Mantra is about a guy in a woman’s body.
Written by Mike “Batman and the Goddamn Outsiders” Barr, Mantra was one of the more popular titles in Malibu Comics’ superhero universe. I’m using the word “popular” in a relative sense – Malibu’s entire line of books withered and died in the Great Extinction of the Nineties. Mantra was about a bad-ass warrior guy who gets killed and reincarnated into the body of Eden Blake, a beautiful woman with two horrible, horrible kids. Eden gets these magic artifacts – a mask, a sword, a cloak – and begins kicking ass with her new magic powers. Wacky complications ensue, however, because Mantra is AHH! AHH! DUDE LOOKS LIKE A LAY-DAY! At least, that’s how I remember it.
I’m not going to diss Mantra because I kind of liked it. The first dozen or so issues were just good solid Boob War fun, and then it started to suck. The writing got slack, they drifted from the original gender-identity-crisis theme, and the book was plagued by irregular art. But for a while it was OK.
Plus, Mantra took a lot of showers.
Eventually Malibu re-launched Mantra but with a different lead character, and then Mantra went from “kind of sucking” straight to “full-on sucking.” Instead of Dude Looks Like a Lady, they went with a nubile 16-year old girl in lingerie who gets punched in the stomach a lot, which is not as high concept of a premise if you ask me. I should do a post about NuMantra – she gets punched in the gut in every other panel! Seriously, it’s like a strange fetish comic or something.
Mantra is told in first-person narrative; we get the male character’s thoughts in captions where he often ruefully comments on being a woman. Barr makes it clear that the male character within Mantra’s female body is kind of an asshole. He’s not very nice to Eden’s horrible, horrible kids and his actions are influenced by the weird stereotypes and misconceptions he has about women.
In addition to fighting bad guys, Mantra has all sorts of minor misadventures, like putting on a bra, applying make-up, going on a girl’s night out, feeling "not so fresh," etc. When I read the first issue I remember wondering how long I’d have to wait before she tripped in her high heels.
Ah, there it is in the second issue.
Mantra is kind of like Morrison’s The Bulleteer or Dark Horse’s Ghost, in that it wants to comment on objectification of women and whatnot, but also wants to have cheesecake art, too. I mean, it’s one thing to invest your work with subtext and meta-commentary, but I mean, come on: boobs.
Wow, I made it through the entire post without directly commenting about the actual comic itself! Hurray! Hurray Dave! Hurray boobs!