Aqualad (Earth-16) is an instance of the Aqualad character archetype.
This isn’t Garth – the original Aqualad. This Aqualad was created specifically for this TV show. DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns was so taken with the character that he arranged to incorporate a version into the DC Universe proper.
Aqualad calls Aquaman “My King” which makes it seem that he’s more of a soldier than an equal. He is 16-years-old which makes him several years older than either Robin or Kid Flash. His costume more closely resembles Aquaman’s than the other comic book Aqualads/girls (green/orange and he’s even blond). You can clearly see gill slits (like a fish) on his neck showing how he can breathe underwater and webbing between his hands which presumably help him swim faster. The backpack isn’t explained in his first appearance, but it seems to electro-statically manipulate water to create limited Green Lantern like constructs.
Aqualad is voiced by Khary Payton who is best known as Cyborg from the earlier Teen Titans cartoon, he voices Cyborg in the upcoming DC Universe mmorpg. Khary has also voiced Tyr in Legion of Superheroes. In an Ask Greg response Greg Weisman commented on Khary’s audition for Aqualad:
I’m impressed with all our voice actors, including guys and gals I’ve worked with many times before. Khary’s audition perhaps surprised me, because his Aqualad was just so different from Cyborg. He just nailed it. And having never worked with him before, I wasn’t aware of his versatility.
In the same response he also described those things that Aqualad carries:
They are called Water-Bearers, and he does need them to do his thing. It’s a combination of Atlantean science and sorcery. His mystic tattoos power the water-bearers which use water stored in his backpack or from some other source to create water weapons and/or manipulate water.
In “Welcome to Happy Harbor” Aqualad’s alter ego is given for the first time on-screen as “Kaldur’ahm” or “Kaldur” for short. This reveals his ties as an old Aquaman character called Cal Durham. Durham first appeared in Adventure Comics #452 (July 1977) as a henchman of Aquaman’s foe Black Manta. He disagreed with Manta’s murderous tactics and helped Aquaman defeat him. In the comics this new Aqualad has a different alter ego as Jackson Hyde and is the son of Black Manta. However, this character isn’t Jackson. They may superficially have the same appearance and powers, but this Aqualad – as far as we know – was raised in Atlantis and was never lived in secret with the Hyde family (Ask Greg).
Kaldur’ahm is Aqualad, Aquaman’s sidekick. We know very little about this Aqualad, some back story that has been talked about at conventions and there is the obvious parallel with the Brightest Day Aqualad. It’s been stated that Aqualad’s best friend in Atlantis is Garth, the original Aqualad from the comic books. Aquaman is the King of Atlantis and Aqualad is a loyal citizen who is comfortable addressing his mentor as “my King”.
On July 4th Robin, Speedy, Kid Flash, and Aqualad were told by their mentors that they were to be inducted into the Justice League. They were brought to the Justice League’s Hall of Justice. They were given a tour, but that was it. Speedy was furious and revealed that Hall wasn’t even the League’s real headquarters – it was a false front designed to deflect attention from their real HQ in orbit. He accused the League of not treating them like equals and then stormed out. Robin and Kid Flash hadn’t expected anything more than the tour, but Speedy’s parting words stung “I guess they’re right about you, you’re not ready.”
Immediately afterwards the League received two emergency calls – one to a fire at Cadmus Labs and another to a supervillain attack by Wotan. The League were forced to ignore Cadmus and left to fight Wotan. The sidekicks were told to stay put, but Robin knew that Batman had his suspicions about Cadmus and Aqualad suggested that they investigate on their own. They would solve the case first and to prove to their mentors that they were ready for League membership. Robin and Kid Flash charged in, but it was Aqualad who first spotted Dubbilex and realised that there was something more to Cadmus that it appeared. Together they discovered that Cadmus had created a clone of Superman called Superboy. The liberated Superboy from his confinement, but he was initially loyal to Cadmus.
Aqualad managed to reach Superboy’s better side by asking him “Superboy, you live. That gives you the right to follow your own path: as a weapon or a person. The choice is yours, but ask yourself ‘what would Superman do?’ They emerged from the rubble of Cadmus with Superboy only to be confronted by Batman and the entire Justice League. Aquaman ordered Aqualad to stand down, but he refused and told his mentor that “Apologies my King, but no. We did good work here tonight. The work you trained us to do. Together, on our own, we forged something powerful, important.” (“Independence Day”, “Fireworks”). Aqualad later told Aquaman that they “meant no disrespect” and Aquaman conceded that there was “wisdom” in Aqualad’s argument (Justice League (vol. 2) #16 (March 2013)).
Batman’s eventual response to the was to set Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, Superboy, and Miss Martian up as a Justice League splinter group based in the League’s old Cave headquarters. They were to be a covert group that would work outside of the media spotlight which was usually focused on the full League (“Fireworks”). Aqualad instantly assumed the role of peace keeper within the new team as he tried to keep them together and their activities inclusive. He explained to Miss Martian why humans found her telepathy an invasion of privacy and convinced Superboy to apologise to her for over reacting on to her scans (“Welcome to Happy Harbor”).
Young Justice’s first mission was to infiltrate the Venom factory on Santa Prisca. Aqualad was the first of them on the island and disabled its security sensors so Miss Martian’s bio-ship could approach. This meant that he was separated from the team during the time that Robin presumed to assume leadership of the group. Aqualad said nothing, but it was he who suggested Kid Flash and Superboy use their infra-red to look for enemies while Robin had vanished into the undergrowth. He was also the one who recognised the Venom’s buyer as the Sportsmaster and was left to try and contact the Justice League after Robin and Kid Flash ran off to get access to the factory’s computers.
Matters came to a head when Aqualad finally told Robin that “a leader must be clear, explicit, he cannot vanish and expect others to play parts in an unknown plan.” Robin was mature enough to recognise Aqualad’s true role in the group and relinquished the formal role of leader to him. Nevertheless, Aqualad did tell Robin that “you were born to lead this team, maybe not now, but soon” and promised to relinquish that role to him when he was finally ready. Aqualad then led Young Justice to victory in vanquishing the Cult of Kobra, who had taken over the factory, and in destroying their stockpile of Kobra Venom (“Drop-Zone”).
Powers and Abilities
Aqualad’s primary weapons are his Water-Bearers. These are a pair of handle like grips which, through a combination of Atlantean magic and technology, can channel power from Aqualad’s mystical electric eel tattoos in order to telekinetically form water into solid objects in a way similar to that of a Green Lantern’s power ring (albeit at a greatly reduced magnitude). He can pull water from his backpack to create solid water swords, whips, hammers, bullet proof shields, and can even manipulate larger streams of water to create battering rams or stable platforms. Aqualad can also discharge the power from his tattoos directly into the water electrocuting anybody in contact with it.
Aqualad is a trained Atlantean warrior. This gives him a calmness and maturity which mark him apart from this team-mates and is why they chose him to be their leader. He is naturally amphibious, is able to breathe underwater and to swim at great speed. Aqualad is probably only second to Superboy in terms of raw strength, this is a side effect of being raised in the ocean depths.
The bright orange of Aqualad’s Atlantean costume can be turned dark grey for mission requiring stealth.