Batman: The World is here, an international anthology of fourteen creative teams from around the world, and it’s here to let you in on a little secret: comics are for everyone, and comics can be anything.
By using Batman himself as a backdrop, Batman: The World presents a unique opportunity to showcase the nuanced differences between different cultures in their approach to comics. Very few cultural icons have achieved the international permeability of Batman, allowing such an exercise to be possible, and we’re proud to use him in this way to showcase for you how these international creative teams use the medium of comics in their own way. This is the last entry in a series of articles where we’ve taken you around the world to explore the comic traditions of each nation presented in Batman: The World. Today, we finish our journey with the rich comic cultures of Latin America and East Asia.
Mexico is the home country to some of DC’s most colorful talent…in that many of our most celebrated colorists hail from our neighbors to the south. That includes The Joker Presents: A Puzzlebox’s Ulises Arreolla, Dark Nights: Death Metal’s FCO Plascenscia, Harley Quinn’s Ivan Plascenscia, and the seemingly omnipresent Alex Sinclair, whose work you may recognize in Superman, Batman: Hush, Infinite Crisis, 52, WildCATS, Gen13, and much more.
Like many of the countries we’ve profiled, graphic art of some form in Mexico can be traced back to the earliest known records of civilization. Up until the 20th century, it was largely used to relay information or satirize the state itself. Political comics played an enormous role in shaping opinions during the Mexican revolution, often providing the sole means for free expression during the harshest periods of Mexican history. After the revolution, a “Golden Age” of Mexican comics extended from the ’30s through the ’70s, filled with the biting satire of politics and genre, while also fostering beloved children’s characters. With the 1980s came a boom in science fiction and more mature oriented comic titles, while in the ’90s, an influence of Japanese manga redirected the cultural sensibilities of the Mexican comic market. Political commentary remains a cornerstone of Mexican comics today, but exposure to a wide variety of genres has allowed room for endless possibilities.
Representing Mexico for Batman: The World is playwright, literary theorist, and modern culture analyst Alberto Chimal, whose nationally regarded incisive criticism will undoubtedly provide a unique perspective on Batman, one of our most celebrated icons. Joining him is artist Rulo Valdes, co-creator of Shine, the first Mexican webcomic to gain international attention through the major comics press.
Brazil is home to some of the most passionate DC fans in the world, and it’s nearly impossible to list just how many great talents have come from the nation to join our creative family. We’re talking American Vampire’s Rafael Albuquerque, Superman’s Ed Benes, Wonder Woman’s Mike Deodato, Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow’s Bilquis Eveley, Teen Titans: Beast Boy Loves Raven’s Gabriel Picolo, Superman’s Ivan Reis, Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá of Day Tripper, and the recently departed and dearly missed Robson Rocha, whose art brought Aquaman’s world to life. It’s hard to find a DC superhero in which a Brazilian creator hasn’t had a hand in defining.
Brazilian comics as we know them began with O Tico-Tico, a Portuguese children’s comic magazine first published in 1905 that counted some of Brazil’s most prominent writers among its readers. And while the superhero genre has found a wide audience among Brazilian readers, its original comics remain mostly geared towards young children to this day. Unlike many youth-oriented comic markets, Brazilian comics tend to minimize the role of “funny animals” in favor of children with oversized imaginations, as seen in Monica’s Gang, O Menino Maluquinh (“The Nutty Boy”), and Senninha (the story of an eight-year-old racecar driver).
Representing Brazil for Batman: The World is writer Carlos Estefan and artist Pedro Mauro, who together crafted the Western-inspired graphic novel trilogy, Gatilho.
South Korea is the birthplace of some of DC’s best and brightest talents—including cover artists Jae Lee and Michael Cho, Detective Comics, JSA, Wonder Woman, and Nightwing artist Don Kramer, and our very own publisher and chief creative officer, Jim Lee!
