US tv series (1994-1995). Wilbur Force Productions/Renaissance Pictures/Universal Television for Fox Television Network. Created by Sam Hamm and Sam Raimi. Produced by Paris Qualles, Tim Iacofano, and David Roessell. Directors included Cliff Bole, Rob Bowman, Michael Caffey, and Les Landau. Writers included Coleman Luck, Brad Markowitz, Qualles, Bryce Zabel, Mark Scott Zicree. Cast includes Galyn Gorg, Carl Lumbly, Roger Rees and Andrew J Robinson. One 90-minute pilot film plus 22 44-minute episodes. Colour.
Easy-going Dr Mikes Hawkins (Lumbly) is caught up in a riot and shot in the spine, an incident which leaves him paralysed from the waist down. After losing a lawsuit against the specific police officer he holds responsible, Dr Hawkins decides to use his company's considerable resources to create an armoured exoskeleton suit. This Powered Armour not only allows him to walk again, but gives him Superpowers including greatly enhanced strength, speed, and agility. Becoming the vigilante M.A.N.T.I.S. (Mechanically Augmented Neuro Transmitter Inception System), Hawkins battles criminal schemes chiefly originated by corrupt industrialist Solomon Box (Robinson). Due to low ratings, the series was overhauled halfway through the season to introduce more overtly sf elements. These include super-Villains, Time Travel, Monsters of varying origins to be battled, and visits to Parallel Worlds.
M.A.N.T.I.S. is one of the few lead characters in a US Television series to die in the last instalment – killed battling an invisible Dinosaur, along with Police Lieutenant Maxwell (Gorog). The conclusion leaves open the possibility that a version of the character still lives in the year 2032, which Hawkins visited in a prior episode. Sometimes compared to Batman, the character more closely resembled the Marvel Comics armoured hero Iron Man. To date, this is the only US television series featuring an African-American superhero as the lead character (see Race in SF). Fox toned down the racial aspects considerably between the pilot and the series proper, claiming that they made the scenario too grim. It is generally believed that the actual motive was to avoid controversy. [GFi]
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