Saturday, March 10, 2012

Manga Book Review: Bat-manga

Manga Book Review: Bat-manga
By Chip Kidd, Geoff Spear, and Saul Ferris
Manga Stories/Artwork by Jiro Kuwata
Reviewed by Howard Lee
Tomatovision TV

It seems like Batman is every where these days. We see the Dark Knight at the movies making over $1 billion dollars world wide and the Batman TV show is being aired some where in the world (We get reruns here in Chicago) and now the anime version of Batman with the release of Gotham Knights. It’s this part of the Batman legend that writers have explored in their new book Batmanga. It’s a look at Batman’s influence on manga during the 60’s. That brings us back to the Batman TV series of the 60’s. I was one of those youngsters who watched Batman and got caught up in Bat mania a condition I still have today little did I know that in Japan Bat mania was just as strong.

Now thanks to writers they have discovered Batman manga from the 60’s that has not been seen in Japan or the U.S. in over 40 years they have put together new material that adds to the Batman lore. Batmanga is a retelling of three Batman stories from the late 50’s and early 60’s from Batman and Detective comics plus one new story never before seen in the U.S. they are all drawn in the manga style by Jiro Kuwata who is the creator of 8th Man.

In the Japanese style reading from left to right there are six stores featured in Batmanga the first of these stories Batman fights the second Clay face Matt Hagen renamed Ferris. Just as in the U.S. story Ferris escapes from prison and discovers a mysterious pool that gives him shape shifting powers. He uses to steal jewels and paintings and just like the U.S. story he is captured by Batman and Robin and sent back to prison.

In the second story Lord Death has no counterpart in the U.S. that I know of its totally original. This story focuses more on Bruce Wayne then Batman. Lord Death is a criminal that is killed by Batman during a robbery and is buried. So the case should be over right? Wrong Lord Death begins to haunt the dreams of Bruce Wayne to the point of madness. Then Lord Death returns from the dead and begins his reign of crime all over again. Just as before Batman sees Lord Death killed but again he rises from the dead. What is his secret of how he can return from the dead Batman must find out soon to save his own sanity? This story alone is well worth getting the Batmanga book.

In the third story Batman must fight the villain called Weather Wizard Go-Go who has the power with his weather rod. He is intent on destroying all of Gotham City. But mainly Batman and another hero known as the Magician he does this by freezing him to death.
Fans of the Flash comics will not doubt think Weather Wizard from the Flash and how tried to use the weather to kill him. Same thing happens in this story Batman defeats Weather Wizard Go-Go by using the weather against him.

In the fourth story Batman must battle with the evil scientist Dr. Denton who lost his face due to an accident of his making. Now he is going after Batman to destroy Batman face. This put both men on a course that can only leads to the destruction of one. Like the Lord Death story I have not seen any U.S. counterpart for this story.

In the fifth story revolves around an experiment gone wrong. A scientist accidentally switched his brain with a gorilla. The gorilla has a hatred of mankind now with the intelligence of the scientist he goes on a reign of terror through the city. Batman must stop but only by going through the same procedure the scientist when through to defeat the gorilla. Many old school DC fans will see this story as a cross between Grood and Congorilla.

In the final story is about a government official that is undergoing a change that makes him evolves into a future version of man. He is afraid that his future self might see mankind as weak and inferior so he ask a group of scientist to shoot him into space if this happens. As the official continues to evolve his fears come to light he become a threat. Now it up to Batman and Robin to stop him, but can Batman break his code against killing to save the world? There is another part to this story the official has a daughter with the same gene will a risky operation save her from the same fate as her father? You will have to read Batmanga to find out.

The stories in Batmanga are taken from the time when Batman fought strange villains when to outer space and travel to strange dimensions to fight crime. Granted they are not the stories Batman fans are used to now but they are a lot of fun to read. Batmanga has another special surprise for Batman collectors. In between the stories are full color photos of Batman toys, books and games that came out in Japan in the 60’s. I was thrilled to see many of the Batman robots, planes, and of course Bat mobiles that were produced in Japan. As a toy collector for over 30 years and a Batman fan for over 40 years this section alone was worth the price of the book. But for every up there is a down my only complaint or observation is the artwork the artist is the creator of 8th man wait before you say “Howard 8th man is a manga and anime classic character” I know I like 8th man I have him as one of my avatars. But that’s the point Jiro Kuwata drew Batman alter ego Bruce Wayne to look like 8th man so sometimes I thought I was reading 8th man instead of Batman. Other than that Batmanga should definitely be added to any collector of Batman, manga, and toys. Batmanga spreads its wings over all three.

Personal Notes:

Reading Batmanga brings back memories of another Batman book called “Batmania in the Netherlands” by Klaus Dejirker in the 80’s I did research on that book that like Batmanga took a look at Batman’s effects on the Netherlands in the 60’s. Two things we founded out was that the Batman movie in the 60’s was so popular that kids would not go to school but to the movie so the Batman movie would not play until after school was out. Another was the beer company Amstel had an unusual promotion the Batman beer mask that could only be gotten if you sent in 5 Amstel beer labels. I could just see some parent being ask by his child “Dad drink more beer so I can get my Batman mask”. That’s wild unfortunately the Batmania book never made it to the U.S. that’s a shame. Who knows one day some one will write a book called “Batmania around the World”

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To purchase a copy of Batmanga that come in a soft and hard cover versions you can go to RightStuf for $29.95 Soft cover

The deluxe, expanded, and limited hardcover edition has a distinctly different cover, full-color printed endpapers, and an extra adventure written by Jiro Kuwata (not included in the paperback), about a band of rogue alien robot art thieves at large in Gotham City. Guess who gets called in to save the day.

>RightStuf for $60.00 Hard cover

Hard cover Version
Pantheon Books; October 29, 2008
$60.00  $48.00
You save 20%
edited by Chip Kidd; translated by Anne Ishii In 1966, during the height of the first Batman craze, a weekly Japanese manga anthology for boys, Shonen King, licensed the rights to commission its own Batman and Robin stories. A year later, the stories stopped. Now, in this gorgeously produced book, hundreds of pages of...

Soft cover Version
Pantheon Books; October 29, 2008
$29.95  $26.95
You save 10%
edited by Chip Kidd; translated by Anne Ishii In 1966, during the height of the first Batman craze, a weekly Japanese manga anthology for boys, Shonen King, licensed the rights to commission its own Batman and Robin stories. A year later, the stories stopped. Now, in this gorgeously produced book, hundreds of pages of...