Friday, May 4, 2012

Spider-Man: The Manga #6... The Lizard!

Another birthday present my folks picked up were a couple late 90's issues of Spider-Man The Manga, originally published from 1970-1971. Marvel had licenced it's popular character properties out to Japanese companies, in this case Monthly Sh┼Źnen Magazine, which then reimagined the webslinger's origins. In Spider-Man: The Manga, Yu Komori is the teenage science student bitten by a radioactive spider instead of Peter Parker, becoming Tokyo's greatest hero! I found the simplicity of these stories and the drawings very charming, and their melodramatic narrative of the shy, conflicted Yu Komori romantic. While I realize a lot of you readers may dismiss the value of these, particularly Ryoichi Ikegami's drawings. But I'd suggest an adjustment of your expectations upon viewing these works created by an artist from a different culture and decade. And remember art appreciation: you wouldn't expect Shel Silverstein to draw in the same way as John Romita.

Manga is the Japanese word for "whimsical drawings", and a pop culture term used outside Japan referring to comics published there. Historians on the subject divide this art culturally and historically at the point following Japan's surrender at the end of World War II, after which a new period of creativity flourished during the rebuilding of Japan's economic infrastructure, bringing the influence of the modern Manga we know today. (Wikipedia)

Originally published as "The Transformation of Doctor Inumaru" (reprinted in Spider-Man: The Manga #4-6), this story arc involves the Marvel villain we know as The Lizard. We pick up about 1/3 the way through here, Yu Komori following  The Lizard has kidnapped Yu's friend, Araki, offering to trade his life for the formula to Koda Pharmeceuticals' new medicine, developed by Araki's father.  Spider-Man secretly accompanies him to the drop-off, the Miyashiro Zoo, hoping to capture the Lizard.

Listening from a high window in the crocodile house, Spider-Man is shocked to hear Doctor Inumaru's story of murderous deception: Araki's father had attempted to murder him on a herbal expedition in the South Pacific for a Japanese pharmaceutical association. Having pushed Dr. Inumaru off a cliff in order to claim the rewards of the field research for himself, Araki's father left him in a terrible place, surrounded by gigantic lizards! He survived their attacks, but in his singular will for survival, Dr. Inumaru's body took on a "Darwinian change" as he continuously imitated the lizards movements. Now when he becomes stressed, a complete transformation occurs, as an urge to slaughter as they did fills his mind!

"But don't forget... you're the monster wearing human skin!" Dr. Inumaru reminds the scientist, throwing the bound Araki to the thrashing crocodiles!

A shocked Spider-Man leaps from his vantage point, literally pulling Araki from the jaws of death at the last moment. "You ruined my plan, " Dr. Inumaru shouts in anger, "I'll kill you!" 

...and with that, Dr. Inumaru transforms into the Lizard right before their eyes!

Spider-Man tries to reason with him, "Doctor! It's me, Komori!", but the monster is on a mindless rampage, not recognizing his former young acquaintance. Fearing for his life, the young hero knocks the Lizard into the crocodile pool with a mighty punch, clinging to the rails with his feet!

Realizing the Lizard has returned to his human form, Yu covers his face in horror & regret, realizing Dr. Inumaru has met his gruesome fate!

Spider-Man realizes the dubious result of rescuing Araki and his father, that the death of the cursed Dr. Inumaru to save them was wrong, even if unavoidable. He leaves the scene without a word, a lesson learned- that it is sometimes difficult to recognize true evil, often hidden within men.

The final page shows Yu walking home alone under the streetlights as a military convoy passes by, his long hair blowing across his boyish face, leaves swirling around his feet... a stereotypically, forlorn manga youth. I'll admit that I'm a complete novice to manga, my only related experiences being the anime I experienced watching Battle of the Planets and Speed Racer as a kid, but I'm of the opinion that Spider-Man translates well. Caught between boy and man, the conflicted and awkward nature of Yu Komori is really the essence of the character's mythos as well as the often adolescent melodrama of modern manga. 

More Later-Make It FUN!


  1. This looks wonderful Super-D i know i would enjoy reading these and if you ever get a chance you need to check out the live action Spider-Man show they did in Japan in the 70s/early 80s. It's "Super-Sentai" so think Spidey as a Power Ranger. : )

    1. i've seen some of that actually- VERY cool! The Toei Company, producers of the Super-Sentai series, produced the TV show and movie. Based aesthetically on Marvel's Spider-Man, Toei's webslinger is that of Takuya Yamashiro, a 22-year-old motocross racer who gained his powers through the last surviving warrior of Planet Spider, Garia.
      From Wikipedia:
      "Yamashiro assumes the identity of Spider-Man when he dons the protective suit known as the Spider-Protector. He is genetically altered as a result of the Spider-Extract injected into his body by Garia, gaining spider-like abilities such as sticking and climbing into walls. While Toei's version of the character wore the same costume as his Marvel counterpart, the show's storyline and the origin of the character's powers deviated completely from the source material. In addition to fighting by himself, this incarnation of Spider-Man also piloted a giant robot known as Leopardon, which he would summon to thwart off enlarged versions of the show's monsters. Toei would adopt the giant robot concept in subsequent incarnations of their own Super Sentai franchise."