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Avengers 123 An Origin For MantisTHE AVENGERS Volume 1, Number 123 (May 1974) An Origin For Mantis

As our homegirl MANTIS here passionately defends her father Libra’s eccentric decision to wear hot-pants into battle, I’ll welcome you to Balladeer’s Blog’s latest installment of The Celestial Madonna Saga.

NOTE: This issue is titled AN Origin For Mantis, not THE Origin. For reasons that will become clear later Libra is not telling the full story this time around but he still fills in a LOT of background regarding his mysterious daughter. 

AVENGERS ROSTER: Thor (Donald Blake, MD), Iron Man (Tony Stark), The Scarlet Witch (Wanda), The Black Panther (Prince T’Challa), The Vision (not applicable), The Swordsman (Jacques Duquesne) and MANTIS (Mantis Brandt).


Synopsis: Our previous installment ended at the skyscraper headquarters of the international supervillain team called Zodiac. In the aftermath of the Avengers’ defeat and capture of the entire group, Libra (Gustav Brandt) revealed that the only reason he betrayed Zodiac was to save Mantis, claiming she is his daughter. 

Mantis reacts furiously, accusing Libra of claiming to be her father as some cruel attempt to garner sympathy from the Avengers, possibly for a lighter prison sentence.

The argument is cut short by Iron Man, who insists that the conversation continue ONLY away from the prying ears of their deadly foes in Zodiac. The Vision concurs, all the while hiding his fear that his android brain is beginning to malfunction and that THAT is the reason for his frantic panic episodes in Taurus’ penthouse swimming pool last time around and in Dormammu’s quicksand at the end of the Avengers-Defenders War.

So, after the authorities arrive to occupy Zodiac HQ the Avengers take in their prisoners with the sole exception of Libra. After the usual post-mission press conference and such for our heroes they gather back at Avengers Mansion with Libra temporarily released in their custody.

Mantis hai ahhThe injured Swordsman is well enough to listen from his wheelchair as his teammates interrogate Libra. Mantis impatiently insists that she never knew any father and calls Libra a liar once more. Given the way the blind member of Zodiac handles himself in battle as well as the blind superhero Daredevil does, the Vietnamese woman even goes so far as to accuse him of FAKING his blindness.

She strips off the blindfold that serves as Libra’s mask and she plus the other Avengers are shocked and disgusted at the burns and scars that surround the empty eye sockets of Libra – Gustav Brandt. He re-ties the blindfold around his eyes and begins his tale. Continue reading


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jamesjoyceYes, it’s the 16th of June, better known to James Joyce geeks like me as Bloom’s Day. The day is named in honor of Leopold Bloom, the Jewish advertising sales rep and Freemason who is one of the major characters in Joyce’s novel Ulysses. The novel also brings along Stephen Dedalus, the protagonist of his earlier novel Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

For those unfamiliar with this work, Ulysses is Joyce’s stream-of-consciousness novel in which he metaphorically features the events from the Odyssey in a single day – June 16th, 1904, in Dublin. (The day he met Nora Barnacle, the woman he would eventually marry after living together for decades) Bloom represents Ulysses/Odysseus, Stephen represents Telemachus and Leopold’s wife, Molly Bloom, represents Penelope.

The novel is jam-packed with Continue reading


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zombie sailorTHE SHIP OF SILENT MEN (1920) – Written by Philip M Fisher. The crew of a ship called the Lanoa set out from Hawaii. A few days later an abnormally powerful electrical storm strikes, leaving the area unusually cold in its wake.

The men on board the Lanoa don’t have much time to ponder that before they begin receiving distress signals from a ship identified as the Karnak. Even though the message indicates that the death of the entire crew seems imminent, the Lanoa receives the message again later, after assuming the Karnak met with disaster.  Continue reading

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Avengers 121 Houses Divided ...THE AVENGERS Volume 1, Number 121 (March 1974) Houses Divided Cannot Stand

AVENGERS ROSTER: Thor, Iron Man, The Scarlet Witch, The Black Panther, The Vision, The Swordsman and MANTIS. 


Synopsis: Atop the World Trade Center Towers the battle between the Avengers and the supervillain team called Zodiac has come to a pause. That pause was brought on by Mantis’ mutant empathic powers filling her with the pain that Taurus’ Star Blazer Cannon inflicted on New York’s Geminis. This caused her to be overwhelmed and fall down, teetering on the edge of the roof and in danger of plummeting to her death below.

With all the combatants now focused on Mantis’ potential fate the Zodiac member Aries encourages their leader Taurus to unleash another blast from the damaged cannon to hopefully cause Mantis to fall.

Taurus refuses. With Zodiac’s attempt to kill every Gemini in New York thwarted by the damage done to the Star Blazer during the clash of superteams he now wants to simply make an escape and offers to spare Mantis if the Avengers let Zodiac go. He hints at Mantis being very, VERY important and thinks the Avengers are bluffing when they (truthfully) say they don’t know what he is talking about. 

Mantis action figureThe Scarlet Witch – using her romantic partner the Vision’s body as cover, quickly maneuvers into position and unleashes her mutant hex power on the Star Blazer, completely destroying the weapon. The other Avengers rush forward to attack Zodiac in order to keep them away from the prone form of Mantis and hopefully capture them.   

