I've started watching Young Justice, and although I'm not familiar with Aquaman's* traditional powers from what I've heard they generally didn't involve shaping water but mostly restricted to telepathy/control over sea creatures and super strength (plus breathing underwater). Some of Aqualad's moves seem to involve shaping (but not creating) water. Some (the wave-like ones, the water shield, gathering water from different sources) but not all (making a hammer out of water) look similar to waterbending moves.

Have the creators said anything about this? Are there any hints that point towards or away from this theory?

* I think Aqualad was invented for the show but I might be wrong

edit: Doesn't Aqualad store a certain minimal amount of water with him (for the swords?) like Katara does in her water skin. Is this present with other heroes who manipulate water? Even if it isn't I admit it's minor and sort of obvious thing to create independently, but it still feels very similar.

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    Kaldur'ahm (Aqualad) first appeared in Brightest Day #4 back in June 2010 which coincided with his appearance in the 2010 Young Justice series. Basically his DC Comics first appearance and his TV series first appearance happened at the same time. – 22nd Century Fza Sep 16 '14 at 8:33
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    You might as well ask whether Katara stole the idea of carrying bits of her element with her from Gaara of Naruto; these are all extremely common element-manipulation tropes with much MUCH older roots than Avatar. – BESW Sep 16 '14 at 10:05
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    The way Avatar portrayed water manipulation, especially as something that was dangerous and highly versatile in combat, was very new compared to how elemental water powers had been portrayed before. – samoanbiscuit Oct 27 '14 at 2:46

While Avatar the Last Airbender appeared in 2005 and Kaldur'ahm doesn't appear until 2010, hydrokinesis, the power to manipulate water with one's mind or magic (similar to bending), has been around for a very long time.

  • Marvel's Hydro Man was doing it in the eighties. (1981)
  • Aquaman did it briefly when he had a water hand in the nineties after he got a gift from the Lady of the Lake, replacing his missing hand and stylish hook.
  • Tempest (Garth, the original Aqualad) could do it when he acquired his magical abilities back in 1996.

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  • And while there may have been some inspiration from The Last Airbender, it does not mean they had to be.

  • DC had set a precedence with Garth's sorcerous control of water and Aquaman's use of the Water Bearer's hand. Since Kaldur's powers are sorcerous in origin, it is likely the powers are the same ones Garth inherited in the comics.

  • These are the three hydrokinetics I could think of right off the top. Giving Kaldur hydrokinesis isn't that much of a stretch and didn't have to be related to the existence of the Avatar, the Last Airbender as a television show at all.

  • Similarly, air manipulation, fire control, and earth mastery are also staples in the comic repertoire of superpowers.

  • Good answer Thaddeus! – 22nd Century Fza Sep 17 '14 at 4:19
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    Thanks. I was a bit tired when I wrote it. I should have included Aquaman's wife, Mera, who was one of the first of the Aquaman clan to use hardened water as a weapon. This job is sucking the life out of me. I can barely participate anymore. I guess with Richard's popularity he will move into second in about three months... – Thaddeus Howze Sep 17 '14 at 7:12

While there have been character in comics and cartoons that have had water manipulating powers before Avatar: The Last Airbender, the show's portrayal of a waterbender as being able to use water in many varied and potentially dangerous ways was certainly something new and refreshing. Before that show, characters that had "water based" abilities or magic were generally healers, and the stereotype that Aquaman is the lamest of the Justice League comes from this pre-ATLA era. Using water to form ice blades to cut, or blunter shapes to bludgeon, to burst containers by turning the water inside to steam, etc all were definitely something that was rarely seen until after ATLA left it's mark in the pop culture landscape.

I would say that it's not so much that Kaldur having water powers was inspired by waterbending, but how the storyboarders and animators of YJ chose to portray them definitely owes a debt to how ATLA portrayed waterbending.

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