Black Manta has been one of the most savage DC villains ever since his introduction in 1967. His number one signature trait is his absolute, undying hatred toward Arthur Curry. In fact, the only thing that drives Black Manta’s actions is hurting Aquaman in any form or fashion he can. Even in DCEU’s ‘Aquaman’ (2018), Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s Black Manta is driven almost exclusively by his hatred of Jason Moma’s Arthur Curry. But why is that the case? Why does the Black Manta hate Aquaman? It’s time to give you all the answers, both in comics and the DCEU.
Why does Black Manta hate Aquaman in the comics?
Before we begin diving into DC Comics to get all the answers we want, you have to understand one thing. DC has a tendency to change its characters and their origin stories multiple times throughout its comic book history.
The same thing happened a few times with Black Manta, so if you want the answer to his hatred towards Aquaman, you must first know which version we’re talking about. I’ll start from the beginning and move forward through the character’s history.
The first appearance of Black Manta came in ‘Aquaman’ #35 in 1967, and not a lot of his backstory came up. As it turns out, Manta had a reason to hate Aquaman, whatever that reason may be, and he attacked the King of Atlantis relentlessly.
Then, in 1977, in ‘Adventure Comics’ #465, we get to see Black Manta’s face without his mask for the first time. He explains that he’s seeking salvation for his people on the surface, which is why he’s trying to win them the underwater empire now belonging to the Atlanteans. He even killed Aquaman’s infant son, marking one of the darkest DC storylines until that point in history.
The whole ‘saving my people’ was proven to be a lie, and in 1993, we finally get to the bottom of Black Manta’s motivations and hatred towards Aquaman.
And, it was personal.
You see, in ‘Aquaman’ Vol. 4 #6, we learn that Black Manta was kidnapped by pirates when he was very young and forced into hard labor on the boat while being tortured almost daily. One day, though, he saw Aquaman swimming in the ocean and screamed at him, seeking help.
Aquaman didn’t hear or notice the boy, so he just kept swimming, but Black Manta saw it as Arthur deliberately ignoring him. That event fueled Black Manta’s hatred and motivated him to seek vengeance in his head. He eventually killed his captors in cold blood and dedicated his life to finding – and hurting – Aquaman.
A decade later, in 2003’s ‘Aquaman’ Vol. 6 #8, Black Manta’s entire origin story was revisited. In this version, he was a young boy with autism who was held in the Arkham Asylum for most of his life. The doctors actually had no idea what was wrong with him, nor how to treat him, so they just did experiments trying to find a ‘cure’ – but it only made matters worse and worse.
In the asylum, the boy was given a television, where he saw Aquaman developing a sort of an obsession, or rather, a compulsion towards him.
One day, when he was already grown but still in Arkham, a new experimental treatment was conducted on Black Manta, during which he killed the scientist conducting it and escaped. Once out there in the world, his compulsion fueled his actions, and Black Manta’s only objective was killing Aquaman.
Now, at that particular point in the comics, Aquaman had a healing glove that successfully repaired Black Manta’s mind. He was extremely thankful to Arthur Curry, vowing to make up to him and prove his loyalty.
That is until he simply shows Aquaman in the back the first chance he got because, as he so eloquently put it: ‘There was one thing your healing hand couldn’t fix. Deep down in my most secret heart of hearts, I’m still a totally depraved sonofabitch whose main goal in life is to watch you die. Slowly and painfully, just like your kid.
Talk about getting dark in the comics. That wasn’t the last retcon of his origins, though. You see after the complete ‘reboot’ of DC Comics and the creation of the New 52, Black Manta’s origin story was changed once again. He finally got a real name, too.
David Hyde worked on his father Jesse’s boat his entire life, and his father taught David to be ruthless, merciless, and always put himself first. They were pirates and pillagers, and one day, a scientist hired them to steal Arthur Curry’s blood, as he wanted to prove Arthur’s Atlantean origins.
When Black Manta broke into Arthur’s home, he wasn’t there – but his father Thomas was. During an altercation with Manta, Thomas Curry suffered a heart attack and died shortly after in the hospital. Enraged, Arthur sought revenge, and during a stormy night, he attacked Black Manta on his boat.
He thought that Black Manta operated alone, and in the dark, he didn’t notice that the man he attacked was Manta’s father, Jesse, accidentally killing him instead of David.
From that point forward, Black Manta vowed to avenge his father, and so began the endless cycle of violence and revenge between Aquaman and Black Manta. It came to a point where Black Manta couldn’t live without that pain and hate towards Aquaman. In fact, once he thought Arthur was dead, he described it as ‘awful.’
It had such a profound impact on Black Manta that he felt as if he had nothing to live for anymore. So, he found a way to kill Arthur – over and over again – just to have a purpose in life.
Now, the movies kind of took that last version of events in the comic and modified it to give Black Manta’s motivations for hating Arthur Curry a fresh twist.
Why does Black Manta hate Aquaman in the movies?
In the DCEU, David Kane and his father were looters and modern pirates hired by King Orm, aka Ocean Master, to capture a Soviet submarine. Arthur Curry – King Orm’s half-brother – thwarted their plans in the submarine. He might’ve been able to save them, but Aquaman opted to leave them in the sinking submarine to fend for themselves.
With that, he somewhat indirectly killed David’s father – or at least was responsible for his father’s death in Manta’s eyes. The rage and grief were used by King Orm to manipulate him even further. He got an Atlantean armor with unfathomably high technology to David Kane’s doorstep, hiring him to track down and kill Aquaman and Princess Mera. And so, Black Manta was born.
Eventually, Black Manta was defeated by Aquaman in the first movie, but a post-credit scene revealed he was very much alive and actively seeking vengeance against the now-King of Atlantis.
Will Black Manta appear in ‘Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom’?
Not only will Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s David Kane, aka Black Manta, appear in ‘Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom’ – it seems that he will be the main antagonist and that the entire plot will revolve around Manta’s scheme to kill Arthur Curry.
As you can see in the trailer above, Black Manta found some incredibly powerful Atlantean tech (borderline magic, if you ask me) to repair his armor and gain unfathomable superpowers that would allow him to go toe-to-toe with Aquaman – something he simply couldn’t do in the first movie.
Black Manta wields the power of the Black Trident that has the capacity to unleash a very evil, ancient force, and Arthur is forced to turn to his imprisoned half-brother Orm for help to protect Atlantis – and their family.
It’s evident that Black Manta’s hatred for Aquaman has never been greater, but we’ll have to wait and see how it plays out when ‘Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom’ drops in theaters on December 22.
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