'Aquaman': The Comic Book Story Behind That Mid-Credits Scene

[This story contains spoilers for Aquaman.]

For those hoping that the mid-credit sequence at the end of Aquaman makes more sense once the comic book history of the character is factored in, there’s some good news, and some less so. On the one hand, yes, those two characters have an important comic book canon relationship. On the other, it’s really not what you might expect.

Throughout the film we saw clips of Dr. Stephen Shin (Randall Park) on TV sharing his theories about Atlantis. He was dismissed as a quack, but he was vindicated in the mid-credits scene in which he discovers Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) bruised and broken after his Italian encounter with Aquaman (Jason Momoa). Shin patches the villain up, and begins to explore his Atlantian technology as well. 

While Black Manta has been part of Aquaman’s undersea world since 1967’s Aquaman No. 35, Dr. Stephen Shin is a far more recent addition to Aquaman’s comic book mythology, but an important one; after being teased in 2011’s Aquaman No. 2, he properly appeared the following issue, introduced as someone with knowledge of undersea life and a past connection with Aquaman, but not a good one — the two clearly have a strained relationship when the reader first sees them together, with Aquaman describing Shin as someone who “could be a very dangerous man. Right now … he’s just a sad one.”

The reason for that is revealed months later, in a storyline that sees Shin fall under suspicion of working alongside Black Manta, with Aquaman and others — literally, a team of superpowers beings called The Others — believing the two to be in league. In a series of flashbacks, it’s revealed that Shin, a marine biologist, helped Aquaman’s father raise the hero as a boy, before the two fell out over whether to reveal the boy’s powers to the world.

Distraught and desperate to save his career, Shin hired a treasure hunter to obtain a sample of the teen Aquaman’s blood — who would, eventually, become Black Manta. The attempt was interrupted by Aquaman’s father, who had a fatal heart attack as a result of the ensuing fight. Driven by rage, Aquaman attacked and killed the man he believed to be Manta, who was in fact Manta’s father, launching the continuous cycle of violence between the two men.

Shin, then, is responsible for the bad blood between Aquaman and Black Manta, and — as in the case of the 2012 storyline that introduced The Others — occasionally an active player in their fights despite his will. While Manta shares Aquaman’s disdain of Shin (Indeed, a running theme in his comic book appearances is that nobody seems to actually like him), both men believe that he can be useful when trying to understand certain things, whether they’re new underwater threats or how to sneak into Atlantis.

Whether this is the direction Shin’s future cinematic career will take remains to be seen — in Aquaman's mid-credit sequence, he certainly appears to be less the man with all the answers than a man searching for answers, at least. But even there, he has a knowledge of Aquaman’s past that anyone, especially one of the hero’s sworn enemies, could find useful.

While the cinematic Shin can’t be the one behind the origin of Black Manta, there are far more Aqua-villains he could help bring about on the big screen. Does the Fisherman need a new origin?