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Everything you need to know about Aquaman nemesis Black Manta


Prepare to dive into an underwater world overflowing with superhero action and adventure when Aquaman arrives in Cineworld on 12th December.

It's the solo outing of the eponymous Justice League member (played by Jason Momoa), in which our hero embarks on a globetrotting adventure alongside Mera (Amber Heard) to reclaim the throne of Atlantis from his villainous half-brother Prince Orm (Patrick Wilson). If he fails, all-out war will erupt between the underwater and human realms.

While Orm is the film's main antagonist, more excitingly the film will also act as an introduction to Aquaman's long-time nemesis from the original comics, Black Manta (played by The Get Down's Yahya Abdul-Mateen II).

Director James Wan has been secretive about how Black Manta will play into the plot, but we definitely can't wait to find out. Who exactly is this villain in the snazzy helmet, though? Here's everything you need to know abut Black Manta before meeting him in Aquaman.

Who is Black Manta?

One thing to bear in mind about comic book characters is that, through the decades and numerous story arcs, their backstories tend to alter. Usually, while the details might vary, the general gist of their backgrounds remains more or less the same – however, the same cannot be said about Black Manta (aka David Kane).

When he first splashed onto the scene in 1967's Aquaman #35 to attack Atlantis in a giant submarine, there was no context to his character, other than he was already a long-time foe of the protector of the deep.

It wasn't until years later that his character was fleshed out. In Aquaman #6 (1993), it was unveiled that a young David was abducted as a child and forced to work on a fishing boat where he endured physical and emotional abuse. He eventually grew to despise the sea and, above all, Aquaman for failing to hear his cries for help.

His origin was again altered in 2003's Aquaman #8 where David was a severely autistic child with an affinity for cold water, sent to Arkham Asylum at a time when nobody understood or knew how to treat his condition. Through cruel treatments, he was transformed into a violent killer and developed an obsession with Aquaman after seeing him appear on TV. This hastened the eventual transformation into the character later known as Black Manta.

What is Black Manta's history with Aquaman?

No matter what version of Manta's story you look at, they all agree on one thing: he and Aquaman both have an unbridled hatred for one another.

We've already mentioned some of the reasons why Manta dislikes Aquaman, but Aquaman has just as much reason not to have Manta on his Christmas card list either. In his first comic book appearance, for instance, Black Manta kidnapped Aquaman's son and attempted to suffocate him to death in a container.

Even in one of the hero's most recent reincarnations in the New 52 saga, the pair find themselves butting heads after Manta murders some of Aquaman's old friends (even though it was the latter who started the feud).

Given that the writer of the above comic storyline, Geoff Johns, shares a writing credit on the Aquaman film, and was also head of the DC film franchise when Aquaman went into production, it's likely that this history could translate into the movie itself, giving us a strong reason as to why the two characters are mortal enemies.

What are Black Manta's abilities?

Black Manta sports a rather distinctive suit, one that lets him survive underwater complete with a bulbous, bug-eyed helmet that fires powerful laser beams. Yes, Black Manta has a creative flair with technology thanks to an apt scientific mind – bad news for our heroes.

His suit also features a jet pack, a telepathic scrambler to stop Aquaman communicating with the creatures of the deep and an assortment of weapons and gadgets including swords, retractable blades and torpedoes. In the comic book arc where he was experimented on at Arkham Asylum, he also acquired enhanced strength and speed that heightened his already superior combat skills.

At one point Black Manta was even transformed into a monstrous human/manta ray hybrid after exchanging his soul to a demon named Neron. Let's not forget that he's also got his own personal army of "Manta Men", who we see in the Aquaman movie trailer chasing Mera across rooftops.

Black Manta in DC superhero movie Aquaman

What has director James Wan said about Black Manta?

Given Black Manta's complex comic book history, we're still unsure as to which version we'll be getting in the Aquaman movie.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly earlier this year, director James Wan, famous for the Conjuring and Insidious movies, as well as Furious 7, kept his cards close to his chest by describing Black Manta as "part mercenary but full-time pirate who in his suit will look like some crazy alien from outer space".

Likewise, Wan has said the film will centrally revolve around the conflict between Aquaman and his half-brother Orm. However, he did tease that "Black Manta is a really interesting character who is somehow factored into the story". This won't be the only time we'll see Black Manta either as it's been confirmed that he'll be playing an important role in the future of the franchise.

So what does all this mean? As far as the movie goes, we don't know who Black Manta is, what his role in the film is, how he becomes entwined in Aquaman's familial disputes or even how he'll become a part of the larger franchise. At this point your guess is as good as ours, but we can't wait to find out the answers when Aquaman hits Cineworld on 12th December.

Andy Murray is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.