Water covers over 70% of Earth. In DC comics, that means over 70% of the earth is belongs to the king of the seas himself, Aquaman. While there are other characters in DC Comics capable of living underwater, Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman, is the most well-known aquatic hero, not only in DC Comics, but in all of pop culture. Originally introduced in 1941, Aquaman’s grown to become an incredibly popular character and the undisputed ruler of the seas. In the comics, and in the upcoming Aquaman film, Arthur Curry is the only thing standing (or swimming) between the world’s ocean-going villains and the surface world.
The Justice League may patrol the skies, but the sea is left up to Aquaman. With such a large domain to guard, Aquaman has an overflowing rogues gallery full of parasitic ocean dwellers (and a few sea-loving surface dwellers). There are a few Aquaman villains even casual fans will be familiar with, but it’s a little hard to keep up with everyone on the King of Atlantis’ long list of adversaries. The ocean is huge and full of vile creatures bent on disrupting the surface world. Of course, there are also a lot of humans bent on using the ocean’s vast resources for personal gain. In preparation for DC’s upcoming film, Aquaman, CBR is counting down 20 of Aquaman’s most ruthless villains. From obscure one-arc-and-done characters to foes who’ve faced Aquaman’s wrath hundreds of times, we’re including every oceanic adversary who we think deserves to be considered a real threat to Aquaman's throne.
20 BLACK JACK
The original Black Jack hasn’t been seen in a while, but during DC’s Golden Age this modern-day pirate was supposedly Aquaman’s greatest threat. Plundering the seas, throwing people overboard, and living the stereotypical Pirate’s life were all characteristic parts of Black Jack’s fairly unoriginal character. As one might guess, he frequently encountered Aquaman after trying to steal from other ships or while attempting to drown passengers.
We ended up giving the pretty lame Black Jack a place on our list because of the “reinvented” version of the character. DC reintroduced Black Jack as a super secret female “pirate” (of sorts) in Rebirth Aquaman. Her cool spy suit is more than enough to warrant the very bottom spot.
19 DEMON GATE
Besides being a water-breathing cyborg with flame throwers built into his wrists, Demon Gate, Kimon Tanaka, isn’t that crazy of a villain. Compared to most of Aquaman’s adversaries, Demon Gate is relatively tame. He got some sophisticated robotic enhancements via his scientist brother, but he isn’t the next Victor Stone. There's only one reason we put this B-rated villain on our list of Aquaman antagonists: Porm.
If you’re a dedicated Aquaman fan, you know that Porm is Aquaman’s adopted dolphin mom. When the Atlanteans abandoned him at an early age, Porm rescued Arthur and taught him vital skills. As strange as it may sound, Arthur and Porm had a familial bond. Aquaman was emotionally crushed when Demon Gate took his life. Villains can do some awful things, but doing that to a dolphin? That’s a low hit.
18 THE EEL
For a lot of super-powered individuals, it’s all in the suit. Iron Man, Doc Ock, and Blue Beetle all have their hi-tech suits to thank for their astronomical feats. Without their tech, these heroes (and villains) would be ordinary people, like Mortimer Coolidge.
Mortimer, aka Eel, started off his criminal career in Gotham City before moving to San Diego. While there, Eel gained an aquatic suit that gives him hydrokinesis and the ability to breathe underwater. His suit makes him a formidable foe, since Aquaman doesn’t have telekinetic control over water. However, since Eel’s powers originate from his removable technology, we’re giving him a high spot on our list. If Eel’s powers were organic, we’d be a little more impressed.
Peter Mortimer, aka Scavenger, initially just seems creepy, but not necessarily dangerous. Sporting futuristic diving suits and overdramatic plans for world domination, Scavenger gives the impression of all talk and no action. After all, how can a guy in a diving suit outsmart a whole civilization that can breathe underwater?
Surprisingly, pretty easily. Scavenger grabs a spot on our list for his natural cleverness and expert tracking skills. He has proven to be scary good at finding sunken artifacts. Sometimes these artifacts aren’t quite as useful as he had imagined they’d be, but often times they’re quite powerful. His diving abilities and intelligence make him a dangerous opponent, even against those who call the ocean home. Though he can’t breathe underwater, he knows the ocean floor better than Aquaman himself.
A lot of Aquaman fans mistakenly assume Atlantis and Xebel (Mera’s childhood home) are the only underwater cities in DC’s seven seas. In truth, there are numerous oceanic civilizations home to sentient underwater life. One of those groups are the Idylists, a pacifistic culture dedicated to peaceful existence. The benevolent King Thar ruled the Idylists for many years until his jealous brother, Slizzath, usurped him using powerful dark magic.
Slizzath is easily one of the most talented magic wielders in the world of Aquaman. This is mostly due to his affinity for necromancy, or the ability to raise those who have passed on. His army of undead soldiers regularly wrecks havoc on the ill-prepared Atlantis.
15 CREATURE KING
Science experiments can yield wonderful things, like life changing medications and technology. The world moves forward through experimentation, but sometimes science can go a little too far. This is definitely the case for Creature King, who was once a normal human who became the victim of an experiment on the hybridization between human and marine life. Scientist Dr. Orson combined Jeb Coombs’ DNA with that of marine animals, transforming him into “Chimera”, aka Creature King.
