Black Nerd Problems had the opportunity to chop it up with Chuck Brown, writer for DC’s Black Manta book, about some of his inspirations, and the future of the character in the ever-expanding Aquaman franchise.
Black Nerd Problems: This Black Manta book is so good. What is it like putting your own stamp of style on such a storied character?
Chuck Brown: It feels unreal at times. I grew up with this character, and now I’m writing the comic. Black Manta has never had his own series before. The book was a great opportunity to give the character some depth.
BNP: With Aquaman: The Becoming, and your Black Manta book, this is without a doubt the Blackest the Aquaman franchise and Atlantis has ever been. How does it feel to know you’re a part of expanding a world that has been so traditionally white? And what goes into your process in widening that scope?
CB: First, I just want to say I love this question! Well, it feels fantastic! Brandon Thomas is killing it on Aquaman: The Becoming. When I started developing the Black Manta project, I just stayed true to myself and the stories I like to tell. I must admit at times I was worried if white fans would reject the stories I’m trying to tell. But I had to put that out of my mind and just tell the story. With any comic I write, I draw experiences from my own life, and Black Manta was no different.
BNP: Three issues in, it’s looking more and more likely that Black Manta is a descendent of ancient Atlanteans. Despite that being the coolest twist ever, it’s also a very important part of the story you’re telling. What went into the decision to make such a shocking revelation about this character?
CB: It just seemed like a natural evolution of the character. In reality, Black Americans deal with generational trauma. I thought it would be interesting to have Manta’s trauma link to ancient Atlantis. When Atlantis was an island, King Atlan invited people from all over to help build and grow the civilizations. This would have included engineers from African countries. The idea just made sense to have Manta a descendant. Now, he has to deal with the fact he’s connected to people he hates.
BNP: Black Manta is a villain, but he’s the protagonist of this story. How do you balance telling the story through a mad man’s eyes while also giving a reason for the audience to root for him?
CB: It’s that same weird balance you have with other popular main characters like Walter White in Breaking Bad and Joe Goldberg in You. They are terrible people, but they are also just people. I try and bring out the humanity in the character. His co-stars are a big part of that as well. Gallous acts as his moral anchor throughout the series.
BNP: What can you tell me about Devil Ray (who also has the dopest name), and how his motivations lie in opposition to Black Manta’s?
CB: There isn’t a lot I can say without spoilers. But Devil Ray sees Black Manta as his idol. An idol that he feels let him down and betrayed him and his ideologies. The name Devil Ray is from Dwayne McDuffie’s work in DC animation. The character was used as a replacement for Black Manta.
BNP: What’s in store for the future of Black Manta (from what you can tell us)? What can fans look forward to?
CB: Well, it’s already been announced that Brandon Thomas and I will be co-writing Aquamen with illustrations by Sami Basri. So, you will definitely see Black Manta and his crew again. I want to continue to develop the character’s humanity yet have fun with his badass shoot first nature.
Synopsis for Black Manta #4: Devil Ray has his sights set on Atlantis, and he races to put his grand plans into motion before Black Manta can unlock the secrets of the mysterious and deadly orichalcum metal. Meanwhile, Torrid forms an uneasy alliance with Manta and Gallous the Goat following their throwdown in Ethiopian airspace. But perhaps her reticence is not unfounded, as Manta’s villainous nature emerges on their quest for the truth. Black Manta #4 goes on sale Tuesday, December 14th, and we, at BNP, look forward to more good work from Chuck Brown.
Cover image via Amazon.com