Wednesday, July 16, 2014

U.S. Comics-Turned-Manga

Just as there's been plenty of anime based on American comics, there's also been an equal amount of Japanese manga that have been adapted from. Some from in recent years, with others as far back as the 1960s. Most of them have been printed into English, so give some of these a looksee.
BAT-MANGA
Released in Japan in the mid-60s, this was the first ever American property to be redone as an official manga. Written and drawn by Jiro Kuwata who had also created the original Robocop, 8-Man, so he already had some experience dealing with superheroes. The manga was a licensed homage to the Batman Silver Age comics of the time, as well as the Adam West TV series. You'll catch a few regulars like Clayface and the briefly seen Lord Death Man, as well as a few other DC villains like Weather Wizard. This inspired a special segment on the Batman: The Brave And The Bold animated series too. The manga was originally presented in English in a large collected edition by Pantheon Books along with several photos of 60s Japanese Batman merchandise, but has been printed out in its entirety through DC Comics as three separate graphic novels.
BATMAN: CHILD OF DREAMS
The second manga based on the Dark Knight, this was done by Kia Asamiya, whose work like Silent Mobius and Steam Detectives were greatly influenced by Batman comics. In it, the Caped Crusader investigates a new drug which allows someone to temporarily transform their likeness into whoever they want, although all its users seem to want to be various members of Batman's rogues gallery. Batman gets some help from a lovely Japanese reporter, and his case takes him to Japan to find the source of the new drug trafficking. The style for the manga was heavily inspired by the two Tim Burton movies, but adds some elements from Batman: The Animated Series too.
BATMAN: DEATH MASK
From Togari creator Yoshinori Natsume, this was the third official manga based on the comics. This also takes a hint from Batman: The Animated Series in that it deals with our hero fighting a nemesis who was actually someone Bruce Wayne learned martial arts with while training to be Batman in Japan, and in this story he is taking down Gotham's underground. The series was released in as a 4-issue mini-series and later a manga-sized paperback.
HULK: THE MANGA
This was done around the same time as the original Spider-Man manga in the early 70s, both of which were published by Kodansha. It was written by Lady Snowblood writer Kazuo Koike. A lot of what went on the story has been lost to the ages, because most of the original prints aren't around anymore, but it was basically a Japanese adaptation of the original Hulk comic story, but instead of Bruce Banner, it's Hiroshima-survivor Dr. Araki who comes to America to help the military create a gamma bomb. He gets dowsed with radiation from it and transforms into the Hulk. Unlike the Marvel Mangaverse version though, this one isn't a giant kaiju-sized Godzilla knockoff, and here he's referred to as the "Haruku". You won't be seeing any real printed editions of this in English anytime soon, but there are several scans of it available online.

SHADOWS OF SPAWN
Unlike some of the other manga titles, this one actually takes place in the same timeline as the American comic. A Japanese kid in America named Ken Kurosawa is a karate punk, but cares for his sick younger sister. He gets killed in a car bombing, and spends the next seven years in Hell. He is brought back to Earth as a Hellspawn by Malbogia(the Image Comics version of the Devil), and is trained by Clown to be one of Satan's little helpers. Ken meets other characters not shown in the manga like the fairy-like Bee, the angel Mikaela, and his mentor, a former Hellspawn named Cheveyo. Ken spends his new life as a Spawn dealing with enemies from Heaven and Hell, while trying to protect his sister who is now a big teen celebrity. The manga comes to a slightly abrupt ending as Hollywood ends up getting infested with Spawn-zombies, while Ken is mostly unaware of this, although it seems to be one of Clown's schemes. This manga was done by newcomer Juzo Tokoro who had a good feel for the characters while integrating the story to the established Image Universe.
SPIDER-MAN: THE MANGA
This was the earliest manga based on a Marvel Comic, printed in 1970, which is pretty early on considering the original comic was less than a decade old. Being a Japanese remake of the wacky wallcrawler, this sees young Yu Komori getting bitten by a radioactive spider and eventually decides to become a masked crimefighter. The manga does act mostly as a retelling of the American comic, with its own versions of regulars like Aunt May, J. Jonah Jameson, Electro, the Lizard, and one of the more obscure members of Spidey's rouge's gallery, the Kangaroo. The series started out as a standard superhero story, but began taking on some dark and sexual overtones prior to its cancellation. So far, the Spider-Man manga has only been released in English through Marvel Comics in single issue format in the late 90s with no collected trade paperback.
SPIDER-MAN J
This was the second serialized manga about Spidey, but no relation to the previous Spider-Man manga, or the Japanese live-action show. It was a complete retelling of wall-crawler where here he's a 15 year old named Sho who somehow gained spider powers, and wears a colorful costume to fight crime. The only one who knows his secret is Police Detective Mokoto, and the two have a working relationship similar to Batman and Commissioner Gordon. Spider-Man regularly fights the evil Lord Gokibu who we never see, but he sends his minions like General Wasperus and Mantis to deal with him. The manga world has its own versions of Elektra, Blade, and the Fantastic Four. It's also a little weird as this Spidey's costume has the letter "J" in the middle of his spider insignia, and you can see his eyeballs through his mask. This series was first printed into English in the pages of Spider-Man Family, and later collected into two trade digest paperbacks.
SPIDER-MAN TV
This was technically the second manga title based on Spider-Man, but with no connection to the one from the early 70s. It was based on the goldmine of memes that was the Japanese live-action Spider-Man TV series. They ran it in several different magazines, none of which were apparently collected into a single graphic novel, and so far remain unavailable in English. The TV series was totally separate from the American comics and the prior manga as it had a young motorcyclist discovers a dying alien who gives him spider powers to battle the evil Professor Monster and his Iron Cross Army. This Spidey also had his own flying rocket car and transforming giant robot, something that Peter Parker never could've afforded on a photographer's salary. Stan Lee actually preferred the Japanese TV series as opposed the American live-action show which came out around the same time. This version of Spider-Man also appears in the Spider-Verse event in the regular Marvel Comics which combines pretty much every Spidey from every parallel universe together in one big Legion of Spider-Men.
WARRIOR NUN MANGA
Run Ishida who had handled the Darkstalkers manga did this short story which did appear in Anime AX magazine out in Japan. This is a new take on the American comic about a nun who is part of Catholic church's special Warrior Nun branch that hunt down demons. Instead of Areala though, it has Warrior Nun Sakura who is new to a Catholic girls school, and has to save a student from selling her soul to the sexy demoness Lillith. This was printed as an English one-shot special that also reprints the original story in Japanese too.
WITCHBLADE TAKERU
This manga was an original story written by Yasuko Kobayashi who also wrote the the Witchblade anime TV series, and apparently takes place in the same universe as the anime and the American comic. Like the anime, its also set in Japan and deals with a school girl who ends up becoming the next bearer of the Witchblade, partially thanks to the machinations of the U.S. government. Takeru uses the Witchblade to destroy all the known demons in Japan, along with an American naval fleet. It's up to an old friend of hers to use his own spiritual powers to stop her rampage of revenge. The manga was followed up by a Japanese one-shot novel that continues the Witchblade's journey in Japan on to another successor.
X-MEN: THE MANGA
Unlike most of the other American titles that were made into manga, this series was a direct adaptation of the first X-Men animated series from the 90s. It essentially took each one of the 26 episodes and made a single issue for each one. This was released in English from Marvel at the same time they released Spider-Man: The Manga in 26 issues, but so far hasn't bothered with a trade paperback. It's worth looking up at least for a manga spin on the merry band of mutants.

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