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Black Manta

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Black Manta
Textless cover of Aquaman (vol. 7) #12 (October 2012). Art by Ivan Reis (pencils), Joe Prado (ink) and Rod Reis (colors).
Publication information
PublisherDC Comics
First appearanceAquaman #35 (September 1967)[1]
Created byBob Haney
Nick Cardy
In-story information
Alter egoDavid Milton Hyde[2]
Team affiliations
PartnershipsOcean Master
Gallous the Goat
Jesse Hyde
Notable aliasesScourge of the Seven Seas
  • Genius-level intellect;[3]
  • Skilled swordsman, marksman and hand-to-hand combatant
  • High-tech armor grants:
    • Superhuman strength, speed, stamina, agility, durability, and reflexes
    • Optic blasts
    • Hidden weaponry
    • Artificial gills for underwater breathing

Black Manta is a supervillain appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics. The character was created by writer Bob Haney and artist Nick Cardy, and debuted in Aquaman #35 (September 1967). He has since endured as the archenemy of the superhero Aquaman.

Black Manta has had numerous origin stories in his comic book appearances, having been a young boy kidnapped and enslaved by pirates on their ship; an orphan subjected to cruel experiments in Arkham Asylum; and a high-seas treasure hunter caught in a mutual cycle of vengeance with Aquaman over the deaths of their fathers. Despite these different versions of his past, Black Manta is consistently depicted as a ruthless underwater mercenary who is obsessed with ruining Aquaman's life. As Aquaman's nemesis, Black Manta has been part of the superhero's defining stories, including the murder of Arthur Curry, Jr.–Aquaman's infant son–and numerous attempts to destroy Aquaman's home kingdom of Atlantis. A black armored suit with a large, bug-eyed metal helmet serves as Black Manta's visual motif.

The character has been adapted in various media incarnations. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II portrayed Black Manta in the DC Extended Universe films Aquaman (2018) and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (2023), while Kevin Michael Richardson, Khary Payton and others have provided his voice in animation and video games.

Fictional character biography


Varying origins

Black Manta first revealed without his helmet in Adventure Comics #452. Art by Jim Aparo.

Black Manta had no definitive origin story until #6 of the 1993 Aquaman series. In this origin, the child who would become Black Manta grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, and loved to play by the Chesapeake Bay. In his youth, he was kidnapped and forced to work on a ship for an unspecified amount of time, where he was physically abused by his captors. At one point, he 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.[4] Hating the emotionless sea and Aquaman, whom he saw as its representative, he was determined to become its master.[5]

An alternative version was given in #8 of the 2003 Aquaman series. In this origin, the boy who would become Black Manta was an autistic orphan placed in Gotham City's Arkham Asylum. He felt comfortable in freezing cold water but found cotton sheets 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 to bed. In this version, young Black Manta 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.[1][6]

Criminal career


As an adult, the man who would become Black Manta designed a costume (primarily a black wetsuit with a bug-eyed helmet, that was able to shoot 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 formidable force, 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).

Black Manta and Aquaman battled repeatedly over the next several years. During one of these clashes,[7] it is revealed that Black Manta is actually black, whose stated objective at one point was for black people to dominate the ocean after having been oppressed for so long on dry land; though it was soon revealed by Cal Durham, one of his more idealistic henchmen, that Manta was more obsessed with his own personal desires. During most of his appearances, his main goals are defeating Aquaman and gaining power for himself through the conquest of Atlantis. Finally, Manta kills Arthur Curry, Jr., Aquaman's son, which leaves Aquaman obsessed with revenge.[8][7]

During the "Underworld Unleashed" storyline, Black Manta is later transformed into a human/manta ray hybrid by the demon Neron in exchange for his soul. After a while, he returns to wearing his original outfit which covers his new appearance. At one point he engages in drug smuggling from his new base in Star City, where he is opposed by a returning Green Arrow and Aquaman.

In a later confrontation, Aquaman, sporting the Lady of the Lake's Healing Hand, reverses Neron's alterations to Black Manta and rewires Manta's afflicted brain, rendering him neurotypical for the first time in his life. Unfortunately, Manta remains 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 is used as a genetic manipulation test subject to make water breathers. This succeeds; since then, Black Manta has returned to the oceans to face Aquaman once again.

Black Manta causes a disturbance in Sub Diego in which Captain Marley is severely injured.[9] Aquaman summons various predatory sea-life to attack Black Manta and leaves him for dead. It is later revealed that Black Manta was able to survive by generating an electric charge with his suit.

