Art by David Finch
|First appearance||Aquaman #35
|Created by||Bob Haney
|Alter ego||David (last name unknown)|
|Team affiliations||The Society
|Abilities||Enhanced strength; Water breathing ability (through artificial gills); high tech equipment, Laser beams|
Fictional character biography
For most of his published history, Black Manta had no definitive origin story. The first was given in #6 of the 1993 Aquaman series. In this origin, the boy who would become Black Manta grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, and loved to play by the Chesapeake Bay. As a youth he was kidnapped and sexually abused on a ship for an unspecified amount of time. At one point he apparently saw Aquaman with his dolphin friends and tried to signal him for help but was not seen. Finally, he was forced to defend himself, killing one of his tormentors on the ship with a knife. Hating the emotionless sea (and Aquaman, whom he saw as its representative), the boy was determined to become its master.
A second origin was given in #8 of the 2003 Aquaman series. In this origin, the boy who would become Black Manta was an orphan who had autism and was placed in Gotham City's Arkham Asylum. He felt comfortable in freezing cold water, while cotton sheets were excruciatingly painful. Because the attendants at Arkham did not know how to deal with autism, they would end up restraining him to the bed as he struggled and screamed whenever they tried putting him there. The boy was also fascinated when he saw Aquaman on television.
The boy would end up being subjected to experimental treatments. One treatment seemed to clear the boy's head, but left him violent as a result; he killed the scientist who had administered the treatment and escaped from Arkham.
As an adult, the man who would become Black Manta designed a costume (primarily a black wetsuit with bug-eyed helmet, that was able to shoot blasting rays from its eyes) and fashioned a high-tech submersible inspired by manta rays. Taking the name Black Manta, he and his masked army became a force to be reckoned with, engaging in at least one unrecorded clash with Aquaman prior to his first appearance as a rival to the Ocean Master (and before joining the short-lived Injustice League in the retcon Silver Age third week event).
The fearsome Black Manta and Aquaman battled repeatedly over the next several years. During one of these clashes, it was revealed that Black Manta was actually black, whose stated objective at one point was for black people to be dominant in the ocean after having been oppressed for so long on dry land (though this goal was revealed to be a ruse he used to trick Cal Durham into following him, and this objective was not at all evident in either his earlier or later appearances). During most of his appearances, his main goals were defeating Aquaman and gaining power for himself through the conquest of Atlantis. Finally, Manta kills Arthur Curry, Jr., Aquaman's son, which left Aquaman obsessed with revenge.
Black Manta was later transformed into a manta/man hybrid. After a while he went back to wearing his original outfit, which covered his new appearance. At one point he took to drug smuggling from his new base in Star City, where he was opposed by a returning Green Arrow and Aquaman.
In a later confrontation, Aquaman, sporting the Lady of the Lake's Healing Hand, reversed the alterations to Black Manta, and rewired Manta's afflicted brain, making him neurotypical for the first time in his life. Unfortunately, Manta remained a violent criminal, lulling Aquaman into a false sense of partnership and almost killing the Sea King in the process.
In later events, Black Manta was used as a test subject to make water breathers, using genetic manipulation. This succeeded and since then Black Manta has returned to the oceans to face Aquaman once again.
Black Manta caused a disturbance in Sub Diego in which Captain Marley was severely injured. Aquaman summoned various predatory sea-life to attack Black Manta and left him for dead. It was later revealed that he was able to survive by generating an electric charge with his suit.
When Aquaman died at the end of the 2003 series, Black Manta went to work for Libra as part of the Secret Society of Super Villains. However, after Libra betrayed the group and helped Darkseid conquer the Earth, he somehow quit.
