Aquaman may not have the Rogues Gallery of some of his Justice League teammates like Batman, Superman, or the Flash. His baddies aren’t even on the level of Green Lantern’s or Wonder Woman’s, if we’re being honest. But that’s not to say they are all bargain basement baddies. The King of Atlantis has a few truly lethal and memorable villains who have plagued him over the decades, and these are the best of the best. Or should we say the worst of the worst?
7. The Scavenger (Peter Mortimer)
The villain known as the Scavenger was just as his name suggests—an underwater scavenger. First appearing in 1968’s Aquaman #37, Peter Mortimer wore a high-tech underwater diving suit, which he used to rummage through the ocean floor for lost treasure and powerful weapons. All of this, of course, brought him into conflict with Aquaman. Scavenger made a handful of appearances in the Silver and Bronze Age of comics. Eventually, he gained mystical powers, which made him a bigger threat. The New 52 reboot of the DC Universe brought him back to basics. Once again, he was a scavenger looting the ocean for ancient Atlantean artifacts. Only this time, he had a much cooler suit.
That much cooler suit helps him land a spot as one of Aquaman’s best baddies.
6. The Shark (Karshan)
The Shark is not to be confused with the Suicide Squad’s King Shark; that’s a totally different guy. No, the villain called the Shark actually originated as an antagonist for Green Lantern Hal Jordan, way back in Green Lantern #24 in 1963. His backstory was your basic Silver Age origin for a villain. A radioactive explosion went off in the ocean, transforming a basic tiger shark into a humanoid hybrid—one who only wanted to seek out prey and devour them. While he was mostly a Green Lantern adversary at first, as a water-based creature, it was inevitable he would wind up as an Aquaman villain. When he fought Arthur, he took on the Atlantean identity of Karshan. He wasn’t as menacing looking as later, similar villains like King Shark. At least not at first. But for some time there, he was a big thorn in Aquaman’s side.
5. The Fisherman
The Fisherman is one of those Silver Age Aquaman villains that just had that extra something creators and fans liked, so he kept coming back. His real name has never been revealed. He’s one of DC’s many pirates who use oceanic motifs as part of his schtick. Still, his look is slightly more memorable than the others. This is mainly because he literally used a giant titanium steel fishing rod as his main weapon. All while wearing a yellow fisherman’s cowl too. Oh, and with thigh-high boots. Because why not? He’s one of the few comic villains who made it into the ’60s Aquaman cartoon, which probably helped him, recognition-wise. DC eventually revealed his goofy fisherman’s hat was actually a parasitic entity that controlled his victims! That fact alone is so bizarre and off-the-wall, that it earns The Fisherman a place on this list.
When writer Peter David created a whole history and lore for ancient Atlantis in his 1990 series The Atlantis Chronicles, one of the best additions was the villainous Kordax. He was born to an ancient Atlantean queen, but then abandoned after his birth because of his green-scaled body and (unusual for Atlanteans) blonde hair. But Kordax didn’t die when abandoned on the reef, because he had the power to telepathically communicate with sea life. And he learned to control them, and later, use them to do his bidding.
Kordax returned as an adult and tried to claim the Atlantean throne, but failed in his coup. Because of his unique hair color, blonde hair became a sign of evil to Atlanteans. And this was also why the Atlantean people abandoned his descendant Orin to die. Centuries later, he returned, and became a lethal enemy for his descendant Orin, now Aquaman, in the Sea King’s ’90s solo series written by his creator, Peter David. Aquaman ultimately killed him, but he made his mark in his short time as an Aquaman adversary. He will at least be referenced in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.
Charybdis didn’t make a ton of appearances in many Aquaman comics. However, he inflicted the most pain on Arthur Curry than anyone other than Black Manta. Created by Peter David and Martin Egeland and first appearing in 1994’s Aquaman #1, Charybdis and his wife, Scylla were named for ancient monsters from Greek mythology. Both were high-profile terrorists who attempted to kill Aquaman for fame and money. But when Scylla was herself instead killed, Charybdis lost his mind with grief.
Similar to Marvel’s Rogue, Charybdis could absorb powers from others. He attempted to absorb Aquaman’s power, and then controlled a school of piranha to eat Aquaman’s hand, leaving nothing but bones. (He’d later replace that lost hand with a giant hook, which was pretty badass, we can’t lie). Charybdis couldn’t control Aquaman’s power, and he himself fell into a pool of piranha. But since this is comics, he didn’t really die. Instead, he melded with the creatures and absorbed their traits, and became Piranha Man. The name Piranha Man might sell more action figures, but we still like the name Charybdis better.
2. Ocean Master (Orm Marius)
Aquaman’s second most important villain is his own half-brother Orm, also known as Ocean Master. Orm has had several backstories over the years, but he’s always been Arthur Curry’s bitter sibling. First appearing in 1966’s Aquaman #29, he was originally a high-tech pirate. In the post-Crisis era, DC reinvented him as a sorcerer who wielded Atlantean magic, and the half-brother of Aquaman via his human father, Tom Curry. Peter David’s version was Aquaman’s half-brother via sharing the same father, this time the ancient Atlantean sorcerer Atlan.
In Geoff Johns’ New 52 era take on the character in 2011, he was an Atlantean royal, the other son of Queen Atlanna, who had a vendetta against the surface world for their pollution of the oceans, and who sought to destroy them. This was the version Patrick Wilson played that made it to live-action in the Aquaman film. Regardless of how he was related to Aquaman and by which parent, his role as the wildly jealous half-sibling was always constant. It always made the stakes between himself and his arch-enemy truly personal. Add to that a memorable design (that helmet is both goofy and cool), and he’ll always be one of Aquaman’s most famous bad guys.
1. Black Manta (David Hyde)
Over the decades, Aquaman faced off against many air-breathing undersea criminal types in diving suits. Many of which remain forgotten today. So why did Black Manta, who debuted in Aquaman #35 in 1967, rise to the top? And why is David Hyde the greatest of all Aquaman villains, even over his jealous half-brother Orm? Three reasons: His costume design is cool as hell. Never underestimate the power of a killer look in superhero comics. Second, he appeared in the Aquaman animated series, and later, on the Challenge of the Super-Friends. And finally, he committed the worst act ever done by a supervillain to their arch-enemy—he murdered Aquaman’s young son.
Ever since that seminal story back in the ‘70s, Black Manta became Arthur Curry’s most famous foe. The Joker to his Batman. Modern comics have given Black Manta more layers and backstory, including revealing his motivations against the King of Atlantis. One of those reasons is that he blamed Aquaman for the death of his father. Because of all of these things, Black Manta was not only a villain in the first Aquaman film, played by Yayah Abdul-Mateen II, but also in the upcoming Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom as well. For all of these reasons, we highly doubt anyone will ever replace Black Manta as Aquaman’s most notorious enemy.