Because of economic constraints, I have been forced to not buy as many comics as I would like these past couple of years... a real struggle for me, let me tell you.
Back before I was married, I could easily spend $100 a week on comics and be happy reading away. Now... I go out to the comic shop maybe once ever two months and pick up a couple of titles: All Star Western and Green Lantern.
But before... holy crap... it was everything Marvel, DC, Dark Horse and a whole mess of independents...
I mean... at one time or another, I have owned Cerebus - complete run of 300, Amazing Spider-man #1 (and a complete run from #88 - my first ever comic book purchased new through #600), Fantastic Four #2, Avengers #1-300, Conan - complete run, X-Men #2 - 300, Batman #200-400 ... just to name a few of the 30,000 comic books I own.
I have well over 700 Richie Rich comics, 1,000 Donald Duck/Uncle Scrooge and other duck comics, several hundred Archie comics... you name it, I have it.
I have tried my hand at a few of Japan's comics, and aside from an Americanized version of Astro Boy, Marvel and Dark Horse Godzilla, Mai The Psychic Girl, Lone Wolf & Cub I have always found them wanting.
When in Japan, I hated the Japanese style of comic book art... silly. I could never understand the need to take Japanese characters and give them overly large eyes... it was as though the Japanese were afraid of the way their own eyes looked, and so created this fantasy land where Japanese characters looked super cute with their over-sized eyes... and that's what Japanese animation and manga style artwork is all about... (at least on the surface). Lone Wolf and Cub taught me that not all Japanese artists felt the need to make their characters look kid-like.
And then I cam across Spider-man J... and make no doubt about it... Spider-man is hyphenated.
Anyhow... this one: Spider-man J is Spider-man Japan, created by a Japanese writer/artist who has set the Spider-man mythos in a whole new light.
Written and illustrated in glorious black and white by Yamanaka Akira (surname first), he gives spidey a manga look.
I bought it just because it had the Japanese connection - figuring I could slam it here in this blog. But, dammit... his (Akira's) version rocks.
Originally published in Japan in Comic Bom Bom between November 9, 2004 to May 11, 2005, Spider-Man J (スパイダーマンJ) is not the Spider-man I grew up with (come to think of it, the Spider-man published now by Marvel isn't the Spider-man I grew up with either, thanks to retro-origins et al).
Our hero is a Japanese 15-year-old boy named Sho Amano (天野翔) who has what is described as 'paranormal abilities of a spider'. I'm not sure what that means, as I came aboard a few stories in with the English version pictured above - Japanese Daze - the second digest of comics translated to English (the kid is once again called Peter Parker, screwing up the whole international flavor).
Y'know... aside from the whole 'eye' thing, I quite like Japanese art. As well, I like the fact that Japanese manga has a lot of action in it. I've read Batman and Spidey books where it's just talk-talk-talk, with so much angst in it you just want to puke.
I used to read comic books to escape from the suckiness of being a kid... but the angst, man... ugh. It's why Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge and Prince Valiant comics rock... It's full of adventure... stuff that is missing from comics nowadays... I'm reading my son Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge bedtime stories originally created in the 1940s and '50s by the best writer and artist out there, Carl Barks (though Hal Foster is a close second for his Prince Valiant!)
But... in Spider-Man J... while again there is the lack of adventure, there is a but load of action delivered in a fashion that the Japanese love and create so well.
Let me just say that, although not critically received here in North America, Spider-Man J was alright in my books. I even read a Marvel version of Spider-man (years ago) done by creators from India... it rocked. I think it's kind of cool to see how different cultures would create a version of Spider-man for themselves.
It still contains recognizable characters such as the Fantastic Four's The Thing and the villainous Dr. Doom, but the other characters are new and original and totally Japanese!
So... if you can... contact your local comic book shop and ask them if they have books # 1and #2 (Japanese Knights and Japanese Daze), two digest comics that are a bit off the regular fare, but quite an enjoyable read nonetheless.