In the Brightest Day storyline, Black Manta retired from super-villainy and opened a fish market to earn an honest living. When he discovered that Aquaman had been resurrected following the end of the Blackest Night, he murders the customers in the store and later burns down his shorefront house, as he resumes his criminal career and vendetta against Aquaman. Black Manta is seen later at the grave of Thomas Curry, Aquaman's father, where he is approached by Siren and her Death Squad after demolishing the tombstone. The Death Squad began fighting Black Manta but before the fight could get too far along, Siren stops them. She tells Black Manta that they need to work together to find his son, as she makes a hard water image of Jackson Hyde. Black Manta and Siren track down Jackson and attempt to kill his foster father. Jackson (using his ability to create hard water constructs) defends his foster father, but cannot stop Black Manta from shooting a trident-shaped dart at his foster father. Aquaman then arrives on the scene blocking and crushing the dart. Black Manta prepares to face his old nemesis again. During the battle, Aquaman pulls Jackson and his foster father to safety from Black Manta and Siren. In the flashback that Black Manta was a treasure hunter, who along with his wife were captured while exploring the Bermuda Triangle. Captured by the other-dimensional residents of Xebel, the two were tortured mercilessly and Black Manta's wife, who was pregnant, was experimented on to give the unborn child powers similar to those of the residents of Xebel. Fearing the child would be used as a pawn in an invasion of Earth, Xebel princess Mera kidnapped the child and took him to Earth, where she arranged him to be adopted and raised far away from water in order to keep him from her people. Black Manta ultimately escaped from Xebel, though the fate of his wife remained unknown.
After Jackson learns the truth behind his origin, Aquaman and Jackson (now calling himself Aqualad) are ambushed by Siren and the Xebel soldiers. The fight continues onto the beach where innocent citizens get caught in the crossfire. As Aquaman is about to strike back at Siren, Black Manta springs from the water and severs Aquaman's right hand. Jackson attacks his father and berates him for siding with the people who killed his own wife, only for Black Manta to throw Jackson to the ground and coldly states that both he and his mother mean nothing to him. When Black Manta is about to impale his son with one of his blades, Mera arrives with Aquagirl, who saves Jackson by striking Black Manta square in the face. Jackson and Mera are able to work together to seal Black Manta, Siren and the rest of the invaders away in the Bermuda Triangle. Black Manta vows to get his son, Jackson.
The New 52
In The New 52 (a reboot of the DC Comics universe), Black Manta kills a woman named Kahina the Seer who is a former teammate of Aquaman and steals her specific Atlantean relic. He then vows to kill her entire family before getting his revenge on Aquaman. A flashback shows that Aquaman created a team known as the Others (forged of six Atlantean relics from the Dead King's tomb) who are trying to catch Black Manta, but it fails and Black Manta escapes. Black Manta went after Aquaman's former teammate Prisoner-of-War in Heidelberg. It is revealed that Aquaman had killed Black Manta's father by accident for attacking Aquaman's father. Seeking revenge, Black Manta will attempt to kill all of Aquaman's family (where Aquaman's son was murdered) and friends. When Black Manta chases Prisoner-of-War, he is confronted by Aquaman in a battle. During the attack, Black Manta steals one of Ya'Wara's Atlantean relics and teleports to Stephen Shin, Aquaman's former friend. Black Manta tasers Mera and pulls Shin to teleport away. Meanwhile, the Others are reunited and discover that there is the seventh Atlantean relic in the Dead King's tomb. Manta has Shin captive in the Dead King's tomb to find the seventh relic. They then locate the seventh relic in the Dead King's throne. Manta prepares to kill Shin, but is thwarted when Aquaman and the Others attack his henchmen. Black Manta kills Vostok-X and escapes with the relic scepter. After Vostok-X's death Aquaman, through tears, swears that he is going to kill Manta for this. Black Manta delivered the relic scepter to a mysterious Atlantean, who was revealed to be the Atlantean who hired him, but the Others sprung in and attacked. The mysterious Atlantean managed to grab the relic scepter and escaped while Black Manta is to battle the Others. Black Manta and his henchmen are taken away by the authorities. While in Belle Reve Prison, Black Manta refused to join Amanda Waller's Suicide Squad.
