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You Decide ’09 – Who is Aquaman’s Arch-Nemesis?


The first (and probably only) time I’ve enjoyed Aquaman was on Neal Pozner (sp?) amazing limited series. Ocean Master, a seriously improved and terrifying Ocean Master, was the bad guy there.

Black Manta was never that scary, no matter how many babies he kills.

Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

I’m pretty sure Aquaman’s arch-nemesis is reader indifference.

Carlo, if Laura hears you say that, you may wake up to find a squid’s head in your bed…

Ocean Master. Peter David’s take on him was amazing!! And he was made Orin’s half brother, which made it all the more interesting.

Where can we see the results?

Anyone who doesn’t actually read the comics, or haven’t since the 70s would probably say Black Manta, but it’s pretty clear that it’s way more personal with Ocean Master.

He killed his kid. He’s had more exposure than any other Aquaman villain.

Black Manta gets the vote.

One of the many problems with DC’s OYL event was it terminated a pretty cool plot that was building up with Black Manta in Sub Diego. I would have loved to see where that was supposed to go.

Ocean Master was always Aquaman’s half brother. Peter David didn’t invent that. Originally, he was the son of Tom Curry by a normal human woman.

As a parent, I’d have to hold someone who killed my child well over a jealous half brother. It doesn’t even come close. Of course, that all just means that Black Manta should have been dead a long time ago.

have to go with black manta for when he killed aquaman’s kid it showed him to be aquamans own joker . for ocean master is just a jelouse relitive who wants what his family has. not to mention that outfit of black mantas is something out of a cheesy horror movie so any one who can go around looking like that in a comic book to me winsas a villian

It’s close, but Black Manta gets exposure for the Super-Friends and, as stated, did kill Arthur Jr.

Challenge of the Superfriends. That’s all I have to say.

Tom from West Chester

October 9, 2009 at 6:47 am

I’m going with Black Manta, but I can’t say I’m an Aquaman expert. How long until we get an Aquaman: Rebirth from Johns and Van Sciver that settles this question once and for all?

(Also, Carlo’s comment was pretty funny.)

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

October 9, 2009 at 7:15 am

I voted Ocea Master, mainly because I quite like the mythology Neal Pozner and Peter David built around the character. Manta, conversely, has consistently suffered from endless revamping, being revealed as African-American, then getting to kill AJ, then becoming some kind of actual manta-man, ad most recently having a past as some sort of autistic orphan and child abuse victim retconned in.

Media adapations or no, that’s always a sign of a weak villain. How many Black Manta fans here could explain what makes the character unique or compelling beyond “I saw him on Super Friends and he killed a toddler once?” What are his motives these days? What’s his signature gimmick?

Carlo made me laugh, but when I saw the thread title I thought “Aquaman has villains? ‘Villains’ as in plural and not just Black Manta?”

I’m going with Black Manta, but I can’t say I’m an Aquaman expert. How long until we get an Aquaman: Rebirth from Johns and Van Sciver that settles this question once and for all?

Hopefully, never.

Black Manta is totally Aquaman’s archnemesis; that one’s obvious. Sure, Ocean Master has the brother angle to work from, but Black Manta is the Green Goblin of Aquaman villains; he didn’t look like much at first, but then he goes and kills Aquaman’s son. He always brings out the worst in Arthur. He’s the deadliest Aqua-foe. Also, his character design is brilliant and has been unchanged for decades (we’ll ignore the hiccup with his death and resurrection as a manta-man).

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

October 9, 2009 at 8:14 am

Again, the case seems to boil down to “He did something scary once, and has a costume I like.” Which, admittedly, is probably as much as most people expect from an Aquaman villain. I think that Ocean Master’s actually been the villain in better stories, though; even Manta’s murder of Aquababy wasn’t actually that well-written. It was, to take from Bill R.’s response, a pretty blatant attempt to give him a push a la the Goblin, in fact.

Yeah, it’s hard to get much more personal than Black Manta. You were expecting perhaps Peter Benchley?

I always found Ocean Master to be pretty lame, really. He probably won’t show up in my Aqua-run!

How many Black Manta fans here could explain what makes the character unique or compelling beyond “I saw him on Super Friends and he killed a toddler once?”

Fundamentally, Black Manta should be written as Ocean Hitler. (By which I mean a commanding/charismatic leader which an irrational/genocidal point of view towards a group of people [in this case Atlantis] and a high level of technology, henchmen, and determination to back himself up. Plus they both have distinctive looks and voices.)

Black Manta shouldn’t be about him being black (even the story that introduced him pointed out that he doesn’t actually care about that; it’s just rhetoric to get more henchmen), or autistic. It’s that Atlantis and Aquaman is a personal insult to him and he has the means to destroy it.

