Wednesday, February 01, 2006
BHM 1: Black Manta
Black History Month here at the Absorbascon begins with everybody's least favorite role model: Black Manta.
Originally, Black Manta was just one of those characters that Bob Haney cobbled togetherfor Aquaman out of nothing at all: Villain in Diving Helmet.
Years later, somebody finally had him take the helmet off, and we got to see that he was black. Part of Manta's motivation, he reveals, was that, having given up on the idea of equality for black people on land, he hoped to form a more equitable society underwater.
Sometimes this gets misinterpreted as black separatism, but Manta always seems to have some white guys in his gang. In recent issues of Aquaman, those white guys seem really stupid; I think the Secret Society is forcing some Affirmative Action on our man Manta and these dumb crackers are Goon School dropouts.
Poor Manta got stupidly monsterfied in the "Underworld Unleashed" crossover (just like his white counterpart, Killer Moth), but Rick Veitch fixed that and brought us back the real Black Manta.
Far as I know, Black Manta's real name has never been revealed. Part of the groovy mystery of it all or just another example of a black character getting short shrift? Who can say?
People sometimes make fun of Black Manta because he got a less then stellar rep during his days on the Superfriends. But for me, Manta's got the "autobuy" power: if Black Manta's in it, I buy it. He's the first villain ever really to strike a personal blow against a hero, when he killed Aquaman son. As such, Black Manta was the herald of our New Era of Villainy. He's also the "highest-ranking" black villain in the DCU.
So show Black Manta some respect. Or else.
P.S. Visit the Museum of Black Superheroes.