One thing that Aquaman forgot when he decided it was a good idea to start bossing around a Great Old One, is that Cthulhu is not an ocean creature.
Sure, Cthulhu can currently be found deep in the Pacific ocean, but he doesn’t actually live there. Instead, he lies dead but dreaming within his resting place in the city of R’lyeh. A city of massive cyclopean green stone and non Euclidean geometry.
A city that he once ruled the world from, until it sank beneath the waves. Now, he waits until the stars are right, and his city rises once again above the waves so that he can again take up his mantle of ruler.
You’ll note that only when the city rises above the waves, out of the ocean, will he regain his powers. The ocean itself is an insulator, protecting us from his thoughts. When the stars are almost right, parts of his great city may rise above the ocean, or at the least, come nearer the surface. During these times, nightmares spread across the world, people are thrown into religious fervor, and epidemics of madness erupt. Once, Cthulhu himself was roused from his slumber, but the stars were not entirely aligned, and after being wounded, his tomb began to sink, locking him away once again. If Cthulhu was truly an ocean creature, then why would its waters have such a negative effect on him?
He may have an octopus for a head, but he came from far away star systems. He was a creature born of Outer Gods on the distant planet of Vhoorl, traveling to Earth by falling between the stars. Aquaman isn’t the first to make this mistake though. While many have done so in the past, August Derleth is probably the first to make this error. In his writings, he assigned elemental attributes to each of the old ones and outer gods, then placed them on opposing sides of a great war. Derleth took one look at those tentacles and his sunken city, and decided that Cthulhu is a water elemental. Completely ignoring the fact that water is what is keeping him trapped. This would be like finding a merman, half dead and drying up, in the middle of the desert, and saying that it’s a fire elemental because it’s in the desert, and has developed a nice tan.
Even if Derleth were right, and the Old Ones are actually great elemental beings, what elements would they be? The answer is something that we probably could not understand, and here’s why:
These Great Old Ones, Castro continued, were not composed altogether of flesh and blood. They had shape – for did not this star-fashioned image prove it? – but that shape was not made of matter.
If they are not composed of matter, then why would they follow our (quite antiquated) views of the elements?
Cthulhu isn’t the only being that for some reason is portrayed as being the ruler of his jail. Biblically speaking, the devil gets the same treatment. I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, “Better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven.” It comes from Milton’s Paradise Lost. Lucifer said this as he was banished from Heaven. The problem with this however, is that he doesn’t reign in Hell, he is there to be punished, just like everybody else.
He’s not there to punish people, he’s there to be punished. It’s the one thing that Dante got right when he portrayed Hell. Of course, Hell isn’t even where Satan is supposed to be punished. He’s destined for the Lake of Fire, which is different from Hell, but that’s probably a topic for a different rant…