This one goes out to Car Pool Keith, my twice-a-day friend, who has been talking about going fishing since January, who is probably fishing right now and who will likely be talking about fishing until next January. The man knows how to stick with a hobby.
So: we’re all familiar with the concept of the comic book character who has hunted all there is to hunt and so must move on to hunting people, or super-heroes, or super-villains. Manhunter, Kraven the Hunter, the Hunter – all of them have a little of the ol’ General Zaroff in them. But hunting isn’t alone, no sir. The fine sport of fishing has made its impression on the funny books as well.
Now part of me wants to dismiss this as the comic book equivalent of the tendency for comic strips to feature lots of golf jokes. A sort of "write what you know and you’d rather be doing" kind of thing, I guess. But then the part of me that wants this post to have a cohesive theme speaks up and reminds me to say that I now think that it’s more like fishing is the stunted little brother of hunting, that it may not have pith helmets and charging rhinos but, by god, it’s going to make do with hip waders and wide-legged stances and lots of puns involving the word hook! Fishing can matter, dammit!
Sometimes, fishing is just a means to an end. Here we have "Crusher" Crock, the Sportsmaster, dressing up like a fisherman in order to steal things. This is his schtick, though – heck, that mask is his only real costume. The next time he appears, he might be a baseball player or a water-skier or a dartsman.
Still, Sportsmaster’s bewadered magnificence is imposing enough to dissuade folks from trying to interfere as he hooks him a big one. I think that the potential of fishing is evident:
Here’s some fishing froom DC Special No. 13:
The Fishermen of Space are a trio of spectacularly dumb aliens who are gathering specimens of terrestrial life to take back home. They use weird claws for hooks and, because they are big dudes, fish for great big things. Things like buses, or ships:
The Fishermen of Space don’t even know that they are fishing for humans, really. They just scoop up the biggest moving things that they can find, and I guess the whales were all astute enough to submerge once the giant claws started dropping from the sky. It is likely that these big dumb alien bozos are representing the sporting nature of the comic book fisherperson, though, if only because I have to assume that if they were scientists they might use a more efficient means of gathering their specimens. No, these guys are almost certainly cracking open a few giant brewskis and telling stories about the Miscellaneous Moving Object That Got Away once they get back to their mothership.
Sometimes, fishing for people becomes a lesson in cruel irony, as in this tale from Strange Adventures No. 21, wherein a young scientist and his wife set out with rod and reel to prove that there are living things of some sort at the bottom of a toxic volcanic lake. In a shocking twist ending, however:
The fisher becomes the fishee! Don’t worry, though, he gets away. The poor fish-man is left to live his days in a haze of constant regret:
Note, however, that the fish monster is careful to use a rod and hook when attempting to catch a human. This is very important, and is a bit of a mistake. Humans aren’t quite as dumb as fish, after all, and you just can’t be certain that they’ll manage to impale themselves on any barb that you toss out there, even if you put a hamburger on the end. The Fishermen of Space had the right idea there, what with their claws and all.
No, this fish monster is strictly an amateur, the equivalent of a kid with a bent paperclip tied to a stick with a length of twine. If you want to see some human-fishing fish monsters who have it all figured out, man, you just take a gander at Flash v1 No. 119, wherein the Flash and Elongated Man both get to take a shot at figuring out whatever became of some vanished scuba divers:
In an overly-complicated scheme, the fish-monsters capture the divers, put them in a tank in their underwater city, and fish for them with pieces of meat. As I recall, the one who caught a diver got to use him as slave labour.
Note, however, the specialized human-fishing equipment. You reach for the steak and a noose slips over your wrist – seems a bit more plausible than expecting the ol’ hook to work. My main question is where they got that steak. Also, how was the diver going to eat that steak? His whole head is encased in diving apparatus, after all – shouldn’t he be trying to get out of the water so that he can beat up the fish-guy and take the meat? Not even the Flash thinks to try that though, or even the radical strategy of reaching around the noose to grab the steak.
But this is all pointless exploration of a very tenuously tied-together bunch of examples without an examination of the pinnacle of the fishing-in-comics characters; fishing’s equivalent of Kraven the Hunter and Aquaman’s most logical nemesis:
The Fisherman just takes his theme and runs with it. He’s got the waders and the suspenders and he does everything with his hook. He makes his entrances on giant sea monsters! Heck, when he first appeared he was even more into the whole thing:
He had a cape made out of a net! His little hat (since revealed to be an alien parasite of some kind, which kills one of my jokes) is the same colour as the rest of his costume and makes him look a bit like a lobster! Hell, even the caption-voice calls him "bizarre", which is a pretty tough distinction to achieve as a villain in a 60s DC comic.
Clearly, this is a man who has tasted all that life on the sea has to offer. He has fished everything from the gentle sardine too the majestic basking shark. He has tracked the elusive king krill to its lair and emerged the victor. He has ridden the mighty manta ray and feasted on anenome and scorpion fish and sea squirt. Truely he is the ultimate fisherman. But where to go once you reach the top? What do you fish for once you have fished all of the fish that there are to fish?
Yep, you start fishing for people. Remember how I was talking about how people won’t just grab onto a hook, even if you put a something delicious on it? Well that’s just the kind of challenge that the Fisherman likes. And if getting to fish for people means that he runs the risk of getting shot four times in the back and killed?
Well, I guess that that’s just the final proof that the most dangerous fish of all… is Man.