But the question isn’t “Who’s the better Aquaman villain,” Omar. When talking about corporate-owned superhero characters you have to take in consideration of media exposure. Unless you’ve read a lot of Aquaman story, most people have never heard of Ocean Master. Black Manta on the other hand everyone knows because of the Super Friends cartoon (for better or worse). Plus his character-design stands out more than the generic looking Ocean Master.

I mean, why is Cheetah considered Wonder Woman’s arch-nemesis? Has the Cheetah actually ever done anything memorable? It’s just the way these things go sometimes.

I am going with Black Manta.

Aquaman was on a nice little run in the mid-70s. He was on the Super-Friends. The great Jim Aparo was penciling his long-running lead feature in Adventure. In the late ’70s, Aquaman was selling 150,000 copies, which is better than anything currently being produced. Sales were good enough that DC was planning to re-launch him as a solo character. Things were good.

Then, Black Manta killed his young child. It was too damn dark for a super-hero comic. It hung like a dark cloud over the character. Suddenly, Aquaman was the loser that could not save his own child from a guy in scuba gear. Within five years, he had been canceled twice. Aquaman would not have a solo series that ran more than a year for a decade and a half.

In other words, Black Manta did more damage to Aquaman than any super-villain has done to any super-hero ever. The Joker and Green Goblin may have killed people close to their arch-nemesis, but they never killed the franchise.

I voted for Black Manta because I’ve heard of him.

His arch enemy is Garth, Tempest. If Tempest wasn’t so clearly a better Aquaman than Aquaman, Orin would never have to worry about being killed off.

then becoming some kind of actual manta-man

Pretty much anything “Devil Fabio” Neron was responsible for can safely be assumed to be a terrible idea.

Hmm, of all the polls so far this is the one I care least about. I voted Ocean Master simply because I liked Rick Veitch’s attempt to reform Black Manta.

Wow! Tough call. I’d have to flip a coin for it. I’d have to go with Black Manta. Mainly because of the Batman: Brave and the Bold episode where Manta got Orm to turn on his brother…

His arch-villain is clearly the Fisherman! I demand a recount.

Going with Black Manta. Off the top of my head, Manta has been much more personally destructive to Aquaman. Orm may be his bro, but that leaves it as a jealous brother archetype. Manta HATES Aquaman.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

October 9, 2009 at 1:43 pm

First off, I doubt Manta’s in any danger of losing the poll for the simple reason that he’s got tons of mass-media exposure. And I think we all know that.

Second, GohanWinner’s point made me think of Priest’s take on Klaw in Black Panther: that tells me why Aquaman hates Manta, but it doesn’t tell me why Manta hates Aquaman. Ditto Thok’s remark that he should be “Ocean Hitler.” OK, uh, why does he hate Atlantis so much? In the comics, Manta never even got a proper first appearance; he shows up as if he’d already fought Aquaman, battling the already-established Ocean Master to see who gets this go-round with the fish-talker.

Third, I beliee Bill Reed could probably write a story with a good chance of changing my mind on this subject. But that story’s as yet unwritten.

Fourth, I’d point out Grant Morrison’s take on matters. It wasn’t Black Manta in Luthor’s Injustice Gang of archnemeses, and it wasn’t Manta on the inner council of the Secret Society in Final Crisis. And considering he revived frickin’ Quisp/QWSP, I think we have to agree that G-Moz knows him so Aquaman. On the other hand, Mark Waid seems to prefer Manta if his “Silver Age” event is any indicator. The Bruce Timm animated universe is no help here, since both Orm and “Devil Ray” were just substitutes; and while the Haney-inspired Brave and the Bold cartoon uses Manta, the actual Bob Haney/Neal Adams BandB comic used Ocean Master.

Let’s all agree to a gentleman’s tie here, folks.

Umm… who’s Aquaman?

If he came back with a book today, it would be Black Manta, for sure.

Still, I think he might need a new villain to become his arch nemesis. Maybe someone with powers that threaten Aquaman’s domain.

Vincent Paul Bartilucci

October 9, 2009 at 4:34 pm

A couple of random comments.

First – if Morrison “knows him some Aquaman” he’d know that Quisp was never, never, never presented as anything other than a friend and ally to Aquaman. Plus he wasn’t from the 5th dimension – he was from the secret sea. But, then again, G’Moz dicked over Kiku for the incredibly lame JJ Thunder. Morrison is good but just because he wrote something doesn’t make it the final word on the character.

Second – Manta hates Aquaman because Aquaman continually foils his plans. That used to be enough, even for an “arch” enemy.

Third – if one had read that run of Adventure / Aquaman when one was around 10 or 11 years old as I did, one would realize that the two-parter featuring the death of Arthur Jr and Aquaman’s subsequent hunt for Manta is the single best comic book story ever! :-)

Fourth – Manta isn’t dead because Aquaman is a “super” hero. Action movie and tv heroes kill. Mythological heroes kill. Literary heroes kill. Super-heroes do not kill. I’m not saying that to start a debate because no one will ever convince me that super-heroes do or should ever kill.

