Why Does Black Manta Hate Aquaman? Explained

The first official trailer for Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom reveals that Black Manta’s (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) feud with Aquaman/Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) has taken an even darker turn. Viewers will likely remember from Aquaman (2018) that Black Manta was a secondary antagonist who ultimately was defeated by Aquaman. However, he has returned for the sequel with a renewed interest in his vendetta against the King of Atlantis. In the trailer, he promises to “kill Aquaman and destroy everything he holds dear.” He also vows to burn his underwater kingdom to ashes (seems hard to set the ocean on fire, but you do you).

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The trailer sees him making good on his threat, as he appears to burn down Arthur’s childhood home and cause a disturbance in the Seven Kingdoms. However, some viewers might wonder what Black Manta’s deal is. After all, it’s been five whole years between movies, so our memories need refreshing. Additionally, the trailer confirms that the sequel takes place four years after the first film’s events. So, what happened to Black Manta to make him still be so committed to destroying Aquaman’s life years after his initial defeat?

Black Manta’s motivations explained

Yahya Abdul-Mateen III as Black Manta in Aquaman
(Warner Bros.)

Black Manta’s motivations vary depending on each version of the character. His backstory has been retconned several times in the DC Comics. In the earliest comics featuring Black Manta’s backstory, it was revealed that he was kidnapped by pirates and tortured as a child. One day, he spotted Aquaman swimming in the ocean and tried to signal for help, but Aquaman failed to see him. Eventually, he had to take things into his own hands and kill his captors to free himself. However, that one moment of being ignored by Aquaman kicked off his mission to get revenge on Aquaman and the whole underwater world for not caring about his fate onboard that pirate ship.

Later, Black Manta’s backstory was changed. In this version, he was an orphaned autistic child who was mistreated and experimented on in Arkham Asylum. These experiments gravely impacted his mind and led him to develop violent tendencies. He eventually killed the scientist who experimented on him and donned the Black Manta suit. In this iteration, he always had a fascination with Aquaman and set out to unleash his wrath on him and the ocean.

Black Manta’s story changed once again after the DC Comics timeline was reset with The New 52. In this iteration, it is revealed that his father was accidentally killed during a battle between Black Manta and Aquaman, which prompts Black Manta to avenge his father. This is the backstory the film ultimately adheres to, as Black Manta’s vendetta begins in Aquaman when his father is killed. In the movie, though, Black Manta’s father’s death isn’t wholly accidental. Aquaman leaves Black Manta’s father to die after foiling the father and son’s hijacking of a Russian submarine. Hence, Black Manta’s blinding rage and desire for vengeance are a little more understood in the films.

In the comics, when Black Manta’s father’s death was an accident, his vendetta against Aquaman still turned exceedingly dark, even resulting in the villain killing Aquaman’s son. Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is treading into some dark territory by delving into Black Manta’s villainy, which could result in a fairly intense departure from the first film’s tone.

(featured image: Warner Bros.)

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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.