It's pretty fair to say that Arthur Curry has had something of a renaissance lately. Both his hit solo film and his comic's all-new creative team have brought a breath of fresh air—er, water—to the Atlantean king. But he's not the only one reaping the benefits of the new exposure. After all, every good king needs an equally amazing queen, and while Mera might be a little reluctant to pick up that mantle from time to time, she's more than strong enough to shoulder the burden. Mera and Arthur's friendship and eventual romance form a critically important backbone for Aquaman lore.
If you're new to the underwater side of the DC Universe, here are the basics. Arthur, as you probably know (and if you don't, go see the movie!) was the half-human son of Atlanna, an Atlantean queen, and Tom Curry, a human lighthouse keeper. In his most recent origins, he was raised mostly on land—though some of his vintage stories feature him being raised by dolphins, like an aquatic Tarzan.
Gotta love the Silver Age!
Anyway, one of Arthur's biggest connections to Atlantis, you know, aside from his mom, was Mera—who, technically isn’t from Atlantis at all. Mera is royalty from the kingdom of Xebel, which is a bit more complicated than just a neighboring underwater community.
The short version is that Xebel was once a part of the ancient Atlantean empire, but after a series of civil wars, Xebel was magically cast into another dimension to be used as a sort of penal colony—almost like Krypton's Phantom Zone, but not quite. For some time, Xebel was called "Dimension Aqua," but eventually as more and more modern contact was made between the present day Atlanteans and the people of Xebel, some bridges were rebuilt and the old name was reinstated.
Arthur and Mera's relationship was one of those bridges, though it took some time for that part of the story to develop. In the classic comics, Mera and Arthur were quickly wed and had a baby named Arthur Curry Jr—or, uh, Aquababy, because why not, right?
But as the landscape of comics changed and evolved, so did Arthur and Mera's dynamic. Arthur's complicated origins shifted and changed into the version we'd recognize today and the history of Mera and Xebel became clear. Things between them were tricky, but tricky in a way that helped flesh out countless corners of Atlantean lore. Mera's allegiance to both Xebel and Atlantis mirrors Arthur's allegiance to both Atlantis and the surface world, making them uniquely suited for one another even on a purely diplomatic level.
There aren't many people in the world, after all, who can really understand the delicate nuances of inter-kingdom dynamics and politics.
Interestingly enough, Arthur and Mera also share one of DC's most consistently inconsistent marriages. They've been married and, uh, un-married ("divorced" wouldn't be accurate in this situation, really, because it's typically not a break up, but some sort of continuity change that gets in the way). But even when they're not officially together, they have a way of finding one another when it matters most. They're almost magnetic in that way. Two characters who are frequently thrown into very personal conflicts that isolate them from the heroes around them, but who eventually circle back around for each other.
In recent years, Xebel's history has been updated yet again to remove the whole extra-dimensional aspect. It's now readily accessible from Atlantis itself, rather than a place that can only be found through a portal in the Bermuda Triangle (though that's still a really awesome sentence to type), but the conflicts between the kingdoms and the surface world are just as tricky as ever.
Mera and Arthur don't need one another to exist. Their stories work perfectly fine without the other's help. But they certainly aren't hurt by their relationship to the other either, and it’s one of the DC Universe’s most compelling love stories. It’s little wonder it’s being explored in an entirely new way, and from Mera’s perspective, in Mera: Tidebreaker, DC’s first foray into the world of Young Adult graphic novels. It has all the elements of a great fairy tale—warring kingdoms, secret romance, fantastic creatures, magic. Together, Mera and Arthur transform some of the more complicated corners of the DCU into easy to understand, extremely personal stories that weave all the tension and stakes of a richly imagined history with the smaller scale drama and romance of two people who are, undeniably, meant for one another.
Meg Downey covers movies, TV and comics for DCComics.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @rustypolished.