Batman of Japan: Looking At Every Japanese Take on The Dark Knight

Historically, DC is the house that Superman built, but its name and modern-day identity are based more around his best friend, Batman. The Caped Crusader, like all superheroes, is world-famous, but we're talking about one particular country today, one with a unique comics culture all its own: Japan.

How does the World's Greatest Detective fit alongside the Gokus and Narutos of the world? The answer is much simpler than you think, and with a much longer history. To celebrate the recent release of Batman Ninja, we take a look back at every official take a Japanese manga or anime creator has had on the Dark Knight.

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Batman (Jiro Kuwata, 1966-1967)

As first told to Western audiences in Chip Kidd's 2008 book Bat-Manga! The Secret History of Batman in Japan (which reprinted much, but not all, of this manga), the Batman '66 TV show and "Batmania" remained popular in Japan longer than anywhere else. So naturally, a manga spinoff was in the cards.

Published in the now-defunct weekly magazine Shonen King and written and drawn by famed cartoonist Jiro Kuwata, Batman saw a sleek jet-setting Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson battle weird foes like Professor Gorilla, The Man With No Face, and the only villain from the series to make it to American comics, Lord Death Man.

Like most weekly manga, some stories flow better than others (the ultimate ending to the Professor Gorilla story is a bit of a bust), and the dialogue as translated by Sheldon Drzka can be a bit clipped, but they all read quickly and are, on balance, very enjoyable. While a bit more sober-minded than typical stories from the Silver Age, this manga (available chapter by chapter or in digital and print volumes released in 2014) is a fascinating introduction if you've never read classic manga and as close to an official "What if Batman was James Bond?" take as we'll ever get.

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