By Ken Porter
Batman: The Jiro Kuwata BatManga #1
Written and drawn by: Jiro Kuwata
Published by: DC Comics
Batman for Japan
Jiro Kuwata adapted the American superhero Batman for Japanese audiences decades ago. Now DC Comics is re-releasing the manga in digital issues for American audiences to enjoy. I assure you, it’s worth checking out. I didn’t know what to expect from this manga, but I had seen the short animated film on Batman: The Brave and the Bold where they did an interpretation of Kuwata’s incarnation of Batman. That interpretation was fun, lively, and had a fantastic animation style. That style is clearly based on Kuwata’s artwork, which still shines even to this day.
A different kind of tone
What makes this a big alternative from the usual Batman comics are the tone and style in which Batman is presented.
The story is structured and paced like traditional Japanese manga, and they’ve even kept the right-to-left reading style for the digital release. But what really captured me was the blending of the campiness and fun of Batman ‘66 with the violence of modern Batman stories. Kuwata didn’t pull any punches for the Japanese audience, and even includes a murder in one of the scenes.
Lord Death Man
The villain in this version of Batman is truly different from the others. Let me just throw it right out there -- his ability is that he dies. That’s what Lord Death Man does. He dies and comes back to fight another day. Which would seem like a lame concept, but the fact that his outfit is attached to his skin and that he walks towards death with such a carefree attitude makes him creepy.
Why this is a great alternative
Most Batman comics lean towards the dark, detective-like stories that have made him popular. Kuwata’s BatManga is more of the swashbuckling and fun-loving Batman from the 60’s TV show, while still being edgy, action-packed, and much more violent. It’s a series that I wish was still going on now, and reminds me how much I loved the Batman Japan storylines in Grant Morrison’s Batman Incorporated.
Who would like BatManga?
Obviously fans of Batman will want to check this out. But I think that, aside from long-time fans of manga, new people might be drawn to this type of sequential storytelling from Japan. With an entry character like Batman it makes it much easier to step into a different world of comics.
What’s even nicer is that there’s a “How to Read Manga” page before the story starts, so if you’re not familiar with how to read from right-to-left you get a little crash course.
If you’ve been looking for an excuse to check out or try manga, but haven’t found an entry point, maybe BatManga is for you. It’s a different kind of Batman story that might add some zest to your digital pull list.
Ken Porter is presently interning with Cosmic Book News and also writes comic books including "Ink Ribbon" from Visionary Comics. Ken was also the winner of last year's Top Cow Talent Search contest and was recently published in "Artifacts" #33.