Welcome to Comics Wiki Adventures, a weekly deep dive into just how unhinged comics can be. I will randomly select a character from comics and read their Wiki each week.
I will then take only the choicest bits and serve them to you, over easy. What does that mean? I don’t know.
Anyway, today’s randomly generated character is:
Marvel, Er…No DC…Wait, Nope. Eclipse (Who Even Is That?), No Image…Sorry, Actually, It’s Marvel Comics Own: Mantis
Ok, hold up. This is downright suspicious. I want to maintain some trust with my audience here. To have two weeks in a row with a character in or adjacent to (Don’t spoil the triumphant return of Taserface in the comments below; I’ve yet to see it) the hit movie Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume III is crossing a line. But what can I do? So confident was I that Comicsputer would revolutionize the randomization of comic characters that I’ve turned over all control.
It knows where I live. It has my PIN number. Sure, it can only access the internet via that thing kids use. You know, where they run a string between two cans? But that will only slow it down.
Purging Oxygen From Living Space. Brain Death Is Estimated Within Five Minutes Unless Information Concerning Mantis is Produced.
Sorry, everyone. Don’t worry; it can’t do the thing with the air. Still, I don’t want to risk it. I gotta keep this thing sweet. It has my tax records. Do you know how long it takes to accurately type your tax information into a clown face? Not that long, actually, but it really hurt. So we’ll do Mantis, keep it happy.
Let’s start with some inside baseball, notably everyone’s favorite baseball. What I said in the intro is true, all of it. Mantis was created at Marvel initially but then moved to three other companies with her creator, Steve Engleheart. At least that’s what her Wiki says. Steve’s only mentions DC and Eclipse.
They both agree that over multiple appearances, Mantis slowly developed from a flat stereotype of a sexy marital artist Asian woman into a different flatter stereotype. As Steve puts it, “The femme fatale became the Celestial Madonna.” Yikes. We’ll get back to that in a bit, but let’s take a step back and look at Mantis’ origins.
Returning Oxygen Levels To Full, Thank You For Your Cooperation.
Stop making that hissing sound. I have the window open. There’s a lovely breeze. You’re embarrassing yourself.
Because everyone’s experiences mirror mine perfectly, I’m sure your first introduction to Mantis was in the Guardians of the Galaxy films. There it’s clear that she’s an alien, but her deal is much more convoluted in the comics. When we first meet her, she’s just a lady with a Christmas-themed outfit and a weird haircut that looks like antennae.
She has two normal human parents. Well, normal-ish. Her mom, Lua (so normal she doesn’t even have a Wiki entry), was the sister of a Vietnamese gangster named Khruul, and her dad was a Libra. Weird detail to drop in there, but ok. Via Google, that means he’s “extroverted, cosy, and friendly,” which is total nonsense. But is the idea that astrology might be accurate the craziest thing in Marvel comics? Probably not.
Oh, wait, nope, forget that whole thing, sorry. Her dad was named Gustav Bandt, and he went by Libra. Getting ahead of ourselves on that, though. When he met Mantis’ mom, he was a German guy in Vietnam who happened to be working for the French government. Huh. Why interest would the French have in Vietnam in the fifties? Guess we’ll never know.
So Gustav and Lua had the starcrossed lover thing going on, which was undoubtedly great for their love life but terrible for, you know, being alive. Khruul chased them across the country and eventually killed Lua. Gustav lived but was blinded. Somehow he still escaped the country with the infant Mantis and stumbled upon the Priests of Pama.
These guys are a whole thing but suffice it to say, they were aliens (Kree) safeguarding another kind of alien (Cotati) that looks like plants. And as hidden away monks, they knew martial arts. That’s just how that goes. Or it’s a racialized stereotype like the many others this story exploits as shortcuts to avoid having to do any creative work. Your call on that one.
Gustav learns to fight from them, then leaves his infant daughter and goes to America. To clarify how nuts this is, let me remind you this is a German man who had been working for the French government. It also sucks that he leaves his daughter, though the Wiki says it has been “years” that he trained there, so who knows how old Mantis was by then.
Certainly not Mantis. Because although she was trained by the monks, she forgot all about it. The priests wiped her mind, though they did leave her the sick kicks. They implanted memories of being an unhoused child in Vietnam and kicked her out.
Get to the Guardians of the Galaxy, You’re Flailing.
Look, there’s a lot here. Anyway, Mantis could have joined a traveling show, gone to American schools giving talks to bored fourth graders, and made a killing. Instead, she became a prostitute. And this is where she meets Swordsman. The Swordsman? No idea which is correct. Anyway, he’s a long-time Avengers baddie who wants to reform himself and join them, but he doesn’t think they’ll accept him because of his evil deeds. And also because he’s a loser who pretends that being good with a sword is a superpower.
Mantis gives him a pep talk that he does not deserve, and they head out together to meet the Avengers. Evidently, moderate self-confidence and a pointy object are all you need to get in, as they immediately let both him and Mantis on board (her hair must count as a pointy object).
Mantis then hangs out with the Avengers having adventures, including fighting a gang that has themed themselves after astrology signs. They call themselves the Zodiac Cartel, and one of them, the cosiest of them, was her father. When he got to America, he joined the first evil group that asked, like a chump. So now he has to go by Libra and act like he’s really into balancing things.
I’d love to say he gives her the backstory up until he abandoned her, then she goes back to the priests to investigate, but this is comics. So instead, they waffle about it for months until she is, per the Wiki, “revealed to be the Celestial Madonna.” Who revealed this, and how? No idea. It just happened, ok?
Insert Papa Don’t Preach Joke Here.
So in the resulting kerfuffle, Swordsman sacrifices himself to save her life, and she buries him at the home of the Priests of Pama. Right where the oldest of the plant aliens lived. Naturally, it telepathically took over the body and proposed to Mantis, who accepted without hesitation.
They get married right next to Scarlet Witch and Vision, then leave the planet to mate. Well, their bodies stay there, but their minds fly off and spawn in space. She eventually has the kid back on Earth, but the Priests take it. From this pairing, though, Mantis gets her actual antennae and psionic powers.
Free from having to raise the kid Mantis goes on all kinds of adventures. Way too many to mention. But she eventually meets up with her son Sequoia when he’s a teenager. But, of course, seeing as she is meant to be the Celestial Madonna, that’s gotta be a lot of pressure on the kid.
Enough. Get to the Guardians Of The Galaxy, Now!
Fine! Yes, she joins the Guardians eventually. In fact, under the direction of Peter Quill, she mind-controls the other members to join them to fight aliens called The Phalanx. Basically the Borg but with less cool spaceships. They fight them and win. It’s the least exciting bit of her history, ok? It’s why I didn’t want to talk about it!
So That’s Mantis!
They always make changes when adapting characters in these movies, but she may have a claim for most tweaks. If by tweaks we mean wholesale changes in power set, backstory, and even look.
Thanks for reading! If you liked this article, you might also like this previous entry on Taserface! Or if for some inexplicable reason, you want to check out something I didn’t write, you can check out this feature on some guy named Phil. I have yet to learn who that is, but people sure seem to love the guy. I assume the article is about how cool and amazing he is.
Let me know in the comments below who the most radically adapted character in comics is and who I should randomly select for next week!