Sunday, 23 June 2019

Other Stuff Monthly #2: Marvel Cross

There's not much information around regarding the Japanese fandom of western-produced comics and cartoons. I think the most well known piece of that world are the cute pieces of fanart made of South Park characters by mainly female Japanese fans. If we go into things a little more specifically, towards Japanese fans of western superhero comics, the only time an english-language spotlight has been shone on that area that I'm aware of is the 1994 one-shot "Justice", printed by Antarctic Press, which featured fanart and translated fanzine articles drawn and written by Japanese fans, mainly about Marvel and DC characters.

A couple of years ago, however, I became aware of an officially licensed magazine published in Japan in the 1990s entitled Marvel Cross, which featured Japanese translated reprints of various Marvel comics. A while later, I actually managed to get my hands on a copy, and here we are. Before we get onto the actual contents, it should be noted that those Japanese fans must have been truly dedicated: a 120-page issue of Marvel cross cost 1000 Yen, compared to the breezebloack-sized Shonen Jump, which in 1997 cost a mere 210 Yen a pop. Furthermore, while collected trade paperback editions of manga also cost a couple of hundred yen per volume, this issue contains ads for the first volume of the X-Men storyline The Age of Apocalypse, carrying a hefty 3200 Yen pricetage.

Now, we finally get onto the contents! There's four issues reprinted in Marvel Cross #14, all of which come from the 1980s: The Amazing Spider-Man #310 (December 1988), Uncanny X-Men #137 (September 1980), The Mighty Thor #337 (November 1983, and X-Men Annual #12 (1988). It looks like, judging what's listed in the previous issues directory towards the back, and on the next issue preview page, that Spider-Man was in there as a permanent fixture, while the other series would cycle in and out in 4-6 issue long arcs. For example, the X-Men annual is listed as the first part of a three-part X-Babies story, while Uncanny X-Men #137 is the double-length climax to the five-part Dark Phoenix storyline, to be replaced in the next issue by the start of a three-part Iron Man/Captain America team-up, and what I think is the start of ongoing 1960s Iron Man stories.

As well as the comics themselves, there's a fairly generous portion of back matter, too: a letters page, a Q&A section "hosted" by Uatu the Watcher, a few columns, comics news and sales charts from the US, and, most exciting of all: a fanart section with a couple of cosplay photos thrown in for good measure! The magazine in general is pretty well-presented, to be honest. Each comic is preceded by a brief recap/dramatis personae section, with the Dark Phoenix's page being especially impressive, listing twenty-two characters!

All in all, there's really no good reason beyond curiosity for western fans to pick up issues of Marvel Cross: even if you can read Japanese, it'd be easier to get hold of the comics contained therein in their original English. I'm glad I did, though, just because it means I could learn about a previously unknown facet of a fandom that's been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, and even more importantly, to share that learning with you. Having said that, it is a really aesthetically great-looking magazine, and I've long been of the opinion that superhero publishers should look further into anthology formats (which, to give them credit, they actually do in the UK). As this isn't a review, I'm not sure how to end it. I'm done imparting information now. Goodbye!

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