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Marvel's Manga Punisher is One of Their Worst Creations – Screen Rant

Marvel’s mid-2000s attempt at creating a manga-themed universe led to some truly bizarre remakes, but few are stranger than the Punisher.
Marvel’s the Punisher has long raised eyebrows from those who’ve found his brand of intense vigilante violence concerning, but at least one alternate universe counterpart drew attention for totally different reasons. When translated Japanese manga began making in-roads in the international comic book markets in the early 2000’s, Marvel took notice and tried to make manga of their own, reimagining their stable of heroes in the context of a “mangaverse,” applying manga tropes and character archetypes to familiar faces… or at least, that was the plan in theory.
Among these Mangaverse titles was Marvel Mangaverse: The Punisher, a one-shot by Peter David with art by Lea Hernandez that introduced a new version of the character to audiences. Rather than a direct parallel of Frank Castle, this Punisher is a woman named Sosumi Brown who operates out of Tokyo. By day, she’s the strict principal of a private school where her sister, Hashi Brown, has recently begun attending. By night, however, she takes on the identity of the Punisher–but rather than engaging in gunplay, this Punisher prefers methods that are a little heavier on the “play.” Dressed as a Geisha with face paint resembling the Punisher’s skull logo, Sosumi, the “kinkiest heroine in Tokyo,” punishes her adversaries with dominatrix flare, using whips, spanking, and things like that to torture criminals into reform.
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The Punisher’s adversary in this comic is Skang Ke Ho, the leader of a Korean crime syndicate. Since she’s far less interested in killing than her 616 counterpart, this Punisher’s goal is merely to drive the gang out of town. Unfortunately, her enemies are far less morally restrained. Eventually, Sosumi’s younger sister discovers her secret identity and ends up becoming her sidekick, arriving at a fortuitous moment to save her life. This Punisher also makes use of a horse to get around, despite the fact that the story is set in the modern-day, where guns and cars are widely available.
Needless to say, the results were less than impressive to most readers. The addition of the sexual element feels rather out of place, and the story is littered with bad puns in the form of foreign words that would likely be considered incredibly racist or offensive today. The story and art do not really feel like anything out of an actual Japanese manga, but rather a Western comic in a different style than was standard at the time. While manga is known for its sudden mood shifts from comedy to serious drama and back again at the drop of a hat, the attempts at humor in this book often fall flat, be it because they’re lazy puns, reliant on a puerile idea of sex as inherently funny, or simply nonsensical, such as the fact that Sosumi and Hashi’s parents were killed in a “freak pogo stick accident.” The story tries to make use of some Japanese cultural concepts such as Oni but wastes a lot of dialogue on exposition to fill the readers in with far too much detail.
All in all, Marvel’s Mangaverse: The Punisher was rightfully dismissed as a failure, and while other mangaverse stories had a bit more success, the whole project was short-lived, with all completed comics eventually collected into a single volume. Marvel attempted to revive the idea again in 2006, but it didn’t go much further that time. More recent attempts at manga for American superheroes have had greater success, like the Deadpool: Samurai manga, largely because they chose to use Japanese writers and artists to make it more authentic. Still, the mangaverse is technically a canon part of the Marvel Multiverse, so who knows when or if Marvel’s manga Punisher will resurface.
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Carlyle Edmundson is a news and features writer with an affinity for science fiction and fantasy. He graduated from the University of North Carolina Wilmington with a BS in Film Studies and is glad that it’s relevant to his work. A lifelong fan of anime and manga, he has attended dozens of conventions over the years and may or may not have cosplayed at them. He is also the author of the Dystopian Detective series, available from most places ebooks are sold.

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