Monday, April 09, 2007

MANTRA VOL 2 #6 Malibu Comics, 1996

I don’t even know where to begin.

This comic is so bad, so wrong, that it’s almost physically painful. If you’re unlucky enough to come across Mantra vol 2 #6 in a quarter bin or at a garage sale, PUT IT DOWN. You may experience numbness in your extremities, dizziness, and an uncomfortable burning itch in your groin. Wait a second, the burning itch in the groin is a separate problem that I need to deal with and isn’t a result of this terrible comic.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about Mantra vol 2. and why it sucks so bad.

Long story short: Mantra was a comic in Malibu Comics’ Ultraverse superhero line about a tough warrior dude trapped in a beautiful woman’s body and all the crazy mixed-up adventures s/he got in. For more information, I previously discussed my guarded affection for Mantra here and gave a sort of overview of Malibu Comics here.

Malibu Comics and all of their characters were purchased by Marvel in the mid-Nineties. Rumor has it the company was acquired because they had a bitchin’ in-house coloring department using there newfangled contraptions called computers. Shortly after the takeover, Malibu made some changes to their core titles like Mantra.

The original premise of the series was defenestrated and Mantra was re-launched with a new main character, a teenage girl who had the look and personality of a blow-up sex doll. The new Mantra series, which seemed to target a demographic of perverted old men and peeping toms, lasted only seven issues before grinding to a merciful halt. Sometimes the Comic Gods are wise and just.

And just looking at Mantra #6, you can see why the series was cancelled. This book is fucked-up on so many levels.

Allow me to engage in cheap simile to describe this comic. The plot is thinner than the Olsen twins, the teenage dialogue is more out-of-touch than Hall & Oates, and the art is as awkward as a first date.

The story by Tom Mason concerns a) Valley Girl Lauren trying to adjust to her new Mantra powers while wearing as little clothing as possible, b) the arrival of a horny new super hero, Impulse – err, I mean Rush, and c) a spooky tattoo that transforms a jock into a demon whose diet consists exclusively of buxom women. The gender politics of the comic land somewhere between Porky’s and Friday the 13th.

Here is Scott showing off his awesome new demon tat to his awe-struck classmates:

The art by Dave Roberts is heavy on the cheesecake and light on the backgrounds - really light on the backgrounds. The cover is a good example of the level of detail that went into each panel of the comic. Roberts must have been working under a wicked deadline or something, because the book is full of tons of art shortcuts and cheats.

And the clothes. Oh Christ, the clothes. Maybe the book is a period piece set in Rock n’ Roll High School circa 1982, because all the kids in this book look like they stepped out of a Winger video. I mean seriously – striped leg-warmers?

Don't these girls have parents? Who let them out of the house dressed like that? Maybe those girls are going to a Ho Economics class or something! (Thank you very much, you guys have been great, I'll be here all week, try the buffet.)

There is something profoundly icky about this comic and its hyper-sexualized teenage characters. The book feels like it was created by and for dirty old men as a sort of weird adolescent fantasy – a 40-year old’s dream of a music video high school complete with young girls who dress like tramps, peeping toms, and the requisite hot school nurse. They just needed to throw in a panel of an 80’s heavy metal guitarist jamming in the school hallway to complete the effect.

The character Rush seems to serve no plot purpose, but he’s the new kid at school with the “nice butt.” Half the comic is devoted to this creepy little bastard, including a three-page sequence played for laughs where he spies on Mantra while she’s toweling off.

Rumor has it the creative team inserted this scene under protest at the direction of the editor, who wanted more under-age flesh in the book, apparently. I can’t confirm this, but the scene serves no purpose and in no way advances the plot.

Ostensibly the story concerns the school stud’s haunted tattoo, which turns him into a green mohawked demon whenever he’s around women of a certain cup-size. The demon attacks a scantily clad woman in an alley, then kills and mutilates the hot school nurse (in a “funny” scene the principal covers up the gruesome murder because the school board is visiting) and then moves on to lover’s lane and the gripping climax of this tale.

The demon’s dialogue is creepily sexualized – when he’s attacking or killing women he says stuff like, “I like girls who play hard to get” or…

Of course, Mantra happens to be parked in a car nearby at lover’s lane making out with what appears to be a stuttering middle-aged man.

