Nick Cardy and Bob Haney in 1967.
How a man ever came to be a feared asset within the oceans would find himself with a riddled and multiple past that eventually ended with his obsession with the sea and his deep dark hatred for it’s king. Black Manta has been known to go by the name “David” and that he has one son from an unnamed woman. There were two sides on how David came to be the Black Manta, starting with a horrendous incident within Baltimore, Maryland. As a boy, he would enjoy playing by the sea until he was kidnapped and both tormented and sexually abused by his kidnappers after taking the boy and keeping him on their ship. At one moment, David would notice Aquaman and he would try to gain his attention, which David’s attempt found itself unsuccessful. With no hopes for rescue, David found himself killing his attackers with a knife and also developing an intense hatred that was strongly focused on Aquaman. From there on David wanted nothing more than to simply rule the sea and become it’s master. Second origin of Black Manta would strongly focus on another tragic past of David being autistic and becoming an inmate of Arkham Asylum because of his abnormal condition. Showing intense pain from laying on bedspreads and sheets, David would spend a painful and torturing past being strapped to his bed every night. This abnormal expression from David would take a much more abnormal approach when David would be seen finding comfort within the freezing cold waters. Growing up with a fascination of Aquaman, David would grow up going through numerous experimentations that eventually altered his autism, but left with devastating results as David was now more violent and dangerous. With this mindset, David set out to do what he felt was his true destiny, which was rule the seas and to kill off it’s king Aquaman.
It’s undocumented as to how Black Manta came to be, possibly from sunken treasure he found himself becoming very wealthy and managed to gain his own army, equipment, weapons, and ships so that he could fulfill his goals on ruling Atlantis. Taking up the name Black Manta, him and his army would find themselves in frequent battles with Aquaman. Black Manta would also find himself becoming more of a serious threat for not only Aquaman, but for Atlantis as well when he formed and uneasy alliance with Ocean Master to take out Aquaman and rule Atlantis for himself. With both villains sharing different goals, Ocean Master's partnership with Black Manta wasn’t in his best interest after realizing that the villain wanted to wipe out all citizens within Atlantis with a poisonous gas after managing to abduct Aquaman's son Arthur, Jr. Defeating the Black Manta himself in a squabble, both Ocean Master and Black Manta's plans were foiled and returned Arthur, Jr back to his father safely. It was because of this encounter, Aquaman has viewed Black Manta as one of the most dangerous men he’s encountered and ever faced. It was also said that sometime in the past, before Black Manta met Aquaman, he encountered the people of Mera's dimension.
Black Manta would later encounter Aquaman once more after the hero went on a long search for his missing wife Mera. Eventually finding himself crossing paths with Black Manta who was seen as a worshiped man, he ordered his followers to take down the hero which eventually led his followers to disagree with Black Manta and leave the madman to himself. After realizing that Black Manta had nothing to do with Mera's kidnapping, he left Black Manta to continue his path on searching for his missing wife. Black Manta would reappear once again to help the Shark take over Atlantis along with other Aquaman villains as well.
A life for a life
Over a lengthy course of several attempts on ruling his own underwater kingdom, taking over Atlantis, and defeating his nemesis Aquaman, Black Manta has found himself becoming unsuccessful numerous times to where his hatred for Aquaman became more of a personal vendetta. Setting his sights on Aquaman's family, Black Manta managed to not only to kidnap Arthur, Jr. once again, but would force both Aquaman and Aqualad to fight each other to the death for the life of Arthur, Jr. Holding Arthur, Jr. within a glass canister, Black Manta timed the fight by slowly cutting the oxygen from the canister killing Arthur, Jr. if both heroes fail to kill one of each other within a specific amount of time. Yet it would be in a fit a rage, Black Manta would kill the child and claim the life of Aquaman’s baby son after the two heroes fought. Sending the hero into a state of depression and in an enraged obsession of bringing down Black Manta once and for all, Aquaman would quickly go about finding the villain and attempt on gaining his revenge. Even Black Manta was going through difficulties after the incident as one of his lieutenant’s, Cal Durham felt that Black Manta’s actions were a bit too extreme and would realize that Black Manta’s promised goals for his henchmen was just a fabricated ruse to help support his personal gain. With Aquaman captured, eventually Durham finally betrayed Black Manta only to find himself being knocked unconscious and ejected the ocean to his supposed demise. With Aquaman strapped to a deathtrap, the hero managed to escape by Durham as his genetic altered gills kicked in and both men managed to bring down Black Manta and his small army. Enraged and seeking revenge, Aquaman nearly killed the villain for the death of his son which only ended with the hero giving Manta what his son didn’t get from the villain, which was mercy.
