In December 1997, Marvel Comics decided it was time to cash-in on the ever-increasing anime and manga fad.Â And it just so happens Marvel had genuine manga versions of both Spider-Man and the X-Men just lying around.Â Of the two mangas released at the time, I greatly preferred X-Men, but with it being nothing more than an adaptation of the Saban animated series, thereâ€™s really little to write about.Â So instead, Iâ€™ll take a crack at the mostâ€¦â€interestingâ€ of the two books, Ryoichi Ikegamiâ€™s Spider-Man.
First, a little history on the author.Â Ryoichi Ikegami is one of the more well-renowned manga artists, with his work spanning numerous decades.Â He is the man behind such popular manga and anime series as â€œCrying Freemanâ€, â€œMai, the Psychic Girlâ€, â€œHeatâ€, â€œSanctuaryâ€ and many others.Â Ikegami began writing and illustrating the Spider-Man manga in January of 1970 and continued on through September of 1971, with the manga originally being published in Monthly Shonen Magazine.Â Spider-Man is one of Ikegamiâ€™s earliest works, and as a result, doesnâ€™t exactly reflect the peak of his talent.
The story basically retold classic American Spider-Man tales but with a decidedly more Japanese approach.Â The manga took place in Tokyo with Spider-Manâ€™s alter ego being a teenage boy named Yu Komori (a quasi-pun, since â€œkumoâ€ is Japanese for â€œspiderâ€).Â Yu got his powers the same means that Peter Parker did, through an irradiated spider-bite.Â Like Parker, Yu lived with his elderly Aunt and worked for a newspaper (Joho Shinbun, with the chief editor bearing a frightful likeness to J. Jonah Jameson).Â Yu also had a crush on a girl named Rumiko Shiraishi, the Japanese counterpart to Mary Jane Watson or possibly Gwen Stacy.Â Outside of these similarities, though, the stories were considerably different from their American counterparts.
The first villain Spider-Man faces is Electro.Â Electroâ€™s origin, like most of the villains re-envisioned in this manga, is completely different from the American version.Â Electro is a boy named Shiraishi, the older brother of Rumiko.Â He spent months working on various jobs, including at an auto shop, a boxing gym, a racecar track and a jazz club.Â Shiraishi used the skills he picked up along the way to create cybernetic body enhancements which gave him electric powers.Â Donning a gaudy costume, Shiraishi became Electro, a glorified bank robber.Â As it turns out, Shiraishi was robbing the banks to collect money for his and Rumikoâ€™s ill mother, whose hospital bills were reaching astronomical levels.Â However, the thrill of robbing banks consumed him and he turned to evil.
Electro probably got the best treatment out of most of the villains Ikegami re-imagined.Â It certainly isnâ€™t half as ridiculous as Max Dillonâ€™s origin from the US series, where he was electrocuted by wires and struck by lightning at the same time, granting him electric powers.
The Lizard definitely got the worst of the new origins.Â In the manga, he was a scientist for a Japanese pharmaceutical company named Dr. Inumaru.Â He traveled to the South Pacific and discovered a valuable new medicine.Â However, in an act of greed, his assistant shoved him off a cliff and escaped with the notes on the medicine.Â Inumaru awoke in a valley of giant lizards.Â He fought to survive and by imitating the movements of the lizards his body underwent a â€œDarwinian changeâ€.Â Now, whenever he gets stressed, Inumaru can transform into the Lizard.Â Inumaru returned to Tokyo and kidnapped his assistantâ€™s son, Araki, who also happened to be a good friend of Yu.Â Holding Araki hostage, Inumaru ordered Arakiâ€™s father to come to Miyashiro Zoo alone and with the notes of their work in the South Pacific.Â Spider-Man tagged along in secret and discovered the truth about Inumaru.Â Inumaru destroyed the notes and threatened to take his revenge out upon his assistant by hurling his son into a tank of crocodiles.Â Spider-Man intervened, ruining Inumaruâ€™s plans and causing the doctor to transform into the Lizard.Â After a brief skirmish, Spider-Man unintentionally flipped the Lizard into the tank of crocodiles, where he was quickly devoured.Â A bittersweet victory for Spider-Man, as he realized that the true villain was Arakiâ€™s father.
A â€œDarwinian changeâ€?Â Oh come on!Â Thatâ€™s got to be the worst origin story Iâ€™ve ever read.Â Iâ€™m not sure why Ikegami chose to kill off the Lizard so quickly, either.Â This was just his first appearance.Â Either way, really not the best story of the bunch.
Itâ€™s also a real sorry state of affairs when a villain like the Kangaroo gets a better story arc than most others.Â In the manga, the Kangaroo was an American pro wrestler who was kicked out of the league for killing his opponents with his deadly kicks.Â He attempted to join the Japanese Wrestling Association, and when he was denied, went on a rampage, beating all the other wrestlers to a pulp.Â Spider-Man intervened, but the Kangaroo escaped after a short chase through a construction zone and a busy street.Â The Kangaroo resurfaced shortly thereafter, this time in a televised wrestling match.Â Once again, the Kangaroo was brutally beating his opponents and Spider-Man intervened.Â The Kangaroo made a mad-dash for the exit, though Spider-Man was ready for him.Â However, a mob of people began to trample a small boy, leaving Spider-Man to let the Kangaroo escape so he could rescue the child.
When Kangaroo appeared in the manga, he was still a relatively new villain, even in America, having premiered in the American Spider-Man comic that very same year.Â So I suppose when this comic was produced no one was certain heâ€™d be a total loser.Â I will admit, this is probably the best Kangaroo story Iâ€™ve ever read, take that as you will.
Mysterio received a much more accurate translation into the Japanese manga.Â A master of special effects, Mysterio began impersonating Spider-Man and committing various crimes, soiling Spider-Manâ€™s reputation.Â Then, appearing as a costumed hero named Mysterio, he challenged Spider-Man to a battle atop a bridge.Â Using his various skills, he countered all of Spider-Manâ€™s abilities (clouding his spider-sense with gas, dissolving his webbing with acid, etc).Â Defeated, Spider-Man retreated from battle to save the life of a child that had been injured by one of Mysterioâ€™s blasts.Â Mysterio was being hailed as a hero until his final encounter with Spider-Man, where the wall-crawler revealed Mysterioâ€™s true machinations to the public and was exonerated of all charges.
As you can see, Mysterioâ€™s origin story is almost an exact duplicate of the one seen in Amazing Spider-Man #13.Â There really isnâ€™t much else to say about it, honestly.Â I wonder why Ikegami didnâ€™t put as much effort into spicing up Mysterioâ€™s background.Â Perhaps he was just getting lazy?
The Spider-Man manga was never completely released in the United States.Â A total of 31 issues were released, however, they only comprised 7 of the 13 story arcs Ikegami had written.Â Additionally, the art was â€œflippedâ€™ so that it would read from left to right like an American comic book.Â And whatâ€™s more, the content was edited to remove some of the more violent images.
Perhaps some day, the complete, uncut Spider-Man manga will be released on American shores, perhaps in a more appropriate graphic novel format rather than the single issue approach.Â To be honest, Iâ€™m not particularly fond of this manga, though it does have its upsides.Â The art, despite being rather dated, is a bit more dynamic in style than the art of the American comic during 1970.Â Also, while it may not be exceptionally good, the Spider-Man manga is a real novelty and fun for curiosityâ€™s sake.