The Rodney Dangerfield of superheroes is finally getting respect.
Aquaman is the subject of a fan film, based on classic DC Comics characters, being made by La Grande filmmakers.
Filming for "Undertow" wrapped up in late September, and post-production work should take about two months. Then the 30-minute film will be ready for a free local screening. Next summer the filmmakers plan to take the film to the San Diego Comicon festival.
Perhaps comic book fans you know who you are remember this minor but durable DC Comics character. Aquaman was born into the comics universe in 1941, the creation of writer Mort Weisinger and artist Paul Norris. Having the ability to live under water and communicate telepathically with sea creatures, Aquaman was known for fighting crime on the high seas.
At first, Aquaman was portrayed in sharp green pants and gloves and an orange tunic with simulated scales.
But he kept up with the times. In the 1960s and '70s, he morphed into a character with wild hair and beard and blue-green underwater camouflage.
You may recall Aquaman from "Super Friends," the ABC-TV show that aired from 1973 to 1975. In the show, he teamed with superheroes Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman to save the world.
Chuck Peters, producer and writer-director of the fan film, was smitten by Aquaman's underdog personality.
"Aquaman was never treated very well," Peters says. "He gets no love."
As a consequence, Peters tried to get Aquaman some overdue respect by writing the fan film. Then along with Jonathan Griffith of Valley Video Services, producer and director of photography, he recruited actors and crew to make the film a reality.
Before you learn what the La Grande film is all about, especially if you are not totally familiar with this superhero, you may want to know a little more about Aquaman.
Aquaman's forebears hail from the city of Atlantis, an advanced society where people live underwater. Unusual for a superhero, Aquaman marries his true love Mera. Together they have a son. But there comes a time when Aquaman chooses to go after a bad guy and he is not around to save his son, who dies. Mera goes nuts and divorces him.
The world becomes a lonely, dark place.
Later Aquaman wanders from town to town, trying to decide whether to return to Atlantis and again be king or stay on dry land and help people.
"As he tries to distance himself from humans, he becomes more and more human," Peters says.
From that point, the plot goes like this, in Peters' words:
"Hidden away in the small mountain town of La Grande, superheroes walk among us. Arthur Curry (Shawn Trimble) has walked into town, a drifter searching for himself, with hopes of finding a place where the world won't look for him. He is Aquaman, deposed king of the underwater world of Atlantis and a former member of the Justice League Of America.
"Unbeknownst to our hero, a cult group (Ignacio Benevente, Scott Kleeman and Tony Meda) within the sleepy town has kidnapped a young boy (Zack Howell) and plans to kill him.
"When Arthur visits a local lunch counter run by an odd couple (Rebecca Heihn and Daniel Petznick), he learns of the missing boy and decides to take action.
"Meanwhile, two more superheroes have entered town under the guise of their alter egos: Clark Kent, better known as Superman (Mike Surber) and Wally West, The Flash (Alex Mitzimberg). The pair are on a mission to convince Arthur to return to the Justice League.
"Will Arthur find the missing boy in time to save him? Can Superman and The Flash persuade Arthur to help them save the world?"
You'll have to watch the film to find out.
Of course, since this is a labor of love with a small budget, filming could not take place underwater. The film team also stayed away from costumes except for giving Aquaman a harpoon for a hand.
"We wanted to get back to his human side," Peters says, "how he deals with the world becoming a lonely, dark place, how saving a boy who reminds him of his own son could help him save himself."
The film was shot over five days.
The filmmakers want to thank those in the La Grande community who made the film possible.
"Nobody in this is getting paid a dime," says Jonathan Griffith, the film's producer and director of photography, of the actors and crew. "Everyone volunteered time, and some businesses allowed us to film when they were normally shut down."
Pivotal scenes were filmed at the home of Brian and Jordan Wallis. Also instrumental in making the film happen was CHA Productions and the generosity of Beth Brown of the Orchard Motel and Betty J. Baker of The Sub Shop.
Together these people helped Aquaman swim to the rescue once again.
Director: Chuck Peters
Producer/director of photography: Jonathan Griffith, Valley Video Services
Key grip: Mike Surber
Grip: Greg Rawlins
Photographer: Erin Kinzer
Properties managers: Daniel Petznick and Sarah Bomberger
Special effects supervisor: Christopher Jennings of C.H.A. Productions
Mask designer: Danae Yurgel
Properties designer: Jon Franklin