The manhwa culture of Korea began through the influence of Japan’s own culture and has evolved similarly since its inception. Dedicated manhwa cafes for sitting and reading comics can be found throughout the country, and similar signature genres, such as the young women-oriented sunjeong romance comics, have evolved to capture an audience with similar tastes. But what really sets South Korea apart from Japan is its early adoption of the “webtoon” format, allowing Korea a dominant place in the uniquely formatted webcomic market for light, easy, and widely accessible reading. Millions and millions of people read webtoons every day, to the point that DC itself has finally gotten in on the action. (For a taste of how Batman works in the webtoon style, check out Batman: Wayne Family Adventures on the WebToon app now!)
Representing South Korea are some of the best comic artists the nation has to offer: Junggi Kin, pioneer of the “live-drawing” style on display in this story, and Jaekwang Park, prize-winning artist and specialist of that same style. They’re joined by Inpyo Jeon, who has long worked with DC in translating some of our highest profile series into Korean.
The Chinese culture of manhua has been mostly separated from American industry, but features a tradition no less rich than our own, and one which reaches much further back in time. China’s tradition of sequential art may be the oldest in the world, as seen on stone carvings and pottery dating as far back as the 11th century, BC. As we’ve seen in a great many historical accounts, the first printed comics in China were used for both propaganda and satire of the government state, using powerful visuals to spread messages where words could not so economically suffice. In 1935, the Sānmáo comic strip began, a sort of Chinese, more politically charged precursor to Charlie Brown, which has persisted into the 21st century and inspired an industry of similar humor strips. During the martial arts film craze of the 1970s, a line of kung fu inspired action manhua began to carve out its own significant niche in the market as well. Today, the Chinese comic market divides itself into four distinct categories: children’s manhua, humor manhua, more sophisticated political satire manhua, and action manhua.
Representing China for Batman: The World is award-winning artist Qiu Kun, scripters Xu Xiaodong and Lu Xiaotong, and colorist Yi Nan.
If there’s any comic market on Earth that can claim a greater cultural reach than even America’s superheroes, it’s the manga of Japan. In addition to all they’ve contributed to the world of comics, Japan has given DC in particular the Superman Smashes the Klan art team Gurihiru, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey cover artist Kamome Shirahama, writer/artist of Batman: Death Mask Yoshinori Natsume, the entire creative team behind the animated Batman Ninja, and of course, Jiro Kuwata, creator of the beloved Bat-Manga.
There’s no denying that Japan has been a juggernaut in the world of comics for quite some time now. Many American comic shops—to say nothing about the graphic novel sections in most American bookstores—devote just as much shelf space to manga as to domestic comics. Since the history and development of manga could fill several books unto itself, suffice it to say that manga as we know it really came into its own during the 1960s, with works like Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy, which would define the action-packed shonen “boy’s style” of manga, and Machiko Hasegawa’s Sazae-san, which would codify the emotionally driven shoujou “girl’s style” of manga. As manga grew in popularity, so too did its audience, and more mature manga genres developed for the children who had grown up reading it. Manga has grown over the past fifty years into not just a pillar of Japanese culture, but one of the nation’s foremost cultural exports. Any future you could imagine for comics as a medium would be laughably incomplete without factoring in the presence and influence of manga, which has brought us the most globally popular stories of robots, ninjas, pirates, and yes, even superheroes, of our generation.
Representing Japan for Batman: The World is Okadaya Yuichi, a prolific manga-ka with stories currently being published in three different Japanese comic magazines covering a wide variety of genres, from samurai drama to gourmet cooking.
That should bring our trans-continental flight back home safely, allowing you to enjoy Batman: The World with perhaps a little more context than you might have had going in. As you read our collection of international Batman stories with this in mind, you may discover that for all our differences, we may have more in common with each other once ink is committed to page. We share the same cravings for emotional stakes, for eye-grabbing action, and for good to triumph over evil. For while the world speaks many languages, one symbol we can all recognize is the silhouette of a bat, centered in the yellow beam of a night sky. It’s a demand for drama, for action, and most of all, for justice. The message of the bat is universal.
Batman: The World is now available in bookstores, comic shops, libraries and on DC UNIVERSE INFINITE. Pick up a free chapter at your favorite comic book store or digital retailer on Batman Day this weekend!
Alex Jaffe is the author of our monthly "Ask the Question" column and writes about TV, movies, comics and superhero history for DCComics.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexJaffe and find him in the DC Community as HubCityQuestion.