All Wet

Here’s a great idea for DC Comics: why not expand the Justice League of America franchise into the water?

There’s already been a Justice League Europe, and a West Coast Justice League (we kid!). And there’s been aggregates called Justice League Elite, Justice League Dark, Extreme Justice, and Young Justice. But as of yet nobody has thought about establishing a wet Justice League. Considering the fact that the earth is over 70 percent water, you have to assume there must be a lot of fishy business going on at the bottom of the ocean. And the Justice League of Atlantis needs to be ready.

Naturally Aquaman would be the captain of this underwater crew. You have to admit he’s been overdue for a promotion for a long time. By his side would be Mera, Aqua-Girl, and both versions of Aqualad (the Sub-Mariner, by necessity, would be banished to the Anti-Justice League of Atlantis, otherwise known as the Defenders of Atlantis).

Another candidate for the newly christened super team could be Mark Harris, the amnesiac aqua-man from a short-lived ’70s TV program called Man from Atlantis. With his unique water-breathing aptitude, his ability to talk to whales, and his super-strength, he deserves a seat at the Justice League table alongside all the mighty mermaids, super sea sirens, and wonder water nymphs.

Man from Atlantis didn’t stay on TV very long, but the series inspired author Richard Woodley to write four supplemental books, this particular one being a novelization of the very first two-hour episode.

Washed up on a California beach, Harris is quickly nabbed by the U.S. government and deployed as a super-secret sea spy. The conscripted Naval administrators are a bunch of dullards who only see Harris as a tool for national defense and espionage. To their credit, however, they never totally cross the line into villainy. That role is reserved for Mr. Schubert, a guy who lives at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

The future, says Schubert, is not on land but in the water. And as such, he has plans to exterminate the surface dwellers and rebuild the planet using resources found at the bottom of the ocean. “There’s no hope for mankind except to start over,” he concludes. Time to get the Justice League of Atlantis on the phone.

We spotted some foreshadowing and extra information beyond the TV pilot, but as a reflection of the times, this novel fails miserably. New readers will be shocked at how dumb everyone was in the ’70s. The author throws in a bit of patriotic chauvinism, a dash of Women’s Lib one-upmanship, and a nod to environmental concerns, but otherwise he was unable to bring context to his fish-out-of-water story. That’s too bad.

After saving the earth in the final chapter, Harris and the U.S. Navy come to a friendly accord. “The good people in this world have to stick together,” they agree. Their alliance doesn’t contain any political agenda; it’s simply a segue into another groovy watery adventure.

[Man from Atlantis / By Richard Woodley / First Printing: October 1977 / ISBN: 9780440153689]

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