Key Story Arcs
After his brutal defeat in the hands of Aquaman, Black Manta would lay low for years until coming across alien weaponry that he believed could rid his sworn enemy once and for all. Testing these found weapons out, Black Manta would accidentally capture the attention of another hero known as Captain Atom, who actually defeated Black Manta and foiled his attempt of killing Aquaman. Black Manta's luck would find itself going from worse to better when his next attempt on Aquaman's life was almost successful, but nearly cost him his life when being attacked by Surgeon fish. Black Manta’s life would find itself changing when encountering the demon lord Neron after the defeat, who offered to give Black Manta the ability to fulfill his obsessed goals for the price of his soul. Without hesitation, Black Manta agreed with the terms and his body was altered into a monstrous manta hybrid. Without the support or dependency of a diving suit, Black Manta would freely hound Aquaman on equal levels within the ocean floors. Residing within the trenches of the ocean, Black Manta proclaimed himself as the guardian within the area and eventually gained the attention of Aquaman. Shocked by Black Manta's new appearance, their battle would find itself being taken into the deepest depths of the ocean where Aquaman managed to trap Black Manta and escape. Even though his altered monstrous appearance didn’t fare any better with the hero and later Black Manta would find himself continue wearing the Manta suit. After Aquaman learned one of Black Manta’s possible origins, the hero would once again express his mercy onto the villain after a quick defeat, restoring Manta’s soul, his appearance back to normal, and also rewiring his brain activity to normal with his healing hand.
As Manta was believed to be changed from his evil ways, he found himself becoming somewhat grateful towards Aquaman and formed an alliance with both the hero and Tempest to help them go against another threat known as the Thirst. Of course this act of kindness was only a ruse for Manta to gain an advantage over the hero and make his attempt on killing Aquaman once and for all. Even though Black Manta came close on killing the hero, his attempts found itself unsuccessful once more. Despite if Black Manta was ever violent through means of his childhood, the obsession with defeating his long lasting foe Aquaman was one thing that couldn’t be healed or changed.
One of the most tragic moments within the DC Universe, was when Vandal Savage caused a part of San Diego to be submerged underwater by an artificial earthquake. As millions died from this incident, Black Manta found himself looking upon a chance to finally rule his own underwater kingdom. Now dubbed Sub Diego, Black Manta took over the city that eventually found himself at another conflict with Aquaman. However this battle took more of a serious turn when Aquaman managed to defeat Black Manta by sending a swarm of flesh eating sea animals after the villain. Barely surviving this incident, Black Manta escaped by sending off an electrical current within his suit. Later he would return once more to reclaim his place within Sub Diego, only to find himself viciously being attacked by King Shark.
During Brightest Day, Black Manta is seen working at a fish market. When he learns that Aquaman is back, he kills everyone in the fish market. Next, he is seen burning down a house (most likely his) and walks into the ocean. He then jumps out, wearing his Black Manta suit, stating Aquaman's name. Later, when Mera tells Aquaman the truth about her past, she reveals that Black Manta had met her people long ago, and that the death of Aquababy was just as much revenge on Mera as it was on Aquaman. Later, Black Manta came to Aquaman's father's grave, asking where Aquaman's son was before smashing the tombstone. Siren's troopers attacked him soon after. After a quick skirmish, Siren appeared and told Black Manta (referring to him as David) that they needed to work together to find Black Manta's son, the new Aqualad. Teaming up with Siren and the Xebel forces, Manta confronts Aquaman on a beach in California, cutting off Aquaman's right hand with a powerful blow from his sword. Mera, Aquagirl and Aqualad arrive in time to help fight the Xebel soldiers, with Mera using a water controlling powers to send Manta and the Xebel soldiers back towards the Bermuda Triangle, once again being sealed in place.