During the Forever Evil storyline, Amanda Waller approaches Black Manta again to join the Suicide Squad. Black Manta declines again at the same time when Deathstorm and Power Ring invade Belle Reve. After hearing Amanda Waller's offer to join the Suicide Squad, Black Manta retrieves his equipment during Belle Reve's prison break as well as accepts the Secret Society's coin. At the Justice League's Watchtower after claiming Aquaman's trident, Black Manta tosses the coin in the ocean. Black Manta takes the trident to his father's grave stating his quest to kill Aquaman is over. Looking up, he sees Ultraman moving the moon in front of the sun which creates massive tidal waves. The waves washes the grave of Black Manta's father away which gives him a new purpose: to destroy the Crime Syndicate. After retrieving Black Adam's body from the ocean, Black Manta meets up with Lex Luthor, the Kryptonian clone that Lex Luthor created, and Captain Cold where he tells them what Ultraman's actions did to his father's grave. Lex Luthor realizes that with the help of his Kyptonian clone, Black Adam, Black Manta, and Captain Cold, he may be able to stop the Crime Syndicate.
Powers and abilities
Black Manta's suit is specifically designed to adapt to an oceanic environment. It allows him complete resistance to the cold and pressure of deep sea conditions (it is unknown at this time how far down the suit can travel underwater and still function) and thus grants him a level of superhuman durability, and strength (allowing Black Manta to lift/strike with the force of 5 tons), the ability to breathe normally underwater (whether this is due to a hidden oxygen supply or its ability to extract oxygen from the water like the gills of a fish is unknown), jet boots which function in or out of water, a telepathic scrambler (used to temporarily strip Aquaman of his aquatic telepathy), and a large, varying array of weapons. Such weaponry have included blades, electric blasts from wrist gauntlets, miniaturized torpedoes, and energy beams emitted from the eye lenses in his helmet. It is also not known how this suit is powered or how long it can function before needing recharging or if it, indeed, even needs to be. Black Manta is highly intelligent, has a limited degree of expertise in mechanical engineering (as he was able to manufacture his suit, weaponry, and vehicles) and some amount of hand-to-hand combat training. For the most part, Black Manta generally relies more on technology and strategic planning than physical confrontation when it comes to his exploits.
Black Manta often utilizes unique vehicles such as a modified, Manta Ray shaped submarine for traveling.
At some point Black Manta was transformed by the demon Neron into a Manta hybrid. In this form he was completely at one with the water allowing him to dive to extreme depths and survive. He had natural weaponry, such as a tail that had offensive capabilities. The process has since been reversed by Aquaman.
Black Manta appeared as one of the major villains in the 2005-2006 Justice miniseries by Alex Ross and Jim Krueger as part of the Legion of Doom. This version appears to be based on the time period when Manta fought for African Americans, as shown by all of his henchmen being black and his city being completely populated by African Americans. He is first seen luring Aquaman into an ambush, controlling Aquaman's sharks into attacking him before taking Aquaman to Brainiac. When Lex Luthor makes his speech to the world to join him in saving it, Manta is one of the villains alongside him. When the Legion beins kidnapping the people close to the heroes, Manta takes control of Garth and forces him to assault Mera and kidnap Aquaman's son. When the Justice League attacks the Hall of Doom Black Manta faces off against Aquaman for the entire battle. Black Manta is one of the few villains to escape the League and teleport to his city along with Aquaman's son, who follows behind him. When Aquaman arrives Manta's men savagely beat him in front of his son, comparing it to the treatment of his own people. Aquaman counters Manta is doing the same by using Doctor Sivana's tech to control his men, smashing the pack on Manta's suit to free his henchmen from Black Manta's control. Black Manta realizes that Aquaman was right, but makes one last effort to kill him in desperation. He is quickly struck down by Aquaman, saying that Manta never really had a chance to begin with.
