FOR PART 1 OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF MARVEL’S SUPERHEROINE MANTIS CLICK HERE With Marvel Comics characters basically being Pop Culture Deities these days I’m approaching this topic the way I approach neglected mythological epics.
THE AVENGERS Volume 1, Number 114 (August 1973) Night of the Swordsman
Before diving in, just contemplate the original publication date of this issue. FORTY-FOUR YEARS AGO!
If you went back 44 years before August of 1973 superhero comic books didn’t even exist yet. Just let that sink in for a moment.
Cast of Characters:
MANTIS: When researching these old stories I’ve come to really “marvel” at Marvel Comics’ writers’ knack for handling long-term episodic storylines. In my opinion they handled it better than many writers of serialized science fiction and horror television series’ of today. Maintaining multiple threads of a long-running narrative is a specialized type of pulp fiction writing and 1970s Marvel Comics are excellent examples of the craft.
The enigmatic seeds being planted in this issue regarding the brand new character Mantis and the long-established figure the Swordsman will bear fruit over the course of YEARS, culminating in what is remembered as the Celestial Madonna Saga. But a maddening one month wait between episodes makes today’s one week or so between tv episodes look pretty brief.
Getting back to MANTIS – She was one of the many superheroines introduced by Marvel in the 1970s. This issue of The Avengers was the first appearance in action of this Eurasian beauty who was part Vietnamese and part ? for now.
Mantis’ mutant powers included empathy so advanced it was akin to telepathy at times. Physically she employed a brand of “super kung-fu” like DC’s superhero the Karate Kid. In this debut appearance, for instance she defeats THOR AND CAPTAIN AMERICA in battle. Yep.
The enigmatic hints about Mantis’ potential were nicely done and seem to have partially inspired Chris Claremont’s later handling of Marvel Woman/ Jean Grey’s slow evolution into Phoenix and then Dark Phoenix over at The Uncanny X-Men.
THE SWORDSMAN: Hawkeye’s trainer and mentor when they both traveled the circus and carnival circuit in their pre-supervillain turned hero days. Unlike Hawkeye, however, the Swordsman was an actual villain, not merely misunderstood like his protégé.
Way back in Avengers’ #19 and 20 he pretended to join the team but was really infiltrating them as an agent of the supervillain the Mandarin. (The real one, not the comic-relief impersonator from the third Iron Man movie.) The Mandarin was the man who upgraded the Swordsman’s regular sword into its unbreakable state. He also outfitted it with the ability to shoot electric rays, fire rays and power blasts. That weaponry was controlled by buttons on the hilt of the sword.
After his betrayal of the Avengers at the behest of the Mandarin the Swordsman was an active supervillain in the Marvel Universe, often clashing with the Avengers as part of the Lethal Legion and as a semi-regular foe of Captain America. Most recently the Swordsman had fought alongside the Avengers in the 100th issue anniversary special to help them save the Earth and Asgard from the Greek god of war Ares.
The current members of the Avengers at this time were: THOR, IRON MAN, CAPTAIN AMERICA, THE SCARLET WITCH, THE BLACK PANTHER and THE VISION. Since they’ve become household names thanks to the Avengers movies there’s no need to reintroduce them here. Time to give a synopsis of this issue’s story: Continue reading