Warner Bros. has decided this is the week to begin the Aquaman marketing campaign in earnest, and it kicks off with an EW cover story. But as part of that cover story, the first look at Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as the villainous Black Manta has been revealed. In the film, Black Manta is a high-seas pirate and mercenary named David Kane, which puts a spin on the character’s comics origin story.
Director James Wan isn’t ready to reveal too much about Black Manta, but he offered a tantalizing tease while also confirming that Black Manta is not the main antagonist of Aquaman:
“He’s part mercenary but full-time pirate who in his suit will look like some crazy alien from outer space… Black Manta is a really interesting character who is somehow factored into this story but our main story is about Jason and Patrick.”
Jason and Patrick meaning Jason Momoa’s Aquaman and Patrick Wilson’s King Orm, who is Aquaman’s half brother and may or may not have different ideas about what it means to rule Atlantis.
The Black Manta helmet looks quite nifty, however, and I like how Wan has found a grounded way for the character to make sense. But don’t go expecting some full-blown Batman v Superman-style grit. In the cover story, executive producer Peter Safran says to expect plenty of humor from the film:
“Rarely has a superhero character been married to the real-life actor as much as Aquaman and Jason Momoa. He’s authentically from two worlds, he’s this real physical specimen, he’s got this humor which he’s never been allowed to play before — in every regard he is Aquaman.”
It sounds like we may get a Thor: Ragnarok-style retcon of the character after his entrance in Justice League, and indeed Wan reiterates in the cover story that Aquaman feels very distinct from the previous DCEU films:
“The water world my movie takes place in is so separate and so far apart from previous DC movies it’s like I’m making my own sci-fi fantasy film. This is a whole new underwater world nobody has seen before in live action.”
Distancing Aquaman from the DCEU that’s come before was inevitable, as Warner Bros. and those involved don’t want the Justice League stink to stick around on their upcoming slate. But it’ll be interesting to see just how distinct Aquaman is, and if it signals a new direction for the DCEU in the vein of last year’s hit Wonder Woman. Between these comments and those colorful Wonder Woman 1984 images, the future of DC looks bright.