Supervillain Origins: Black Manta

This frightening underwater menace has been a thorn in Aquaman’s side since his earliest adventures. From his very first appearance, he was seen in his submarine descended upon the underwater city of Atlantis to cause havoc, leading to his murder of Aquaman's son. This has spurred a long and violent confrontation. Join as we explore the comic book origins of Black Manta.

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Supervillain Origins: Black Manta

He is the archenemy of Aquaman! Welcome to and today we’ll be exploring the comic book origins of Black Manta.

As with most comic book characters, there are often re-imaginings and different versions to a character’s past. We have chosen to primarily follow the storyline that unfolded in 1967’s Aquaman #35, which was expanded upon in 1977’s Adventure Comics #452, 1992’s Aquaman Vol 4 #6 and 2003’s Aquaman Vol 6 #8.

This frightening underwater menace has been a thorn in Aquaman’s side since his earliest adventures. In his first appearance, he was seen after his submarine descended upon the underwater city of Atlantis.

With Aquaman investigating the craft, the hero was trapped by it’s bio-magnet, and attacked by minions called “Manta Men”. While the hero was kept occupied; Black Manta attached a tube to the dome over Atlantis, using it to release a chemical within the city.

With the hazardous chemical seeping through the shield, the citizens of Atlantis began planning an evacuation. However, Aquaman freed himself and helped the city flush all of the contaminated water from the dome, leaving the Atlanteans to begin to suffocate without water. To counteract this, the cititzens were given a serum known as Project X, which allowed them to breath air, outside of water.

During the crisis, Black Manta managed to kidnap Aquaman’s son Aquababy and hold him for ransom aboard his ship.

With Black Manta demanding Aquaman’s full surrender in exchange, the hero decided to give himself up rather than risk his son’s safety. However, before he could act, the hero’s evil, but then amnesiac brother Ocean Master saved the child and used his own ship to take on Black Manta.

Following the ship battle, both vessels were severely damaged, giving Aquaman the opening he needed to take on his new enemy.

However, Ocean Master once again jumped in, giving Aquaman the opportunity to reclaim his son and swim to safety.

Later returning for a greater confrontation, Aquaman’s mysterious foe, who was hell-bent on dominating the seas, finally revealed his true identity. This occurred when Manta captured both the hero and his sidekick Aqualad.

It was at this point that Black Manta revealed that he wasn’t just a surface dweller aiming to rule the ocean, but that he was aiming to make it a home for his people. By this he literally meant black people, pointing out that it his villainous identity wasn’t just a clever name. He also confessed that he’s not driven by racism, profit or prejudice, but by the desire to give his people a place where they could be the masters. That’s right, Black Manta was a civil rights super villain.

Afterward, Black Manta killed Aquaman’s son, forcing the hero yearning for revenge.

Following this event, and Aquaman’s wife leaving him as a result, the under water hero’s quest for vengeance led him to hunt his enemy down.

With Aquaman blinded by pure hatred, he fought his way aboard Black Manta’s submarine and the two fought bitterly, with Manta narrowly escaping and Aquaman almost dying in the process.

In 2003, after several more decades of struggles, Black Manta’s childhood was finally revealed. As it turned out the underwater supervillain with unlimited resources and deadly gadgets was once an autistic child. Only able to feel pleasure in cold water, he spent the rest of his time confined to a bed.

However this changed when he was given an experimental treatment at Arkham Asylum. While it cured Manta of his autism, it made him murderous and super strong.

When his Autism eventually returned, it was Aquaman who showed mercy and used his powers to cure him once again.

Despite this kind act, Black Manta continued his campaign against him, continuing to force the hero to remain pure rather then lose himself to vengeance.

A menace instantly recognizable for his black scuba suit and bug-like helmet capable of firing laser beams, Black Manta continues to appear in various media. He has appeared on the Aquaman cartoon series, and has even appeared in the show Justice League Unlimited. However, his name was changed to “Devil Ray” due to copyright.

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