That’s right. A villain. A bad guy. And one that most people forgot existed before a certain powerhouse movie from DC and Warner Bros.
What Yahya Abdul-Mateen II did for this character was take it out the murky waters of obscurity and into the limelight where he shines. Some comic fans thought he was Black Manta because of his suit or his villainous trade. No, it all started with who he is. Yahya knew that. James Wan knew that. And DC Comics knew it.
Now, thanks to global domination of Aquaman in theaters–currently at $1.1 billion–we all know it. Here’s today’s Black History Month comic profile:
Name: David Hyde
Creators: Bob Haney (writer), Nick Cardy (artist), DC Comics (comic)
1st Appearance: Aquaman #35 (1967)
Backstory: Did you know it took 26 years to give Black Manta an origin? It was until #6 of the 1993 Aquaman series that we learned about David Hyde. He was bullied on the docks of Baltimore, Maryland where he grew up. He was kidnapped and forced to work as slave labor on a ship. That’s where he tried to reach Aquaman and his dolphin friends for rescue–only, the King of Atlantis didn’t get the memo and a rivalry was born.
Powers: Atlantean power and technology, skilled martial artist
Medium: Twenty six years it took for us to learn about David Hyde. Another 25 years to see him realized as the true scourge of the Seven Seas he was created to become. Discovering Yahya Abdul-Mateen II was a revelation because while he was only on screen a handful of minutes, he commanded every second he was on screen because that was his goal.
Yahya was interviewed by Nerdist discussing his connection with the character and how Wan wanted the role to be rooted in something “real.”
Like the scene with his father, his connection to him, that loss and the way that we set it up in the movie really gave me all that I needed as an actor to make sure that this would be a character who could resonate with the fans.
Impact: Did his story resonate? Black Manta has experienced a couple of origins actually. From Baltimore to being raised in Arkham Asylum, he had it all. The master swimmer and treasure bounty hunter became what he was supposed to be, only we learned his rage is rooted from the loss of self. James Wan’s take on his backstory shows something many young black men can understand even more–the loss of a father.
Regretfully, this is something millions of young black men have experienced, maybe not in a hijacked submarine, but that loss prevails. The fight back we see proves one salient point. That struggle really is real.
Culture: So, how can a villain inspire children? Black Manta’s force is more metaphorical. Think about it: He’s a source of power and strength in a world where he has no place. He has a job to do, which becomes his vision, although from the periphery, we all believe he will eventually get waxed.
There is a hidden truth in this fantastical fiction. No loss, no obstacle, no thing should ever get in your way. We all have to fight our demons, fish-scaled or not. David Hyde is fighting his daily and won’t stop until he is done. In an odd way, we can all hope to have that kind of determination against our own.