ComicBook.com visited Aquaman's Australian set in July of 2017, getting a look at Black Manta's fully spot-on comic-accurate costume but also hearing about how he factors into the next DC Comics movie. Played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, the character will likely emerge as a fan-favorite, as his feud with Jason Momoa's Arthur Curry is only just setting sail.
"We meet Black Manta at a time where, it's just him and his dad, and he's riding on high, you know," Abdul-Mateen II said. "He's just come off of his wind, and there's a changing of the guards, so to speak. And then, this guy, Aquaman, comes in, and crashes the party." The relationship, like much of the Aquaman movie, will follow its DC Comics roots.
If Abdul-Mateen II were to use one word to describe his character, "Relentless" is the only one to cover it. "He's so relentless," Abdul-Mateen II said. "And so, in a fight, he's never down, and he's never out. And you think that he's done, but he comes back. And it's like, 'Hey, I finished you! I proved my point! I'm stronger than you. Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! Why are you still here?' You know?"
While Abdul-Mateen II can't give all of the details of Black Manta's first appearance, he promises it is "pretty dope" as his character crashes into the Italian set built in the same location which was once Thor: Ragnarok's Asgard. It will likely be one of the eighteen action sequences packed into James Wan's "swashbuckling" adventure.
"He doesn't want to take over the world, he doesn't have this grand scheme of, like, monopolizing something for his own personal benefit," Abdul-Mateen II said. "He's very much on the line. And so, he has this very strong moral code that he will not compromise, and that he will not negotiate on."
One day prior to ComicBook.com's visit to the set, Abdul-Mateen II was in full Black Manta gear, playing foil to Momoa's Aquaman. While producer Peter Safran is as excited as anyone to see Black Manta in action on the big screen, boasting a photo of the full costume on his cell phone, he admits the character is not the film's main villain.
"Listen, we love Manta," Safran said. "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 and there is a connection between Orm and Manta that will be revealed that that helps make him a more integral part of the story. 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."
What will help Black Manta win fan-favor is his comic-accurate story and design.
"I think like most fans I love the really sort of strange design of Black Manta, and I see this guy, and I think what we all love about him is he's kind of scary, he's really bad-ass to look at it," Aquaman director James Wan said. "But there's just something kind of slightly off, right? The big giant head, these big two red glowing eyes. And so I didn't want to shy away from that. I'm going to take what's best about the design, and kind of bring my sensibility to it. And ultimately he's a human character, and he has to go up against someone like Arthur/Aquaman, who is a superhero. And so I have to tweak the outfit slightly to give him the power that he needs to take on to fight Aquaman. But in terms of what he looks like, he's very much in the same spirit."