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SYFY WIRE Superheroes

The 6 weirdest, most confusing manga versions of American superheroes

By Cezary Strusiewicz
Superhero Manga

Japan has this amazing talent of taking just about anything and making it faster, more compact, and generally better ... as long as we're talking about cars or electronics.

Not so much when it comes to American comic books, though. Despite being well versed in the comic medium thanks to manga, when Japan puts its own spin on Western superheroes, things tend to get really weird, really fast.



Spider-Man shocker

01. Spider-Man: The Manga is really, really violent

Originally published in the early 1970s, the Spider-Man manga definitely started off all right. It told the story of Yu Komori who, much like Peter Parker, is a high school student who gets bitten by a radioactive spider, gets superpowers, learns all about responsibility — all that good stuff. He even battles classic Spidey villains like Electro, who Yu ends up punching to death in Issue #3, after which it turns out that he was the older brother of Yu's love interest.


SpiderMan japan

This was NOT Japanese Spidey's only kill, BTW. In issue #6, he defeats The Lizard by throwing him into a crocodile enclosure to be eaten alive (don't worry, he reverted back to human shortly before dying, so you know he suffered horribly in the end).

Things only got bleaker from there.

In Issue #16, Yu stops a gang-rape but, in the process, gets mistaken for one of the assailants. And in Issue #20, he battles an insane American veteran who goes on a shooting spree that almost ends with a plane crash — because in the Spider-Man manga, with great power comes great therapy bills.

Hulk Manga 2

02. The Japanese Hulk spends A LOT of his time crying

Released around the same time as the Spider-Man comic, Hulk: The Manga reimagined Bruce Banner as a Japanese scientist named Dr. Araki... who was a Hiroshima bombing survivor?

Thankfully, that's not how he turned into the Hulk — that was still the result of a gamma bomb test gone wrong. But because of Araki's past, the manga has a very strong anti-war tone, with Hulk often lamenting how sad it is that humans hurt other humans, etc. And you do not want to make this Hulk sad. Because when this Hulk gets sad, he starts to cry. Over and over again, to the point that it makes you wonder why they didn't just rename the character to The Incredible Sulk.

Wonder Woman

03. The Justice League Origin: Wonder Woman manga is like a Snidely Whiplash cartoon

Shiori Teshirogi's Wonder Woman origin story, part of 2018's official Batman and The Justice League manga, kicks off with some nefarious characters and a distressed girl trying to enter a concert hall. That's when Wonder Woman appears out of nowhere and ties them up with her Lasso of Truth.

It turns out that the young woman had a ton of dynamite under her dress and was supposed to suicide bomb the concert to kill some high-ranking politicians, possibly because tying them to the train tracks was too much work. The woman then cries that she doesn't want to die and Diana thanks her for telling her the truth, as if the girl had a choice, being tied with her magic lasso.

Diana later talks about herself growing up on Themyscira and promises to protect the girl. Then the comic just ends and we are left to assume that Wonder Woman took the girl to Amazon Island, whether she liked it or not. Hooray.

Batman Manga 2

04. The Batman manga has the greatest Batman villains ever

When Jiro Kuwata obtained a license to produce Batman comics in Japan in the mid-1960s, that license must have read "Go nuts," because that is exactly what he did.

The hero of the story is still Bruce Wayne, but he gets a bunch of new villains, starting with Lord Death Man, a guy in a Halloween skeleton costume whose superpower is owning an automatic gun. He's also a yoga master who can seemingly stop his heart and fake his death, which he pulls off TWICE because Professor Lead apparently poisoned Gotham's water supply.

Batman Manga 3

Then there was Dr. Faceless, who appeared to be a scientist whose face got scarred, causing him to go insane and burn works of art depicting faces. The character had hints of Two Face's psychological issues, but is way dumber and later ruined by an unnecessary plot twist. The Human Ball, on the other hand, was more straightforward, simply being a guy in a rubber suit who could bounce around, although I'm sad to announce that Batman did NOT stop him with a well-placed kick.

Monkey Punch Justice League

05. Monkey Punch's Justice League gave us hipster Aquaman

Before passing away this year, Monkey Punch, the famed creator of Lupin the Third, completed an official collaborative project for DC Comics wherein he redesigned the Justice League in his own unique style.

The illustrations were later released through Warner Bros.' Japanese Twitter account, from which we've learned that a skinny Batman or Captain Marvel is comedy gold, and that, judging by his hairstyle, the Japanese Aquaman apparently works at some kind of coffee shop.

Iron Man japan

06. The Official Iron Man/Space Brothers Crossover has Tony doing errands for a mom

Space Brothers is a popular manga, anime, and even a live-action film about Japanese astronauts Mutta and Hibito Nanba. It's essentially a slice of life story mixed with plenty of comedy, so it's not really that crazy that author Chuya Koyama eventually penned an official crossover between Space Brothers and Marvel comics.

In the short story, only published in the November 2016 issue of the lifestyle magazine FRaU for some reason, Mutta is doing some routine work on the Moon when Iron Man flies in and tells Mutta that he has to go back to Earth with him. Onboard Iron Man's ship, he and Black Widow explain to Mutta that he won a free trip to Hawaii but the ticket is in his name so he has to pick it up himself. That's why his mother asked Iron Man (whom she apparently had on speed dial for reasons, which we will not get into) to fetch her son.

The comic ends with Mutta asking Tony to maybe share his technology with space agencies because his ship can travel between the Earth and the Moon in 25 minutes instead of three days. Tony says he'll think about it, which here, of course, means "No," and if that just doesn't perfectly capture Tony Stark's personality... nothing does.