The Aquaman trailer may secretly reveal Black Manta's origin story. The first Aquaman trailer made the next entry in the DCEU the most-discussed movie from SDCC 2018 on Twitter, although it divided viewers due to questionable editing and CGI.
However, regardless of the advert itself, the trailer revealed or confirmed a lot of the most important Aquaman plot points, particularly those in the film's first act. It showcased most of Arthur Curry's backstory, and even showed clips from the scene in which Mera approaches him, asking him to head to Atlantis in order to stop a war between the seven tribes and the surface-dwellers. A highlight was Black Manta, the film's secondary villain. Played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Black Manta is one of Orm's key agents. The actor is signed up for a multi-picture deal, so he's intended to be a recurring foe for Aquaman.
At first glance, the trailer seemed to only give brief glimpses of Black Manta. He's presented as a ferocious foe, an enemy who can project devastating energy blasts that cause even a hero like Aquaman to run for his life, but not much more. However, it's possible the trailer revealed a lot more than most viewers have noticed - it may even secretly show Black Manta's entire origin story.
- This Page: Black Manta's Origin Story Explained
- Page 2: What Aquaman's Trailers Reveal About Black Manta's Origin
The Many Comic Origin Stories of Black Manta
Black Manta was created by Bob Haney and Nick Cardy back in 1967. When he was introduced, he was a simple, fairly one-note Aquaman villain; incredibly, Haney didn't even spell out Black Manta's backstory, and a definitive origin for the villain wasn't presented until 1993. Writer Shaun McLaughlin revealed that the young Black Manta was enslaved on a pirate ship, and grew to hate the sea. In McLaughlin's tale, the youth saw Aquaman swimming past with dolphins, and desperately cried out for help. Aquaman didn't hear, and to Black Manta he became a symbol of the sea's indifference to humanity. Black Manta ultimately freed himself, killing the pirates who had kidnapped him, and dedicated himself to killing everything he hated - especially Aquaman.
That origin story didn't stick, though. In 2003, Rick Veitch presented an alternate origin for Black Manta, suggesting he was a child who was born with major developmental abnormalities in his nervous system. As an infant, he experienced the soft touch of cotton sheets as excruciating pain, and freezing cold water as "sublime ecstasy." Suffering from severe autism, the child was sent to Arkham Asylum for treatment, where he underwent experimental procedures that gave Black Manta a greater degree of social awareness - and a deep blood-lust. He killed the doctors and broke out of Arkham, obsessed with Aquaman after watching him on the news.
Incredibly, in 2010 DC published another origin story for Black Manta. In Brightest Day #16, Geoff Johns and Peter J. Tomasi revealed that Black Manta was a hunter who, along with his wife, sought treasure in the Bermuda Triangle. The couple were captured by the Xebellians, who subjected Manta's wife to horrific experimental procedures. Although Black Manta escaped from Xebel, his wife died. In Johns' version, this was the reason for Black Manta's hatred of all the seven tribes.
The origin stories may differ, but there's been one constant thread: Black Manta's deep, passionate hatred of Aquaman and all that the King of Atlantis stands for. He has a deep-rooted desire to destroy Atlantis, to kill all its citizens, and to see Aquaman die at his hand.
The Aquaman Movie Origin of Black Manta
Perhaps because of the degree of confusion over Black Manta's comic book origin, DC Films has chosen to simply create a new story for the movie. Black Manta has been reinvented as a pirate captain, one who suffers a very personal loss due to Aquaman's interference. "He's riding on high," Abdul-Mateen explained in an interview, "and at the climax, he loses his father." Black Manta loses the only person he's ever loved, and the only one who's ever loved him. Bitter and furious, he swears vengeance against Aquaman, and this pushes him into an alliance with King Orm aka Ocean Master. As little as Orm likes surface-dwellers, in Black Manta he presumably sees a perfect weapon to be used against Arthur Curry; Orm is the source of Black Manta's distinctive costume and technology in the film.
It's a very different origin to any of the ones seen in the comics, and it remains to be seen whether or not elements of the character's comic book stories will be used; perhaps there will be hints at Black Manta's autism? Whatever the case may be, this is a smart rewrite in that it gives Black Manta a thematic tie to the other characters. Aquaman must learn to embrace his heritage and to honor his mother's memory by preventing the war between the seven tribes and the surface world. Black Manta, in contrast, wishes to avenge his father's memory by killing Aquaman. It makes perfect sense from a thematic perspective.
- Aquaman (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018
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