First of all I'll say I'm glad that you are so passionate about any version of Aquaman no matter which it is. I don't however agree with a lot what was stated in you post.
I don't think it's fair to call him "retro" Aquaman. Consider this is the look the character had not only in the 40s, but the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and part of the 90s as well. Only through Peter David's run and some time after (about 10 years total, give or take) did he appear as you described. So I would say he has gone back to being Classic Aquaman or just Regular Aquaman. I personally prefer the current look. You say this is limited to a few thousand fans, but also consider that the comic industry hasn't been gaining a lot of new readers for the past ten years so I would venture to say that for the comic community as a whole the current look is more familiar to them than the PAD version.
I never really understood the Extreme Aquaman look entirely. I realize that many people underestimated the character and part of the point was to make him LOOK tough in an attempt to give the audience a new outlook on him, but what was up with the snarls and gladiator shoulder harness thing? Was that really the best approach? Were there many gladiator type battles going on under the sea? And how exactly did that metal manzier work? Skin tight, flexible armor really is sorta silly when you think about it. For the animated version, I like the characterization fine. The 'Conan of the Sea' look is okay and I know Timm is a HUGE Robert E. Howard fan, but I could really do without the Aquamullet.
When it comes down to it good storytelling and dedicated creators go much farther than a trendy makeover. PAD's run was a success because he wrote a good Aquaman. Period.
As far as Aquaman's public image. Think that of all the character's featured prominently in every version of the SUPER FRIENDS you had Superman, Batman, Robin, Wonder Woman, and AQUAMAN. Not Green Lantern, Not Flash, Not Martian Manhunter, not Green Arrow, nor Hawkman. These characters appeared in some of the episodes, but only Aquaman was one of the major stars in every single line-up. Look at the popularity of the other characters here (Superman, Batman, etc.) and then you can realize how he would be the easy target of the bunch. But also consider that those particular versions of Batman and Robin inspired the Amibiguously Gay Duo cartoons on SNL and you might think that Aquaman got off easy with the "he talks to the fish" jokes. Truth is, all of the comic characters were underrated for a long time. Until something comes along to replace that view the public will view them as such. Spiderman was considered childish and corny until the movie changed people's opinion of the character and how it can be treated. Before Tim Burton's Batman the general public only thought of the campy 60s TV show when Batman was mentioned (and some still do, POW! BAM! SOCK!). So until Aquaman gets a movie or something equally as cool, the public will just remember the Super Friends. But, also know that the majority of the public have NO IDEA who Hawkman, Green Arrow, and Martian Manhunter are so it's a testament to the character's appeal that's he so widely known at all. Was there a FLASH xbox game? All in all, Aquaman's been around for 60+ years and going strong so I think that says everything you need to know.
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