Tag Archives: Celestial Madonna Saga



Mantis below us the battleTHE AVENGERS Volume 1, Number 115 (September 1973) Below Us The Battle 

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), MANTIS (* unknown at the time of this story *) and THE SWORDSMAN (Jacques Duquesne).  


Synopsis: All of the Avengers listed above are in an Avengers Quin-Jet flying over the Atlantic Ocean bound for England. The Black Knight (Dane Whitman), in 1973 the only British member of the Avengers, has been out of contact for an alarming amount of time. Anticipating trouble the team has decided to check out the Black Knight’s castle for signs of their friend and colleague.  

In keeping with the usual levels of verisimilitude for 1970s Marvel Comics, the story presents the British branch of S.H.I.E.L.D. intercepting the Quin-Jet because of the presence on board of the recently reformed former supervillain the Swordsman.

Mantis and Swordsman (partial)Despite the Swordsman’s pardon and his status as an Avenger the Brits do not want the formerly wanted man allowed in the country. Thor – more worldly in the comic books than he is in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – negotiates with the British and the Swordsman is allowed in England but the Avengers are responsible for his actions.  

Captain America is the only Avenger still suspicious about the Swordsman and his lady love Mantis, the enigmatic woman who will assume more and more importance as the issues go by, enroute to the Celestial Madonna Saga. Continue reading


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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.

Mantis Night of SwordsmanTHE 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 3MANTIS: 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.

SwordsmanTHE 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


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MantisWith the release of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 last week and its introduction of the character Mantis to the Marvel Cinematic Universe I dove in for some research.

Luckily with the countless superhero web sites and the ready availability of archived collections of comic books from the 1970s and earlier it only took me til today to decide to take an extensive look at Mantis as she was originally presented in the pages of The Avengers – NOT the Guardians of the Galaxy – during what came to be called The Celestial Madonna Saga.

REASON ONE: I still have a soft spot for comic books because reading them as a kid served as a gateway to two of my adult passions: mythology and opera.

REASON TWO: I’m intrigued by the fact that so many of the stories brought to the screen by the Marvel Cinematic Universe and their related properties trace their original appearance to the 1970s like Mantis.

Mantis 2Hell, Gwen Stacy was killed by the Green Goblin around 1973. Magneto was ret-conned into his present personality in the 1970s. Adam Warlock got his Soul Gem, later ret-conned into one of the Infinity Stones. The Defenders debuted in that decade. Wolverine was also introduced in the 70s. Same with Luke Cage, Blade the Vampire Slayer, Iron Fist, Ghost Rider, Thanos, the Punisher. Even Howard the Duck. (Well, you can’t win them all.)  

REASON THREE: I’m genuinely impressed with the way Marvel’s writers in the 1970s anticipated today’s slew of serialized sci-fi and horror series’ with their expert handling of prolonged narratives. Sometimes over YEARS! Seriously. Continue reading


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