Hollywood is happening right now, literally as we speak, Hollywood is happening. Maybe not in Hollywood, maybe not even in Atlanta, but definitely in the sleepy ski town of Park City, Utah.
The Sundance Film Festival is in full effect. It’s a time for independent films to shine, for celebrities to pretend to like the snow, and for a lucky few films to get acquired. Like a cold, high altitude Comic Con, there are panels, Q&A’s and elbows to rub, just without the cosplay. Unless, of course, you’re rocking the MacReady look from John Carpenter’s The Thing, then you’re solid.
It’s during one of those Q&A’s that my inner Aquaman tattooed, comic book fanboy self exploded to life. It’s no new news that actor, Jason Momoa, will be dawning (or not) Aquaman’s orange and greens as the King of the Seven Seas in Zack Snyder’s upcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and later in his own films. The bomb shell Momoa dropped during the Smart Works panel is more than news: it’s character changing. Let me take a step back in order to take two steps forward.
Moving from Comics to Film
Hollywood has taken liberties with it’s comic book heroes in the past and present, but more often than not, those liberties deal with ethnicity, birthplaces, and certain physical appearances. They often don’t deal so much changing what made that character interesting to begin with. Keanu Reeves as John Constantine wasn’t blond, and definitely wasn’t British, but the core of the Constantine character stayed intact even though he was drastically different than his comic book self. Still, it pissed me off as a fan of the book.
Once released, I found myself really loving the film Constantine. More recently, Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm of Josh Trank’s The Fantastic Four drove fans insane, myself included. Why mix it up? For what purpose? It’s great to get buzz going around a film, it’ll make people want to see the film possibly, but is it entirely necessary? Probably not, but at the end of the day, as long as it is a good film, and Johnny Storm is who he has been for the 50+ years his character has been written in FF comics, then cool. (P.S.: There is nothing “Fantastic Four” about that teaser trailer, and since when was Ben Grimm a scrawny guy? But, I digress.) Let’s take a couple steps forward now.
During the Smart Works panel at Sundance, according to Jay Jayson from Comicbook.com, “a 74-year-old woman proclaiming to be a huge fan of the Aquaman comic books wanted to know if Momoa’s King of the Seven Seas would have a beard and mustache.” Jason said “Well, just going off what you’ve seen so far ma’am, I don’t think he is going to be blond or white.” Assuming Aquaman is going to be introduced in BVSDOJ (because that’s a funny abbreviation), assuming they haven’t shot any of his stuff yet; it is safe to say we don’t know exactly what he will look like.
With that in mind, this can be completely premature, but you do not change Aquaman’s hair. Do I think Jason will look ridiculous with blond hair? Absolutely, but he really is a perfect Aquaman waiting to happen, and Aquaman is an awesome character, despite what some people might tell you. Pulling from Momoa’s Polynesian roots, drawing inspiration from the Hawaiian Gods, he is spiritually and physically the man for the job. But still, the hair! Jason, don’t say it won’t be blond! Please say it won’t be bleached blond, but don’t say he isn’t going to have blond hair at all. We live in an age of too much half information, and that half information spins people like myself into a frenzy.
A Possible Fix, and Connecting to the Comics
There is a fix other than flat-out saying he will not have blond hair. In Hawaiian, it is called ehu hair. It’s basically sun bleached from being in the sun and water all day, every day. Most surfers have it. I don’t think Jason should make his hair blond, but he should at the very least go for the ehu look of some kind. Again, we won’t know til we see him ready to rock.
This article isn’t about changing a character’s hair color (even though, I would go just as nuts if they were just changing the color of an icon’s hair). Most everyone is forgetting, or they just don’t know, that part of what makes Aquaman who he is, and part of what drives his emotional decisions and character choices all stem from the color of his hair.
Allow me to educate the masses: according to Atlantean mythos in DC Comics mythology and history, as written throughout the 65+ year run of Aquaman comics, Atlanteans fear and shun those born with yellow hair. It is known as “The Curse of Kordax.” From the DC Comics Wiki, “The Curse of Kordax is an Omen that dates back to the time of ancient Atlantis and the evil tyrant known a Kordax. Because Kordax was distinguished by his bright, blond hair and his ability to telepathically communicate with marine life, it was believed that any Atlantean born with blond hair was deformed. Such an individual was Orin (aka Aquaman) who was left to die on upon Mercy Reef because of his blond hair.”
Now I will paint a picture for you. Imagine a baby, being left to die, eaten by sharks, because said baby looks different from others. From there, we delve into what makes Aquaman who he is and who he has become today. All things stemming from the fact that he was born different, born with blond hair. Blond hair that may not appear in any of the DC films that will feature Aquaman. Thus erasing an incredible origin story, history, and character development based on said origin and said hair color. Not-to-mention negating who would have been and incredible villain in future Aquaman films: Kordax.
There is a reason these comics and these characters have endured for so long. I hate to point at the enemy (even though Infinity Gauntlet is my favorite comic book story arc of all time, and I love all of the Marvel movies except Iron Man 2, which was just bad), but Marvel is making literally billions on keeping characters as they are from the comics. They aren’t like, “Let’s make Tony Stark come from a low income family whose dad is a smart guy who can’t catch a break,” because guess what? The Tony Stark you know and love is the way he is because of how he was treated and raised since birth (and a lot of booze).
This can easily spiral into the whole Man of Steel, “Superman destroyed all those buildings, killing all those people” debate. I could say that this was the first time he put on the suit and ever really used his powers, and that he learned a valuable lesson about himself, his abilities, and the value and fragility of human life. That, though, would be a huge run-on sentence, and this isn’t about that.
At the end of the day, the Man of Steel was raised the same way he has always been raised, thus forging his character. Hell, give Superman red hair! I will be irate, and I will freak out, but as long as it doesn’t affect his character’s development, I will get over it. Aquaman was born with blond hair, banished to die, raised by Dolphins, a light house man and finally returning to a home where he doesn’t truly belong because of the color of his hair. That affects a character and how they are written.
Where Does That Leave Us?
Warner Brothers and DC Films have a lot of catch-up to do. Take note from the studios that try and consistently lose traction. Yup, I’m talking about you, Sony and Fox. How are your Marvel properties these days? WB/DC has a freshly used canvas, the Man of Steel brush painted a pretty fun picture, tread with caution when making what you might think are just aesthetic decisions.
I will not pass utter judgment because I do not have a complete picture. I want to believe the powers that be know what they are doing. I truly believe that Jason Momoa will kill it as Aquaman; I believe I will see something incredible on the silver screen March 25th, 2016. But until then, I will patiently stand by, hoping that said powers are looking past Black Manta and Ocean Master, who are both great villains, and towards the reason Aquaman is who he is: Kordax and his blond hair. Did I mention Manta kills Aquaman’s son? Spoiler alert… It’s gnarly!