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Everything You Need to Know About AQUAMAN’s Black Manta

Everything is better, down where it’s wetter, under the sea. Sebastian’s immortal words from The Little Mermaid have never rung truer than they do for Warner Bros. and DC Comics’ upcoming Aquaman film. But DC Comics’ protector of the deep is going to have his hands full with not one, but two villains: Black Manta and Ocean Master. We’ll get to Ocean Master in future episode, but today we’re going to focus on one of the most dastardly denizens of the deep: Black Manta. Who is he? Why should you care? Is he the one who made Jason Momoa wear leather pants underwater? Most of these questions will be answered on today’s episode of The Dan Cave, which has everything you need to know about Black Manta!

Created by Bob Haney and Nick Kardy in 1967’s Aquaman #35, Black Manta, a.k.a. David Hyde, would go on to be considered Aquaman’s most iconic and enduring enemy. Played in the movie adaptation by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and renamed David Kane for some reason, Black Manta is a pirate and mercenary who will go toe to toe with Aquaman thanks to his high-tech alienoid-looking supersuit that can discharge red plasma beams from its eyes. Although Black Manta has no superpowers, his Manta Suit makes him bulletproof, waterproof, and enhances both his strength and durability to near superhuman levels. His expertise in hand-to-hand combat, firearms, and all manner of high-tech weaponry make him a deadly foe even for someone as swole as Aquaman.

In his first comic appearance, Black Manta had no real backstory at all. The battle-suited baddie arrived in Atlantis in a gigantic manta-shaped submarine and unleashed a chemical on the protective dome around the undersea city, forcing its denizens to evacuate while they decontaminated Atlantis’ water. Black Manta then kidnapped Aquaman’s aptly named son, Aquababy, who he would only ransom back to Aquaman if Arthur Curry bent the knee. When all hope seemed lost, it’s none other than Ocean Master who saved the day, not out of the goodness of his own heart, but more out of a desire to prove that he’s the only one who can truly defeat Aquaman.

In one particularly dark 1977 story (Adventure Comics #452) that feels like a nightmarish sequel to his debut, Black Manta actually did murder Aquababy by suffocating the water-breathing infant in a chamber full of oxygen while forcing Aquaman and Aqualad to fight one another in gladiatorial combat in an ill-advised attempt to create an underwater colony where African-American people could be free from the oppression they faced on the surface world. But that likely won’t ever make it to the big screen unless the DCEU decides to quadruple down on the grimdarkness.

Black Manta’s origin has evolved and changed over the years. Some versions depicted him as the survivor of child abuse who Aquaman failed to rescue, spurring on a lifelong hatred of the undersea hero. Another version depicted Black Manta as a violent Arkham Asylum escapee with autism who became fixated on both being underwater and with murdering Aquaman to rule the ocean in his stead. He also was mutated into a giant manta ray at one point. But all of those are likely being thrown out in favor of the origin that Geoff Johns established in the New 52 reboot.

In this version, David was tasked by Doctor Stephen Shin, an Atlantis truther, with stealing a sample of Arthur Curry’s blood so the not-so-good doctor could prove Arthur was Atlantean. Things didn’t go exactly according to plan because the mission went sideways, and Arthur’s father, Thomas Curry, suffered a heart attack while trying to defend his son. Thomas died three days later, leaving a young Arthur heartbroken and hellbent on revenge. However, Arthur didn’t do his due diligence and when he found the houseboat he believe belonging to his father’s killer, he murdered the man inside. That man wasn’t David Hyde. It was David’s father. This vicious act of misguided vengeance locked the two men in a seemingly neverending blood feud. You know, kind of like myself and Kyle Hill, but instead of yelling into the void about Elon Musk, they beat the everloving hell out of one another. While it’s unclear if we’ll get into this much of Black Manta’s backstory in the movie, it would make things immediately crystal clear as to why these two are fighting.

Over the years, Black Manta would be a constant thorn in Aquaman’s side, usually by attempting to murder Aquaman and everyone close to him. Black Manta has also been a member of the Suicide Squad. While he originally refused membership, he joined up after thinking Aquaman died because his life no longer had meaning. Black Manta has also found himself fighting alongside the good guys as a member of the Injustice League, helping Lex Luthor and other iconic villains to take down the Crime Syndicate, a bizarre evil version of the Justice League from Earth-3 that nearly conquered the world. Fun fact: director James Wan told us on the set of Aquaman that Black Manta isn’t going to be the big bad of the movie. That dubious honor belongs to Orm, a.k.a. Ocean Master, a.k.a. Wait, Is That Patrick Wilson? But that, my friends, is a story for a future episode of The Dan Cave.

What’s your favorite Black Manta story? What version of Black Manta do you want to see in Aquaman? Do you want him to join the Suicide Squad? Let me know in the comments below.

Aquaman hits theaters on December 21.

Images: DC Comics

Sources: DC Comics; Wikia; Comic Vine

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