The New 52
Black Manta is currently hunting down Aquaman and his old team, The Others. His goal is to steal the relics of Atlantis, which each member possesses. So far, he has killed Kahina the Seer and taken the seal of clarity. His motive is to gain revenge for the accidental murder of his father at the hands of Aquaman, but his final goal and what he wants with the relics, remain unclear. Black Manta kills Vostok during his campaign against The Others. Black Manta has his helmet ripped off against by Aquaman's trident which causes scars that instantly cauterize across his face. Black Manta is taken into custody and recruited by Task Force X. The Others decide to stay together as an active team.
Within the storyline known as Justice, Black Manta partook as one of the main villains who’s main goal was to establish world peace as they all had nightmares of the Justice League failing to save the world. In order to accomplish this, Black Manta was among the installed Legion of Doom whose first step was to see the end of the Justice League and gain the trust of the people among the world. Managing to defeat Aquaman in combat and kidnap Arthur Jr., Black Manta set about following Lex Luthor’s goal on saving the population from possible world destruction within numerous protected spheres that held cities that an individual among the Legion ruled each, of course Black Manta ruled one of the cities beneath the oceans. As the Justice League reformed after their violent defeat, their numbers grew and decided to make their attack on the Legion during their victory celebration. Among the group, Black Manta managed to escape the surprise attack with Aquaman’s child and almost killed the child if not for his own Manta Men disagreeing with Manta’s actions. This act of discredit among Manta’s own men gave Aquaman the chance to save his son and defeat his nemesis in another fight.
Within the storyline known as Flashpoint, Black Manta is a prisoner in the Hall of Doom, a flying maximum security prison for Metahumans and human super villians, who rely on gadgets. Manta belongs to the non-meta gang that controls half the prison. When Heat Wave and Plastic Man try to make a break out, they enlist the help of the Non-Meta gang, Black Manta included. Their first order of business is to get there equipment back, which was stored in the Hall being ready to ship to Queen Industries. With there stuff back, Heat Wave tries to crash the Hall into Detroit, but Cyborg, the city of Detroit's protector, crashes the Hall into the Bay. Black Manta and the others are ordered by Heatwave not to interfere while he goes one on one with Cyborg. Black Manta is one of the few surviving villain to surrender to Cyborg after he defeats Heat Wave.
Powers and abilities
Black Manta is one of DCU'a deadliest villains and although he does not possess any superpowers his skills, equipment and relentless drive more than make up for it.
Expert Diver / Treasure Hunter
Black Manta is one of the world's best divers and treasure hunters. He is the first choice for missions that require the salvage of underwater treasures or the discovery of undiscovered sights. He is also an expert in underwater fighting.
Black Manta is also one of the world's best assassins. Amanda Waller has called him the "most highly disciplined killing machine" to ever stay in Belle Reeve prison (home of the Suicide Squad), and considering the cast of characters that has been there, that's quite the praise. He is also referred to as "one of the deadliest men alive". He lives up to his name, being responsible among others, for the deaths of 2 metahuman superheores (Kahina the Seer and Vostok-X).
Manta has developed his own deadly fighting style (both underwater and on land), that utilizes his special suit and an assortment of piercing and slashing weapons (both melee and ranged). He is also very adaptable and able to use anything to his advantage such as his environment or kill a trained Belle Reeve guard with a coin.
Peak Physical Condition
Manta is in excellent physical condition, particularly his strength, stamina and agility. He can easily defeat trained armed guards even when he is being restrained by handcuffs or faced with a riffle while carrying no weapons himself.
