In the early 2000s, Marvel Comics decided to dive deep into the manga pool. They were still bouncing back from their own bankruptcy just a few years earlier and manga publishing companies were gaining a foothold in the U.S.. Marvel decided to rebuild their whole world with a Japanese influence into the Marvel Mangaverse, which was met with a varying degree of success.
This new version of the Marvel world included:
– a powerless ninja-themed Spider-man
– Black Panther as an actual cat person
– Iron Man basically became a Power Rangers type Megazord
– the Hulk as a kaiju level monster
– a Geisha Punisher that spanked criminals
– the Fantastic Four were Gundam style mech-suit pilots
Most of the manga renditions they created were seemingly Japanese-inspired characters. Some good stories came out of it. sure. But for the most part, the whole Mangaverse displayed a misunderstanding of the culture they were attempting to mime. One of the Punisher’s villains was named Skang Kee Ho (that should give you an idea of the level of maturity here). The artwork and general style of the comic books were certainly up to professional standards, but they were the only thing that really appeared to be true to manga style. The whole experiment of Mangaverse just wasn’t really committed enough to being a true Japanese adaptation of the Marvel Universe.
Frankly, the only ones worth reading were the X-Men: Ronin story and the small set of stories written about the ninja version of Spider-Man: Legend of the Spider-Clan. The Manga Spider-Man actually became pretty popular -despite being cancelled after only three volumes.
The Marvel Mangaverse was shelved by 2006 and there haven’t been any signs of them trying to revive it. Nowadays, American publishers rarely invest in publishing manga versions of their own already popular stories.
Marvel recently dipped its toes back into manga waters with the publication of the Japanese made and licensed Avengers vs Zombies comic called Zombies Assemble. Marvel released it stateside and it hasn’t gone well so far – so badly, that they’re offering refunds for anyone who bought it and wants to return it. They published in the U.S. in the usual manga style of reading where it goes from back to front and right to left. Apparently, this has caused some consternation among American comic book fans who bought it without knowing.
The biggest problem with the Marvel Mangaverse was that they were trying to cash in on the manga fan base without really knowing enough about the genre they were getting into. With the American audience for manga, it could have been amazing if they had handed over their characters to creators that were true fans of the Japanese style.
For a more detailed explanation of the Marvel Mangaverse, check out CBR.com.