No, seriously, look:

Mantra hears the unfortunate girl’s screams and suits up for action. “That’s no scream of pleasure!” she says. No shit?

We end with a cliffhanger of sorts as Mantra confronts the demon while Rush suddenly appears in the background. “Man, this town rocks!” Rush says, “I love it!” Because mutilated chicks = teh awesome.

This comic would make a college Women’s Studies course explode with rage. Granted, the 500 people who purchased this were probably all males over 30, but I shudder to think of what a budding young adolescent would make of this comic. Not to get all P.C. on your ass, but Mantra #6 is insultingly retrograde in its depiction of teenage girls as sex toys - objects to be fondled, ogled, and eaten.

Ick. Ick. Ick.

This comic truly deserves the Dave’s Long Box “The Pain” Award. The bright side is that Mantra vol 2 was cancelled the very next issue (about six issues late).


Anonymous said...

yeah i actually did pick this out of the bargain bin last time i will do that?--0 advance card cash credit

Anonymous said...

What a hot COMIC, babe!

Clearly, the title should have ended with the all-important letter 'P'!!!

Anonymous said...

Oh god. Does "beat a hasty retreat" in this context mean what I think it means?

"The pain!" indeed.

Bill S. said...

On the plus side, at least this high school has an admirable continuing education program aimed at working prostitutes.

And why exactly did that guy get the Blue Devil tattooed on his arm again?

Arkonbey said...

Wow. That was horrible.

On Saturday Morning I picked up a What If...? #53. As soon as I finished it, it went into the box where I keep the newspaper for the wood stove to await its new job as tinder.

I think this Mantra would have gone into the stove immediately. Thank you for reading it so we don't have to!

Edward Liu said...

Boy, comment spammer on item #1. Thankfully he fixed on the bargain bin comment and not the itching, burning sensation comment.

Realizing that people paid money for this comic makes me feel better for paying money for a comic called "The Outer Space Babes" a (long) while ago.

Mister Sinister said...

The Blue Devil. Now a serial killer/rapist in the pages of Mantra

Nik said...

Damn, someone "beat" me to the "hasty retreat" double entrendre. Man, this comic reminds me of why I almost bailed out of comics entirely in the mid 1990s. That said, I still demand an ALL MANTRA WEEK on the long box!

Mark W. Hale said...

If you look at the first few issues of this volume of Mantra--which I honestly don't recommend--you'll notice a big blank space where the writer's credit should go. Mike Barr had been the creator/writer on the first volume, and from what I understand asked for his name to be taken off this second volume after having been fucked with a great deal, like most of the original Ultraverse crew.

Ken said...

I once bought an issue of a comic called J.A.P.A.N. because it was so bad. I thought I would rewrite it as an exercise, but it was so bad I couldn't do anything with it.

Lewis Lovhaug said...

You think a comic called "The Outer Space Babes" is bad? Try "Sultry Teenage Super-Foxes." I admit I spent money on it, but only like a buck or so from a couple months back so I could review it and make fun of it.

I wouldn't mind a Mantra week, either, if you're willing to stand the pain of volume 2.

Morgan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Morgan said...

The art by Dave Roberts is heavy on the cheesecake and light on the backgrounds - really light on the backgrounds.

Now, be fair. He went to the trouble to draw TWO completely extraneous peices of cheesecake in the background of the panel right above that!

Anonymous said...

The sheer awfulness of some of the comics in your collection is... impressive.

Chris Sims said...

Oddly enough, this is Ragnell's favorite single issue of all time.

Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

Rush is a good name because it can mean to either move qickly or it could be rush as in a headrush.

It's like a double meaning, only stupid.

David Campbell said...

Oddly enough, this is Ragnell's favorite single issue of all time.

You like to live dangerously, Sims.

Marc Burkhardt said...

I love Rush!

Hemispheres rocks!!

Phillip said...

Well, I think those "leg-warmers" are actually striped thigh-high stockings, which were not uncommon IIRC. They are partially what originally attracted me to my wife. Other than that, you are 100% dead on. Applause.

SallyP said...

Ick. I have teenage daughters and I can honestly say that I've never let them out of the house looking like that. How many girls wear skirts anyway?