Leadership / Strategist
Black Manta is a gifted leader and is consistently followed by a number of henchmen. He uses his influence to great degree (since his followers nearly never disobey him) in combination with him being a gifted manipulator, often disguising his true goals under some idealistic pretense. Even though Manta is very wealthy, his Manta Men and other known followers are mostly under his guidance due to other reasons such as seeing and sharing his ideas for racial issues and others who are mostly weak-willed that look upon him as a man who’s wise and could possibly guide them to a better place.
Apart from his ability to influence people with false notions of his true goals, Black Manta is also experienced within the fields of muta-genetics, engineering, weapons designing and repairing, and possibly within the fields of business. He has been known to sell this expertise - such as removing water vulnerabilities to electrical attack systems.
Manta Mutation (former)
However, the only time Black Manta ever gained any powers was when he was transformed into a fully Manta Hybrid monster. More powerful and much faster, Manta temporarily found himself becoming a much more dangerous enemy for Aquaman. During this state, Manta’s monstrous form gave him high levels of superhuman durability, speed, senses and a powerful electric attack with his tail.. It’s not known what the full extant of Manta’s powers or limitations were during his monstrous form, seeing how he was reverted back to normal after being healed by Aquaman's magical water-hand.
Before Flashpoint, Manta had undergone a procedure that allowed him (and his Manta Men) to breathe and move normally underwater and survive the pressures and temperatures of the ocean floor. It is unknown if he still maintains those abilities in the New 52.
Weapons and Equipment
Black Manta owns a massive arsenal of weaponry, equipment, and vehicles of his own designs. Most of these are naturally custom made, and are of his very own designs. As to how Black Manta is capable of manufacturing or who is manufacturing his supply still remains unknown. It is possible and most likely that Black Manta keeps maybe more than one storage throughout the world that holds all his weapons, equipment, and Manta suit if ever needed. He has amassed a considerable fortune over the years through his exploits as a treasure hunter, that pays for his equipment and henchmen.
One piece of Manta’s equipment (which in fact is a trademark weapon) is his custom made diving suit. Fitted and designed from durable and lightweight materials that covers his entire body below the neck, the suit gives him not only gives him resistance against the ocean pressure and temperatures, but also grants him a degree of super human durability and strength as well. He has been shown to be able to trade punches with Aquaman for a while, survive big falls, being smashed through a car by Aquaman and being shot point blank by a sniper bullet. Much like his names sake, Manta’s suit also serves as a darker form of a camouflage that’s very useful within dark spots, shadows, and even within caves that have him blended into the ocean environment perfectly. Finally the suit also greatly increases Manta's underwater mobility (through some sort of jet pack) and allows him to shoot out of the water at great heights.
The massive helmet he wears is perfectly fitted for Manta and is capable of absorbing a certain amount impact that protects his head against most damages. Alongside the helmet are thick metallic breather tubes that connects with the compatible oxygen tank attached to his back, which the tank also has the same durable materials that protects Manta’s oxygen supply as well. The suit allows Manta to breathe underwater indefinitely. Within the helmet, Manta has a certain form of vision that’s either used by electrical or mirrored optical means seeing how his head is mostly placed within the neck portion of the helmet. What is known about Manta’s helmet is that it does contain infrared vision, scope vision, and possibly better viewing within his blind spots that has him more aware of his surroundings. Within the head portion of the helmet is a built-in device that causes the eyes of the helmet to fire powerful energy blasts that could harm a meta-human or easily kill a normal man.
Among the features of Manta’s suit, overtime the suit found itself upgraded and added with extra weaponry such a jet-boots capable of giving Manta increase speed and maneuverability within and out of the water, wrist attachments fire pocket size missiles, electric bolts, fire rounds, harpoons, etc.
Manta has also been seen in various modified suits that contains extra padding and more installation of weaponry and equipment. But despite how much features these new suit give, Manta always finds himself relying on the original.
