Black Manta has been an immensely popular villain in DC Comics for decades, but only now is he set to make his big screen debut. The character, played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, is set to play a key role in James Wan's Aquaman, and he's unquestionably one of the most anticipated elements of the movie. But if you think the DC Extended Universe will be done with him after that, you are definitely mistaken, as I learned during an interview with producer Peter Safran last year:
We certainly have every intention that Manta plays a very large role in the DC universe. He has to. He's just too great. And we give him his origin story in this movie. We do show how Manta, that we see in the comic books, became that character. And we're so fortunate to have this guy, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, to play him. I don't know if you guys saw The Get Down on Netflix, this guy Yahya is just extraordinary, and he came in and he auditioned and we met with him and it was just a slam dunk.
This exciting confirmation about Black Manta's blockbuster future was revealed on the set of Aquaman, as I had the chance to visit the production in Melbourne, Australia with a small group of other journalists while cameras were still rolling. A part of our sit down with Peter Safran was dedicated to discussing one of DC Comics' fan-favorite antagonists, and while talking about the character's role in the movie he also revealed that this is only the start.
Real name David Hyde, Black Manta was created by Bob Haney and Nick Cardy and introduced in September 1967's Aquaman #35. He was initially portrayed as mysterious, powerful villain, notably outfitted with a large oval helmet with red glowing eyes, and it wasn't until the early 1990s that his origin story was explained. As far as his future in the DC Extended Universe goes, there will surely be opportunities for him to return in specific Aquaman sequels, but it's noteworthy that he's been a part of some very important supervillain teams, including the Legion of Doom and the Injustice League (which is hinted at in the post-credits of Zack Snyder's Justice League).
As for what to expect from him specifically in Aquaman, Peter Safran outlined the movie's approach. According to the producer, he will have a key part to play, and we will see how he becomes the villain fans love to hate, but at the same time he really is the film's second tier antagonist, as the primary face-off in the blockbuster will be between Jason Momoa's Arthur Curry and his half-brother Orm, played by Patrick Wilson. Said Safran,
We love Manta. From the early days of developing the screenplay he's just such a great antagonist and he's such a fan favorite, and the response every time people hear that he's in the movie or that it's confirmed that he's in the movie they're thrilled about it. So we always wanted to give him his storyline, and if Orm is the primary antagonist, then Manta is certainly is a very strong secondary antagonist. There is a connection between Orm and Manta that will be revealed that helps make him a more integral part of the story.
With the exception of Shazam and Wonder Woman 1984, Warner Bros. and DC have not made any major, firm announcements about the future of the DC Extended Universe, so we're not entirely sure exactly when we will get to see Black Manta after Aquaman. That being said, if he's as awesome as he was described on set, and looks as great as he did in the photos we were shown, then there's a good chance audiences will be demanding more of him immediately after exiting the theater.