In other media
- Black Manta appeared as a regular villain on the Aquaman cartoon in The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure voiced by Ted Knight.
- Manta also appeared on The All-New Super Friends Hour voiced by Ted Knight once again. He was referred to simply as "Manta" and his suit color was now olive brown.
- Black Manta also became a part of the Legion of Doom in Challenge of the Super Friends voiced by Ted Cassidy. He is never shown without his helmet here. In the episode Doomsday, when he, Sinestro and Cheetah are abandoned by the rest of the Legion of Doom he takes control of a mental device to capture and punish the rest of the Legion.
- Black Manta was originally supposed to make an appearance in an early Justice League episode "The Enemy Below, Part 1." He was intended to be the one that Orm hired to assassinate Aquaman, but was later changed to Deadshot as it would have been "inappropriate" for Manta's character. Ironically, the character would later be used for the same purpose in the animated series Batman: The Brave and the Bold (see below).
- In Justice League Unlimited a character named Devil Ray (voiced by Michael Beach) debuted as a member of the Secret Society (based on the Legion of Doom). Devil Ray is closely based on Black Manta, right down to helmet and a suit that allowed him to breathe underwater and withstand deep-sea pressures. It was also equipped with rocket boosters that enabled him to fly and navigate underwater, and two wrist-mounted guns. The guns in his gauntlets allow him to shoot laser bolts at his targets, and also an array of venomous or explosive trident-shaped stingers. Devil Ray appeared in major roles in "To Another Shore" and "Dead Reckoning" (the latter of which saw him accidentally killed by a Deadman-possessed Batman). According to writer Dwayne McDuffie, the reason behind the name change is because the rights to Aquaman characters were not available at the time, as they were being used for the Aquaman TV pilot. Within mainstream comics, in Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #52 (July 2007), the new Aquaman (Arthur Joseph Curry) inquires if Black Manta is the name of a cartoon character, and is corrected "...wasn't he called Devil Ray?"
- Black Manta appears in the third episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson. This interpretation of him shows him as a sociopathic assassin, hired by Orm in order to kill Aquaman. When Orm succeeds in capturing Aquaman and becomes "Ocean Master", Black Manta betrays him and imprisons him. He plans to use a machine to destroy and plunder Atlantis, but was stopped by Aquaman, Ocean Master, and Batman. He was arrested and locked in Iron Heights. He appears again in the episode "Enter the Outsiders!" where he is robbing an armored car only to be defeated by Batman and B'wana Beast. Black Manta appears again in "Game Over for Owlman" where he teams with Owlman and a group of villains to kill their respective enemies, but is stopped by Batman and his many parallel universe counterparts. Black Manta makes a brief cameo appearance in "Night of the Huntress", where he is seen amongst other inmates in Blackgate Penitentiary. In the episode "Deep Cover for Batman", it is revealed that Black Manta has a heroic counterpart in a parallel universe, whose costume's color scheme somewhat resembles Aquaman's. In "Mayhem of the Music Meister" Black Manta along with Gorilla Grodd and Clock King are mindcontrolled by the Music Meister. It was also revealed that, when in Iron Heights, he is put in a giant fish bowl. In the episode "Bold Beginnings", a flashback showed that Batman had having his first encounter with Aquaman when it came to fighting Black Manta, his henchmen, and his trained great white sharks.
- Black Manta (addressed only as Manta) appears the Smallville episode "Prophecy", but his actor is uncredited. He is assigned by Toyman to kill Aquaman.
