June 12, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Slightly Misplaced Comic Book Characters Case File #431: Mantis

Since I am on a roll with the Guardians of the Galaxy, how about Mantis next?

OK, I think I have a nice set of articles going right now.  Truthfully, this was Watson’s idea, but it’s a good one:  take a look at the various Guardians of the Galaxy from the MCU and point out just how radically different they were from their comic book originals.  I’ve covered Groot, Rocket, and in columns past Cosmo and Drax.  Also someone else who was namedropped in a post-credits scene that I won’t say more about here.

Anyway, up next is Mantis, that empathic alien bug woman played so memorably by Pom Klementieff.  What was her original deal?

Yeah, Mantis (like Drax) actually started off as a normal human on planet Earth.  She’s not an alien at all.  First appearing in Avengers #112 in June of 1973 from writer Steve Englehart and artist Don Heck, there’s nothing alien about Mantis’s biology. And well, I’ll say it here:  Mantis’s backstory hasn’t aged well.

Anyway, “classic” Mantis looked like this:

OK, so Mantis was the daughter of German supervillain Libra and a Vietnamese woman.  She grew up in Vietnam, and her original characterization was basically that of a “dragon lady” style seductress.  She walked around barefoot and knew a lot of martial arts.  Her antenna were actually a way she did her hair, and she tended to refer to herself in the third person.  Anyway, Libra left his young daughter with the Priests of Pama, a group of alien Kree priests who trained her in the martial arts and helped her develop natural psychic skills that, over time, seem to basically be whatever the story asks of her.

After spending time as a prostitute, Mantis was working in a bar when she met the Swordsman, a onetime Avengers who was actually a villain’s spy who wanted to reform and rejoin the team.  Mantis offered to go with him, becoming an ally and an Avenger, romantically linked to the Swordsman when she wasn’t trying to seduce the Vision.

The Vision wasn’t interested.

Now, Mantis’s big thing was actually her son.  The aforementioned Priests of Pama saw her as the “Celestial Madonna,” an Earth woman who would have a child by the plant-like alien Cotati.  Said Cotati would come to her in the body of the deceased Swordsman, so I guess that makes sense.  Her eventual son would go by the name Sequoia, and she would spend time raising him before handing him off to his father’s people.  From there, she headed into space with the Silver Surfer and more or less stayed there.  She battled Thanos, or a clone of him, and did a lot of stuff involving astral projection and the like with her psychic skills gradually overtaking her physical ones.  And that’s not getting into her time as a Bride of Kang, something that so horrified fans that it was retconned out that it was a Space Phantom in her form the whole time.

Heck, by the time the second Annhilation story came along, she was green for some reason, I don’t know of the antenna were real or part of a headband, and her psychic abilities seemed to include full-on precognition.  That would be when she met Star-Lord, and eventually, she’d join up with the Guardians of the Galaxy.

That’s pretty different from the naive oddball from the MCU.

So, that’s Mantis.  Who will be next?  I dunno.  But if it’s an MCU Guardian, there’s a good chance the original story is way different.