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Dan Abnett Talks Mastering the Unlikely Recipe of AQUAMAN/JABBERJAW (EXCLUSIVE)

Dan Abnett has been helming Aquaman for over two years, his tenure dating back to a few issues before DC‘s line-wide Rebirth relaunch. This month he’ll be adding to his already long list of contributions to the Atlantean canon with the brand new Hanna-Barbera crossover Aquaman/Jabberjaw Special #1. I chatted with Abnett about working on an icon like Aquaman, bringing whimsy to Atlantis, and how much fun he had doing it.

Abnett’s passion for the character he’s written for the past two years is immediately clear. “Aquaman has always been a fave of mine, so it was fantastic to get a chance to write the book ongoing, and to do so much in terms of ‘building out’ his world, Atlantis, and the supporting cast in particular,” Abnett said. “For the first 20 or so issues, I felt we’d done a good job telling robust, compelling stories and integrating Aquaman with the Rebirth DCU… I was pretty proud of that on its own. Then we got into the epic ‘Corum Rath’ story that’s been running since then. It’s taken the book into a whole new place, exploring a deeply world-built fantasy setting, with rituals and intrigue and high stakes. It’s a huge story that only works for Aquaman, and I hope that it’s the ambitious and epic tale that my run will be particularly remembered for.”

The jovial Jabberjaw may seem like an odd fit for the stoic and serious tone of Abnett’s Aquaman, and he was as surprised as anyone when he was approached for the crossover. “When they first asked me, I did a double take,” Abnett said. “Aquaman, though it has moments of humor—usually character-driven—is a pretty serious book. It’s hard-edged heroic fantasy and there’s nothing whimsical about it. And Jabberjaw, on the other hand…”

But the impact and success of the first line of DC/Hanna-Barbera crossovers helped Abnett see the potential for the story. “It really helped that there have been several great projects like it to look at: The Flintstones and Booster Gold, Suicide Squad and Banana Splits, and the awesome Batman/Fudd, for example—they made me realize that this wasn’t a disaster waiting to happen, Abnett said. “I quickly saw the best approach was to embrace the huge stylistic clash rather than trying to adjust one or the other to make them fit. The very contrast was the pleasure.”

Abnett explained how this approach affected his work on the crossover. “I didn’t want to do a ‘gritty’ Jabberjaw, [nor] did I want to play Aquaman for laughs,” he said. “In many ways, I hoped it would be a story that could be legitimately considered part of the Aquaman canon and not a side diversion. It is lightweight, but there’s enough pathos to allow Aquaman to stay in character. And once I’d got started, the similarities in their respective settings and backgrounds started to make insane sense. It was like they were made to fit together!”

He added, “Well, I think so, anyway. Or maybe it’s just the nitrogen narcosis from being down there too long.”

As our exclusive pages show, Paul Pelletier, Andrew Hennessey, and Rain Beredo have created a vibrant visual landscape, and Abnett loved every minute of the collaboration. “I’ve worked with Paul many times before—Guardians of the Galaxy, anyone?—so I trusted him completely,” Abnett said. “We had reference to draw on, of course, and I basically gave Paul and the art team as much room as possible to play with the visuals. I think they did an amazing job. It was a pleasure to come back in and script to the art.”

In preparation for the comic, which leans into Aquaman’s cartoon history, Abnett immersed himself in both the superhero’s iconic ’60s animated series and the ’70s Jabberjaw cartoon. “It seemed like the best point of connection between the two—apart from, you know, the sea—even if it was an unlikely link,” Abnett said, referring to Jabberjaw’s character being a fan of the Aquaman show. “So yes, I watched a lot. A LOT. And now I can’t get the Jabberjaw theme song out of my head!”

As for what he’s most excited for readers to discover when they grab the book on May 30, Abnett said, “The side-gags and visual references to a certain movie, the nature and origin of Jabberjaw’s world—which slyly nods to another beloved franchise—and the identity of the villains too.”

Finally, Abnett assured me, “For a ‘frivolous’ story, there’s a lot going on.”

Images: DC Comics, DC Entertainment

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