by Christopher Leeson
I was born some fifteen-hundred years ago,
I'm one undying champion,
'Seems my patron had his brother for a foe,
Now a higher-hazard duty
We fought from Liverpool to Tambaichi;
Oh, I was an Asian swordsman
I saw the Hundred Years War when it came;
Well, sometimes it was rough-going --
Once we had the Bard of Avon for a host;
So we had a good thing going,
Up front there was a wall-mirror I could see --
Her name, it seems, was Eden --
So I inherited fair Eden's family,
I'm one undying champion,
For readers unfamiliar with the saga of Mantra (Marvel Comics) these notes are given in explanation:
(Stanza 1) "Godwheel" -- A huge artificial world shaped like a pancake, built by a lost race of super-beings. Many civilizations exist upon it, some practicing magic. Archimage originally ruled a kingdom on the Godwheel.
(Stanza 3) "his brother for a foe" -- Archimage had a brother named Boneyard, a black magician who rebelled and drove Archimage from the Godwheel. Archimage went to Earth and gathered twelve of Earths best warriors together to combat the forces of Boneyard.
(Stanza 5) "the Soul-Walk" -- The Soul-Walk was a way-station between life and death where the souls of Archimage's slain warriors waited briefly for their master's magic to bring them back to life in the body of another living person. Thousands of men died a soul-death for the sake of Archimage's knights over the course of fifteen hundred years, a fact which has heavily burdened Lukasz's conscience.
(Stanza 7) "the Maid of Orleans" -- Joan of Arc, of course, the national heroine of France. Joan was captured by the English and burned alive on a politically-manipulated charge of witchcraft. There is currently a line of canned beans called "Joan of Arc," produced by Pillsbury. The "autoda-fe" was the ceremonial burning of a witch or heretic.
(Stanza 8) "Thanasi" -- Only an onset of insanity can explain how Lukasz's best friend could after so many centuries of loyalty have suddenly become a treacherous, paranoid, power-grasping murderer.
(Stanza 9) "the bard of Avon" -- William Shakespeare, natch. The best Shakespearean scholarship argues that an Earl of Oxford used Shakespeare, the owner of a London theater, as a front-man for publishing his drama and poetry, since literary creation was considered an unacceptable pastime for a nobleman.
(Stanza 10) "the name he had mislaid": In the system of magic followed by Archimage and Boneyard, an enemy who possesses the secret name of a sorcerer has power over him. Somehow Thanasi discovered Archimage's secret name and sold it to Boneyard. The latter received the magical power to travel from body to body, until Thanasi grew so jealous of Mantra's power that took possession of a powerful young sorceress of his own, becoming the vicious femme fatale "Necromantra."
(Stanza 12) "her name, it seems, was Eden" -- Knowing himself in danger, Archimage planned in advance that his most trusted knight, Lukasz, would reincarnate into the body of a magic-user. Unfortunately, the only powerful magic-user Archimage knew about at that time was a beautiful woman, Eden Blake, a divorced mother of two. Eden never suspected that a legacy of magic existed in her bloodline (similar to the sisters in the current the television series "Charmed"). Lukasz had no choice but to became the ultra heroine "Mantra," a role and name which he didn't care for.
(Stanza 12) "I removed my wizard's head" -- Determined to free Archimage and receive a new, male body in reward, Mantra made a desperate foray into Boneyard's kingdom, where she managed to raise a rebellion and drive Boneyard from his throne. Alas, the evil sorcerer cast an illusion upon the his fair enemy to make her think that Archimage was Boneyard -- and so in the heat of battle Mantra killed the one man who could have freed her from her female shape.
(Stanza 13) "that troubled boy will be the death of me" -- Eden here is talking
about Gus, her emotionally scarred son who, hurt by his parent's divorce (two
years before Lukasz showed up) and feeling neglected by his father, is full
of repressed anger. In one time-line universe (only one of many such time-lines)
Gus accidently gained magical powers and lashed out at his mother, injuring
her seriously enough to end her super career. At this awkward point, Marvel
Comics chose to suspend the entire Malibu Ultraverse magazine line. Hopefully,
present and future fans of Mantra shall show enough interest and exert enough
pressure on Marvel to persuade it to resurrect comicdom's most unique heroine.