I’m not listening … lalalalala

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

October 9, 2009 at 4:44 pm

First – if Morrison “knows him some Aquaman” he’d know that Quisp was never, never, never presented as anything other than a friend and ally to Aquaman.

That was sort of the point of the revamp, actually: Quisp says explicitly that he “changed” into a creepy villain because he saw how Aquaman had “changed” by becoming a darker character.

Vincent Paul Bartilucci

October 9, 2009 at 5:03 pm

Actually I wasn’t refering to Quisp’s actions in Morrison’s JLA which, admittedly, I didn’t care for but rather his dialogue:

From JLA #30, “Lately, I came visiting your world to see my old opponent Aquaman, once more.” Also from JLA #30, “I’m Aquaman’s greatest foe.”

I reiterate (from my own entry on Quisp on writeups.com); “Quisp never considered himself Aquaman’s enemy. Of Quisp’s five historical appearances, four involve Quisp aiding Aquaman and Aqualad against threats to the surface world (or, at least, the surface ocean) and one features the Aqua-duo rescuing their little water sprite friend. Quisp doesn’t even play that many tricks on his buddy, the Sea King; some adventures pass without a single prank. While not a hero- worshipping pest like Bat-Mite, Quisp is Aquaman’s friend and ally. During the course of (Morrison’s JLA / JSA adventure), Aquaman keeps insisting that he is the only one that can “stop Quisp”. Not “fight Quisp” or “defeat Quisp”. “Stop Quisp”.” THis eeems to indicate that Aquaman still views the little guy as his friend.

If Grant Morrison knew anything about Quisp beyond seeing him on the cover of some old comic book he’d never had had him delivering the dialogue above. He would have had him say something about being Aquaman’s friend once but finding that being his enemy seems like much more fun.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

October 9, 2009 at 5:24 pm

It probably helps to remember how utterly retconned Aquaman’s personality was at this point; imagine the rather misanthropic guy from Time and Tide encountering Quisp, and I wonder how “friendly” Quisp might later remember him.

I voted for Manta because he was one of the first villains to not only get away with killing a loved one of a major superhero, but because the victim was A CHILD. I remember being stunned by that, and even the great art (Aparo?) Aquaman had at the time couldn’t keep me hooked to the book anymore.

As villains, however, I find them both pretty boring. Yet another strike against poor Aquaman.

I voted for Ocean Master, because he’s actually a character with motives and personality.

BM’s just another brutal thug killer. You can get those a dime a dozen.

I grew up watching Superfriends, and was never able to take any of the villians presented in it seriously in their comics form. On the other hand, the Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law episode with Apache Chief wa a laugh riot…

Ocean Master is Aquaman’s step-brother gone bad.
Black Manta kidnapped and killed Aquaman’s son.

Hmmm…this was a tough choice.

In the end, I went with Black Manta based on the fact that he succeeded where Orm never did. While Orm is family, he really is nothing more than the proverbial “pain in the ass little brother”. Black Manta, on the other hand, scored major points for striking at Aquaman’s heart.

Black Manta was pretty damn cool as Devil Ray in the Justice League cartoon and had the spookiest/coolest voice on the Super Friends.

It’s Black Manta, all the way. (Ocean Master is related to Aquaman and therefore carries the same Lame Gene as Aquaman.) Didn’t know about the Manta-Man thing, but glad it was ret-conned.

O.M. is his brother, there’s powerful motivation for hatred there. But all Manta has to say is “Hey, Aquaman, how’s your kid?” for Aquaman to hate him. While we’re on personal rules for superheroes, I think great heroes hate their worst villains because they want them to use whatever they’ve got for Good, not Evil. I think Superman hates Luthor, just a little bit, because Superman always has to STOP him, when Luthor could be out curing cancer, instead of giving it to people. (I think Aquaman wants to kill Manta, though. So by my own logic, I voted for the wrong villain. Who cares? It’s only Aquaman. And yes, I love Aquaman but c’mon. He’s lame.)

So Quisp was originally like Aqua-Mite. And the Manhuter had Itty and Green Lantern had some stupid little pet for a while, didn’t he? Everybody was doing it in the early sixties.

Sgt. Rawk: I think you got it backwards, Itty (a somewhat creepy alien starfish/worm) was Hal Jordan’s “pet” for a while (until it evolved into humanoid form and vanished); Manhunter had an alien sidekick ,but I know nothing about it.

J’onn’s sidekick was Zook. Who was reconned into being his costume at one point. That’s right, folks, J’onn kept his junk in his sidekick.

Aquaman’s arch-nemesis is stand-up comedians.

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