When I was a kid super-hero toys were pretty much non-existent. I never really understood this as the cast of characters available was huge and there were well established back stories for each one. Me and my brother had to resort to making paper dolls of all of our favorite Marvel super-heros. We made hundreds of those things. Not only did we make a doll of every character we came across but we kept upgrading them as our artwork improved. There were some super-hero toys released in 84 from both Marvel and DC but they only featured a handful of characters. Marvel had their Secret Wars line and DC had their Super Powers line. Neither of these lines seemed to be all that easy to find in stores otherwise I’m sure Doug and I would have had them all, the Marvel ones at least. We never cared much for DC. For my birthday one year though I received a DC Super Powers figure from a friend. The figure was Mantis, a robotic praying mantis looking character who looked super cool. This was probably bought for me less for my love of super-heros and more for my love of insects which was well known. I used to catch wireworms and aphids in our back yard and store them in jars by the dozen. One summer Doug and I actually discovered a praying mantis creeping along our wire fence. It was the biggest bug I’d ever seen and I remember him actually grabbing at my shirt from the fence with his long buggy arm. Me and Doug created a habitat for him in a fisher price fold open tool box which we stuffed full of dirt and branches and placed on our picnic table. We named him Sam and the way I remember it he stayed in that habitat for weeks when he could’ve bailed on us at anytime. So of all the bugs I had ever caught, Sam the praying Mantis is the only one that ever left a lasting impression. Maybe that’s why I loved the DC Mantis figure. I still have that figure, even though he was my only toy from that line and I knew nothing about the character he survived the “get rid of my toys” phase that most of my Star Wars, Transformers, Wrestlers and Miscellaneous toys fell victim to.
When Mattel started producing high quality DC figures a couple of years ago they vowed to reproduce all of the characters that appeared in the 80s Super Powers line. I was very happy when they got around to releasing a modernized figured of my beloved Mantis figure. In the 20 years since that birthday party I had actually gotten much more familiar with the DC Universe. I collected a bunch of DC comics but and never come across one with Mantis in it. I did know that he was a villain from the comic The New Gods which was created by the often mentioned in this blog Jack Kirby. However in the comics he appeared as a man in green spandex with a big doofy helmet. He looked nothing like the robotic bug I had played with all these years. I’m not sure where the bug design came from, as far as I can tell the guys making the Super Powers toys in the 80s just figured with a name like Mantis the character would sell better as a cool robotic bug instead of a spandexed douche bag. Anyway in 2009 when Mattel released their mantis figure they released both versions. That way comic book purists could get their doofy version and a casual DC fan like myself could get his Bug Man. The figure is great by the way. He’s bigger and more posable than the previous version. He retains a Kirby-esque look even though the man had nothing to do with this design so far as I know. The paint applications are great with air brushed shadowing to define some of the details. His knees are pretty loose though and he’s top heavy so he has a tendency to fall over which kinda sucks. It’s a very nice figure and an appreciated throw back to a character who gets very little attention. 8 out 10.