With the debut of the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 trailer, we got our first look at actress Pom Klementieff as Mantis. Klementieff is a Canadian actress best known for her roles in Oldboy and Hacker’s Game. Mantis is a character that has been around a long time and gone through some interesting changes. With her first live-action appearance on the horizon, seem like a good time to do up a comic book history primer.
She was created by Steve Englehart and Don Heck in 1973 when she appeared in the Avengers #112. She is the daughter of Gustav Brandt / Libra and is half Vietnamese and half German. She is left by her father with the Priests of Pama, who happen to be a sect of the Kree and they believe that Mantis may be the Celestial Madonna who will mate with the eldest Cotati on Earth and will give birth to Celestial Messiah… but no pressure there.
As she grows, she excels in martial arts and is a good student. But upon reaching adulthood she is mind-wiped and sent into the world to gain experience… which lead her to working as a prostititue and barmaid in a Vietnamese bar where she met Swordsman… the guy involved in Hawkeye’s origin and was a villain for the Avengers. But he decides to join the Avengers and brings Mantis with him. As an ally of the Avengers she faced Zodiac and discovered that Libra was her father. She also faced off against Thanos, Klaw, Solarr, Nuklo and even Ultron.
While with Avengers, she was abducted by Kang, witnessed the death of Swordsman who she only realized at that moment she truly loved. She would go on to learn of the why the Kree / Skull War started, who the Priests of Pama are and about the Cotati. She discovered she was indeed the Celestial Madonna and the Cotati took over the body of the Swordsman and the two went off Earth to mate with him. There’s a bit of creepiness in all of that.
This is where it gets interesting. Steve Englehart would go on to work for a few different companies at this point and he continue Mantis’ story where ever he went, through three companies before going back to Marvel. With DC, she appeared in Justice League of America #142 calling herself Willow and sticks around two issues before leaving to give birth. Then she shows up in an Eclipse comic called Scorpio Rose, issue #2 where she calls herself Lorelei and has given birth to a son. The third issue of the series didn’t see print until it moved to Image and appeared in the Coyote Collection #1. Englehart would also mention Lorelei in his novel The Long Man published in 2010.
She would then return to the Marvel Universe (though I doubt they accept that she ever left), took the named Mandy Celestine and raised her son Sequoia. She would eventually turn him over to the Preists of Pama and head off into space to battle the Elders of the Universe alongside the Silver Surfer. The Elders were trying to collect the Infinity Gems to take down Galactus. At this point she had changed, she was now green-skinned, gained new powers and was bitter for having given up her child. She was hit by the Soul Gem, causing the conflicting aspects of her psyche shattered into different physical manifestations. One part of her joined the West Coast Avengers but had some amnesia because of the split. She would discover she need to pull the parts back together, but while doing this she once again fought with Kang and ended up leaving her body to go raise her son with the Cotati.
Her next appearance was in a 1995 Avengers story called The Crossing where she appeared as the bride of Kang and was hellbent on killing Libra (who was now calling himself Moonraker because he loved James Bond), the Cotati and the Avengers. This storyline didn’t set well with some folks and got a minor retcon in Avengers: Forever where it was made known that it wasn’t Mantis at all but rather Space Phantom being brainwashed into thinking he was Mantis.
She would appear again in the Avengers: Celestial Quest series written by Englehart where she would pull all of herself back together again and go with the Avengers to take on Thanos and help her son Quoi who is now a rebellious teen wanting to leave the Cotati. She would stick around with the Avengers for a little while, having a brief flirtmance with Vision but leaving after Avengers: Disassembled.
She would then become involved with Peter Quill and the Guardians of the Galaxy. She volunteers to go with Star-Lord up against Ultron and the Phalanx. After she began living on Knowhere along with the rest of the Guardians where she became a counselor for the group. But it is later revealed that Star-Lord has Mantis use her mental abilities to convince the different members to join the Guardians in the first place. With many of the team leaving, Rocket Raccoon promoted Mantis to field status.
Later, when Quill is trying to put together a new version of the Guardians, she rescues him from a group of Spartax soldiers and helps him track down the cause of the time quakes, but refuses to join the team.
Mantis has a list of powers a mile long: telepathy, empathy, astral projection, chlorokinesis, pyrokinesis, precognition, enhanced durability and self healing along with being a master martial artist and has great control over her own nervous system.
How much of her powers and what of her backstory James Gunn plans to use in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 remains to be seen… though we can tell from the scene in the trailer that the empathic part seems to be there. As for going with her original skin color rather than the green she had when involved with the Guardians in the comics… I think that’s simple, with Gamora and Drax already on the team… how many green people can you have?