This week, The Wrap announced that Black Manta would be the villain for Jason Momoa’s upcoming Aquaman adventure, confirming what many fans had anticipated when the film was first announced. Manta is one of Aquaman’s main adversaries since his creation by Bob Haney and Nick Cardey for Aquaman #37 in 1967.
Since his creation, he has been given several different origin stories. During a 1993 Aquaman series, his origin stated that he’d been a captive aboard a ship for an unnamed period of time. While in captivity, he had suffered sexual abuse at the hands of his captors. Once he had spotted Aquaman in the water and tried to signal him for help to no avail. After being forced to take matters into his own hands, he hated Aquaman for what he represented in his mind and vowed to rule the sea as his vengeance. During the New 52, Aquaman accidentally kills Black Manta’s father following Manta’s murder attempt of Arthur Curry’s father. Vowing revenge for Aquaman’s actions, Manta tried to kill Aquaman’s family. He kills Vostok-X, a member of the Others, causing Aquaman to vow he would kill Black Manta.
Throughout his history, Black Manta’s real identity has remained hidden. During 2010’s Brighest Day storyline it was confirmed that his first name is Dave, but his last name is still a secret. During an earlier arc it was confirmed that Black Manta was a black male, and during one arc he stated that his motivation for taking over the sea was to give his oppressed people a place to rule. However, this motivation is not a consistent thread throughout all of his appearances.
Black Manta is believed to have enhanced strength and endurance, as well as being highly skilled in hand to hand combat and martial arts. He’s a great tactician, and quick to master new technologies. His suit is bulletproof and equipped with artificial gills, which enables him to breathe underwater. The suit also allows him to go to great depths without experiencing the usual side-effects of diving that far below sea level. He sports an array of weapons, though most notably he can fire an optic blast from the eye of his helmet.
He has been featured in several animated TV shows and movies, such as being a recurring antagonist in Young Justice (2010-present) as well as being the secondary villain in Justice League: Throne of Atlantis (2015). His appearance in the upcoming Aquaman film will be the first time the character transitions over to live action.
The film, which is set to be directed by James Wan, is based on a treatment written by Geoff Johns and James Wan. Johns was the scribe for Black Manta’s appearance during the New 52, so it might be that we will see that iteration of the character on screen. Johns and Wan’s treatment was re-worked by Will Beall into a manageable script. At present, no casting information has been announced for Black Manta, but whoever takes up the fight against Aquaman will join Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, and Willem Dafoe in the film when it hits the big screen in 2018.