, in the Hidden Valley. He was assaulted with is uncle’s own necromancy, a city overrun by the undead, and the seeming return from the dead of his beloved Tula. Aided by Atlan, Garth faced his greatest challenge and emerged in a new outfit, magically wrapping the Idyllist red and black flag around him and Aqualad had become Tempest.

The miniseries was well received and in the final issue, he dedicated it to Pozner and publically came out as Gay. Jimenez wanted to produce more stories but Aquaman scribe Peter David had other plans for the character and they veered sharply from Jimenez’s. While much more has been done to and for Garth since this era, the character remains popular enough to warrant this collection.

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