There's quite a bit going on in the Aquaman side of the DC Universe, as DC is exploring Jackson Hyde's transformation into the new Aquaman and Arthur and Mera's continuing saga as well. There's also a new spotlight on one of Aquaman's biggest enemies, Black Manta, courtesy of writer Chuck Brown and artist Valentine De Landro. The new series finds Manta attempting to discover the mysterious origins of an artifact that ends up being stolen from him, and he'll need to work with his right hand Gallous to figure out what its for and how to keep it from driving him crazy. ComicBook.com had the chance to ask Brown some questions about Manta's new series, and we wanted to start with what is perhaps most misunderstood about the character.
"Hmm. Good question. I definitely didn't want to take away the fact that he does have a villainous nature, but I want people to know that he doesn't have a black heart in the sense, a dark heart in a sense where he'll kill for the sake of killing," Brown said. "And I want to slowly take people away from that and show another side of him where, to show that people can change and people don't all have to be totally murderous and villainous all the time, and elevate the character beyond that, yet still maintaining his edge and his viciousness and his fury."
That's not always easy to pull off, especially with villains you love. "Not really. No. I love villains. I do love villains. And sometimes when I'm writing the scripts, I may go a little too far and then thank God for supporting characters. Because when you start writing those supporting characters, you put yourself in their shoes and they bring that part of Black man to back and bring me back from making things a little too raw and too dark in a sense. I think that's huge part of what Gallous and Torrid are about, how keeping that balance of the character," Brown said.
The issue also gives us a glimpse of the relationship between Manta and his son, Jackson, though the two never actually meet on the page.
"In the first issue, it's actually an open letter to Jackson Hyde, which is why he's questioning his whole life. He wants to be in his son's life more because you realize that he's dying. So he wants to make amends with his son," Brown said. "It won't be a direct correlation. He won't actually appear in the books, but it is a letter to his son in the opening of Issue one. And Aquaman and that relationship will also pop up as well as a theme in the book as well."
While Jackson isn't in the first issue, Manta's ally Gallous is, and she is a critical part of the ongoing story and Manta's evolution as a character throughout the series.
"She's like the daughter he never had. She's very aware that she is a pirate. She works for a super villain, she's his broker, but she's also aware that on some level Black man had saved her life and molded her to the person that she is. And almost on some level in her mind, she's trying to repay him by trying to keep him from the total edge of darkness," Brown said. "in the sense. I really love this character. She's so fun to write. It's great for a punchline. And I did not want her to be just a henchman to him. And I think he knows that as well. But yeah, she's definitely one of my favorite, favorite characters in the book."
There is a pull sometimes to transform a villain into a hero and redeem them in some way, but that will not be the case with Manta.
"No, I don't think it's a redemption story," Brown said. "I think it's just showing him, evolution. People can change. Change for the worse or change for the good or just new people come into your lives and it affects you in ways you had no idea it would. That's just real life. Again, like I said, I was fascinated with the character for a long time. I wasn't looking for just a villain to redeem, but it's more about reflection of our own lives. None of us are who we are and when we went on my journey on life. And that's kind of what I'm doing with Black man, just show that change and that pain. And what life can do and where it can take you."
Black Manta #1 is in comic stores now.
What did you think of Black Manta? Let us know in the comments and as always you can talk all things comics with me on Twitter @MattAguilarCB!