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Aquaman’s post-credits scene, explained

Spoiler alert.

Jason Momoa in Aquaman.
Warner Bros.
Alex Abad-Santos is a senior correspondent who explains what society obsesses over, from Marvel and movies to fitness and skin care. He came to Vox in 2014. Prior to that, he worked at the Atlantic.

Aquaman, Warner Bros.’ marine opera superhero flick, has one post-credits scene. The scene calls back to the movie while simultaneously setting up the potential conflict for a future Aquaman sequel, should one get made.

Credits scenes have become a tradition in superhero movies, and are used by studios and filmmakers to reward the fervent fandoms that follow comics-based properties. Marvel, for example, has frequently used them to tease future villains and heroes, and to hint at upcoming movies; indeed, every Marvel Studios movie in recent memory has had at least one post-credits scene.

Warner Bros., meanwhile, has used credits scenes more sparingly. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Wonder Woman did not have any. Suicide Squad had a much-maligned one that teased the formation of the Justice League. And Justice League, which came out in 2017, had two — one of which teased a future villain.

So Aquaman having a credits scene at all is somewhat notable in itself. On top of that, it’s a pretty juicy one.

Aquaman spoilers follow

In Aquaman’s credits scene, Black Manta is saved and gets some help

In the film, Black Manta is treated as a secondary villain to King Orm. Early in the movie, Black Manta and Aquaman clash after Aquaman rescues a Russian sub that Manta tries to hijack. Then we see him get an under-the-table weapons upgrade from King Orm, who believes he can use Manta to do his dirty work and dispatch Aquaman — Manta uses his new weaponry to fashion a laser beam-firing helmet for himself. Finally, in the film’s third act, Mera and Aquaman, while traveling to find the magic trident, catch up with Manta in Sicily, defeat him, break his helmet, and throw him into the ocean.

That’s where Aquaman’s post-credits scene picks up.

Manta is floating unconscious in the sea and gets rescued by men on a boat. It’s not entirely clear who his saving him, but as we see shots of the boat’s interior, we see that whoever it is has a deep interest in Aquaman’s identity — various newspaper clippings about Aquaman are pinned to a board and connected with string in a heavy-handed, “whoever did this is a conspiracy theorist” type of way.

When Manta wakes up, it’s revealed that his rescuer is Doctor Stephen Shin (Randall Park). In the Aquaman comics, Shin is a genius-level scientist with ties to Aquaman; He appears in a couple brief moments during the movie, as a scientific expert and researcher working on land who believes Atlantis is real.

The credits scene shows Manta and Shin making a pact: Shin will help Manta find out Aquaman’s true identity and repair Manta’s laser beam-firing helmet and Manta will reveal the secret of Atlantis to him.

The credits scene ends with that agreement, possibly hinting that Manta will be the villain of an upcoming Aquaman sequel, if a sequel comes to pass. It’s pretty straightforward, as Manta vows revenge on Aquaman and Shin gets confirmation that his theories about Atlantis’s existence are correct.

But with that said, it wouldn’t be too strange, considering how easily Aquaman brushes Manta aside in Aquaman, for Manta and Shin to become the secondary villains in a future movie.

Regardless, we might be getting ahead of ourselves — even though Aquaman is already a hit, a sequel has yet to be announced.