New Action Figure Reveals Full Black Manta Costume for Upcoming Aquaman Movie

Who is Black Manta?
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Every superhero has his iconic foil: Superman has Lex Luthor, Wonder Woman has Cheetah, Batman has the Joker and The Flash has … The Reverse Flash. For Aquaman, his foil is Black Manta, one of the few major black supervillains in comic books, who will be making his on-screen debut in the upcoming Aquaman movie starring Khal Drogo himself, Mr. Lisa Bonet. Excuse me, Jason Momoa.

The costume, which can be viewed by scrolling to the right, pretty much stays true to the original Black Manta design. New Orleans native Yahya Abdul-Mateen II will be donning the iconic helmet, although it has already been confirmed that Manta will not be the main villain in this first Aquaman movie. Instead, it will be Patrick Wilson playing Ocean Master, Aquaman’s half-brother who is the current King of Atlantis and wants to wage war upon the surface.

Brotherly angst over the throne and how the kingdom should wage war? I see you, DC.

Still, since Manta is going to be in the film and, hopefully, be a villain in the future, maybe let’s look at who Black Manta is and why he is considered Aquaman’s greatest foe:

Black Manta was created by comic book writers Bob Haney and Nick Cardy in 1967 and wasn’t actually revealed to be black until 1977. It wasn’t until the 90s that Manta actually got some real backstory. As a kid, he was kidnapped and forced to work on a ship. During his time there, he was physically and mentally abused. One day he witnesses Aquaman and his … dolphin friends and tried to get help for himself, but wasn’t noticed. He ended up killing his captors and decided that he would become the master of the oceans that had once helped keep him prisoner.

That origin has changed over time depending on the reboot, but what has stayed consistent is the rivalry between Manta and Aquaman. Manta’s goal has been the conquest of Atlantis and through it the power over the sea (in the new 52 it is revenge for the death of his father by Aquaman’s hands) and in one issue killed Arthur Curry Jr., son of Aquaman and Mera, causing Aquaman to seek revenge on him for all time. This very personal grudge between the two men is what makes Manta the greatest enemy of Aquaman.

Also, his rogues’ gallery is pretty sparse.

Manta usually doesn’t have superpowers, though there was one time he got the demon Neron to turn him into human-manta ray hybrid but that was eventually reversed. Usually, he has enhanced strength and endurance due to a serum he took, but it is his suit that gives him truly heightened strength and the ability to breathe and operate deep within the cold and heavy pressure of the ocean floor.

Much like Lex Luthor, Black Manta is also highly intelligent and is able to mechanically engineer his suit, artillery, and vehicles. Manta also has a mastery of hand-to-hand combat training. Black Manta is more about strategic planning than a head-on physical confrontation, preferring to be a calm and scheming mastermind.

So with all of that, why isn’t Manta as popular as villains like the Reverse Flash or even a Killer Croc? In IGN’s Top 100 Comic Book Villains list, he doesn’t even make the list at all. And Mr. Mxyzptlk makes the list. Even Shredder makes the list!

I would say that it is in part because Aquaman has never been that popular of a character, even at the height of cool!Aquaman in Justice League Unlimited. Which is sad, because even as The Fantastic Four has ebbed and flowed in popularity, it has never impacted the cool factor of Doctor Doom. Still, being the archenemy of a character people mock isn’t going to put you in the spotlight.

There is also the issue that there are not that many black supervillains in general. The only one on the list is Amanda Waller at a respectable #60. Plus, I can also say with full disclosure that I didn’t know Black Manta was black for years until I saw him on a list of black comic book characters. He’s like the black Samus from Metroid.

Black Manta has largely been unable to really make an impact on non-comic book fans, because of his foe being a scrub and if Aquaman does justice to Manta and gives him a solid backstory, it could really give us a great black villain onscreen that doesn’t just exist in the designated black realm of Wakanda. (Also please none of that super ableist “autism makes you bad” crap from the 2000s, for the love of Hera).

I’ve honestly been rooting for Aquaman to be good for a long time. I want DC movies to be good and it would be great for the dark horse of the DCU to be the second good film to come out of Warner Bros. attempt to have a DC extended universe.

Not to mention Aquaman is a very diverse film with James Wan (Malaysian Chinese) as the director, Jason Momoa, and Temuera Morrison are both Pacific Islanders (Momoa is Hawaiian and Morrison is Māori), Abdul-Mateen, Michael Beach as Black Manta’s father, Ludi Lin and Randall Park will also have supporting roles as well.

I’m rooting for you Aquaman! 

my man aquaman gif

(via CBR, image: DC/Warner Bros.)

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Princess Weekes
Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.