Star Wars, Batman, and RWBY may not have been created in Japan, but they certainly are popular there, and now publishers are closing the loop licensing manga based on these properties for English-language readers.  Just as in a game of telephone, the final product is very different from the original, but that’s part of what makes manga interesting: seeing familiar characters in new situations and stories.  Here’s a look at some recent manga based on American (and British) properties.

Transformers:  The original Transformers toys are actually a sort of Japanese-American hybrid, and the media based on them went off in different directions from the start.  In March, VIZ Media will publish the first volume of Transformers: The Manga, which collects comics that ran in TV Magazine in Japan starting in 1985.  These are the Generation 1 Transformers, but the storyline is very different from Marvel Comics’ Transformers comics that ran about the same time.  While the Japanese stories keep the premise of the war between the Autobots and the Decepticons, they include a new character, a boy named, Kenji, who battles alongside the Autobots.  VIZ is publishing these manga in hardcover editions with some color pages and additional art in the back.

Disney:  VIZ Media will publish a manga based on the Disney movie Frozen 2 (see "NYCC: Viz to Publish ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Frozen 2’ Manga") in September; the adaptation is by Arina Tanemura, the creator of a string of successful shojo manga, including The Gentlemen’s Alliance, Phantom Thief Jeanne, and Sakura Hime: The Legend of Princess Sakura.

Tokyopop has a whole line of Disney manga, most of which was originally published in Japan, although a few titles, such as Beauty and the Beast, were written in the U.S. and illustrated in Japan.  The original Japanese series include The Princess and the Frog, Disney Manga: Stitch! (in which Stitch goes to an island near Okinawa), and an adaptation of WALL-E.  The Kilala Princess series was also originally published in Japan, but the sequel will be scripted in America and drawn in Japan.

Isle of Dogs:  Earlier this month, Dark Horse Comics released Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs, a manga adaptation of the film about a boy’s search for a dog who has been exiled, along with all the other dogs in Tokyo, to a trash island.  The artist is Minetaro Mochizuki, who is best known for the subway-horror manga Dragon Head.  The 80-page hardcover is published in a 7" x 10" trim size, which really allows Mochizuki’s art to breathe.

RWBY:  RWBY is an American animated show that is not only popular in North America but has been dubbed into Japanese for audiences over there.  VIZ has published two RWBY titles so far: A one-volume prequel, simply titled RWBY, by Shirow Miwa (Dogs: Bullets and Carnage), and four volumes of RWBY: Official Manga Anthology, which were collections of short stories set in the world of the show, written and drawn by a variety of creators.  An art book, The Art of RWBY, came out last October, and later this year, VIZ will publish RWBY: The Official Manga, which follows the storyline of the animated show.

Star Wars:  VIZ just published an anthology titled Legends of Luke Skywalker: The Manga, based on Ken Liu’s novel Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi—The Legends of Luke Skywalker.  Contributors to the anthology included the two-woman team Akira Himekawa, who are the co-creators of the Legend of Zelda manga.  Yen Press published a three-volume Star Wars series, Star Wars: Lost Stars, based on the novel of the same name by Claudia Gray.  The third volume was released in November.

Sherlock:  OK, Sherlock Holmes isn’t American, he’s British, and so is the BBC television series Sherlock.  Nonetheless, Sherlock Holmes is so embedded in American pop culture that these deserve a mention.  Titan Comics publishes adaptations of each individual episode as monthly comics and then collects them into trades, of which three have come out so far; the fourth, Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia, is scheduled for July.

American Superheroes:  DC Comics published three volumes of the 1960s-vintage BatManga, by Jiro Kuwata, back in 2014-5.  A much more recent title is Batman and the Justice League Manga, based on a series that ran in a Japanese magazine from 2017-19; DC published the third volume last October.  And here’s one that might turn up in the back-issue bins: Back in 1997-99, Marvel published the Japanese Spider-Man manga, but they cancelled the series before the story was complete.

Click on Gallery to see full-sized images of the covers.

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