One Year Later, he overtakes Sub Diego but is forced to flee when King Shark bites off his face.[10]

When Aquaman dies at the end of the 2003 series, Black Manta begins working for Libra as part of the Secret Society of Super Villains. However, after Libra betrays the group and helps Darkseid conquer the Earth, Black Manta quits.

In a 2011 Brightest Day storyline called "Aquawar", Black Manta has retired from his criminal ways. He has opened a fish market to earn an honest living. When he discovers that Aquaman has been resurrected following the end of the Blackest Night, Black Manta murders the customers in the store and burns down his shorefront house as he resumes his criminal career and vendetta against Aquaman.[11] Black Manta is seen later at the grave of Thomas Curry, Aquaman's father, where he is approached by Siren [citation needed] and her Death Squad after demolishing the tombstone. The Death Squad battles Black Manta, but before the fight continues too long, Siren stops them. She informs Black Manta that they need to work together to find his son, showing him a hard water image of Jackson Hyde. It is also revealed during this time that Black Manta's real name is David.[12] Black Manta and Siren locate Jackson and attempt to kill his foster father. Jackson (using his ability to create hard water constructs) fights back but is unable to stop Black Manta from shooting a trident-shaped dart at his foster father. At the last moment, Aquaman intervenes, blocking the fatal shot. Black Manta then faces his old nemesis again.[13] During the battle, Aquaman pulls Jackson and his foster father to safety.[14] In a flashback, it is revealed that Black Manta was once a treasure hunter who, along with his wife, was captured while exploring the Bermuda Triangle.[15] Their captors were the other-dimensional residents of Xebel, and the two were tortured mercilessly. The captors experimented on Black Manta's pregnant wife which gave the unborn child powers similar to those of the residents of Xebel.[15] Fearing the child (Jackson) 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 to keep him from her people.[15] Black Manta ultimately escaped from Xebel, though his wife ultimately died.[15] After Jackson learns the truth behind his origin, Aquaman and Jackson (now calling himself Aqualad) are ambushed by Siren and the Xebel soldiers on a California beach, where innocent citizens become 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.[16] Jackson attacks his father, berating him for siding with the people who killed his own wife, only for Black Manta to throw Jackson to the ground and coldly state that both he and his mother meant nothing to him. As Black Manta prepares to impale his son with one of his blades, Mera arrives with Aquagirl, who saves Jackson by striking Black Manta in the face. Jackson and Mera work together to seal Black Manta, Siren, and the rest of the invaders away in the Bermuda Triangle. Black Manta vows from within the prison to get his son, Jackson.[17]

The New 52


In 2011, "The New 52" rebooted the DC universe. In this continuity, Black Manta's real name is David Milton Hyde.[2] His family are descended from a tribe of Atlanteans called the Deserters.[18] In David's early life, Aquaman killed Black Manta's father Jesse Hyde by accident in retaliation for attacking Aquaman's father Thomas Curry at the time when Stephen Shin contracted David to obtain the DNA of Aquaman who later mistook Jesse for David when exacting vengeance.[19][20]

Black Manta kills a woman named Kahina the Seer, a former teammate of Aquaman, and steals her Atlantean relic. He then vows to kill her entire family before getting his revenge on Aquaman.[21] 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 they fail and Black Manta escapes. Black Manta goes after Aquaman's former teammate Prisoner-of-War in Heidelberg.[22]

Seeking revenge, Black Manta attempted to kill all of Aquaman's family and friends. When Black Manta chased Prisoner-of-War, he was confronted by Aquaman in a battle.[19] During the attack, Black Manta stole one of Ya'Wara's Atlantean relics and teleported to Stephen Shin, Aquaman's former friend.[20] Black Manta then tasered Mera and pulled Shin to him to teleport away.

Meanwhile, the Others were reunited and discovered that there was a seventh Atlantean relic in the Dead King's tomb. Manta took Shin captive in the Dead King's tomb to find the seventh relic and located in the Dead King's throne.[23] Manta prepared to kill Shin but was thwarted when Aquaman and the Others attacked his henchmen. Black Manta killed Vostok-X and escaped with the relic scepter. After Vostok-X's death, Aquaman, through tears, swore that he would kill Manta in revenge.[24] Black Manta delivered the relic scepter to a mysterious Atlantean, who was revealed to be his employer, but the Others ambushed them and attacked. The mysterious Atlantean managed to grab the relic scepter and escape while Black Manta was forced to battle the Others, resulting in Manta and his henchmen being taken away by the authorities.[25] While in Belle Reve Prison, Black Manta refused to join Amanda Waller's Suicide Squad.[26]

