First appearing in “Aquaman” (vol. 1) #35 in 1967, Black Manta was created by Bob Haney and Nick Cardy, and has since become the Sea King’s primary foe. What might make Black Manta unique is that he’s probably the most well-known Black supervillain in comics and among the general public, thanks to the character’s other-media appearances (particularly on “Super Friends).

In other media, Black Manta made his first non-comic appearances on the 60s Filmation-animated Aquaman TV cartoon, and has made a few appearances in modern production such as the current “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” series. However, his most famous animated appearances, come during the 1970’s and 1980’s from his membership in the Legion of Doom on “Super Friends.” Super Friends first aired on ABC on September 8, 1973. This first run of Super Friends, consisting of 16 one-hour episodes which were rerun several times, concluded on August 24, 1974. The original 16 episodes of the series were rebroadcast as a mid-season replacement, running from February 7, 1976 to September 3, 1977. From 1977–1978 the show ran as The All-New Super Friends Hour, and from 1978–1979 it was the All-New Super Friends / Challenge of the Super Friends.

Black Manta’s also made a fair number of appearances in various spoofs, either of Aquaman or of the Super Friends/Legion of Doom. “South Park,” for instance, had a Legion of Doom in one episode, which included Black Manta (along with various other characters). Manta’s also been parodied on “SpongeBob SquarePants” as “Man Ray,” enemy of their Aquaman parody “Mermaid Man.” All of which has led to Black Manta probably being the most well known Black supervillain to the general public…even if they probably have no idea he is Black, since he rarely removes his helmet!

Black Manta’s main goals are to conquer or plunder Atlantis/the oceans for his own ends, and defeating his enemy Aquaman once and for all. His equipment includes his distinctive helmet/diving suit that can withstand the ocean depths, and various high-tech weapons, gear and submarines. In many versions, his helmet’s visor is capable of emitting laser eye-blasts.

Interestingly, Manta wasn’t revealed as being Black (and was never seen without his helmet) until a late 70s storyline, where not only was his race revealed, but also a supposed motivation to conquer the oceans so Blacks could colonize them, and be less oppressed than they were on land. This goal got him some followers (including a minor supporting Aquaman character named Cal Durham, also Black), but it turned out to be just a ruse to achieve his main goal, defeating Aquaman. After this plan goes sour, Manta commits his most famous crime, killing Aquaman’s infant son, Arthur Curry Jr. (“Aquababy”). This sends the Sea King into a rage, swearing to bring Black Manta to justice (though Manta, of course, would make recurring appearances up until this day).

Manta’s origin story was never revealed until the 90s, when he gained the first of *two* possible (and conflicting) origin stories. The first origin story, from 1993, claims Manta as a kid loved to play by the sea, until he was captured and tormented sexually on a ship. He supposedly saw Aquaman swimming by and tried to signal him for help, but failed to reach his attention. After freeing himself, Manta hated the sea, and vowed to become an enemy of all that’s in it, including Aquaman.

The second origin story, from 2003, has Manta as an orphan who’s thrown into Gotham City’s Arkham Asylum for being autistic, and was restrained to his bed, due to the doctors not knowing how to treat autism. Manta was also fascinated by seeing Aquaman on TV. After experiments at Arkham left him with a “cleared head” but in a violent state, he escapes Arkham to become the supervillain he is today.

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The Original Production Cel and Drawings featured below are from The Black Animation Collection of The Museum Of UnCut Funk.

Black Manta Original Production Drawing 2a

Black Manta Original Production Drawing 4a

Black Manta Original Production Drawing 3a

Black Manta, Superman / Aquaman Hour Of Adventure © 2017 © Comcast-NBCUniversal

Black Manta, All New Super Friends Hour, DC Comics © 2017 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.


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