Aquaman catches a lot of flack for talking to fish and being the least gripping Justice League member. But one thing you can’t deny him is his rogue’s gallery, which contains one of the most ruthless and distinct villains in the DC universe. He’s a character who’s caused much pain to Arthur Curry and the citizens of Atlantis — the manta ray-headed devil known as Black Manta.
David Hyde is Black Manta, an undersea terrorist who employs an army of amphibious ne’er-do-wells looking to overthrow Atlantis. All he wants in life is to kill Aquaman and plunder Atlantis. His unhealthy obsession with the ocean king stems from a perceived slight in David’s youth. As a child, David was kidnapped and made a slave aboard a ship. His plea for help went unheard by Aquaman, leading to a deep hatred of the ocean king and the sea in general.
Black Manta has been a member of the short-lived Injustice League and is considered one of Aquaman’s greatest villains, along with Ocean Master. Not to mention that Black Manta is the reason Aquaman only has one kid — he killed Arthur’s first child. That should shoot him to the top of the archvillain charts, no?
Black Manta’s combat suit protects his human body from the crushing pressure of the ocean. So, he can basically terrorize Atlantis and its people whenever he likes. He wields an arsenal of water-themed and conventional weapons, including a harpoon gun, blades, and a trident. His flashiest tools are the trademark energy beams that emanate from his bulbous, red-eyed mask.
Black Manta is a skilled mechanical engineer, having created all the technology he uses to pirate the ocean floor. He’s also an expert fighter, strategist, and maniac. At a range, his helmet lasers give Black Manta an advantage at range, whereas his myriad of blades and combat training make him a menace in close quarters. Aquaman is in danger no matter where he is in a fight with David. Even out of the water, Arthur isn’t safe from Black Manta’s tyranny. And if that wasn’t enough, he also commands a fever of underwater henchmen and was the leader of a secret society known as the Nautical Enforcement of Macrocosmic Order (N.E.M.O.).
Think of Black Manta as Aquaman’s personal Joker. He’s continuously escalating his terror tactics on Arthur Curry, yet Aquaman’s moral code keeps him from putting Manta down for good. This mimics the tense interplay between The Dark Knight and the Clown Prince of Crime.
Let’s be clear — Black Manta is begging to be killed at the hands of the ocean king. He murdered Arthur Jr. aka Aquababy (yup, that’s what they called him). Even this heinous act couldn’t bring Arthur to remove Black Manta from this earthly realm. That’s some restraint.
Joker did something similar, killing off many Batman fans’ least favorite Robin, Jason Todd. The two villains share an unnatural obsession with their hero counterparts, and both pairs are locked in an endless dance with neither able to gain the upper hand.
Black Manta doesn’t get the same amount of love as most other supervillains. Harley Quinn, Brainiac, Granny Goodness, and Darkseid receive all the glory, all while Black Manta gets chuckled at. I say this should change. Everyone loved Pirates of the Caribbean, right? Black Manta is a better pirate than all those goons. Big Joker fan? Manta is that but underwater, which makes him more badass. He was turned into an actual human-manta ray hybrid at one point. Even his fish puns are fantastic.
His outfit, which is known to induce giggles, is actually amazing. Every successful character in comics needs a distinct silhouette. Stargirl has her Cosmic Staff. Darkseid cuts an imposing figure with huge arms clasped behind his back. Manta’s cylindrical helmet makes him instantly recognizable in any situation. Like many of DC’s characters, Manta has a distinctly unique design that you just can’t ignore.
Black Manta is a pirate and a plunderer. His hatred for Aquaman and the sea puts Atlantis in danger at every turn. Black Manta will stop at nothing to hurt Aquaman, leaving the citizens of the underwater nation in constant jeopardy. How do you hurt a king? Destroy his kingdom. And kill his kid.
Undoubtedly the best part of the Aquaman trailers — wreaking havoc with his henchmen — there’s no denying Black Manta is a great character. He’s an underwater pirate who commands his own army of mercenary frogmen. If that sentence doesn’t amp you up for this guy, I don’t know what else to write.
David Hyde is a flawed, dangerous character with a penchant for the dramatic and an unhealthy obsession with Aquaman and the sea. Whenever he shows up (especially in theInjustice 2 video game), things are going to go very wrong for someone. Look into this evil devil ray. I bet you will dig him as much as I do.