Tag Archives: Comic Books



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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Avengers 122 Trapped in Outer SpaceTHE AVENGERS Volume 1, Number 122 (April 1974) Trapped in Outer Space 

It’s kind of nice that you readers have been so enthusiastic about these nice little bits of escapism. That’s why I’m doing two per week now. We can all use a light-hearted distraction now and then. 

As our last installment ended, five Avengers (Thor, Iron Man, The Scarlet Witch, The Black Panther and The Vision) were battling seven of the twelve members of the supervillain team called Zodiac (Aries, Leo, Cancer, Aquarius, Pisces, Scorpio and Sagittarius).

The Avengers called MANTIS and the Swordsman were recovering from their injuries back at Avengers Mansion. Taurus, the leader of Zodiac, had lured the seven mutinous members of his criminal cartel to a seeming warehouse that was really a trap.

The Avengers, all unknowingly, had trailed the Zodiac superteam to that locale and had attacked them, only to have the battle royal interrupted by the taunts of Taurus. Taurus – openly revealing his true identity of billionaire Cornelius Van Lunt – launched the warehouse/ disguised spaceship into orbit to let his enemies die when their air runs out.    


Synopsis: At first all of the Avengers and Zodiac members are pinned to the floor by G-Forces but eventually the huge deathtrap reaches its programmed altitude and settles into orbit. The reinforced steel door slides right to reveal the Earth far below and a mostly transparent force-field enclosing the entire warehouse.

Thor hurls his hammer at the force-field, but it just penetrates the force-field, which re-forms after it passes through. The hammer tries to return to Thor’s hand like usual but his relative position to the hammer has changed as the spaceship/ trap has moved along in its orbit. Thor’s hammer remains floating outside in the vacuum of space.

Mantis trapped in outer spaceThe Vision is not able to phase through the force-field because it is the same technology that Zodiac used to seal off Manhattan from the rest of the world in one of their previous clashes with the Avengers. In 1974, when this story was published, Thor would still magically transform back into his secret identity as the lame (as in limping), mortal Dr Donald Blake after 60 seconds without his hammer.

He leaps behind one of the prop boxes in the phony warehouse and pulls some tarp over himself just in time to avoid having Zodiac see what has happened to him. The villains HAVE noticed how paniced Thor became without his hammer Mjolnir and realize something is up. Aries leads his teammates in an attack to finish off Thor, who is obviously in dire straits.   Continue reading

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Mantis BreakthroughTHE DEFENDERS Volume 1, Number 10 (November 1973)  Breakthrough!

Last time around as the war between the Avengers and the Defenders continued, Captain America and the Sub-Mariner battled each other in Osaka, Japan, for their fragment of the Evil Eye of Avalon. Comparing notes the pair began to realize that the two super-teams were being manipulated into fighting each other.  


Synopsis: BATTLE SIX: THOR VERSUS THE HULK – Because of the Marvel Cinematic Universe audiences today automatically associate the Hulk with the Avengers. Back in 1973 that was not the case. Even though the Hulk WAS one of the original Avengers he quit the team at the end of the SECOND ISSUE, in 1963. 

The green guy made a few guest appearances in the Avengers, like in their 100th issue Anniversary Special but in the early 1970s the Hulk was known as a core member of the Defenders. That held true until at least the late 1980s or longer.

Mantis Breakthrough poseGetting back to the story, the final fragment of the Evil Eye is in Los Angeles, where the Hulk has dug it up with help from the spell cast by Dr Strange. Greenskin is causing the expected city-wide panic but before he can leave with the Eye fragment Thor arrives.

The thunder god, still under the mistaken idea that the Defenders want to reassemble the Evil Eye for malevolent purposes, tries to beg the Hulk to give him the fragment. Foolishly he appeals to him as a former Avenger, which just makes the Hulk mad and the fight is on.

The battling super-foes inflict kaiju-sized damage on Los Angeles but as the hours go by the more it becomes apparent that Thor and the Hulk are so evenly matched the struggle could go on indefinitely. The only thing that breaks up the contest is the sudden arrival of the combined forces of the rest of the Defenders and the Avengers. Continue reading

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Superhero-mania shows no signs of abating! Since Balladeer’s Blog’s recent look at the defunct Centaur Comics superheroes was such a hit I decided to post an entry on another of their neglected figures.

