The Legacy Of Ultraman In Comics

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Ultraman Comics

Ultraman is probably one of the most iconic figures in tokusatsu history — and there have been plenty of Ultraman comics that reflect that. Alongside Kamen Rider and Super Sentai (or as we know it, Power Rangers), he’s responsible for shaping the genre into what it is today. And that legacy has extended across multiple shows and feature films, including Shin Ultraman from the creative duo of Shinji Higuchi & Hideaki Anno. Here’s a look at the silver savior’s history in the world of comic books.

Ultraman (Harvey/Nemesis Comics)

Ultraman comics

Ultraman’s first foray into comics came from the now-defunct Harvey Comics and its Nemesis imprint. Both imprints used the Ultraman: Towards The Future series, produced in Australia for inspiration, and featured an astronaut named Jack Shindo becoming Ultraman. However, the Nemesis comics ran into several problems. First and foremost, the creative team thought they were working on a comic based on the original Ultraman series rather than Towards The Future. This led to Shindo being killed off, with martial arts master Ace Kimura replacing him as the new Ultraman. In contrast, the Ultraman miniseries that preceded the Nemesis comics was more faithful to Towards The Future and even boasted the creative talents of the late, great Dwayne McDuffie. McDuffie would also work with artist Ernie Colon on the series, with the duo later reuniting to create Damage Control for Marvel.

Ultraman Tiga (Dark Horse Comics)

 

The next Ultraman comic would come courtesy of Dark Horse Comics. While the publisher is best known for creator-owned comics, including the Hellboy universe, it also regularly puts out licensed comics centered around film and TV. Ultraman Tiga was no different: the comics were originally published in Hong Kong before being translated into English for their Dark Horse release. And in fortuitous timing, an English dub of Tiga was airing at the time on 4Kids TV. Unlike the Harvey comics, the Tiga maxiseries would hew more closely to its source material, with the first few issues outright adapting events from the opening episodes! Considering that Tiga was one of the most popular installments in the Ultraman saga, it’s not surprising.

Ultraman (VIZ Media)

Ultraman Comics

In 2011, a new Ultraman manga would launch and take the character in an entirely new direction. Written by Eiichi Shimizu and illustrated by Tomohiro Shimoguchi, it is a direct sequel to the original Ultraman series. It follows the son of the original Ultraman Shin Hayata, Shinjiro. Discovering that he has gained superhuman powers due to his father’s bonding with Ultraman, Shinjiro dons a hi-tech suit of armor and battles alien invaders as the new Ultraman. The Ultraman manga often goes to far darker places than its source material, tackling themes of xenophobia and terrorism. And it also finds new ways to play with the Ultraman mythos; even though this is a direct sequel to the original Ultraman, other Ultra characters, including Ultraseven and Ultraman Taro, get their time to shine. The manga’s even inspired an anime series on Netflix!

Marvel’s Ultraman Saga

Finally, there has been the recent miniseries that Marvel Comics has been putting out. These series include The Rise of UltramanThe Trials of Ultraman, and the recently completed The Mystery of Ultraseven. They come courtesy of a deal that Tsuburaya Productions struck with the House of Ideas to give Ultraman a bigger footing in the states. And all three series improve on the work that came before. Like the manga, they go deeper into elements of the Ultraman mythos while modernizing it for the current era. And unlike the Harvey series, actual research was put into the series! That comes courtesy of writers Kyle Higgins & Mat Groom, who are no strangers to the world of tokusatsu. Higgins previously wrote Mighty Morphin Power Rangers for BOOM! Studios and helped shape the Massiveverse at Image Comics.

The legacy of Ultraman has been a major part of comic book history, and it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down any time soon. In fact, later this year, the worlds of Ultraman and Marvel will finally collide! Given the response to the previous series and Shin Ultraman, I wouldn’t be surprised if even more Ultraman comics show up in the future.

Shin Ultraman is currently playing in select theaters and will arrive on VOD and DVD later this spring.


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