Tsuburaya Productions teamed up with Marvel to launch a whole new take on the Ultraman franchise with co-writers Kyle Higgins (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers) and Mat Groom (Self/Made), featuring art by Francesco Manna (whose art has been featured in Jason Aaron’s Avengers and Dan Slott’s Fantastic Four), in tow. While tokusatsu properties have seen success with other avenues already such as with the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers comics franchise, Kamen Rider manga, and even an Ultraman manga turned anime, this initial issue goes far to prove that you can bring the Ultraman story to comics and it just fits right in.
The Rise of Ultraman is set during the original Ultraman Tokusatsu series that ran back in the 1960s in Japan. There are a few slight touch ups in updating it, and some of the elements are adapted differently (while keeping important information like names, using "Kaiju" as the default term for monster threats, and more intact), but it is all in service of delivering a cohesive package that sets up a major mystery.
But what is important to note about all of this, however, is the fact that the franchise's core origin story did not have to be dramatically altered in order to share an experience that slots in right in with traditional Western superheroes. It's a malleability that has been the core strength of the Ultraman franchise as a whole, and has made it a mainstay of the Tokusatsu genre thanks to its constant reinvention. And it's a malleability that will make this the perfect entry point for new fans.
If there is one thing Tokusatsu hero fans outside of Japan understand, it's that it's important to get as many eyes as possible on franchises like Ultraman, Kamen Rider, and Super Sentai. Because unfortunately, there is usually a high barrier to enjoy these projects outside of Japan. Not only did legal means to do so only crop up in the last year or so, but it can admittedly be hard to sell fans on older versions of these franchises when the newer ones have advanced so much in terms of overall production.
But Marvel's The Rise of Ultraman serves as a great entry point for Tokusatsu hero stories that will hopefully grow the fandom as a whole even bigger than before. Tsuburaya Productions is branching out with an Ultraman manga, comic, anime, the TV series, and even a new film from the creative team behind Shin Godzilla. It's a great time to do so as now Ultraman's story will fit right in with classic Western heroes.
But what do you think? Excited to check out The Rise of Ultraman yourself? What's your favorite Ultraman series? Which Tokusatsu hero would you want to see in comics next? Let us know your thoughts in the comments or you can even reach out to me directly about all things animated and other cool stuff @Valdezology on Twitter!