Joined: 18 Dec 2005
|Posted: Mon Sep 16, 2013 10:25 pm Post subject: The Many looks of Mantenna
|Ah Mantenna. One of the first and most memorable of the Evil Horde figures from the Masters of the Universe toyline and its spinoff media. Strangely though, while being one of the most recognized, he's also has had a variety of different looks. So with the upcoming new figure for the Masters of the Universe Classics line I thought I'd take a moment to go over them here.
I suppose the best place to start would be with his vintage figure. Mantenna had a very unique look in every sense. Unlike most of the line up to this point (and a good deal beyond too) he shared no parts with any other figure in the line, but rather had a 100% unique body. And boy was it freaky. Most MOTU characters were based on some recognizable creature but not Mantenna. He really brings to mind the look of 1950's style B movie aliens. Some have suggested he was meant to be an insect like creature, and while there is some bugness to him these assumptions often seem to be based more on his name than appearance. People hear Mantenna and think, "Oh he's a mantis or an ant." No he's a huMAN(oid) anTENNA referring to his ability to see and hear over great distances. In at least one source he is referred to as a "one man mobile lookout station".
However, as unique as the figure's look was, it was still limited by the sculpt and didn't fully capture the intended look! For starters, well when I first got the figure as a kid I thought that black thing in the middle of his face was his nose and those white pointed teeth were fangs jutting out of his closed mouth. But then one day I really looked and noticed the red pointy bits around the black and the truth dawned on me. That's not his nose it's his wide open mouth and those red pointy bits are his teeth! Yes Mantenna is meant to have a lamprey like circular mouth with sharp teeth all around the circle. So those "fangs"are actually tusks like an elephant? No, they're more like insect mandibles.
Now in my defense the card back art didn't help. I mean look at that, the mouth is clearly in the middle of his face right between the eye sockets. Plus there are skin folds under it which look like a closed mouth. Not to mention no one colored his teeth. They're the same color as his face's skin. But the face wasn't where it ended. There's also the legs. If you look more closely at the vintage figure you will see that Mantenna is actually supposed to have four legs! The figure is molded in such a way that the two legs on each side are fused together, but you can actually make out the crease between them where they are in fact two.
Now no one can be blamed for not immediately realizing Mantenna was four-legged due to him being portrayed with only two in a lot of artwork! For crying out loud, the very mini-comic that comes with the figure clearly depicts him right there on the cover with only two legs. Granted the art is this particular mini-comic is... sub-par. (Oh hell I'll just say it it SUCKS! King Randor has a pink beard for crying out loud!) but This isn't the only mini-comic in which Mantenna appears this way either.
The artwork in this one is much better but Mantenna is still drawn with only two legs. You'd think someone at Mattel would have come in and said, "hey guys Mantenna has four legs!" particularly since these mini-comics were published by Mattel themselves.
Here's a piece of artwork where Mantenna is quite clearly drawn to resemble the figure, while making him have only two legs. Take a look at his thighs and you can see it is designed as one leg while his two feet are portrayed instead as two large toes much like a Ninja Turtle.
This licensing style guide gives you a proper idea of what the look Mattel intended for the character was more like. The four legs are quite clear as is the lamprey like mouth and the mandibles. Still there is a slight goofiness to the facial expression and in the eyes, which leads us to how Mantenna appeared in cartoon form.
Wow. I mean sure a lot of characters on the She-Ra cartoon looked different than their toys but... wow. Mantenna was a regular character on the show. While not in every episode he was still one of the most frequently used characters. What he was most frequently used for however was comedy relief. In addition to his softer look, he had a high pitched, nasally voice with a bit of a stutter (usually on M and N sounds). Filmation apparently decided to make the character less frightening in appearance. Fair enough, but they didn't stop there.
Mantenna became the wimp of the Horde and the butt of many a joke and slapstick abuse. And it wasn't just the heroes who subjected him to slapstick abuse, the most frequent occurrence was Hordak dropping him through a trap door. It wasn't even always because he was angry with Mantenna either. A lot of the time Hordak did it just to be mean. It was a major running gag. If Hordak and Mantenna were in the same scene together, especially if it was in Hordak's throne room, there was a 98% chance Mantenna was going down that trap door at some point. There can be no doubt that Mantenna was intended for comedy on the show. Just look at this:
As if "Flowers for Hordak" wasn't one of the silliest episodes in the whole series, thanks to Hordak's increasing frustration with Perfuma who was portrayed as a major clueless ditz, then we get this gem. Mantenna is called to the throne room and has to rush in out of the shower. And Hordak punishes him for this by making him "take a bath". See the trap door dumped Mantenna into water. In a later episode we're finally shown that the door leads to an underground river beneath the Fright Zone. In the scene She-Ra is sneaking in through this passage when Mantenna comes falling from above. Even She-ra feels sorry for him at this point, helps him out of the river and asks if he's all right. Mantenna shrugs it off admitting it happens all the time.... then realizes who he's talking to, tries to attack She-Ra and ends up back in the river. Poor dope.
Curiously Mantenna wasn't always so goofy looking for Filmation. While storyboarding the first episode apparently they did not yet have a character sheet for Mantenna so he ended up looking like this. A beak like mouth, eyes and ears more owl (or at least Kowl) like and antennas coming out of his head. Yeah, as far from the toy as the final product was this is even farther. At least when it came time for his 200X upgrade they had something to work from.
Yikes. I guess they decided to take advantage of the show's more serious tone and go back to the creepy Mantenna. Now he only appeared in one episode (The Power of Grayskull) and very briefly. He had no dialogue, though he did let out an angry screech like cry. We don't even see him pop his eyes out, though he did get to fire his eye beams. It's not clear if he would have escaped the wimp of the group image had the show continued and he been given more episodes to appear in. During the final battle he, Grizzlor and Leech all attack King Grayskull at once, Mantenna fires his eye beams and Grayskull deflects them back with his sword. The beams hit Grizzlor and Leech knocking them out then Grayskull slams into Mantenna, easily overpowering him before tossing him away like a rag doll. Was this because Mantenna was a wimpy screwup, or was it meant to show Grayskull as a real badass? In some ways it comes off as a combination.
They had stopped making full action figures by the time they got to the Horde, but he still got a staction which looks more familiar as Mantenna than the cartoon look. His face captures part of the Filmation wimpiness which the thinner body adds too, but he still has the freakishness to his appearance as well.
Curiously, this image from the 200X dvd character gallery portrays a cartoon look much more recognizable as Mantenna then what actually showed up in the episode. Perhaps they hadn't fully settled on his 200x look at the time and had the show continued he would have been more like this in the future.
And now Mantenna is finally showing up in the Classics toy line. I'll go more into detail once I have the figure in hand and do my full review of it but for now you can take a look and see how he transcribes into this newest form.
So that's Mantenna and he really has gone through several distinct looks. This is really just a sample, do full search and you can find even more takes, most of them by fans putting a personal spin on him, but with books, comics and more Mantenna will continue to be a uniquely twisted part of MOTU lore.
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Joined: 30 Jan 2005
|Posted: Tue Sep 17, 2013 4:21 am Post subject:
|Thanks for the history of Mantenna. Very interesting to see the various portrayals through the years.
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