Virgo defeats the Scarlet Witch for the second time in as many days, then joins her teammates in using their superior numbers to keep the Avengers hard-pressed by attacking in cadres. At length Aries fights his way through the Avengers and tosses Mantis’ body over the ledge. Continue reading


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These nice, escapist bits of fun have proven very popular with readers of Balladeer’s Blog. FOR PART 1 OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF MANTIS CLICK HERE   

Avengers 120THE AVENGERS Volume 1, Number 120 (February 1974) Death Stars of the Zodiac 

Obviously the February 1974 date means this was years before Star Wars, so the “Death Stars” of the title are just a generic reference to astrology. This individual issue kicks off a multi-part story that significantly advances the MANTIS narrative as we head toward the Celestial Madonna Saga.  

Zodiac was a team of supervillains who had fought the Avengers multiple times previously. Periodically individual members of Zodiac would clash with individual Avengers in the pages of their own comic books. 


Synopsis: The opening scene features Taurus, in his secret identity of billionaire Cornelius Van Lunt, visiting an imprisoned Zodiac member, Joshua Link. Link is the “evil” twin of the Gemini duo. Van Lunt, who has concealed his true identity from his teammates in Zodiac, has been forced to reveal himself to Joshua Link.

The reason for that is to get Gemini ready for an upcoming jailbreak, since Taurus wants ALL the members of Zodiac on hand as the team enacts his master plan.

NOTE: Cornelius Van Lunt had been a background figure in the Avengers’ comic books for quite a while by this point. He was one of those people from Old Money in New York and his family was friendly with the family of Janet Van Dyne (The Wasp), likewise from New York Old Money. As in all the way back to when New York was a Dutch possession in the 1600s. 

For a real-life example of such types think of Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt. Hell, if you go back far enough their family was known as “the Van Roosevelts.”

Mantis Death Stars of ZodiacAt any rate Cornelius had often used his family ties to try to romance Janet Van Dyne and his family fortune to hassle Tony Stark and would try plots to leverage Avengers Mansion out of their hands to force the team out of New York City. Until it was revealed that he was secretly Taurus he just seemed like the typical Marvel Comics civilian character who harasses the heroes, like J Jonah Jameson with Spider-Man, Senator Kelly with the X-Men, General Ross with the Hulk and the Yancy Street Gang with the Thing.

Getting back to the story, after Taurus busts Joshua Link out of jail and welcomes him back to Zodiac, their next move is to have Joshua move against his “good” twin, Damian Link. Damian is the New York Police Department’s Liaison with the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. Continue reading


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By reader request here’s more of Marvel Comics’ superheroine Mantis.  FOR PART 1 OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF MANTIS CLICK HERE   

Mantis CollectorTHE AVENGERS Volume 1, Number 119 (January 1974)  Night of the Collector

Avengers’ Roster: THOR (Donald Blake, MD), IRON MAN (Tony Stark), CAPTAIN AMERICA (Steve Rogers), THE SCARLET WITCH (Wanda – last name unknown at the time of this story), THE BLACK PANTHER (Prince T’Challa), THE VISION (Not applicable), THE SWORDSMAN (Jacques Duquesne) and MANTIS (Name unknown at the time).


Synopsis: The Avengers arrive back in New York after wrapping up their usual post-battle debriefing and press conference regarding their just-concluded adventure from last time around. Since the team was in Los Angeles without their Quin-Jet (if you recall Dr Strange teleported the Avengers and Defenders to LA) they borrowed an aircraft from S.H.I.E.L.D.

Mantis Collector pose 2The eight Avengers – accompanied by Loki, helpless and insane from what happened in the Dark Dimension – land the borrowed aircraft on the roof of Avengers’ mansion and exit from it. Exhausted, the heroes forgot that the S.H.I.E.L.D. transport did not have their Quin-Jet’s setting for disarming the defense systems of Avengers Mansion.

Now, just to jam in an early action sequence, the automatic defenses of the mansion activate and attack the Avengers until the Black Panther succeeds in penetrating to the cut-off switch. The Scarlet Witch, obviously feeling feisty after her defeat of Dormammu last time, chews out her fellow Avengers for forgetting that the borrowed aircraft did not have the necessary tech. Continue reading

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Fungus IsleFUNGUS ISLE (1923) – Written by Philip M Fisher. Fungus Isle has the same proto-Creature Feature feel to it that The True Inheritors (qv) had. In the case of the previously reviewed story it was a forerunner of various giant spider flicks. In the case of Fungus Isle it seems like the inspiration for Attack of the Mushroom People, aka Matango, the Fungus of Terror.  

A handful of friends find themselves shipwrecked on an uncharted island near New Guinea. The island is crawling with various types of fungus and our protagonists eventually encounter some fungi that are nearly humanoid and can walk.

The spores shot out by the fungi cling to human flesh, eventually accumulating to the point where they completely cover the body. Salt water serves as an effective remedy to clean off the spores but there is no food on the island except mushrooms. Continue reading

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