When Mike Barr set out to do a sex-change superhero comic, he went for it BIG TIME. Not only did the warrior Lukasz find himself reincarnated as a gorgeous, buxom woman, but also a single mother. Early issues featured our former tough guy struggling with all manner of female issues in his secret identity, where he finds he now has a name right out of a corny romance novel, Eden Blake.
Eden’s first days as a woman are filled with some stock scenes you would expect in any story in the gender swap genre: putting on a bra for the first time, learning to do make-up, dealing with getting hit on by guys, but there was also that very interesting and rarely seen twist that he was a single mother trying to figure out how to balance his motherly duties with work and, of course, his secret identity.
His superhero life was also complicated by his new gender, as he not only found himself forced to learn and rely on magic instead of brawn, but also to wear the kind of ridiculous costume typical of old school female superheros.
Meanwhile, his age-old enemy, Boneyard, decides he wants to force the now very female and fertile Lukasz to marry him:
Early on, I found the series interesting because it explored more than most comics had the character’s gender conflicts. Lukasz resents his new life as a woman, and he eagerly seeks ways to escape womanhood. He finds it annoying and disturbing that he has to deal with men pursuing him, wanting to marry him, but at the same time he seeks to use his new sexuality, dressing for work in a skirt, heels and a tight blouse, or putting on a sexy dress and flirting with a man to get information. Lukasz finds himself accepting an essentially misogynistic, feminine role in his pursuit of his lost manhood, using his curves to get what he wants.
In addition to the storylines, the artists who penciled the series often put Lukasz into very feminine poses, which was also fun to see:
Ultimately, the gender-swapped Mantra came to an end when Marvel bought out Malibu Comics and decided a gender fluid superhero was too edgy and hip for their universe. I have always felt it would have been better as a graphic novel or limited series anyway, because the conflict can only go on so long in my opinion before it just becomes a stagnant character. The true series did end very well, though, with Lukasz not only accepting that he was now a woman and a mother, but taking pride in his new sex, so the story did have a conclusion after all, and one that was, at the time, different from most of the material I had ever seen in which being turned into a female was always a terrible shaming experience.
Check out the Mantraverse Website
Or pick up some issues at Mile High Comics.