If you don’t remember the superhero show MANTI…

If you don’t remember the superhero show MANTIS, you probably should give it a second look, especially the first unaired pilot. 

It was created by Sam Raimi and Sam Hamm, a full year before they would create the pilot movies that eventually became Hercules: the Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess. So this series was almost like a rough draft for their later TV work. 

The unaired pilot for MANTIS was far more interesting than the actual series, and actually pretty shocking in that 1) it had an almost entirely black cast (including, incidentally, Gina Torres), 2) it was explicitly political, dealing with race, disability, and police violence. 


The hero, a cybernetic scientist played by Carl Lumbly, was a black arch-capitalist indifferent to poverty and social questions, who was shot and put in a wheelchair by a police sniper. Building a robot suit that enhances his strength and enables him to walk that he called the MANTIS, he discovers a police conspiracy that causes him to renounce his former views. 

When the show went to series, the political content was removed, and the nearly all black cast was entirely replaced, except for Carl Lumbly.