The Skull Man #1

Posted: Sunday, December 16
By: Marc McKenzie
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Story and art: Kazuhiko Shimamoto and Shotaro Ishinomori

Original Japanese version published by Media Factory
English translation and adaptation published by Tokyo Pop

Present-day Tokyo: A beautiful, mysterious woman enters a building and proceeds to an office cubicle. Along the way, she is questioned by a strange young man in shades. In the office, the woman kills the occupant and steals a computer disk the man was working on. She doesn't get far before she runs into the same young man, but he somehow knows who she really is. She shoots him and pushes out of the window…but as she makes her way through the crowded streets, the young man is following her. He confronts her, and he transforms into a wolf--and attacks her. He then becomes the Skull Man, a man who has been resurrected from the underworld…but for what purpose?

Shotaro Ishinomori was one of the giants of manga, one of the first artists to follow Osamu Tezuka's ground breaking footsteps. Ishinomori created many memorable titles, including Cyborg 009 and Kamen (Masked) Rider. Sadly, he died recently…but his characters remain.

The Skull Man is one of them. Originally created by Ishinomori in 1970, the character served as the prototype of Kamen Rider. This comic published by Tokyo Pop is not Ishinomori's manga, but a "revamp" by Kazuhiko Shimamoto, with the assistance and blessings of Ishinomori. It was published before his death. Skull Man is typical Ishinomori fare: a character who can "transform" from a civilian identity into a superhero. While such characters are common in US comics and elsewhere, Ishinomori was the first to introduce such a concept in manga.

Shimamoto steps into Ishinomori's shoes with a similar, but more refined art style. His writing is also very crisp, eschewing overloaded captions and keeping us in the dark as to what is really going on. Not much is revealed about the characters, but the comic's strength is this: I want to see what happens next.

If you are interested in a Japanese take on superheroes that doesn't go the way of the fireball flinging seen in Dragonball Z, then give the Skull Man a try. It is also a nice tribute to the enduring legacy of one of the pioneers of modern manga.

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