It’s not just fans who get upset when comic book adaptations alter the source material, as the co-creator of Mantis wasn’t thrilled with the changes made to the character in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Ever since Marvel first kicked off their shared universe, they’ve made a number of key changes to characters and stories from the comics. For most fans, it’s an understandable adjustment considering the differences between the two mediums, not to mention the process of streamlining decades of backstory. And all told, Marvel has remained fairly true to their character’s core traits when tweaking them.
Even still, a number of heroes and villains from the comics have been all but rewritten, leading to complaints from fans and creatives alike. Over the past two Guardians of the Galaxy films, Marvel has tweaked the property’s various characters to differing degrees. Some changes, like those made to Rocket and Drax, have added extra depth to the character’s backstories while trimming the fat of their origins. Others, like the Nova Corp., have been rendered all but unrecognizable from their comic counterparts. And then there’s Mantis.
Created by Steve Englehart and Don Heck, the character has a long and complex history dating back to 1973. When it came time to adapt her to the big screen, writer and director James Gunn changed almost everything about her, something Englehart wasn’t too pleased with. While speaking to Polygon, the comic writer had this to say on the movie’s version of Mantis:
“Well, 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.”
Englehart is not wrong. While Mantis’ does have antennae and some empathetic powers in the comics, she’s also a martial arts master from Earth who was groomed by the Kree to be the Celestial Madonna. Naturally, Marvel had to trim some of that history down. Gunn has also stated he wants Peter Quill to be the only character from Earth, which is why the terrestrial origins of Mantis and Drax were altered. Still, it’s not hard to argue with Englehart’s grudge as Gunn and Marvel could have merely invented a new character rather than alter Mantis so much. Her position on the comic version of the team that the movie is based on, however, is likely why she was included, and we could see more of her comic history play out in the future.
Luckily, Englehart also stresses that he enjoyed the movie overall. And though he wasn’t pleased with the changes to his creation, he did like Pom Klementieff’s performance.
“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.”
Finally, Englehart noted that while he’s not thrilled with the alterations to the comic lore Marvel have made, he assures fans the company have been good to the creators whose work they adapt.
“I think Marvel’s been pretty open-handed about that sort of thing, or I should probably credit Disney for that. They’ve been good about that kind of thing, so I’m happy when it benefits the creators, not just me for myself but for anybody.”
With so many creative forces involved and the need to sell a story to a wider audience, changes like those done to Mantis will likely continue throughout the MCU. But as long as the films delivered are as satisfying as Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, any tweaks can be forgiven.
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