Aquaman has a reputation as a bit of a goofball, thanks to his garish costume and his history as the guy who talks to fish on the classic '70s cartoon Super Friends. And his winning DC movie portrayal by Jason Mamoa has partially leaned into the fun fantasy behind the stereotypical perception of Aquaman.
But Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is sailing into dangerous waters with the introduction of Arthur Curry's son (named Arthur Curry, Jr. in comics), edging closer to one of the darkest comic chapters in Aquaman's history, which ironically took place just as Super Friends was cementing the hero's pop culture reputation as something of a punchline.
In the new trailer for Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, Arthur Curry follows in his father's footsteps, living in a lighthouse and caring for his infant son as an apparent single father, the baby's presumed mother Mera only glimpsed once in the trailer, in captivity (more on this in a moment).
He moonlights as King of Atlantis, dealing with strife among his people amidst a series of violent attacks by his sworn enemy Black Manta, who has it out for Aquaman thanks to the hero's part in the death of his father in the previous film.
"I'm gonna kill Aquaman and destroy everything he holds dear," promises Black Manta in the trailer. "I'm gonna murder his family, and burn his kingdom to ash."
It's that last bit - "murder his family" - that has some sincerely tragic comic book relevance here. See, back in 1977 (just a few years after the 1973 debut of Super Friends), Aquaman faced one of the most horrific moments of his life in the story 'Aquaman: Death of a Prince.'
In that story, Aquaman faces the loss of the kingdom of Atlantis in a coup, while simultaneously trying to rescue his kidnapped son from Black Manta. The thing is… Aquaman fails.
Black Manta manages to capture Aquababy (yes, they called him that in comics and still do), placing him in a globe that will fill with air, effectively drowning the infant, forcing Aquaman to fight his sidekick Aqualad to the death. The battle starts, but Aquaman's octopus Topo attacks Black Manta, destroying the controls that will free Aquababy.
Aquaman hurls his trident at Aquababy's glass prison, breaking him loose, but it's too late - Aquababy is dead. From here, Aquaman's life spirals out of control for a while, leading him to be estranged from Mera and at odds with Aqualad, who he legitimately tried to kill to save his son at Black Manta's behest.
Aquababy has returned in recent years, as Arthur and Mera's very much alive infant son, thanks to the power of the reboot. But his tragic, original story remains one of the most important stories of Aquaman's long comic book history.
Will Black Manta kill Aquababy in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom? Well… We doubt it. Firstly because that seems a little depressing for a PG-13 superhero movie, even one directed by horror master James Wan.
But secondly, we're gonna call back to that single clip of Mera, trapped inside - what else? - a big glass, globe-like prison. Could this be the end of not Aquababy but Mera instead?
We'll find out when Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom releases in December.
He may be a bit of a pop culture punchline, but Aquaman is secretly a total badass.