During the Forever Evil storyline, Amanda Waller approached Black Manta again to join the Suicide Squad. Black Manta declined again at the same time as Deathstorm and Power Ring invade Belle Reve.[27] After hearing Amanda Waller's offer to join the Suicide Squad, Black Manta retrieved his equipment during Belle Reve's prison break and accepted the Secret Society's coin. At the Justice League's Watchtower, after claiming Aquaman's trident, Black Manta tossed the coin in the ocean. Black Manta took the trident to his father's grave stating his quest to kill Aquaman was over. Looking up, he witnessed Ultraman moving the moon in front of the sun resulting in the creation of massive tidal waves. The waves washed the grave of Black Manta's father away which gave him a new purpose: to destroy the Crime Syndicate.[28] After retrieving Black Adam's body from the ocean, Black Manta met up with Lex Luthor, the Kryptonian clone that Lex Luthor created, and Captain Cold, where he informed them of what Ultraman's actions did to his father's grave. Lex Luthor realizes that with the help of his Kryptonian clone, Black Adam, Black Manta, and Captain Cold, he might be able to stop the Crime Syndicate.[29]

DC Rebirth


In 2016, DC Comics implemented another relaunch of its books called "DC Rebirth" which restored its continuity to a form much as it was prior to "The New 52".

The Drowning


Black Manta's first DC Rebirth appearance was in the one-shot Aquaman: Rebirth #1, acting as the narrator until he reveals himself at the very end. Manta later appeared in Aquaman vol. 8 #1, in which he attacks Spindrift Station, an Atlantean embassy built by Aquaman near his hometown of Amnesty Bay to promote relations between Atlantis and the surface. Black Manta fights with Aquaman, and even wounds him, but the fight is ended with words about how hollow and empty Black Manta's purpose in life truly is. He's eventually taken into custody by the U.S. military, but the vehicle transporting him is attacked by N.E.M.O forces.[30] A woman named Blackjack takes him to the organization's base in Antarctica, where he meets the Fisher King. N.E.M.O plans to discredit Aquaman in the eyes of the world by manipulating conflicts with the United States and other surface nations, and Black Manta decides to continue this mission after killing the Fisher King and claiming the title for himself.[31] In Aquaman vol. 8 #7, Manta appears at a meeting of the N.E.M.O board in Venice, Italy, where he kills those who oppose his rule as the Fisher King and commands the Shaggy Man to attack Atlantis. Later, Manta oversees N.E.M.O's usage of Atlantean pretender forces against the U.S., which prompts the nation to declare war on Atlantis.[32] After a team of American Aquamarines, super-soldiers who can take on the form of sharks and other aquatic creatures, fails to assassinate Aquaman,[33] the Atlantean king attacks Black Manta on his ship in the Azores in issue #15. Rather than surrender, Black Manta blows up the ship and all aboard, but Aquaman and Blackjack escape.

Rise of Aqualad/Blood of Manta


It is revealed that Manta survived the explosion, perhaps with the help of Blackjack, and has become obsessed with finding his illegitimate son Jackson Hyde, who has joined the Teen Titans.[34] Manta's desire to find him stems from his remembrance of a lost relic with power over the sea itself, The Black Pearl, a weapon which can bend the very oceans to the user's whim, which once belonged to a notorious Atlantean pirate who died in Xebel. Knowing only a denizen of Xebel had the map to its keep and only Xebelian hands could unseal it, he nearly murdered Hyde's mother to get to him.[35] With his son in tow, Manta and Jackson set out to find his prize, needing his son to unlock the trove that the pearl was sealed in. Eventually, a clash broke out between him and the Teen Titans after achieving his goal and with it, power to dominate the world. He was finally bested by Aqualad, who near fatally electrocuted him before taking the pearl ring from his hand.[36]

The Society


He's later seen having joined up with The Secret Society, who've recently sent for Deathstroke due to previous misconduct against fellow member Deadline.[37]

Year of the Villain


During the "Year of the Villain" event, Lex Luthor's Apex Lex form visited Black Manta. He gave him a gift in the form of the Mecha Manta which was programmed with the farmed data and DNA of Jesse Hyde.[38]