- Black Manta appears in the Young Justice episode "Downtime" voiced by Khary Payton. It has been confirmed by producers Brandon Vietti and Greg Weisman that the new Aqualad in the animated series will be Black Manta's son just like the comics. He and his Manta-men attempted to steal a large starfish creature frozen in ice in Atlantis Science Center led by Prince Orm. He is later revealed to be reporting to The Light (Project Cadmus' Board of Directors) when he mentions of obtaining a sample of the starfish creature. L-5 states to Black Manta that they will eventually obtain the creature. In the series' second season as seen in the episode "Alienated", Black Manta takes Ocean Master's place on the Light's ruling council. It is also shown that Aqualad had sided with his father Black Manta upon learning his true heritage. In the episode "Depths", Black Manta sends Aqualad and the Manta Men to disrupt the satellite launch at Ferris Aircraft. Kaldur meets up with Black Manta who tells Kaldur that he is ready for the next level. In "Darkest", Black Manta finds that Aqualad has not delivered Lagoon Boy to the Partner and has Lagoon Boy tranquilized. He then sends Aqualad with Tigress, Terror Twins, and Icicle Jr. to attack Impulse and Blue Beetle. Following Aqualad's mission, Black Manta takes Aqualad to meet with the other Light members and tell them about Aqualad's mission. In "True Colors", Black Manta was with the Light at a meeting with Sportsmaster who informs the group of his complaint revolving around Black Manta's son killing his daughter and that they should do the "Eye for an eye, kid for a kid" outcome. Vandal Savage and Black Manta disagree with this and Sportsmaster leaves upon Deathstroke arriving to protect Black Manta. While meeting with Black Manta on his submarine, Vandal Savage tells Black Manta that he has borrowed Psimon from Queen Bee in order to restore Aqualad's mind. In "The Fix", Black Manta calls Tigress to Aqualad's room as Black Manta tells her that Psimon is going to repair his mind. Black Manta tells Tigress to stay with Psimon until he is done while he goes to take revenge on Miss Martian. When Black Manta finds out that Psimon collapsed, he suspects that whatever Miss Martian did to Aqualad has an effect on any telepath that tries to go into anyone's mind. When Tigress states that she'll go to the mainland and capture Miss Martian with some Manta Men, Black Manta has Tigress take Deathstroke instead. When Tigress and Deathstroke successfully capture Miss Martian and bring her to Black Manta's base, Black Manta forces Miss Martian to restore his son's mind or else Deathstroke will make the inhibitor collar on Miss Martian explode as Deathstroke will be monitoring the situation. Black Manta later checks in on Aqualad as he comes to. Black Manta has Miss Martian keep up the restoration of Aqualad's mind which may take days. Black Manta talks to Tigress that Miss Martian that she will be killed once she has finished restoring Aqualad's mind. In "Complications," Black Manta gets a progress report from Deathstroke that Miss Martian is slowly recovering Aqualad's mind. This causes Black Manta to have Miss Martian finish curing Aqualad by the time 24 hours is up or he will have her killed. Black Manta gets word from Deathstroke that Cheshire is in Aqualad's room and sends the Manta Men to Aqualad's room. Miss Martian then proceeds to trap Black Manta as she gets away. Black Manta later reports to Vandal Savage and the Reach Ambassador that Aqualad's recovery was successful. In "Summit," Black Manta joins the Light in meeting with the Reach in the caves of Santa Prisca. Black Manta objects to having his mask remove until he was convinced by Ra's al Ghul to remove it. Black Manta was surprised at his son's treachery as both of them fight each other. Aqualad manages to defeat Black Manta.
- Black Manta appears in the DC Nation short Animal Man. He was seen attacking a beach until he was defeated by Animal Man when Black Manta knocked down a crab's sand castle.
- Black Manta makes a cameo appearance in the animated movie Justice League: The New Frontier, during John F. Kennedy's speech.
- Black Manta appears in the animated movie Superman/Batman: Public Enemies where he is one of the many supervillains trying to collect the bounty on Superman.
- Black Manta appears in the animated movie Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. He is seen as an enforcer in Aquaman's Atlantean army alongside Ocean Master during his war against Wonder Woman and the Amazons, as well as The United States of America. His notable moment was showcasing his fighting skills as he faced off against Deathstroke wherein Black Manta presumably killed him with his optic blasts. He is later killed by the combined efforts of Grifter and Batman shooting him to death.
