Spider-Man by Hirai Kazumasa & Ikegami Ryoichi

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If only the rest of the manga looked like this….

I’m doing some mindless cooking (it makes sense) and so I decided to hit the “surprise me” button over at MangaPanda again.  This time it turned up a singular chapter of the 1970s Spider-Man manga by Hirai Kazumasa (writer) and Ikegami Ryoichi (artist), and I thought, “Okay, why not?”

SPOILERS

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For me as a long-time Marvel fan, probably the best part of this was noticing the differences between the Japanese version of the main character of what could arguably be considered Marvel’s flagship title.

The most notable difference is the name.  Gone is Peter Parker, and in his place is Yu Komori (his name sounding quite similar to the Japanese word for spider: kumo.)  Yu is still very nerdy and spends his after school hours in the lab, where he is bit by the self-same radioactive spider that gives him the same superpowers as his American counter-part.

The other startling difference is that in place of Mary Jane is a pen pal, Rumiko.

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Aunt Mei (May)

Rumiko introduces the shounen element here.  She comes to Tokyo to enlist Yu’s help finding her nii-san.  Their mother is sick and is in desperate need of a million yen to pay the hospital bills, but elder brother has gone missing and, being a country girl, she doesn’t know her way around town.

Yu agrees to help her.

Meanwhile, TOTALLY COINCIDENTALLY, there is a bank robbing cyborg on the loose: Electro.  He’s been stealing from banks, almost like he’s desperate for money for something. This is a departure from what I remember about Electro.  I thought he was just a guy who got hit by freak lightning, but in this universe somehow people instantly assume he’s a cyborg (maybe this is just Japan. You know, “Oh, another kaiju… no, one of them cyborgs.”)

Yu doesn’t put two-and-two together though, until it’s too late.

In fact, he helps Rumiko follow her brother’s trail until it grows cold. Yu figures he has failed in his promise to help Rumiko either find her brother or get the money to help pay her mother’s hospital bills. That is, until the Daily Bugle newspaper (the one the Marvel Spider-Man is a photographer for) offers… wait for it…. a MILLION YEN prize to anyone who can capture or kill Electro.

A big fight ensues and Yu rips the mask off only to find…….

Yeah, Electro is Rumiko’s nii-chan.  Life sucks for Yu.  He gives Rumiko the money (with no explanation) and she leaves hating Spider-Man for having killed her elder brother.  Yu is left with guilt about the enormity of the responsibilities involved with superhero-ing.

Despite the massive origin story differences, I would say that, emotional arc-wise, this Japanese Spider-Man is exactly who Spider-Man would be if he were originally from Japan and not Queens, New York, if that makes any sense.  I guess what I mean is that this kind of crushing sense of ‘am I a monster or a hero?’ feels very Marvel.

Also I love that Yu has a pen pal!  That’s both so very 1970s and so… dorky (she says as someone who is an avid pen pall-er well into the 2017s.)

Would I recommend this?  Uh…. maybe as a historical document.  The art is old-timey and not really what I hardly even think of as manga-esque.

Ja mata!

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