Despite its numerous Easter Eggs and references to the larger DC Universe, Man of Steel was understandably a standalone adventure as the first DCEU film, focused on Superman's journey toward becoming Earth's greatest protector. Surprisingly, though, Clark wasn't alone in his solo adventure. It's long been speculated that another superhero had a subtle offscreen presence: Aquaman.
Early on in the film, prior to him getting his super suit and important lessons on Kryptonian history, Clark Kent saved people from an oil rig that was about to explode. After getting everyone out, the rig collapsed, and our hero had to hold up the failing structure to allow the endangered civilians to escape.
This came at a cost for him, because the rig exploded and he was left unconscious in the sea. Thankfully, our hero had help from unlikely sources: whales. While the scene was cut short, it was heavily implied that the whales played a part in rescuing Clark. Ever since Man Of Steel hit theaters, fans (including yours truly) theorized that the whales were sent by an offscreen Aquaman. There was no way to confirm that, so Arthur Curry coming to Superman's aid remained a cool fan theory... until now, that is.
Yep, That Was Actually Aquaman Saving Clark Kent In 'Man Of Steel'
Justice League is finally here, and the cast has been doing various interviews to promote the film. Jason Momoa, a.k.a. Aquaman, sat down for a chat with DC All Access. There, the actor confirmed his character was the one who sent whales to save Clark Kent:
I'll give you a cool little thing that's not in this movie [...] In 'Man of Steel' when Henry's on the oil rig, he's holding that up and then all of a sudden you see him up on the ocean, kind of floats up on the ocean. [Zack Snyder]'s like, 'I had [Aquaman] save him so that they'd get to cross paths at one point so then when Bruce goes, 'You ever heard of [Superman]?' I have, and we have crossed paths.
As Momoa mentioned, that was a really smart approach to create ties between the heroes years before they actually came together. While many of us had been speculating that Clark's mysterious rescue had something to do with his trident-wielding teammate for quite some time, we have to give Warner Bros. and Zack Snyder points for the subtlety of it all.
'Man of Steel's Brief Aquaman Reference Has Deeper Ties With The World Of Atlantis
The oil rig Superman was saved from was property of the Merrevale Oil corporation, which plays a big part in Aquaman's comic books, specifically in the "Eco Wars" storyline. In the run, an oil rig in the Içana River exploded, seemingly due to the Sea Devils, a group of good-natured adventurers. The explosion caused great damage to the sea, and Aquaman was sent in to check on the situation. Once Arthur got to the disaster site and encountered the Devils, however, the team revealed they had been set up.
With that cleared up, Aquaman worked with the Sea Devils to fix the disaster. Later on, it's revealed that the Merrevale Oil company was actually behind the attack, in an effort to frame the Devils and turn them into eco-terrorists in the eyes of the public. Unfortunately for our sea-dwelling hero, the company's evil deeds didn't stop there. Following their successful attack, Merrevale released microbes known as "The Eaters" into the water. Disguised as a means to eat away the toxic waste, the microbes were actually meant to end all sea life.
As you can see, Aquaman being near one of Merrevale's rigs in Man of Steel probably has more relevance for the character. Given that backstory, when I first saw that scene, I wondered whether Aquaman could have been the one responsible for the oil rig explosion to prevent it from polluting the ocean, similar to what Arthur Curry did in TV's Smallville. Given how he saved Superman, however, I don't think he'd be willing to risk the lives of so many people.
You can currently see Aquaman in action alongside Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, The Flash and Cyborg in Justice League.