“Manta-Man” is an occasionally sexy superhero comedy of errors

What do you do if you've got the ability to transform into a flying manta, a part-time ninja roommate, and a girlfriend who's attracted to power? If you're Manta-Man, you try to become a superhero – and things get awkward.

Chad Sell's Manta-Man isn't a straight-up superhero story, and though it pokes at certain superhero conventions (such as superbeings who prefer aesthetics over outfits that are remotely practical), it isn't really a parody of the genre. Rather, it takes a look at a group of normal (aside from the occasional superpower or monkey sidekick) twenty-somethings, and how they might behave in a world where superhero is a viable career option.

Manta-Man, despite his fishy powers, spends most of his time tending bar at the gay bar Man-to-Man (Manta-Man at the Man-to-Man, there's a lot of that – and the misunderstandings that go with it). But when his girlfriend, the perpetually half-clothed Ana, learns his terrible secret, she insists he become a superhero (or an awesome thief – she's not all that picky). But his first attempt at thwarting crime goes horribly wrong – and ends up inspiring a hate crime.

It could be trite tale of an inept superhero in a doomed relationship, but Sell packs Manta-Man with enough zany characters (and striking visuals) to maintain a riotous sense of playfulness even among homophobes and nagging girlfriends. There is Sachiko's Manta-Man's roommate, a part-time ninja whose chi-summoning methods aren't exactly PG; Sachiko's girlfriend Dixie, a journalist whose entire face aptly consists of an entire, enormous mouth; and Foolgirl, who may have dated Sachiko and Dixie (or both, or neither), and hangs out in the window of Manta and Sachiko's apartment, blindfolded ("What? Oh, I peek a lot."). And that's before we even get to the comic's first real villain, who is taken down by decidedly non-superheroic means.

[Manta-Man]

Special thanks to Mojo for pointing me to this webcomic!