Manchester Black in Action Comics #775,
art by Doug Mahnke.
|First appearance||Action Comics #775 (March 2001)|
|Created by||Joe Kelly
|Alter ego||Manchester Black|
|Team affiliations||The Elite
|Abilities||Telekinetic and Telepath.|
Fictional character biography
Manchester Black was a ruthless vigilante who led a crime fighting team called "The Elite". Other than his thick English accent, omnipresent Union Jack tattoo, and a few snippets he told about his life, very little is known about his background, although he is most likely from the city of Manchester, England. What is known includes insinuations that he was physically abused by his parents while growing up and a hatred for people with "high moral concepts" who feel they are better than people like Black, who would do anything to survive. This hatred included super heroes who would only turn captured villains over to the police instead of killing them, which was the only way Manchester and the Elite felt villains could be dealt with. Black also claimed distant African and Korean heritage, but as he made these claims to justify his use of racist terms towards these groups, it is possible he was either lying or joking.
Black first appears as the leader of a team of super-powered antiheroes called The Elite, who gained worldwide popularity for viciously killing their foes and thus preventing them from coming back to cause more problems. Superman opposed this wanton violence, leading to a showdown on Jupiter's moon Io that was videotaped for Earth's media. Black used his powers to give Superman a stroke, and his teammates (Coldcast, Menagerie, and the Hat) apparently were able to destroy Superman in a giant explosion. While the Elite were gloating, however, Superman used his superspeed seemingly to kill all the team's members except Black. Superman then disabled the Englishman by using his X-ray vision to locate an unusual growth on Black's brain. He identified the growth as the source of Black's powers, and carefully fired a thin burst of heat vision through Black's retinas, telling him that he had cut out the growth.
Faced with the apparent loss of his powers, Black actually wept, hypocritically appalled that Superman had seemingly adopted the lethal tactics he and the Elite had spent so much time advocating, especially given that he was being taped at the time. After stating that he was certain his 'demonstration' had frightened those watching with the ugliness of it, Superman then revealed to the powerless Black that the rest of the Elite were only unconscious, he had not removed anything from Black's brain, instead merely causing a micro-concussion that temporarily shut down Black's powers, and that murdering opponents makes a hero no better than his enemies. Furious, Black declared that by not killing him, Superman had guaranteed that as long as Black was alive, he would come after Superman again and again, but Superman calmly replied that he wouldn't want it any other way, and that dreams like the ones he gave to Earth were what made life worth living until the example he and other heroes provided created a better tomorrow.
A temporarily beaten Black was taken into custody, and his mental powers were restored over the next few months. In his next appearance (in the Our Worlds At War storyline in Adventures of Superman #593), Black was hired by the American government and President Lex Luthor to lead a new Suicide Squad featuring Chemo, Plasmus, Shrapnel, and Steel. The Squad's mission was to release the monster Doomsday against the threat of the galactic conqueror Imperiex. Upon his release, Doomsday apparently killed the entire Squad, with the exception of Black (Steel was later saved thanks to the actions of the Black Racer and Darkseid, although Mongul survived under unspecified circumstances), who escaped after 'reprogramming' Doomsday's mind so that Doomsday's hatred for Superman was temporarily redirected toward the Imperiex probes.
Black's final appearance (in the Ending Battle storyline running through the Superman titles in November and December 2002) found him mentally controlling dozens of supervillains by revealing Superman's secret identity and sending them en masse after the Man of Steel. Black targeted everyone in Superman's life - from Clark's old football coach to his current dentist - before launching a mass assault. Despite the odds against him, Superman managed to hold the villains back, later finding Black in his apartment, apparently having killed Lois Lane while Superman was occupied. Black taunted Superman, goading him into killing him, but Superman put Lois' body first, and resolved to give her a proper burial. Despite fantasizing about killing Black, Superman resisted temptation and told Black that he would devote the rest of his life to keeping the villain behind bars, and not in the morgue, as vengeance isn't justice.
Black was stunned at Superman's fortitude. His spirit wavered, and his illusion crumbled, revealing Lois to be still alive. Black had been trying to force Superman into a position in which he would have to kill, intending for Superman to learn, after Black's demise, that he had broken his moral code for nothing, thus leaving him truly broken. But Black's plan failed, and he was forced to recognize that Superman genuinely believed everything he said. Distraught at the revelation that he had become a villain himself, Black made the supervillains forget Superman's secret identity. He then fired a telekinetic pulse at his own head, taking his own life.
The New 52
In the new continuity, Manchester Black is a high-ranking S.T.A.R. Labs executive. He created Algorithm, an A.I. that commits acts of terrorism throughout New York City in order to lure the Teen Titans to S.T.A.R. Labs, where he stages an attack against himself in order to be saved by the Titans and gain their trust. He then proposes a partnership; suspicious of Manchester Black's real intentions, Red Robin agrees to it, but sends Beast Boy to investigate him.
Manchester's sister Vera is the leader of the Justice League Elite. For a time, it appeared as though her mind had been taken over by the disembodied spirit of her brother, but it was later revealed to be a form of multiple personality disorder caused by her traumatic upbringing and aggravated by her contact with the near-infinite power of the Worlogog. Her instability nearly drove her to destroy London, but the other members of the Elite helped her to recover.
Powers and abilities
Black was a skilled telekinetic and telepath who was capable of very precise uses of telekinesis. He was, for example, able to give Superman the equivalent of a stroke by telekinetically pinching the blood vessels in Superman's brain. He can also emit offensive blasts and erect shields over himself and others.
He was also able to create very detailed illusions on a vast scale, and could telepathically control thousands of minds at the same time. While controlling Bizarro and Silver Banshee, he was able to temporarily grant them enough sanity to enable them to communicate and to form plans. He was also able to switch Superman's and Bizarro's minds, putting their consciousnesses into each other's bodies.
In other media
- Manchester Black appears as the main antagonist in Superman vs. The Elite, voiced by Robin Atkin Downes as an adult and by Grey DeLisle as a boy.  Like the comics, Manchester Black is the leader of the Elite where they do justice their way. It is not stated at the end that Superman's surgery to remove Black's powers was a ruse.
- Manchester Black appears as a playable character in Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, voiced again by Robin Atkin Downes.
Some of Black's appearances have been reprinted in trade paperbacks:
- Justice League Elite (reprints: Action Comics #775, JLA #100, JLA Secret Files 2004 (lead story), and Justice League Elite #1-4, tpb, 208 pages, 2005, Titan ISBN 1-84576-191-X DC, ISBN 1-4012-0481-3)
- Superman: Ending Battle (reprints 2002's Superman (1986 series) #186-87, Adventures Of Superman #608-09, Superman: Man Of Steel #130-31, and Action Comics #795-96, tpb, 192 pages, 2009, DC, ISBN 1-4012-2259-5)
- Action Comics #796 (December 2002)
- Justice League Elite #1-8 (2004-2005)
- Manchester Black at the Comic Book DB
- DCU Guide entry
- The Captain's unofficial JLA Homepage entry
- Superman homepage
- GCD Project: Action Comics #775
- Comparisons between Manchester Black and The Mad Mod