Issue: Superboy, No. 171 (Jan. 1971)
Title: "Dark Strangler of the Seas"
Theme: Environment-Oil Pollution
Writer: Frank Robbins
Artists: Bob Brown and Murphy Anderson
Superboy on patrol, flies over two fishermen struggling to haul in a very heavy fish -- which turns out to be a young man covered with crude oil, gasping for breath. As Superboy looks on, the man tries to rub off the oil with handfuls of sand. Superboy carries the stranger off to a nearby industrial plant and gives him a "detergent bath." As the oil is scrubbed off, the figure is revealed to be Aquaboy. He slips from Superboy's grip to get beneath the surface of the detergent to breathe. Superboy did not realize he was a water-breather and had been trying to keep his head above water.
Aquaboy introduces himself to Superboy: "I'm Aquaboy! I was born of a human sea captain father--and an amphibious mother, exiled from the lost underwater continent of Atlantis!" "Just like you, Superboy, I also have a realm to patrol and protect!" He explains that he had come across a dying porpoise covered with crude oil. After futilely trying to save the creature, he angrily confronted the crew of a leaky oil tanker, owned by Trans-East Oil Co., which had created the oil slick that doomed the porpoise. He was rudely rejected and he called two starfish to his aid. He used them as suction cups to scale the side of ship and nearly defeated the crew, before slipping in oil on the deck. A crewman knocked him unconscious with a club. When he came to they threw him from the ship and doused him with a few hundred barrels of oil. Some porpoises found him, and gently carried him to the shore, hoping that someone would help him. End of flashback.
Superboy carries Aquaboy across the ocean to the headquarters of Trans-East, where company officials say that pollution is the inevitable price of progress and refuse to fix their leaky fleet. They finally tell Supes they've "had enough of your do-gooder, bleeding heart crud!" and tell the Boy of Steel to "Get Lost!" Needless to say this does not sit well with the lad. "If you don't dig straight talk--you'll dig action!" he swears, in classic 60's lingo. The pair fly off to find one of the company's polluting tankers. Superboy carries the ship to the Mideast, where he punches holes in the side to return the "cargo to where it came from--under the desert..." Then he carries the empty vessel to a shipyard and orders it repaired with the bill sent to the owners.
Realizing they can't stop Superboy with force, the oil execs and an Arab cohort cook up a plan to entrap Aquaboy, who in the days that follow is busily locating the company's tankers for Supes to carry off. However, one of the ships that he comes upon has a surprise for him: a girl hired by the oil company is dressed up to look like Aquaboy's then-girlfriend, "Marita." She is a striking redhead in a green, "scaled" bikini, green gloves and boots. She looks very much like a younger Mera. Unfortunately, we never see the real Marita, only the decoy who pretends to be bound and is suspended by a hook over the side of the ship. Just as Arthur is about to free her, she dives into the ocean and triggers a remote control trap. Arthur is caught in a net and hangs over a giant vat of nitroglycerin. The crew of the ship has already abandoned it for a speed boat and they retrieve the fake Marita.
When Superboy arrives, he is told to leave the tankers alone or Aquaboy would be dropped to this death in the nitro. Of course Aquaboy would rather die than give up the fight, so he urges his partner to fight on. But Supes has other plans. He pretends to leave but circles back. "Accelerating to supersonic velocity, he rips Aquaboy loose in passing...shielding him against friction with his invulnerable cape...and streaks into the nitro faster than a bullet...then rips through, [down through the hull of the ship] deep into the protective body of the sea...in the brief millisecond before the torn molecules of the liquid explosive can reunite!" The ships explodes but the pair are safely below in the ocean.
Superboy then flies Aquaboy and the speed boat in tow, with the fake Marita and crew hanging on for dear life, to the Arabian compound of the oil execs, where he informs them, "It is over...over for you--and greedy men like you!" Superboy then returns his new friend to the sea where they discuss the future prospects for keeping the seas safe from pollution. The story ends with the reader being subtly invited to join the battle. Superboy says to Aquaboy, "This is one battle too big for even the both of us--we're going to need all the help we can get!"
THINGS THAT MAKE THIS STORY UNIQUE:
Aquaboy: (As he is being tossed overboard by the bad guys) "Y-you can't do this--to the ruler of the seas!"
Ratings (In starfish, of course)
|*||A real bottom feeder. Throw it back!|
|**||Ho-hum. But better than a Flipper re-run.|
|***||A sea-worthy vessel, me mates!|
|****||Prize catch! Don't let this one get away!|
|*****||Like having your very own Aqua-cave!|