Creature King has an array of abilities, including shape shifting, electrokinesis, and chemical secretion. He also has razor sharp teeth, radically enhanced senses, and some telepathic prowess. Creature King was an important villain in the New 52 Aquaman series, where his never-ending list of powers baffled Aquaman.
14 DEAD WATER
The scary thing about Dead Water is that it isn’t a single person. In 2016, Aquaman writers introduced a completely new kind of villain into the world of Aquaman. Dead Water is an ancient aquatic “essence” (of sorts) that, when exposed to humans, can transform them into grotesque eel-like monsters. During Dead Water’s arc in Aquaman numerous humans became these deadly creatures, including some of Arthur’s closest friends.
While you can reverse the transformation, it isn’t easy. Dead Water creatures are strong, fast, and have numerous powers such as hydroportation and hydrokinesis. Their only real weakness is a dependency on water. It’s this dependency that’s ultimately their downfall and Aquaman’s saving grace.
13 CORUM RATH
When you’re king, some of your most dangerous foes are your own subjects. Nobody knows this better than Aquaman, who’s had to endure numerous uprisings and revolutions while wearing the metaphorical crown. His most untrustworthy citizen, Corum Rath, was the leader of the Deluge -- an Atlantean terrorist faction with an intense hatred for the “surface world”.
In recent comics, Corum Rath persuades the Royal Council of Atlantis to remove Aquaman’s title as king and instate himself instead. Rath becomes a ruthless king who uses a twisted version of Atlantean sorcery to maintain power. It is this sorcery that eventually transforms Rath into a vile aquatic monstrosity with vast magical abilities.
Dealing with an ex is never easy. It becomes that much harder when your wife’s ex-fiance is a crazy war-mongering king who’s bent on destroying your city. We’re talking about none other than Mera’s first (and forced) romantic interest King Nereus of Xebel. Aquaman first came in contact with Nereus after he fell in love with Nereus’ betrothed -- Mera. Once Nereus realized that Mera had not fulfilled her mission to end Aquaman and had married him instead, he grew enraged with jealousy.
Nereus’ hatred for Aquaman is childish, but it has serious effects. Because of Nereus, Xebel is constantly harassing Atlantis. Were Nereus to finally get over Mera’s marriage to Aquaman, Xebel could become Atlantis’ greatest ally.
Born with blonde hair and a penchant for speaking to sea life, the Atlantean villain Kordax has a lot in common with Arthur Curry. They both have royal Atlantean blood and have faced exile from their homeworld. Like Arthur, Kordax was born out of a forbidden union that stripped him of many privileges. Kordax even lost a hand like his half-human counterpart.
Although Kordax is much older, having lived for over 10,000 years, he is, in some ways, Aquaman’s evil twin. Ever since he was banished by Atlantis for aiding an uprising, Kordax has been trying to destroy Atlantean culture -- beginning with its royalty. Instead of using his awesome powers to help Atlantis thrive (as Aquaman does), Kordax uses his control over sea life to disrupt Atlantean life and make Aquaman’s life that much harder.
Thanks to the massive changes wrought by DC’s New 52 reboot, there are technically two Sirens in the Aquaman universe. For this list, we’re talking about Mera’s twin sister and the original Siren. Though she isn’t as powerful as the New 52 Siren, who’s a shape-shifting mermaid, Hila (as she was originally called) has a much longer history with Aquaman.
Similar to her sister Mera, Siren is an advanced hydrokinetic with the ability to manipulate water. It is this impressive power, along with her familial relationship with Mera, that makes her one of Aquaman’s most difficult adversaries. Because she looks a lot like his wife and is closely related to her, Aquaman always struggles when going up against Siren.
You’ve probably realized by now that Atlantis doesn’t have the most stable government. There are numerous villains dedicated to usurping the King of Atlantis, including Corum Rath, Siren, and, less recently, Hagen. The Atlantean magic-wielder known only as Hagen grew to power during the 2003 Aquaman series. His position as Prime Minister of Atlantis was mostly a farce -- he controlled Queen Mera like a puppet and was essentially the king.
As “King,” Hagen used powerful dark magic to keep his subjects in line. Hagen’s nationalistic outer persona also helped to keep him safe from public upheaval, which made him all the more dangerous. Unlike a lot of Aquaman’s other enemies, Hagen is an incredibly smart politician. He knows how to be secretive and how to worm his way up any government ladder.
8 THE THIRST
The Thirst also first appeared during the 2003 Aquaman series, but his origins are a little more magical than Hagen’s. Technically, the Thirst is just dried river mud magically molded into a humanoid form. He’s the mystical brother of the ancient “Waterbearer” goddess who replaced Aquaman’s hook hand with a magical water hand early on in the series.
The Thirst’s main goal is to absorb his sister’s power via drinking all of her magical water. This includes the water that makes up Aquaman’s fancy hand. Using necromancy and some impressive intellect, the parasitic Thirst nearly defeated Aquaman in battle. Without the mysterious “light” of the universe helping him out, Aquaman would’ve become the Thirst’s final sip.
