One of my favorite comic book characters is Mantis. I wrote about her once before. Created by writer Steve Englehart, she made her debut within the pages of Avengers #112 (June 1973). Mantis was initially designed by the much underrated Don Heck, who penciled that issue. Two months later, in Avengers #114, her distinctive costume, designed by John Romita, made its debut.
Mantis was the central focus of the story arc “The Celestial Madonna,” which ran through Avengers #128 to #135 and the quarterly Giant-Size Avengers #2 to #4. Englehart explored both Mantis’ mysterious past and the cosmic history of the Marvel Comics universe. Englehart did excellent work developing Mantis during his time on Avengers. The character experienced a fascinating arc of change and growth.
This past Saturday, I got a tattoo done on my right leg. I’ve been thinking about getting this piece for several years. After selling a couple of pages of original comic art from my collection I finally had the funds to have it done. It is a tattoo of Mantis based on Dave Cockrum’s stunning artwork for Giant-Size Avengers #2 (Nov 1974).
I had originally hoped to have this done by Becca Roach, the artist who did my Beautiful Dreamer and Watchmen tattoos. Last week I contacted Becca on Facebook… and learned that she’d moved to Hawaii a couple of months ago. Oops!
I sent Becca another message, asking if there were any other tattoo artists in NYC who she would recommend. She suggested Daniel Cotte, with whom she had recently worked with at SenaSpace Art + Tattoo, located at at 229 Centre Street in the East Village.
Daniel was a really cool guy. It turns out that he is also a comic book fan. He mentioned that he really liked Joe Kubert’s work on Enemy Ace. Daniel appeared interested in tattooing this particular piece, which was good to know.
Daniel finished the tattoo in a little less than two hours, which was a relief to me because, yipes, was it painful! This was by far the most detailed piece that I’ve ever gotten. It was especially uncomfortable when Daniel was tattooing all of the details of Mantis’ feet & ankles, because that was on my ankle, where there’s a lot less muscle under the skin. But I just gritted my teeth and tolerated it, telling myself to hold still because in the end I would have a really nice piece. And, yes, it does look fantastic. Thanks again, Daniel!
After I got home Saturday night, I e-mailed a photo of the Mantis tattoo to Steve Englehart. He really liked it, stating that it was “gorgeous!” I also sent the photo to Dave Cockrum’s widow Paty, who responded with “Wow! Totally awesome tat, kiddo!”
I am a huge fan of artist Dave Cockrum. He is well regarded for his work on X-Men. But shortly before he revamped Marvel’s mutants, Cockrum briefly worked on Avengers. He inked several issues of the monthly title, providing wonderful embellishments for the pencils of Rich Buckler, Don Heck, John Buscema and Bob Brown. Cockrum did the full artwork for the second issue of Giant-Size Avengers, and then penciled the third one, with Joe Giella inking him there.
In my assessment, Cockrum’s work on Giant-Size Avengers #2 is dynamic, some of the best of his career. Especially striking is the beautiful, haunting page which contains the figure of Mantis that I had tattooed. Here is a scan of it from the Celestial Madonna trade paperback.
I think that this is it for tattoos, both because I can’t think of anything else I’d want done, and I’m running out of areas where I can get them that can be covered up when I go to work. But you never know what will come to mind in the future.
If you have never read it, I recommend the Steve Englehart era of Avengers, which contains some groundbreaking stories and quality artwork. Most of the issues which contain the Mantis storyline are reprinted in black & white in Essential Avengers Volume 6.
By the way, rumor has it that Mantis will be appearing in the second Guardians of the Galaxy movie. So keep an eye out for her.
Thank you to Michele Witchipoo for the photos ❤