Nightshade splash pageNIGHTSHADE

Secret Identity: Howard Hall, scientist

Origin: Wealthy young scientist Howard Hall found both science and his life of luxury to be ultimately unfulfilling. Immersing himself in the secrets of Eastern Mysticism he discovered he had a real knack for one particular Dark Art: endowing his shadow with life, solidity and super-strength.

Calling himself Nightshade, Hall costumed himself in a white tuxedo and white hat with a pair of large sunglasses serving as a mask. He used his new abilities to fight crime and other forces of evil.  

First Appearance: Amazing-Man Comics #24 (October, 1941). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1942.

Powers: Continue reading

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With superheroes continuing to flood movies, television and streaming media, Balladeer’s Blog takes another look at a neglected pantheon of heroes.


Secret Identity: Drake Stevens

Origin: Drake Stevens’ father, Ornithology Professor Claude Stevens, was murdered and when the police were getting nowhere Drake donned a costume equipped with various technical gimmicks and set out to bring the killers to justice.

As always happens in comic books Drake decided to continue fighting crime under his new nom de guerre Air Man.

First Appearance: Keen Detective Funnies #23 (August 1940). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1941.

Powers: Air Man’s costume boasted feathers filled with an experimental anti-gravity gas as well as a jet-pack. In addition to that he sported guns plus a Chemical Belt loaded with cigar-shaped explosives. On top of that Air Man was highly skilled at unarmed combat and had Olympic-level gymnastic abilities. 

Comment: Air Man was one of those Golden Age superheroes who didn’t hesitate to kill off his adversaries when the situation called for it.  


Secret Identity: Lucille Martin, novelist

Origin: Returning from a trip to China on board a luxury liner, Lucille Martin was given a priceless statue by a Chinese woman named Lotus. She was told to guard the statue from some men who were pursuing Lotus and by way of payment the Chinese woman also gave her a blue ring.

When the men pursuing Lotus killed her, Ms Martin accidentally discovered that the ring gave her super-powers. She donned a costume, called herself the Blue Lady and brought Lotus’ murderers to justice as the start of a crime-fighting career.  

First Appearance: Amazing-Man Comics #24 (October, 1941). Her final Golden Age appearance came in 1942.

Powers: Accidentally breaking the blue-bird shaped gem on the Oriental ring released a gas which bestowed upon the Blue Lady the strength of ten men, invulnerability and the ability to teleport via blue mists. She could also generate those blue mists to hide in and to disorient her opponents. In turn, other gasses were the Blue Lady’s weakness.  Continue reading


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This superhero-crazed culture lets me know if I go too long without a blog post about this topic, so here’s another neglected hero from Holyoke Comics.

hood-holyokeTHE HOOD

Secret Identity: Craig Williams, FBI Agent

Origin: Federal Agent Craig Williams grew frustrated with the way too many slick criminals and supervillains were able to wriggle free from any legal charges. When faced with such dead-ends in the course of his duties he took to wearing a costume and calling himself the Hood. In that guise he brought down criminals who could not be brought to justice by conventional means.

First Appearance: Cat-Man Comics #5 (December 1941). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1945.

Powers: Continue reading


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Per reader requests Balladeer’s Blog presents another neglected superhero.

tornado-tomTORNADO TOM

Secret Identity: Tom Kenny, farm hand

Origin: While working the fields on a farm in the mid-western United States, Tom Kenny was scooped up and carried aloft by a freak cyclone. After several hours of exposure to the elemental windstorm the man finally dropped into a town he did not recognize.

In addition to granting Tom superpowers the mysterious storm caused him to lose much of his memory outside of his first name. He could not recall where he was from or who his relatives were or if he had known anything about the odd cyclone. Adopting the last name Kenny the amnesiac wandered from town to town and city to city trying to learn about his past.

During his quest he would battle any evils that he came across under the superhero name Tornado Tom.

First Appearance: Cyclone Comics #1 (June, 1940). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1941.

Powers: Continue reading


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