Monday, May 3, 2010

Holy Right-To-Left! It's Bat-Manga!

As most of you probably know, your mild-mannered reporter is no great fan of Manga. At least not modern Manga, or American-made poseur Manga. Still, when I found the book "Bat-Manga" at the library, I was intrigued.

Back in 1966, Fox TV exported the Batman live-action TV show to Japan. Someone at the publishers of the Manga anthologies Shonen King and Shonen Gaho thought it would be a good idea if they had a Batman comic to tie in with it.

Now, the exporting of American comics is nothing new or special. We've been shipping the rights and artwork for our comics all over the world for 70+ years. Ususally, however, an American publisher, such as DC would send some Batman comics to another country, say Japan, they would be translated, re-typeset and published by the local publisher. In this case, the publisher decided it would be easier or better to simply hire Jiro Kuwata (former child prodigy and co-creator of 8-Man) to write and draw original Batman stories that were more "Japanese".

Kuwata had originally intended to take some time and teach himself to draw Batman in the style of the American comics. Publication scheduling did not allow for that, however, and Kuwata simply forged ahead drawing Batman in his own, personal style.

These comics are fascinating. They feel like you just picked up a Batman comic from another planet or another dimension. They are familiar and yet, alien.

Still recognizable are Batman and Robin:

and Clayface:

who is a pretty good fit for Japanese comics.

One of my favorite villains in these comics is "Lord Death Man" who keeps staging his own death. That storyline had a nice, eerie feeling that foreshadows the US Gothic Batmans of the 1970's.

Of course, no incarnation of Batman is complete without a few panels of *ahem* unfortunate dialogue:

And likewise, no Japanese comic is complete without a monster like this:

Seriously though, this book is really an interesting glimpse of a Silver Age Batman that was never seen outside of Japan.


  1. if you like, the origin story for "Lord Death Man"-

  2. Prof: WOW! I assumed he was a Kuwata creation. Mostly because he was called (in translation) "Lord Death Man". That's really keen, thanks!

  3. Nice review.

    They have some of the original art at the Cartoon Art Museum right now as part of their Batman exhibit.

  4. Brian K: Thanks! I'll check it out.

  5. This bat mamga is still 1,000,000 better than Allred boo-fooing super hero comics without lube. Or anthing else he "drew".