I'm not sure that this could be called a typical high school, it seems to be populated solely by 35 year old hookers. And that guy in the car looks at least 40.

Yechhh...I think I need another shower.

Dwayne "the canoe guy" said...

However, Sallyp is not above requesting more sweaty naked Jonah Hex chest flesh.

Anonymous said...

I think they are leg warmers, not stockings, as they seem to go over the shoes. They do look like stockings, though. I'm assuming this is one of these things where the artist can only draw clothes if they are portrayed as super-tight, almost as if they learned to draw entirely from superhero comics and porn. Or porn comics.

Maybe the 'twist' of mantra volume 2 is that every female character OTHER than Mantra is actually a man trapped in a female body, and in an attempt to fit in, they try to dress themselves in contemporary clothing, but get it ALL WRONG.

Incidentally, why DO women in superhero comics frequently dress like drag queens?

SallyP said...

Hey Dwayne! When Jonah Hex is showing off his manly pectorals, it is because of the PLOT! A bear ripped his shirt off or something. He's not flouncing around town like that!

Heck even the bar girls have more clothes on.

SallyP said...

Hey Dwayne! When Jonah Hex is showing off his manly pectorals, it is because of the PLOT! A bear ripped his shirt off or something. He's not flouncing around town like that!

Heck even the bar girls have more clothes on.

SallyP said...

Sorry about the double post!

Greg said...

I'm very offended that you are unaware that Winger wasn't around in 1982. Come on, Dave Campbell - let's get your cheesy 1980s metal chronology right! Sheesh.

Russ said...

Is it ironic that Lauren's name and her date Warren's name rhymed?

Matt said...

Jeez, Dave. I bought a shitload of comics back in the mid-90s and even I didn't manage to come up with this turd. Why? Dear God, why was this ever produced?

Anonymous said...

As someone already mentioned, comics like this from the mid 90's, were definitely a factor in considering quitting comics altogether myself. What pulled me back from the precipice and stopped me from jumping into comic book collecting abyss you ask?

Kingdom Come

Do you have a hall of shame long box where you keep books like this that you blog about? Did you actually like this book when you first bought it? I've purchased books like these too and I wonder what the heck I thinking when I was at the cash register.

Anonymous said...

blogging about mantra vol 2 is kind of his penance for buying it in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Now I'm all for getting a little T&A in my weekly comic haul, but this is ridiculous. The ick factor is off the charts with the whole schoolgirl fantasy that we have going on here. I may have to wash my eyes out with soap, and I didn't even read the thing.

Dave, you have done us all a great service. Thank you for your sacrifice in bringing these horrible stories to our attention. Your mental anguish will not have been in vain...

Anonymous said...

I don't think that was supposed to be a regular high school--it was more of a stripper/hooker vocational program.

Apparently it wasn't enough that Marvel put Malibu out of business, they had to screw over everything Malibu creators had ever done while they were at it.

Oh, and as comment spammers go, Car Amplifier would make comment #1 his bitch.

Anonymous said...

I'm ashamed to admit that I actually own this comic. I had been buying Mantra from Malibu, and stupidly kept buying it when Marvel bought it out, hoping against hope that the original Mantra might actually (she was last seen being shrunk down to the size of a doll and stuck in a box (or was it another dimension) in the first issue of the new series). If the title hadn't died with the next issue, I would quit getting it anyway.

Malibu actually had several good titles. The one I really miss is The Strangers. I would certainly support a Mantra week, or perhaphs a more general Ultraverse week.

Unknown said...

Sultry Teenage Super Foxes? Wasn't that a Solson title? I think I recall ads for it in the semi-official Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles weapon manuals.

Anonymous said...

Like the other anonymous poster, I too bought these in the vain hope that we'd get more about what happened to the original Mantra, or that she'd be allowed to be interesting as a supporting character....

Kadet said...

"Lauren and Warren"... heh heh... how adorable...

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Anonymous said...

"Rumor has it the creative team inserted this scene under protest at the direction of the editor, who wanted more under-age flesh in the book, apparently."
Not true. THAT happened in V2 #1. And it wasn't the editor, it was from higher up.
--The Editor

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