Twenty years ago this week (January 24, 1994), FOX debuted one of the first serious Black superhero productions ever made for any media.
From the writer of Batman (Sam Hamm) and the director of Darkman and later the first Spider-Man theatrical trilogy (Sam Rami) came Dr. Miles Hawkins (played by the pre-Martian Manhunter Carl Lumbly), a paraplegic scientist who develops an exoskeleton that augments his strengths and becomes a superhero. He called himself M.A.N.T.I.S.
While the series had Black characters throughout the pilot movie, including a pre-Firefly Gina Torres as a a fellow scientist, Bobby Hosea as a news reporter, and a pair of African student interns of Dr. Hawkins (and before you ask, Milestone almost had a deal to do a M.A.N.T.I.S. crossover with the hero being Virgil “Static” Hawkins’ uncle), the series got rid of all of those characters and replaced them with an all-White cast save the hero himself, who became a vigilante of sorts.
Easy come, easy go. Bittersweet vindication that the series was short-lived, largely a result of the changes.
But M.A.N.T.I.S. remains a milestone part of Black superhero history. So, here’s to 20 years.