Aqualad explores "being Black in America" with Aquaman #62

(Image credit: DC)

In lieu of Kelly Sue Deconnick's recent announcement of her Aquaman departure set for November, her mentee Jordan Clark is stepping in to write a two-part arc of the series beginning with this week's #62

(Image credit: DC)

The story shifts its focus away from Aquaman and Mera and onto Aqualad, as Jackson Hyde must team up with his father, Black Manta, in order to save baby Andy. 

Expect an emotional family reunion, as this leads the father/son duo into Aqualad's mother's home of Xebel.

Newsarama spoke with Clark about his debut on the series, how DeConnick became his "comic mom", why he wanted to focus on Aqualad for this arc, and what other DC characters he would like to write in the future.   

Newsarama: Jordan, how did the opportunity to write Aquaman come about? How did you originally connect with Kelly Sue DeConnick?

(Image credit: Jordan Clark)

Jordan Clark: So, I originally met Kelly Sue way, way, back when Pretty Deadly first came out. She and Emma Rios were doing a signing at a local shop, and later on Kelly Sue did a writers workshop. That was what really gave me the push to get out there and start making comics.

Fast forward a few years and I've made a number of self-published things and I see Kelly Sue is going to be at Heroes Con in North Carolina. I had a few friends I knew who were going, so I got a table and went down to basically thank her and show her what I had been working on. 

She was very encouraging, and I got to meet some of the Milkfed team and had a great time, but you know, cons are basically their own magical worlds. So, I left feeling good but not really expecting anything. A few weeks after that I got an email saying 'Hey, we're doing a Bitch Planet anthology, would you like to pitch?' and of course I said 'Yes' (after maybe crying at work for a second).

(Image credit: DC)

Fast forward a bit more, and Kelly Sue is working on Aquaman and we've kept in touch and would talk from time to time, and she hits me up and is like 'Hey, I recommended you for this DC thing if you're interested.' This time I was at home so only my cat saw my tears. But from there it was just getting a chance to pitch to the editors, which got me a place in the Crimes of Passion anthology from earlier this year, and now these two issues.

I joke that Kelly Sue is my comics mom, but I can't really put into words just what her support means. Having someone you look up to, not just as a creator but also as a person be so genuinely behind you is an incredible feeling.

Nrama: What made you want to focus on Aqualad?

Clark: Where to start? Jackson has so much potential. There's his family dynamics; son of Black Manta, one of his mentor's greatest enemies. His mom is exiled from Xebel so he's never known that part of his life. Lots of drama. There's also him being an openly gay Black kid. There are so few openly gay superheroes and even fewer gay heroes of color, and maybe only a handful of gay Black teens.

(Image credit: DC)

It's not just what Jackson could represent in the fictional world of DC but also in a larger sense. There's a whole new generation of readers who might be seeing themselves in the DC universe for the first time, and that's so important. I'm grateful for the chance to tell this story.

Nrama: What can you tell us about Aqualad's dynamic with his father, Black Manta?

Clark: It's not good. [Laughs]

Black Manta has tried to kill him and his mom several times now, so I don't ever see them hugging it out. What I wanted to do with this story is push this dynamic forward by also exploring Manta's relationship with his own father… whose mind has been artificially recreated and put inside a giant mech.

So, we have three generations of Hyde men. 

(Image credit: DC)

Jesse Hyde, the grandfather, who is strict, disciplined, and demanding, but means well. 

We have Black Manta, the father, who took all of Jesse's lessons and twisted them and became one of DC's most notorious super-villains. 

And finally, we have Jackson Hyde who couldn't be more different than either of them. He loves TTRPGs and recreating Janet Jackson music videos.

But the one common thread between them is being Black in America and how that has shaped them.

We see this generational trauma play out in the story and the question becomes, can Jackson break this? Can he take his family's trajectory in a new direction or is that too much to ask of one kid?

Nrama: And how will Jackson's family connection to Xebel affect his adventures there?

(Image credit: DC)

Clark: It's a big moment in his life. It's this place he's only heard of and that his mom basically refuses to talk about, so when we see Xebel we really get to see it fresh through his eyes. 

It's a chance to learn more about his family's history and where he comes from, and of course, we took the opportunity to throw in a few surprises as well.

Also wanted to note that Marco Santucci, who is doing the art for this, did an incredible job creating the look of Xebel. I can't wait for people to see it!

Nrama: How did your work on Crimes of Passion and Bitch Planet help you with this story?

Clark: It's funny because it wasn't until last week that it hit me that I already have experience taking the baton from Kelly Sue with the Bitch Planet: Triple Feature. So that gave me a bit of confidence.

(Image credit: DC)

I learned so much on both. Getting to work with terrific artists and great editors who guided and pushed my ideas. Everyone was so inviting and encouraging which was amazing.

Also getting to work on books that have such passionate fanbases. You obviously want to respect and lean into what fans love about a book, but also find ways to inject your own voice into it. So, I definitely drew on those experiences.

Nrama: You've only gotten your feet wet at DC, what other books would you like to work on in the future?

Clark: Oh wow, well anyone who knows me knows my undying love for Booster Gold, the greatest superhero of all time. 

Aside from Booster, I would love to work more with Jackson, as well as Cyborg, Duke Thomas, and Natasha Irons. We definitely need more Natasha.

Kat Calamia

Kat has been working in the comic book industry as a critic for over a decade with her YouTube channel, Comic Uno. She’s been writing for Newsarama since 2017 and also currently writes for DC Comics’ DC Universe - bylines include IGN, Fandom, and TV Guide. She writes her own comics with her titles Like Father, Like Daughter and They Call Her…The Dancer. Calamia has a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and minor in Journalism through Marymount Manhattan and a MFA in Writing and Producing Television from LIU Brooklyn.