Gaining the Trident of Orichalcum


While at Doctor Mist's headquarters in Ethiopia, Black Manta was approached by his former underling Devil Ray for aid in completing the Trident of Orichalcum that is made from the Orichalcum stone that he found as it can only be wielded properly by someone of Deserter heritage as it is revealed that Black Manta's heritage comes from Atlantis' Deserter branch. After fighting Devil Ray who was unable to go through with detonating the poison bombs around Atlantis, Black Manta confiscated the Trident of Orichalcum and allowed Devil Ray to leave while advising him not to go down the same path as him.[39]



Black Manta is regarded as one of Aquaman's most formidable adversaries, with Amanda Waller classifying him as a "Code Alpha" threat during her time as director of A.R.G.U.S. While Black Manta does not possess innate superpowers, he compensates with exceptional combat skills, excelling both on land and underwater. His expertise in underwater combat is particularly notable. Black Manta's combat abilities are formidable enough to engage in combat with characters such as Deathstroke.[40][41] Black Manta is depicted as exceptionally intelligent, having designed his own distinctive battle-suit and is renown for his abilities as a treasure hunter.[41][40] He also commands his own organization of henchmen and has the capability to provide artificial gills, although he has not personally undergone the experimental process himself.[40]

Equipment and resources


Black Manta dons an armored battle suit that serves multiple purposes, allowing him to rival Aquaman and other Atlanteans. The suit provides him with an unlimited air supply, communication capabilities, enhanced strength, and the ability to withstand the ocean's extreme pressures. The helmet lenses are equipped with advanced laser beams capable of cutting through carbon steel, as well as infrared vision. The suit is insulated and its dark coloration provides camouflage benefits, allowing him to even adopt other disguises.[40][42]

Black Manta has obtained powerful artifacts, including the Black Pearl, which grants him control over the oceans briefly until Aqualad recovered it from him.[36] He also briefly possessed the Bone Crown, allowing him to control the Death Kraken although its original sea god master could only control it.[43] Moreover, he formerly wielded a fragment of Arion's Tear of Extinction, enabling him to slay divine beings.[43] In recent stories, Black Manta incorporated Orichalcum, a mystical mineral connected to several Atlantis tribes, into his technology. Notably, he collaborated with Devil Ray to create a magical trident with various mystical abilities.

Other versions




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 Black 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 and 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, Black Manta is one of the villains alongside him.

As the Legion begins kidnapping the people close to the heroes, Black Manta takes control of Garth and forces him to assault Mera and kidnap Aquaman's son. During the Justice League's attack on 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 Justice League and teleport to his city along with Aquaman's son, who follows behind him. Aquaman eventually finds Black Manta's hideout, but Black Manta's men savagely beat him in front of his son, comparing it to the treatment of his own people. Aquaman counters Black Manta is doing the same by using Doctor Sivana's technology to control his men, smashing the pack on Black 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 Black Manta never really had a chance to begin with.



Black Manta appears in JLA/Avengers #4 where he is shown trapped by Plastic Man.



In the alternate timeline of the Flashpoint event, Black Manta was an inmate at the Doom prison before the prison break.[44]

In other media



Black Manta as depicted in Young Justice




A mannequin of the Black Manta costume worn by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in Aquaman (2018)

Black Manta appears in films set in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), portrayed by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II.[51] This version is David Kane,[52] a pirate whose grandfather served as a frogman in the U.S. Navy during World War II under the codename "Manta".[53]

  • The character first appears in Aquaman (2018).[54] He and his father Jesse (portrayed by Michael Beach) are hired by King Orm Marius of Atlantis to hijack a Russian submarine. Arthur Curry intervenes and Jesse is killed in the confrontation, causing David to swear vengeance against Arthur. Using advanced Atlantean armor and weaponry provided by Orm, David rechristens himself as "Black Manta" and attacks Arthur in Sicily, Italy, but is ultimately defeated and thrown off a cliff. In a mid-credits scene, he is rescued by Dr. Stephen Shin and agrees to lead him to Atlantis in exchange for his help in seeking revenge on Arthur.
  • A canceled, horror-themed spin-off film with the working title The Trench was later revealed by Aquaman director James Wan to be a misdirect that was secretly a Black Manta film.[55][56][57][58]
  • Black Manta returns in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (2023).[59] Upon finding the cursed Black Trident, David is promised the power to destroy Arthur by the spirit of its creator, Kordax, if he frees him from the lost kingdom of Necrus. David attacks Atlantis, steals its orichalcum reserves to power Necrus' machines, and kidnaps Arthur and Mera's son to perform a blood ritual to release Kordax. After being defeated, David refuses Arthur's help and allows himself to fall into a fissure.



Video games







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