In short the suit provides
- Superhuman Strength
- Superhuman Durability
- Underwater Adaptation
- Underwater Mobility
- Electricity Insulation
- Electrical Discharges
- Powerful Optic Blasts (via helmet)
Aside from the equipment attachments for his suit, Black Manta has owned and carried a vast amount hand-held weapons that are custom made, conventional, and of alien origin. Among the massive armory that Manta has, he’s naturally been seen with other forms of weapons with firepower, explosive, or extremely powerful effects. With his massive fortune and his unknown connections, Black Manta could possibly acquire just about any weapons, equipment, or vehicles of his choosing, whether it be from Lex Corp, Wayne Enterprise in disguise, or any other weapons manufacturer that Black Manta could possibly gain access too.
Most of the time, Manta is seen using a hand-held gun with two sharp blades that also emit the same energy blast that comes from his helmet. With this gun, Manta could also use for close quarters fighting as either a slashing or stabbing weapon.
Bladed Weapons (Twin Long Daggers)
Aside from the hand-held blaster, Manta mostly prefers to use blades of various kinds. Most of these bladed weapons are designed and created to be extremely sharp to where Black Manta could chop a limb off of a person with a single slash. He usually carries two specifically designed long daggers, that can be concealed in the arm parts of his suit.
The wrist portion of his suit has attached parts that fire special hook wires that can penetrate armor (and even scratch Aquaman's skin) and are retractable. They can also be charged with electricity from the suit, increasing their effectiveness. In addition they can be used as grappling hooks that allow Manta to climb (similar to Batman).
Much like his enemy, Black Manta also carries his very own trident made from durable metals and possibly has other features such as capable of shooting the same energy blasts that his helmet shoots or emitting electricity at tip ends
Spear Guns (former)
Manta has also used spear guns, which are mostly used by his small army of Manta Men.
Among his vast selection of state of the art weaponry, one of Black Manta’s most prized would be his custom designed Manta ship. Designed and created to resemble a manta, the submarine is quick and stealth that naturally blends into the ocean environment. With multiple built-in propellers, Manta’s submarine is capable of maneuvering tight turns and increase it’s own speed. Much like any other submarine, Manta’s ship does have sleeping quarters for Manta and his men, a food and weapons storage, and a single man control room. The control room holds radar, communications, and possibly all other electronic transmissions such as television and radio. The weapons system within the Manta ship does hold various defensive and offensive weaponry such as missiles, lasers, and electrical blasts. Much like his suit and other weaponry, Manta’s ship has also been modified and changed various times throughout his career.
Black Manta most of the times employs loyal henchmen who have undergone gill-implantation to breathe underwater. A similar procedure now enables Black Manta to do the same. Among Manta’s personal weaponry, equipment, and undersea transportation, is his small army of Manta Men. It’s unknown if these Manta Men were ever hired or were not seeing how many followed his racial beliefs. What is known about these Manta Men is much like their leader Black Manta, they too are equipped with specially designed weaponry, equipment, and single-man jets or vehicles. It’s doubtful if there ever was or was a rank structure, besides Cal Durham formerly being the main henchman out of the group. Recently, just about all henchmen within Manta’s group did go through the same procedure of having genetically implanted gills, making them much more formidable and dangerous as a group underwater.
The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure
Even though Black Manta would find himself making limited comic appearances, ironically his numerous television appearances and media related franchise is one of the biggest highlights within Black Manta’s character. He would make his very first appearance on television within the year 1967 in the cartoon show known as Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure. Serving as a main antagonist for both Aquaman and his partner Aqualad within multiple episodes of having both heroes foiling Manta from his elaborate schemes multiple times.
The All-New Super Friends Hour
Black Manta would make another appearance within television taking a different look and a name. Simply going by Manta, he would be seen wearing an all Olive Brown costume.
Challenge of the Superfriends
In the the third season of The All-New Super Friends Hour, Black Manta would have his full name restored and his original costume. He was voiced by Ted Cassidy, Black Manta is one of the 13 members of Lex Luthors Legion of Doom. Using his cunning weaponry and vehicles against the Super Friends, Black Manta served as dangerous foe for the likes of the opposing heroes.
