He’s built a career on hating Aquaman.
Jason Momoa’s Arthur Curry is going to be busy in the upcoming Aquaman movie. In addition to battling his jealous brother Orm — a.k.a. Ocean Master — for control of the Atlantean throne, Aquaman will also be battling Black Manta, an armored sea pirate harboring a particularly nasty grudge.
As we gear up for the next addition to the DC cinematic universe, here’s everything you need to know about Black Manta, why he hates Aquaman so much and why he has one of the more convoluted origin stories in the DC Universe.
Watch the video above for our breakdown of the Aquaman trailer, where his true mission in the film is revealed!
Black Manta Explained: The Basics
Aquaman has a difficult relationship with the surface world, and nowhere is that more obvious than in his relationship with Black Manta. This villain represents everything Atlanteans fear about mankind. Black Manta is a pirate and plunderer who thinks nothing of slaughtering Atlanteans to get what he wants. And because he harbors a deep-seated grudge against Aquaman himself, Black Manta will never stop trying to destroy Atlantis as long as his nemesis still draws water.
But is Manta truly a remorseless killer, or is there more motivating this implacable villain? That’s something even DC Comics’ writers have never quite agreed upon.
Black Manta’s Powers and Abilities
Black Manta is a skilled engineer who designed his own high-tech diving suit and submarine. The suit is durable enough to survive the crushing pressures of the deep and grant Manta super-strength. The suit’s signature manta-shaped helmet is also capable of firing destructive optic blasts.
Manta has further augmented his suit with a variety of deadly weapons. He often carries multiple razor-sharp blades, a speargun, underwater torpedoes, a jetpack and a device that can jam Aquaman’s telepathy. As if all this weren’t bad enough, Manta tends to be accompanied by his own private army of underwater henchmen.
Black Manta: Origin and Background
Black Manta was created by writer Bob Haney and artist Nick Cardy and debuted in 1967’s Aquaman #35. For the first decade of his shelf life, little was known about the origin or true nature of Black Manta. He was simply portrayed as a plunderer with a fierce hatred of Aquaman and Atlantis.
In fact, it wasn’t until 1977’s Adventure Comics #465 that readers saw what Manta looks like underneath his helmet. That issue revealed that Black Manta is, in fact, a black man, and that his goal is to build a new home for “his people,” as he put it, under the sea. However, it wasn’t long before that motivation was revealed to be a ruse. But that issue did deepen the rivalry between Aquaman and Black Manta by making the latter responsible for the death of the former’s infant son.
Finally, Manta’s origin story was revealed in 1993’s Aquaman Vol. 4 #6. One of them, anyway. That issue revealed that Manta was kidnapped as a child and forced to work on a ship. He attempted to call out to a passing Aquaman one day but failed to attract the hero’s attention. That was the source of Black Manta’s undying hatred for Aquaman and Atlantis.
2003’s Aquaman Vol. 6 #8 offered a completely different take on Manta’s origin. It revealed that he was an autistic child confined to Arkham Asylum and subjected to horrific experiments that warped his mind and gave him some degree of super-powers.
The character was revamped again by writer Geoff Johns in the 2010 series Brightest Day. Johns adapted the Aqualad from the TV show Young Justice into DC’s comic book universe and maintained continuity with the series by establishing that he is the son of Black Manta. According to this new story, Manta (finally given the civilian name David Hyde) and his wife were kidnapped and tortured by terrorists from the underwater kingdom of Xebel. Johns later revealed in the 2011 Aquaman relaunch that Aquaman accidentally killed Manta’s father. These combined tragedies effectively purged any lingering sense of love or compassion from Hyde’s personality, leaving only rage behind.
Whatever origin story is the true version, Black Manta has remained a constant thorn in Aquaman’s side over the decades. He’s also played a major role in DC crossovers like 1995’s Underworld Unleashed and 2013’s Forever Evil. The latter story even introduced a new motivation for Manta, as he sought vengeance against the Crime Syndicate for destroying his father’s grave.
Black Manta: Beyond the Comics
Like Aquaman, Black Manta has a long history of appearing in DC’s animated projects. His first TV appearance came in the 1967 Filmation series The Superman/Aquaman Adventure Hour, where he was voiced by Ted Knight. Knight later reprised the role in multiple incarnations of the Super Friends animated series.
Manta has appeared in numerous other animated projects since, including TV series like Batman: The Brave and the Bold and Justice League Unlimited (where he was renamed Devil Ray) and films like Justice League: Throne of Atlantis and Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. His most significant role came in 2010’s Young Justice, where he served as a member of the elite organization The Light and frequently clashed with his son, Aqualad.
Black Manta has also appeared in several DC video games, including LEGO Batman 2 and 3, Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis, Young Justice: Legacy and Injustice 2.
Black Manta has only made one live-action appearance to date, as a minor villain in Smallville named simply “Manta.” It’s believed that Ving Rhames’ character in The CW’s unaired Aquaman TV pilot would have either become Black Manta or been otherwise connected to the villain, but we’ll probably never know.
The character will make his big screen debut in 2018’s Aquaman movie, where he’ll be played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. This version of the character will be renamed David Kane instead of David Hyde. Little is known about Manta’s role in the movie, though we do know he’ll be portrayed as a technologically advanced treasure hunter. Most likely he’ll be joining forces with Prince Orm to battle their mutual foe.