Praying Mantis Man

Praying Mantis Man
The comic book history of Praying Mantis Man, enemy of the Blue Beetle, now owned by DC Comics.

Hunter Mann, Manhunter

Enter Dr. Hunter Mann, a natural scientist.  Researching chlorophyll he turned green and gained the ability of flight, super strength, and vaguely defined psychic abilities, like the ability to weaken people with a glance, control all animals, and make them super-huge at will.

Bug problem? Shoot them with a gun! Image copyright DC Comics, probably.

Did he collect his Nobel Prize after this monumental scientific discovery that one of the most abundant resources on the planet will help us control animals and fly? Of course not. He used it to make animals needlessly massive and take over Baja California under the guise of “Praying Mantis Man.”

Just a normal, completely green scientist doing regular science. Image copyright DC Comics, probably.

Now, you can’t fault Hunter Mann for his choice of name. He’s a scientist, not a writer and, with Batman, Spider-man, and Mann’s own future nemesis, the Blue Beetle out there, pest-centric names were in vogue. What you can’t forgive him for, though, is that his costume isn’t that of a praying mantis. It’s a grasshopper – a detail that, with a head full of scientific knowledge from experimenting on insects and an army of bug tailors to make his costume, is a pretty massive oversight. He has no excuse.

His powers included the powers possessed by all praying mantises, namely, super strength, flight, and the ability to incapacitate people with psychic powers.

He fought the Blue Beetle.

You bug me

If you didn’t know, the Blue Beetle, AKA Dan Garret, was an archeologist. Maybe. The earliest versions of him have him gaining his super powers from trying a new vitamin – Vitamin 2X – and going out to fight bad guys in the street. When the character was reworked in the sixties he got a more down-to-earth origin where he discovered a blue scarab while out on a dig in the desert. After that, he only needed to shout “Kaji Dha!” and, as everyone apparently wore in Ancient Egypt, find himself in a skin-tight bodysuit with his underwear on the outside. He got super strength and vision, flight, and the ability to generate energy blasts in the upgrade, and that’s how he was able to punch, quote, at the speed of sound, which was what he used to stop Praying Mantis Man the first time around.

Breaking the sound barrier makes a "kapow" sound, apparently. Image copyright DC Comics, probably.

Hunter Mann hopefully went to see a doctor after getting punched so hard, but we know for certain he went east. There, while his methods got smarter - he used his evil super science to enlarge a colony of ants to tunnel and build his underground lair, and serve as classy little ant butlers – his goals didn’t get any more intelligent because now he just wanted to, quote, “destroy man and the stupid civilization he has built,” because….reasons… It’s actually kind of funny because, well, he’s both a man and named Mann.

"I am pursuing a logical plan!" Image copyright DC Comics, probably.

He got close, though, and in 1965 he froze a train full of people and was going to hide them underground while his insects killed the rest of us and then thaw the people, using them as a nucleus for a new society and a new world that he would rule. Which, setting aside the logistical and mathematical issues of a random sampling of one subway car’s worth of riders being capable of completely repopulating the earth – spoiler alert, they wouldn’t have the numbers or the requisite genetic diversity – but it just sounds like a management nightmare when it comes to ruling over this population that in one instant was heading home from their commute and the next was a new Adam and Eve.

Destroying Mann and the stupid civilization he has built

It was his own loneliness that did him in. When he kidnapped the Blue Beetle’s girlfriend and lured him into a trap, freezing the hero, Praying Mantis Man succumbed Blue Beetle’s girlfriend’s very obvious attempt to stroke his ego and become Eve to his Adam and he let her go free to take a hot bath in his compound. A thawed out Blue Beetle and a Mach 1 punch to Praying Mantis’s face later, and the world was saved from the giant wasps who were slated to kill us all.

"I've got better people to save." Image copyright DC Comics, probably.

If Hunter Mann was embarrassed about his whole life, what with getting his costume wrong when he was a scientist who experimented on insects and should have absolutely known what a praying mantis looked like, then he shouldn’t worry anymore…because he stopped existing when DC Comics cleaned up their continuity in the 1980s. A version of him did make a return, and while I’m reluctant to say that any guy who dresses like a bug to do crime is on the right track, at least this version managed to actually look like a praying mantis, so yeah, small win for Praying Mantis Man. Of course, he somehow looks even dorkier with a giant overhanging visor and barbed sleeves that have to get in the way whenever he wants to reach for something, but, you know, baby steps.

Holy Comic Book Sources, Batman!
  • Blue Beetle (1964) #4
  • Blue Beetle (1965) #53

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