The Neglected Nemeses: Black Manta
In all fairness, I should start a series of articles that highlights the heroes that always seem to be over looked and ignored, despite their reputation of being a bad ass or just all around cool character. Aquaman may or may not fall into that category- that’s an argument for another day, I believe- but one thing is for sure: should Warner Brothers and DC Comics ever decide to move forward with an Aquaman film, it’s quite necessary for them to include the Sea King’s biggest baddie of them all, Black Manta. These two have been battling for decades and the results have been catastrophic on both sides of the field. In all honesty, it’d be a disservice to the character and to Aquaman’s faithful fans to not include him in some way, preferrably as the main nemeses. As I’ve done in the past, I’ll look back at the origins of Manta, as well as his long history with Aquaman. Of course, you’ll also find my suggestion of who should play the titular character should he ever find his way on screen.
This character first made his appearance in Aquaman #35, back in 1967. For most of his published history, Manta has really not had much of a back story. In fact, it wasn’t unitl 1993, in the #6 issue of the 1993 Aquaman series that we first see some sort of origin for the character, which is rather dark and tragic. The boy who would become Black Manta grew up in Baltimore, Maryland and spent much of his free time playing in the Chesapeake Bay. During this time, he was kidnapped and taken to a ship where he was abused and sexually assaulted for an unknown amount of time. During this period, the child once saw Aquaman swimming with some of his dolphin companions and despite his best efforts, the child failed to gain the attention of the Sea King and was not rescued from his hell. In a last-ditch effort to defend himself, Manta killed one of his attackers with a knife. Having spent so much time at sea, he grew to resent it, and Aquaman due to his representation of the oceans and the boy was determined to become the master of the waters.
In a second origin, which was revealed in 2003, in the #8 issue of Aquaman, the child was shown as an orphan living with autism and was placed in Gotham’s Arkham Asylum. It was discovered that the child thrived while in cold water, but when placed in a bed with cotton sheets, he found them to be excrutiatingly painful. Despite this fact, and the fact that the attendants of the asylum did not know how to treat autism, the boy was often strapped down to a bed, where he squirmed and screamed. It was during this time that the boy first saw Aquaman on the television. Eventually, the asylum opted to subject Manta to testing and experiments to cure his “problem.” one of these did clear his head, but it made him exxtremely violent. As a result, he killed th doctor that made him this way and escaped the asylum.
Later on in life, once he had taken on the mantle of Black Manta, he created a suit- which consisted of a black wetsuit and a bug-eye helmet that blasting rays- and a high-tech submersable that was inspired by the graceful manta rays. Having gathered a masked army, Black Manta set out to take on Aquaman. It didn’t take long for his objectives to become very clear to the world. Though they seemed rather far-reaching and massive, it all really boiled down to him defeating Aquaman.
The fearsome Black Manta and Aquaman battled repeatedly over the next several years. During one of these clashes, it was revealed that Black Manta was actually black, whose stated objective at one point was for black people to be dominant in the ocean after having been oppressed for so long on dry land (though this goal was revealed to be a ruse he used to trick Cal Durham into following him, and this objective was not at all evident in either his earlier or later appearances). During most of his appearances, his main goals were defeating Aquaman and gaining power for himself through the conquest of Atlantis. Finally, Manta kills Arthur Curry, Jr., Aquaman’s son, which left Aquaman obsessed with revenge.
Thus, their bitter rivalry began and has been on-going for dozens of years. In the famed Brightest Day saga, Manta had retired from a life of crime and opened a fish market to try an earn an honest living. However, once Manta learned that Aquaman had been resurected following Blackest Night, he became unstable once again and killed all the patrons in his shop and burnt it to the ground. Soon after, he picked up his questo to once again bring an end to his foe. Manta finds an unlikely ally in Siren, and the two head to the home of Jackson Hyde, Manta’s son. During the battle, Manta fires off a trident-shaped dart at Hyde, which was blocked by a returning Aquaman. It was learned that Manta was on a treasure hunt in the Bermuda Triangle with his pregnant wife. The two were abducted by inhabitants of the planet Xebel, where the two were experimented on. As a result, the unborn child was given powers similar to the Xebel beings. The Xebel princess Mera kidnapped the child and returned him to Earth, where he was adopted and kept away from water so her people would not locate him. Manta eventually escaped Xebel, but the fate of his wife is unknown. Having learned the truth of his origins, Hyde, now calling himself Aqualad, sides with Aquaman and the two take on the forces of Siren and Xebel troops. Just when Aquaman is about to strike the final blow, Manta springs from the water and severs the right hand of Aquaman. At seeing this, Aqualad confronts his father and berates him for having sided with the people who took his wife and child from him. Manta responds by shoving Jackson to the ground and telling him that he and his former wife mean nothing to him. Just as Manta is about to impale him, he is rescued but Mera and Aquagirl. The trio are able to subdue Manta, Siren and the Xebel forces and seal them int he Bermuda Triangle.
Obviously, the two have battled numerous other times, but this particular story arc is one of the more popular and telling of how dark and twisted Black Manta really is. I also think, that was some adjustments, this would make for a great film, full of action and, of course, drama. The character isn’t that different from countless other villains, as his back story is fill with abandonment, hatred and anger, but there are ways to make him stand out from the crowd. I know that Aquaman isn’t the first choice, for many fans, to receive the film treatment, but I think that if placed in the right hands and given the right cast, this story could translate fairly well.
Which brings me to my next point, who should fill the role? First, we have to look at Aquaman and try to figure out what age we are looking for. Do you go with a younger, up-and-comer, someon e like Alexander Skarsgard or do you bring in someone who is a bit more seasoned, such as Kevin McKidd? My first inclination would be to go towards the older actor. A lot of the comic book movies are leaning towards younger, green heroes and I think it would be a nice change. Now that we have that figured out, I’d bring in a lesser known actor, but one that will be familiar to people when they see him, especially for the geek fans. Chiwetel Ejiofor would be a great fit for the role, being in his mid-thirties, he’s just old enough to be taken as a serious threat, but not to the point of being an angry washed-up baddie. A lot of fans know Ejiofor from his role in Joss Whedon’s space-western Serenity, but he has parts in numerous genres of films, from action, to drama to crime. He’s a very capable actor and would have no problem taking on the mantle of an antogonist once again. In fact, I’d like to see him do it more often. Few people can take on multiple villainous roles and put a new spin on each one they play.
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Source : Wikipedia