7 THE TRENCH
Aquaman knows the ocean and he’s telepathically talked to every marine species on earth. Water is his domain, so It would seem impossible for an entire species of water-breathers to hide from the King of Atlantis. Yet, in 2011’s Aquaman #1, Aquaman encounters the vicious race known as “The Trench” for the first time.
Individually, they’re strong, fast, and have extremely strong teeth. When huddled together in large groups (as they typically are) the Trench species is almost impossible to stop. An animalistic desire to feed fuels them, but they don’t respond to Aquaman’s marine telepathy. This feeding frenzy behavior can easily decimate an entire surface village within minutes.
Some of Aquaman’s villains, like the Thirst and Dead Water, are surprisingly unique. When dealing with a hero who lives primarily in the ocean, it isn’t easy coming up with original villains who don’t remind readers of cheesy seafood restaurants. Of course, it’s a lot easier just to rely on stereotypes, as in the case of Fisherman. His outfit and name are right out of an episode of Spongebob and his bland personality leaves something to be desired.
Still, Fisherman grabs a solid spot on our list because he’s a surprisingly formidable foe. As a highly trained thief specializing in underwater tech, Fisherman regularly comes into contact with Aquaman. Elusive, intelligent, and always heavily armed, Fisherman routinely proves himself to be a better villain than his bland name suggests.
Charybdis is known for doing only one thing: taking off Aquaman’s hand. Beyond that, the metahuman eco-terrorist doesn’t have too many defining traits. He is powerful, which is why he was able to turn off Aquaman’s marine telepathy before sticking Arthur’s hand in piranha-infested waters. However, the comics never documented his exact powers very well. Since he only appeared for a short time during the ‘90s Aquaman series, there isn’t a ton of information on him.
Still, for this list, Charybdis’ main claim to fame is enough to grant him a good spot. Permanently scarring Aquaman isn't easy. Without having done much of anything else, we know that Charybdis isn’t someone anyone would want to mess with -- especially Aquaman.
If Greek mythology (or Wonder Woman comics) have taught us anything it’s that gods are really, really hard to get rid of. They’re incredibly powerful and represent the end-all-be-all in most fantasy based storylines -- comics included. Triton, the son of the Greek god Poseidon, became Aquaman’s adversary in the ‘90s after the young god observed how devoted Atlanteans were to their king. Jealous of Aquaman’s power over his subjects, Triton demanded a one-on-one battle.
Of course, Aquaman wins but his victory is a little baffling. Aquaman is powerful but he isn’t a god. Triton has enhanced strength, speed, and endurance thanks to his divine blood. However, as a god, Triton’s powers are connected to the level of devotion people have for him. When Aquaman fought him, Triton didn’t have many followers, which made him weaker.
3 THE DEAD KING
DC’s 2011 New 52 reboot changed a lot of things. In the world of Aquaman, New 52 removed Atlan's (aka the Dead King) history and rewrote the character. Sometimes this sort of rewriting is unneeded, but in the case of the Dead King, it was very needed. The Dead King pre-New 52 didn’t have defined origins or powers. The Dead King post-New 52 is easily one of Aquaman’s greatest villains.
Thousands of years ago, Atlan was an Atlantean king whose brother overthrew him. In his anger, Atlan took revenge by sinking Atlantis into the ocean. In the present, the Dead King returned to take the crown of Atlantis from Aquaman. Armed with godlike strength and the ability to control ice, the Dead King came dangerously close to stealing Aquaman’s throne.
2 OCEAN MASTER
Ocean Master has gone through a lot of character changes since DC introduced him in 1966, but most fans probably know him as Orm -- Aquaman’s jealous half-brother. In the New 52 continuum, Ocean Master shares the same Atlantean mother as Arthur, but unlike his brother, Orm also has an Atlantean father. Like so many other villains on our list, Ocean Master is constantly trying to steal Aquaman’s crown since he considers himself the “true” heir to the throne of Atlantis.
Because of Orm’s full royal Atlantean parentage, he possesses superhuman strength, speed, and durability. He’s also a proficient magic user with the ability to conjure lightning and manipulate water (to some degree). Because they share many powers, Orm and Aquaman’s battles are always close.
1 BLACK MANTA
Every character on this list has their own reason for being Aquaman’s enemy. Some want his throne, some want his riches, and some, like Black Manta, just want revenge. Compared to the other villains we’ve already listed, Black Manta has the best reason for hating Aquaman. Black Manta once worked alongside his father as a treasure hunter and mercenary. During Black Manta’s mission to collect a young Arthur Curry, Aquaman’s dad Thomas Curry lost his life in the struggle. Aquaman returned the favor by taking out Black Manta’s father.
After that, Black Manta abandoned treasure hunting in favor of man hunting. Using advanced weaponry and the purest form of hatred, Black Manta’s tracked Aquaman all over the world, nearly ending him dozens of times. He is undoubtedly Aquaman’s greatest enemy.