Justice League Unlimited
Black Manta would some what make an appearance within the second season of Justice League Unlimited. Calling himself Devil Ray, he was a member of the Legion of Doom under Gorilla Grodd. He most notably appeared in the episodes To Another Shore and Dead Reckoning, wherein he was killed by Deadman. He was played by Michael Beach. The original plan was to use Black Manta, but this episode was done as the Aquaman/Mercy Reef television pilot was in negotiations, so characters that might appear in that series were embargoed from the Justice League cartoon for a time.
Sadly, Black Manta never got to make an official appearance with his full name and as a single opposing villain. His character was supposed to be introduced on the next season of Justice League, but writers and director found themselves cancelling the show.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold
Black Manta appeared in a number of episodes as an antagonist. He was voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson.
Black Manta is seen sitting around a circular table with established Smallville villains Roulette and Metallo with Solomon Grundy, Captain Cold, and Dark Archer.
Black Manta appears as a recurring villain in Young Justice, voiced by Khary Payton.
Black Manta attacked Poseidonis with the intention of stealing the sea star that was being kept in the Science Center. To do it, he had his Manta-men set explosive charges in all the sectors except the one the science center was stored in. It would distract the royal troops long enough to obtain the starfish.
Kaldur'ahm and Garth saw through Black Manta's plan, and infiltrated the science center. As Black Manta oversaw the extraction of the starfish into the Manta sub, they attacked him, cutting the rope that lifted the creature. With his plan in ruins, Black Manta blew up the starfish and escaped. He reported back to the Light, who were not too distraught over the loss of the starfish.
After Aqualad learned that Black Manta was his true father, and Tula died in a mission, he joined Black Manta's forces. Manta took a step back, and appointed his son his field commander.
Black Manta welcomed his son back, and asked him to report on the events that had happened on Malina Island. The Kroloteans were destroyed, but Aquaman and the other heroes survived. He congratulated Kaldur'ahm, and then left for a meeting with the Light. Vandal Savage explained to him that this successful mission was enough reason for them to give Manta Ocean-Master's seat in the Light.
Black Manta later tasked Kaldur'ahm with destroying a satellite designed by Carol Ferris, and in the course of the mission, he killed his former teammate Artemis. Unbeknownst to Manta, Kaldur'ahm was actually acting as a double agent for the Justice League and the Team, and was working to infiltrate the Light. With her death faked, Artemis joined Black Manta's crew under the alias of Tigress. During a later mission, Kaldur'ahm was rendered comatose by Miss Martian, who was unaware of his true loyalties.
Still unaware of his son's ruse, Black Manta vowed revenge. Sportsmaster, a member of the Light and Artemis' father, later attempted to kill Manta in retaliation for his daughter's death, but his plan failed. The Light then assigned Deathstroke to act as Black Manta's new bodyguard and enforcer.
Black Manta tried to use Psimon to heal Kaldur's damaged mind, but this plan failed when Tigress poisoned the psychic to prevent him from revealing her true identity. He then ordered Deathstroke and Tigress to kidnap Miss Martian, believing that he could force her to fix his son. Miss Martian was able to partially undo the damage, but claimed it would take days, maybe even weeks to fully restore Kaldur. Black Manta promised to spare the Martian's life and release her once her task was completed, but then confided in Tigress that he planned to murder her as soon as Kaldur was fully healed.
The Flashpoint Paradox
Black Manta appears in the animated movie Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. He is seen as an enforcer in Aquaman's Atlantean army alongside Ocean Master during his war against Wonder Woman and the Amazons, as well as The United States of America. His notable moment was showcasing his fighting skills as he faced off against Deathstroke wherein Black Manta presumably killed Slade with his optic blasts. He later met his demise by the combined efforts of Batman and Grifter.
He is one of the villains being brainwashed by Gorilla Grodd to attack Superman and Batman and collect Luthor's bounty.
Black Manta's helmet appears as a cameo during JFK's speech before the end credits role.