Black Manta is an extremely vicious and highly intelligent sea pirate and mercenary who is fixated on destroying Aquaman and Mera and on ruling the oceans due to a deep-seated hatred for the two that he had acquired from his past.
As enigmatic as the ocean depths and as relentless as the tides, Black Manta's devotion to his vendetta against Aquaman has led to him becoming the hero's primary arch nemesis.
As a young adult, David lived with his father on a houseboat, earning a small reputation as a diver and a treasure hunter. When David was contracted by Doctor Stephen Shin to procure a sample of Arthur Curry's blood to prove that he was an Atlantean, during the encounter, Arthur's father, Thomas Curry, came to his son's defense and suffered a heart attack while fighting David.
On the day of his father's funeral, Arthur stormed the houseboat belonging to David and his father and murdered David's father, mistaking him for David. From that moment on, David abandoned his career as a treasure hunter to seek and swore to kill everything Arthur loved as vengeance for his father's death.
Growing into adulthood, David became a seafaring treasure hunter who, along with his wife, was captured by the other-dimensional residents of Xebel while exploring the Bermuda Triangle and brought back to the dimension of Xebel where the two were tortured mercilessly. The captors experimented on David's pregnant wife which gave their unborn child powers similar to those of the residents of Xebel. Fearing the child would be used as a pawn in an invasion of Earth, Xebel princess Mera kidnapped the child when she left for Earth as part of her own mission to assassinate the King of Atlantis and arranged for him to be adopted and raised far away from water in order to keep him from her people. While David ultimately escaped from Xebel as well, his wife died in captivity.
Lacking empathy and possessing an extremely vicious personality thanks to the experimental treatments, David returned to his oath of killing Aquaman and becoming the ocean's master after surviving Xebel. Becoming a sea pirate; David designed an aquatic combat suit and a high-tech submersible inspired by manta rays to aid his endeavour. Taking the name Black Manta, he and his masked army became a formidable force on the open seas and clashed with Aquaman repeatidly while forming a short-lived alliance with Ocean Master.
After gaining a brief membership with the Injustice League, Black Manta began a series of personal attacks on Aquaman, beginning with an assault on Atlantis' agricultural system. He also hired a robotics engineer named Weisbogg to destroy the city's dome with a mechanical Bugala, although this plan also failed.
After burying him under tons of rubble, Aquaman still managed to escape through a network of underground caves. Aqualad and Aquagirl uncovered one of his criminal operations in Mississippi, and it was revealed that he had been smuggling guns to the villainous King Karshon who had dethroned and exiled Aquaman. Fighting his enraged nemesis again after Mera and their child had been kidnapped, Manta knocked him out and gave him to Karshon in exchange for information about the City of the Lost Tribes which he easily conquered with a team of mercenaries. Revealing himself to be African American when Aquaman arrived to free the city, he explained that he hoped to create an underwater colony where his people could be free from the persecution they faced on the surface world. Aquaman and Aqualad were put into an arena and forced to fight each other to the death. Manta placed Aquaman's baby into a chamber without water where he would slowly suffocate unless one of them had killed the other. The two heroes managed to break free while he escaped, but the baby died. Aquaman pursued Manta with the intention of murdering his nemesis but fell into his trap, while Manta almost managed to kill him, he was betrayed by one of his disillusioned mercenaries named Cal Durham. Broken and pleading for mercy, Manta was spared by Aquaman who decided that revenge was not worth compromising his ideals and had him arrested instead.
His thirst for vengeance and the power to enact it remaining as pure as ever, Manta is one of 50 supervillains that have their powers enhanced to varying degrees by the demon Neron in exchange for their souls as part of a plan of the demon's to conquer the world and acquire Captain Marvel's soul. Transformed into a human/manta ray hybrid Manta still meets defeat at Aquaman's hand. At one point he engages in drug smuggling from his new base in Star City, where he is opposed by Green Arrow and Aquaman.
In a later confrontation, Aquaman, now possessing the Lady of the Lake's Healing Hand, reverses Neron's alterations to Black Manta and rewires Manta's brain to be less vicious. Unfortunately, Manta remains a violent criminal, lulling Aquaman into a false sense of partnership and almost killing the Sea King in the process.
Some time later, as part of a plan by Vandal Savage and the Atlantean Krusivax to create a new underwater empire by dropping all of the cities along the Pacific Rim's "Ring of Fire" into the ocean, Black Manta was hired to serve as a test subject for a genetic serum that would cause air breathing humans to gain the ability to "breath underwater" like Atlanteans. This succeeds and Manta returns to the oceans to face Aquaman once again, causing a disturbance in Sub Diego by denouncing the hero to the city's residents and offering himself as their new leader.
One year after the Infinite Crisis incident, Manta overtakes Sub Diego in Aquaman's absence but is forced to flee when King Shark attacks him.
- Players with the Origin Crisis episode can obtain an Iconic Battle Suit based on him, "Manta".
- Black Manta is the first boss within the Starro: Spindrift Station raid.
- He shortly appears in the Atlantis: The Throne operation, infuriated that Corum Rath has seemingly killed Aquaman. Corum Rath summons the Sea Beast which devours Black Manta.
- Black manta first appeared in Aquaman #35 (September 1967).
- On top of being accounted as one of the deadliest and most highly-disciplined assassins alive, Black Manta is one of the world's best divers and treasure hunters. He is the first choice for missions that require underwater salvage or exploration. He has amassed a considerable fortune over the years through his exploits as a treasure hunter.
- Black Manta uses a submarine shaped like a giant manta ray as his mobile headquarters. Atomic-powered and capable of submerging to extreme depths, the "Manta Ship" is specifically geared for piracy and salvage operations.
- Black Manta has some degree of enhanced strength and endurance, likely a result of the serum that changed his brain from an autistic one into a more typical one, but left him extremely violent and vicious. Black Manta's armor further enhances these physical attributes, allowing him to lift cars and throw them with ease. In addition, his armor is bulletproofed and is vulnerable only to very powerful explosives.
- Black Manta at times recruits his henchmen by using the pretense that as an African-American, his ultimate objective is for his people to be dominant in the oceans below, after having been oppressed for so long in the lands above.
- Black Manta's henchmen are known as "Mantanauts".
- Black Manta's son, originally named "Kaldur'ahm" within Xebel, grew up in Silver City, New Mexico, as Jackson Hyde. While human, thanks to the experiments the Xebel scientists conducted on his mother, Jackson possesses gills, the ability to grow webbed fingers and toes and the ability to control water to form hard constructs.