WARNING: Spoilers for Aquaman.
Aquaman's after-credits scene delivers on one of the movie's recurring gags and even sets up a sequel. Directed by James Wan, the latest DC blockbuster tells an epic tale of political turmoil in kingdom of Atlantis. Despite its massive scale, the journey of Jason Momoa's Arthur Curry to unite the seven underwater kingdoms is also very insular, containing almost no mention of any other DCEU movies, and that includes the tease that comes in the end credits.
Sure enough, fans hoping for a tease of another possible crossover or an appearance from Ben Affleck's Batman or Henry Cavill's Superman, or even Zachary Levi's Shazam, will be disappointed. As far as Arthur's concerned, he's a lone wolf whose part in the Justice League movie was a one-time deal to save the world. Arthur was more than happy to continue living his life in the shadows, but it's another series of events that bring him back into the fold.
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And then, by the end of Aquaman, Arthur Curry finally becomes the king of Atlantis, a realm that was almost torn apart by an attempt to wage war on the surface world. Going by what audiences see in Aquaman's after-credits scene, Arthur's worries about the divide between the surface world and Atlantis may just be getting started.
- This Page: Aquaman's After-Credits Scene & Dr. Shin's Backstory
- Next Page: Black Manta's Future in Aquaman 2 and Justice League 2
What Happens In Aquaman's After-Credits Scene?
Broken, beaten, and adrift at sea after his failed attempt to kill Aquaman in Sicily, David Hyde, aka Black Manta, is discovered by a small fishing boat off the Italian coast in Aquaman's after-credits scene. Waking up on-board with his suit off and bandages on his wounds, Hyde notices someone - Randall Park's Dr. Stephen Shin - tinkering with the damaged remains of his suit. Black Manta warns Dr. Shin that the technology is volatile just before the helmet shoots a beam that melts a hole in the roof. Knowing this kind of advanced weaponry could only come from one place, Shin excitedly asks David if he somehow got the equipment from Atlantis, which Hyde confirms.
Finally having someone and something that prove Atlantis and Atlanteans exist, Dr. Shin pleads with Black Manta to take him there. Black Manta agrees on the condition that, in the process, Dr. Shin will help him find and kill Aquaman (after Aquaman chose not to save Black Manta's father, despite being attacked by the pirate and DC supervillain), throwing a knife through a newspaper article tacked to the wall speculating on the identity and existence of the fabled Aquaman.
Who Is Dr. Stephen Shin?
A newer addition to the Aquaman ensemble, Dr. Stephen Shin is a marine biologist obsessed with visiting Atlantis. Created in 2011 by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis, Dr. Shin debuted early in Aquaman's New 52 run, and has been a recurring character ever since. Dr. Shin was friends with Tom Curry - Arthur's father - in the comics, and was a fundamental part of Arthur's life while he was growing up; he helped the half-Atlantean understand his powers in the hope that their bond would lead to Arthur telling him how to find Atlantis. When Arthur continually refuses, Dr. Shin betrays him by revealing his identity to the world.
Something of an anti-hero, Dr. Shin's incredible knowledge of marine biology and associated sciences has made him an asset to Arthur and Mera, assisting them in investigating strange creatures and old Atlantean artifacts. However, his obsession with Atlantis makes it difficult for Arthur to trust or forgive him, and he maintains a distant relationship unless Dr. Shin is targeted by one of his enemies, such as Black Manta. The Aquaman movie version is an interesting spin on the character, as it retains that Dr. Shin is one of the world's foremost experts on Atlantis and marine biology, but it cuts out Dr. Shin's comic history with the Curry family. In Aquaman, Dr. Shin is a regular expert panelist on news and current affairs shows, discussing the “Aquaman,” and trying to tell people that Atlantis is a real place while everyone guffaws at such a notion.
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Dr. Shin's presence is mostly world-building and comic relief, acting as an audience-insert for the naive people that refuse to believe in Atlantis' existence. But there's a darker inflection with his refusal to entertain the notion that he might be wrong. When Black Manta wakes up in Dr. Shin's boat, the walls are covered in newspaper clippings – this is the biologist's life's work, and that makes him an easy target for manipulation. He would do anything to get to Atlantis and show the world that he's not crazy, and as such he makes a deal with a mortal enemy of Arthur Curry's, whose actions nearly caused a global war between Atlantis and the surface world. Of course, Dr. Shin couldn't know Black Manta and Aquaman's history, but that the Atlantean technology doesn't worry him demonstrates that his sense of reason and morality is definitely a little off-kilter.
Black Manta's Future In Aquaman 2... And Justice League 2
Aquaman and Black Manta's feud can go any number of ways in an Aquaman sequel. Black Manta's yearning for vengeance is given just enough pathos that it's clear he will return, but with no definitive course other than he'll have Dr. Shin in tow. Throughout his comic history, Black Manta has been involved in terrorist attacks on the state of Atlantis and hunting for rare Atlantean relics, among other things. Two options seem the most feasible, though: some form of insurgent assault on Atlantis, or a reverse of King Orm's plan with a baiting of the surface world to wage war on the underwater kingdoms.
The former would be a reference to one of Black Manta's earliest stories, where he attacks the agricultural infrastructure of Atlantis in an attempt to seize control of the nation. At the time it was written, in the 1960s, Black Manta was driven by racial persecution, wanting to make Atlantis into a colony for African-Americans to live in peace away from the oppression they were suffering. His plan came close to fruition, too; Aquaman and Aqualad escaped during a brief window and just about stopped the villain, with Aquaman barely refraining from killing his newly-crowned nemesis.
Trying to stoke a war between the surface-dwellers and the seven kingdoms is a newer idea, though, which was seen in DC Rebirth's Aquaman comic series. In it, Black Manta joins forces with a secret society known as N.E.M.O. (Nautical Enforcement of Macrocosmic Order), who're trying to take over the world by harnessing the power of the oceans. He works with them to disrupt Aquaman's plans for peace by staging assaults under the guise of Atlantean forces, using Atlantean technology they've salvaged over the years. The plan falters as Black Manta becomes more maniacal, by commandeering control and choosing to blow up their base of operations rather than risk capture when it looks like Aquaman will successfully stop them.
Both of these would make for a functionally larger, thematically rich follow up to Aquaman. Dr. Shin helping broker peace between Atlantis and the rest of the world, and, in doing so, creating an opening for Black Manta to infiltrate before getting cold feet is a strong dramatic arc, and the introduction of N.E.M.O. and the possibility of another war works just as well. That said, it's perhaps best to wait before using another plot involving averting global war, instead saving this story for a big trilogy-ender that serves as the climax of Aquaman and Black Manta's rivalry.
As far as Justice League 2 goes, Black Manta was an original member of DC's Legion of Doom during the group's introduction in the Hanna Barbera cartoon Challenge of the Super Friends. Although broader plans in the DCEU are currently unknown as far as what a second Justice League movie will look like, a Legion of Doom made up of villains introduced in various solo movies is a captivating way to initiate crossover. Deathstroke and Lex Luthor are already in place as per Justice League, and Wonder Woman 1984 has Cheetah – another founding Legion of Doom member. Black Manta has no shortage of hatred for Aquaman, and although he probably won't play well with others, he, Cheetah, and the rest of the Legion of Doom founders will likely find a lot of common ground in their disdain for the Justice League.