Lore Guard: Things to Know About Black Manta Before You Watch Aquaman
Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) will have the spotlight all to himself in the upcoming standalone Aquaman movie adaptation, having shared the silver screen with the other members of the Justice League last year. The audience will not only get to delve into the origins of the superhero, as well as his underwater kingdom, but also his arch-nemesis Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II).
There is a lot of history between the two characters and while Aquaman has found several enemies over the decades, Black Manta remains on the top of the vicious pile. He is basically the Joker to Batman, the Green Goblin to Spider-Man, or Lex Luthor to Superman.
Aquaman is scheduled to open in theaters at the end of the year. There is still considerable time to know more about Black Manta because he will be appearing as the chief antagonist in the movie.
His multiple tragic origins
There have been several origin stories penned over the decades to explain how Black Manta came into inception, all of them laced with bitter tragedy that ultimately led to harboring sheer animosity against Aquaman.
In the first version, Black Manta was kidnapped as a child and forced to serve as a slave on a ship. He was constantly abused by his captors during the troubling years, which made him extremely psychotic and violent. While he was able to escape in the end, it was not before he had started resenting the sea and in turn Aquaman because he was the symbolic guardian of the waves where Black Manta suffered.
In the second version, Black Manta was locked away in Arkham Asylum as an autistic child and forced to undergo heinous experiments for years. The doctors were incidentally able to cure the autism in the end, but there were natural side effects. Black Manta became fixated on inducing violence and pain. He killed his primary doctors before making his escape with an obsession for Aquaman, having watched the superhero all the time on television while in captivity.
In the third version, Black Manta was a young aspiring treasure hunter and living happily with his father on their family boat. In his ambitions to capture the fabled “Merman of Amnesty Bay” for fame, he ended up accidentally killing the operator of a local lighthouse–the father of Aquaman. This led the superhero to kill the father of Black Manta on their family boat, while thinking that he was the killer. The events made both harbor extreme hatred for each other.
His most likely origin for the movie
With three origin stories to choose from, the upcoming Aquaman movie is most likely to incorporate the third version. There are several reasons to base this assumption on and explain why it is the best suitable setting.
Firstly, the particular origin is the most recent version and hails from the “New 52” reboot in DC Comics that has more or less provided material for the DCEU so far. Secondly, the tale of accidental murders adds a personal and dark touch on both ends that will fall right into the threshold of the studio. Thirdly, the same origin has already been loosely used with Justice League: Throne of Atlantis (2015) to a warm reception.
This is only if director James Wan decides against penning a customized version for whatever reasons, something that probably unlikely at this point.
His powers and abilities
Unlike most other profound characters in the comic books, Black Manta inherently has no special powers or super abilities. It is actually his battle suit that gives him the massive strength to lift weights beyond the capabilities of any other human being, and safety against conventional projectiles such as bullets. It also allows him to adapt to the oceans by breathing underwater and surviving immense pressures and low temperatures when diving deep.
There are a few other gadgets attached to the battle suit as well. There is a jetpack that works underwater and on land, a jammer to scramble the telepathic abilities of Aquaman, and the signature bug-eyed helmet that can fire deadly beams of energy. In addition, the battle suit can launch miniaturized torpedoes and hides a harpoon gun inside the right wrist gauntlet.
Black Manta is an expert combatant and has a variety of physical weapons at his disposal. His primary pick is a hand-held trident, with twin blades as secondary. He is also highly intelligent and an expert engineer, which is evident from the fact that he built his suit himself to level the playing field with his adversary.
However, there was a time in the comic books when Black Manta sold his soul to the demon Neron in exchange for real power. He was transformed into a hybrid being, half man and half manta. This form gave him better maneuverability in the water, the abilities to dive to extreme depths, and to breathe underwater. He also received a tail that could be used to lash out in offense. Aquaman, with the help of Green Arrow, put a stop to that soon after.
His thirst for vengeance knows no bounds
In one miniseries that sent shockwaves throughout the oceans, Black Manta managed to kidnap the infant son of Aquaman and Mera. Knowing that the baby was unable to survive outside of water, he placed Aquababy inside a bubble that slowly filled with air. He then forced Aquaman and his sidekick Aqualad to battle each other. One of them had to first die before the other could rescue the child. While both superheroes broke free of the arena, they were too late to save Aquababy.
Mera blamed Aquaman for the murder of her son, and the grieving father was changed forever after he held the lifeless body of his only offspring in his arms. The tragedy accentuated the lengths that Black Manta is always willing to go in order to see his sworn enemy suffer.
His true colors beneath the suit
Black Manta has always been known for his visually striking battle suit with a giant bug-esque helmet and glowing red eyes. However, a decade after the character made his debut in the comic books, the writers decided in 1977 to reveal the man hiding inside.
When the massive headgear was removed, Black Manta came out to be an African American who wanted to take control of the seas and use it as a sanctuary for his race. The source materials at the time led him to be vocal about his fight against oppression and injustice. The guy simply wanted a place for him and his people to call home.
Despite the storyline branching into different mythologies over time, Black Manta has continued to be portrayed by an African American. The upcoming movie will follow likewise, paying homage to the source materials.
“Lore Guard” is an exclusive segment that brings attention to the genuine history behind characters, storylines, events, artifacts, and such, from their respective original works. They may differ in their adaptations for different mediums, but it is important to know how they were initially penned.