Ask most comic book fans what makes a good superhero movie, and you can pretty much guarantee you'll get an answer about honoring the source material. But here's the strange thing; somehow, #GuardiansOfTheGalaxy and its sequel get a pass. #JamesGunn's tremendous movies take more liberty with the comics than any other #Marvel movie. After all, in the comics, Star-Lord is the son of J'Son, Emperor of Spartax!
But how do the original comic book creators feel?
Steve Englehart, Creator Of Mantis, Speaks Up
Step forward Steve Englehart, the creator of Mantis. He's actually a tremendously important figure in Marvel history, penning the original 'Secret Empire' arc and creating the super-team known as the Defenders. What's more, in an interview with Polygon, he's quick to praise Marvel; he clearly enjoyed watching Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2!
But there was one proviso:
"I wasn’t impressed with what they did with Mantis but the Mantis on the screen was entertaining, I liked her but that’s not Mantis."
In the comics, Mantis was a half-Vietnamese, half-German warrior woman, and was brought up by a Kree sect who were attempting to find the "Celestial Madonna." Englehart dived head-first into religious symbolism, complete with a Star of David hovering over Avengers Mansion to herald the Celestial Madonna's arrival!
What's more, not only is the comic-book version of Mantis no naive alien, she's also a proficient hand-to-hand combatant. In fact, she actually took down Thor single-handedly!
Steve Englehart's Love For The Character
Steve Englehart has always loved the character of Mantis. When he left Marvel, Englehart was unable to leave her alone; he recreated her in the Justice League of America as 'Willow,' and in his own Scorpio Rose series she was renamed 'Lorelei.' When he returned to Marvel in the early 2000s, Englehart took great pleasure in wrapping up Mantis-centric plots seeded back in the '70s. Of course, other writers had continued Mantis's story in the meantime, and Englehart carefully retconned a few decisions he disagreed with.
Given his love for the character, it's not surprising to hear that Englehart was disappointed at James Gunn's take.
"I was not happy with Mantis’ portrayal. That character has nothing to do with Mantis. I will say that I liked the film quite a bit overall, they’re doing good stuff and I enjoyed my night at the movies so long as I turned my brain off to the fact that that’s not Mantis up there. I really don’t know why you would take a character who is as distinctive as Mantis is and do a completely different character and still call her Mantis. That I do not know."
He's got a point. The character in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is essentially unrecognizable. She has no cosmic power in her own right; in fact, she seems little more than a submissive servant, inspired to question her master when she befriends Drax. While I personally found Mantis to be an intriguing character, even I have to concede that she has nothing to do with the superhero created by Steve Englehart.
How heavily should superhero movies adapt their source material? It's a heated discussion among fans, but it's actually fairly unusual for a comic book writer to speak out. In this case, sadly, it seems that James Gunn's adaptation was a little bit too much for the writer who created Mantis.
Do you think 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' adapted Mantis effectively?
(Source: Polygon; Poll Image Credit: Marvel Comics)