Bat-Manga!: The Secret History of Batman in Japan

Published By: Pantheon

Book Category: Non-Fiction, Comics & Graphic Novels

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Reviewed by Yuka Mizushima

In 1966, Shonen King and Shonen Gaho were two weekly comic anthologies that wanted to capitalize on the new U.S. Batman TV shows that were being broadcast in Japan. They commissioned manga master, Juro Kuwata to write and illustrate Batman stories for the Japanese public. Forty years later, Chip Kidd and Anne Ishi have translated these forgotten stories.

Tales include:

The Terrible Clayface Encounter

Lord Death Man

Go-Go the Magician

While I enjoyed all stories, my personal favorite was Professor Gorilla because of its neat storyline and the moral at the end.

Interspersed are photos of Batman collectibles such as: a tin Batmobile, posters, mask and figurines. There’s also an interview with Juro Kuawta. Some interesting trivia from that interview: his scheduling didn’t allow him time to work on Superman so he was thrilled to be able to do work on Batman, his goal was to write stories that were realistic and would appeal to readers of all ages, and his home address was printed in some of the margins of the comics!

These stories were a lot of fun to read. Since these tales are originally produced in Japanese, the book reads from right to left. The panels are numbered so you can keep track of the storyline. Some of the graphics “bleed” because the panels were photographed from the original books. This look adds a neat dimension; I agree with Chip Kidd that the effect is reminiscent of wood-block painting. The characters look Japanese and the villains are cunning and ruthless. Never fear because Batman and Robin are just a phone call away!

With the holiday season quickly approaching, I think Bat-Manga! would be a great gift for Batman and/or anime fans. The plot keeps moving and even reluctant readers will enjoy the text and graphics. An added perk is that as I was reading this book, I had the old Batman theme song and sound effects, “Ka-POW!” as background music.

Armchair Interviews says, Bat-Manga! is a must have for collectors.

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