In honor of African-American History Month, DC Comics News presents the characters, artists, writers and actors of color that helped to shape the DC Universe. Today Staff Writer Kevin Gunn visits the Seven Seas and looks at Aquaman’s Arch Enemy – Black Manta.
Bob Haney and Nick Cardy created Black Manta, debuting in 1967 (Aquaman #35). Originally, he wasn’t given much of a backstory. That is until 1993, in #6 of the latest Aquaman series (vol. 4).
As a boy, he was kidnapped by modern-day pirates, and forced to work as a deckhand. One day, he saw Aquaman with his dolphin friends. He tried signaling the Sea King, hoping he would rescue me. Aquaman didn’t notice the boy. The boy would escape, killing one of his captures in the process. From that day on, he would resent Aquaman for not saving him.
Black Manta’s origin was updated in 2003 (Aquaman vol. 6, #8). This time, he was an orphan placed in Gotham City’s Arkham Asylum. The staff was unaware that the boy had autism. While cotton sheets were painful to him, he thrived in cold water. The attendants at Arkham didn’t know how to deal with his undiagnosed condition. They would tie him down to his bed to subdue him. The boy was also fascinated with seeing stories of Aquaman on television.
Subjected to several experiments, the boy would escape Arkham, killing one of the scientists. When he became an adult, he designed a high-tech wetsuit with a helmet that could shoot lasers from its eyes. He would choose the name Black Manta.
Black Manta and Aquaman would engage in some epic battles over time. But their contest took a tragic turn when Black Manta would kill Aquaman’s son, Arthur Jr.
The New 52 would bring changes to Black Manta’s origin again. This time, he is hired to bring back a sample of Arthur Curry’s blood. A struggle between the two leads to the death of Aquaman’s father. Seeking revenge, Aquaman tracks down Black Manta – and accidently kills his father in the process. These events would define the new relationship between the hero and villain.
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