His first origin was given in #6 of the 1993 Aquaman series. In this origin, the boy who would become Black Manta grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, and loved to play by the sea. As a youth he was kidnapped and forced to work on a ship for an unspecified amount of time. At one point he apparently saw Aquaman with his dolphin friends and tried to signal him for help but was not seen. Finally, he was forced to defend himself, killing one of his tormentors on the ship with a knife. Hating the emotionless sea (and Aquaman, whom he saw as its representative), the boy was determined to become its master.
A second origin was given in #8 of the 2003 Aquaman series. In this origin, the boy who would become Black Manta was an orphan who has autism and was placed in Gotham City's Arkham Asylum. He felt comfortable in freezing cold water, while cotton sheets were excruciatingly painful. Because the attendants at Arkham didn't know how to deal with autism, they would end up restraining him to the bed as he struggled and screamed whenever they tried putting him there. The boy was also fascinated when he saw Aquaman on television.
The boy would end up being subjected to experimental treatments. One treatment seemed to clear the boy's head, but left him violent as a result; he killed the scientist who had administered the treatment and escaped from Arkham.
Apperances & StoryEdit
As an adult, the man who would become Black Manta designed a costume (primarily a black wetsuit with bug-eyed helmet that was able to shoot blasting rays from its eyes) and fashioned a high-tech submersible inspired by black manta rays. Taking the name Black Manta, he and his masked army became a force to be reckoned with, engaging in at least one unrecorded clash with Aquaman prior to his first appearance as a rival to the Ocean Master (and before joining the short-lived Injustice League in the retcon Silver Age third week event).
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 an African American, 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.
Black Manta was later transformed into a Manta/Man hybrid. After a while he went back to wearing his original outfit, which covered his new appearance. At one point he took to drug smuggling from his new base in Star City, where he was opposed by a returning Green Arrow and Aquaman.
In a later confrontation, Aquaman, sporting the Lady of the Lake's Healing Hand, reverses the alterations to Black Manta, and rewired Manta's afflicted brain, making him normal for the first time in his life. Unfortunately, Manta remained a violent criminal, lulling Aquaman into a false sense of partnership and almost killing the Sea King in the process.
In later events, Black Manta was used as a test subject to make water breathers, using genetic manipulation. This succeeded and since then Black Manta has returned to the oceans to face Aquaman once again.
After Black Manta caused a disturbance in Sub Diego in which Captain Marley was severely injured (Aquaman v4 #39). Aquaman summoned various predatory sea-life to attack Black Manta and left him for dead. It was later revealed that he was able to survive by generating an electric charge with his suit.
One year later, he took over Sub Diego but was forced to flee when King Shark bit off his face (Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #52-53).
Powers and AbilitesEdit
Black Manta's suit is specifically designed to adapt him to an oceanic environment. It allows him complete resistance to the cold and pressure of deep sea conditions (and thus grants him a level of superhuman durability), and strength (allowing Black Manta to lift/strike with the force of 5 tons), the ability to breathe normally underwater (whether this is due to a hidden oxygen supply or its ability to extract oxygen from the water like the gills of a fish is unknown), jet boots which function in or out of water, a telepathic scrambler (used to temporarily strip Aquaman of his aquatic telepathy), and an array of weapons. Such weapons include blades, electric blasts from wrist gauntlets, miniaturized torpedoes, and energy beams from his helmet. He also has a limited degree of expertise in mechanical engineering (as he was able to manufacture his suit, weaponry, and vehicles) and some amount of hand-to-hand combat training.
Black Manta often times utilizes unique vehicles such as a modified, manta ray shaped, submarine.
At some point Black Manta was transformed by the demon Neron into a Manta hybrid. In this form he was completely at one with the water and could dive to extreme depths and survive. He had natural weaponry, a tail that he could use as a weapon. The process has since been reversed by Aquaman.