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TSL Comic Book Convo: Why is Black Manta So Important?

For comic book fans that grew up in an era where television and film were barren landscape for our favorite characters, these days offer a feast of film offerings from which to chose.

For comic book fans that grew up in an era where television and film were barren landscape for our favorite characters, these days offer a feast of film offerings from which to chose. Those days of wondering whether or not graphic novels would translate well on the screen are largely gone.

Now the conversation has transitioned to the “who” will be depicted rather than to the “if” certain characters should be. DC Comics and Warner Brothers have been chasing Marvel Comics in their respective publications and on the big screen as well, and have made up some ground on the big screen with Batman V. Superman and Suicide Squad. Wonder Woman, Justice League and Cyborg films are in the near future, as is a film for Aquaman. 

While he is easily the most maligned of the founding members of the Justice League, the casting of Jason Mamoa as the title character has added a significant amount of cool to Aquaman. As with any action-packed offering, a suitable hero is measured by an equally suitable villain. For Aquaman, his longest and most bitter rivalry is the character Black Manta. Recently it was announced Black Manta would be the villain in the upcoming Aquaman offering in 2018. 

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Created in 1967 by Bob Haney and Nick Cardy, Black Manta made his first appearance in Aquaman #35. He was the first supervillain at a major comic book publisher. He is listed as a brilliant tactician with enhanced strength, endurance, hand-to-hand combat abilities, mastery of technology and possessing a battle-suit that grants him the ability to breath underwater and project optic blasts. Also, he’s Black.


Manta didn’t have an official origin until 1993 when it was revealed that Manta grew up in Baltimore, Maryland but was kidnapped and sexually abused by his captors. His hate for Aquaman comes from spotting Aquaman and waving for help but having his pleas go unheard. Eventually, he kills one of his captors and escapes. He views the sea as cold and unforgiving and sees Aquaman as its embodiment.


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That origin story, like that of many others, has been tampered with and changed over the years with various, publisher-wide reboots, but that’s the one that keeps coming to mind for me. Michael Jai White, Isaiah Washington and Michael K. Williams have each stepped forward and placed their bids to be cast in this role. They’re bound to be joined by others.

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(Video Courtesy: Young Justice)

Each actor has considerable talents and abilities to bring to the role. White’s physical stature and martial arts mastery, Williams’ intensity, and Washington’s emotional interpretation of his works, would each endow the character with favorable attributes. Who do you think would do the best job?  We get to see Aquaman on the big screen in 2017 but have to wait two years to see him go up against Black Manta.  


I just hope they keep Black Manta black.

Starting his career as lead writer for EURweb.com back in 1998, Ricardo A Hazell has served as Senior Contributor with The Shadow League since coming to the company in 2013. His byline has appeared in the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the South China Sea Morning Post, the Root and many other publications. At TSL he is charged with exploring black cultural angles where they intersect with the mainstream.