- Black Manta appears as the main villain in the video game Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis for Xbox and GameCube. He is also an unlockable character in the game.
- Black Manta is referenced in Injustice: Gods Among Us. When Aquaman confronts the alternate Aquaman in the throne room of Atlantis, the alternate Aquaman asks if he either works for Black Manta or Ocean Master.
- Black Manta appears as a boss in the video game Young Justice: Legacy. Khary Payton reprises the role.
- The MMORPG DC Universe Online introduced a PvE suit inspired by Black Manta, available for players in the Villain faction.
- Black Manta appeared in animated style in Justice League Unlimited #26. He is aided by Felix Faust in an attempt to conquer Atlantis.
Spoofs and parodies
- A parody of Black Manta, called Black Eel, appeared in the Duck Dodgers episode "Till Doom Do Us Part" voiced by Jim Cummings. He was one of the villains assembled by Agent Roboto to form the Legion of Duck Doom in order to defeat Duck Dodgers (despite the fact he was the only villain in the episode who had never met him before and had no idea who he was). He had also been the enemy of Seaman.
- Popular Venture Bros. antagonist The Monarch is said to have been partially based on the Manta. The Manta was also mentioned in the episode "Fallen Arches" where Jefferson Twilight talks with Doctor Byron Orpheus about what it is that Aquaman actually does, wherein Doctor Orpheus states, "I thought he fought Black Manta".
- Black Manta appears in the Robot Chicken episode "But Not In That Way" voiced by Tom Kane. In a segment that parodies Arkham Asylum in the style of The Shawshank Redemption, Black Manta narrates about the Joker's life in Arkham and how he became friends with him. His voice and role parody is that of Morgan Freeman's character from that film.
- SpongeBob SquarePants features a spoof villain called "Man Ray", who appears to be inspired by Black Manta, including a similar appearance and many of the same powers. In the episode "Mermaidman and Barnacleboy III", he's even named (next to the "Dirty Bubble") as the all-time greatest nemesis of the Aquaman spoof ("Mermaid Man").
- In one episode of the Super Friends, an undersea villain named "The Sculpin" wears an outfit identical to Black Manta with the exception that it was colored green.
- In the Family Guy episode, "It Takes a Village Idiot, and I Married One" Lois convinced the town in a press conference that the Legion of Doom is conspiring with Adolf Hitler to assassinate Jesus. The scene then jumps to the Hall of Doom where Lex Luthor shouts "How did she discover our plan?!". Solomon Grundy admits he "kind of dropped the ball on that one." Almost all of the original Legion is portrayed, except for the Riddler. Black Manta was attending the meeting although he did not have any speaking lines.
- In the Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law episode "Peanut Puberty," the headquarters for the Legion of Doom was used for a club called the "Legion of Dance". Black Manta makes an appearance as a background character.
- The Legion of Doom was referenced in the animated series South Park episode "Krazy Kripples" featured Superman actor Christopher Reeve forming his own version of the Legion of Doom, including Black Manta.
- A Cartoon Network bumper featured The Powerpuff Girls saving Aquaman and Wonder Woman from the Legion of Doom's clutches.
- In 2003, Cartoon Network Latin America aired the spoof series The Aquaman & Friends Action Hour that starred Aquaman as a children's television show host and the Legion of Doom as his bankrupt villains. Black Manta is also a present member of the Legion of Doom.
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- Brightest Day #10 (September 2010)
- Brightest Day #11 (October 2010)
- Brightest Day #16 (December 2010)
- Brightest Day #19 (February 2011)
- Brightest Day #20 (February 2011)
- Aquaman vol. 5 #7 (March 2012)
- Aquaman vol. 7 #8 (April 2012)
- Aquaman vol. 7 #9 (May 2012)
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- Biography of Black Manta
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- Bio for Devil Ray