Friday, March 19, 2010

Ninja Week the Conclusion: Comic book ninja!

Ninja Week is here!

This site being mostly about super-heroes, I think it would be best to close out Ninja Week with a look at ninjas in one of our most popular topics, comic books. Ninjas have been a major part of comic culture since the ninja craze of the eighties.

The first major character to get related to ninjutsu was none other than the X-Men’s Wolverine. His connections to a ninja clan in the Marvel Universe came in to play in the mid-eighties. It would only be a few more years before Kitty Pryde would become involved, and his evil master Ogun would appear. The Hand would become major villains around the same time in Daredevil, as we also learn that DD went through ninja training. Several other ninja would appear over the years including the revamped Psylocke, Hawkeye as Ronin, Elektra, the Shadowmasters, etc. They would also give the world an alternate reality featuring World War III

Meanwhile, Marvel’s G.I.Joe title would quickly start overflowing with ninja. Snake-Eyes started the ball running, but he would be followed by Storm Shadow, Jinx, Firefly, Slice, Dice and an entire team of ninja known as Ninja Force. Newer comics would give Snake-Eyes an apprentice in Kamakura as well. Often the military action of the series would fall completely to the wayside as the ninja took complete control of the book.

DC on the other hand would remain relatively ninja free. With the exception of the ninja-like Shadowdragon, DC has avoided ninja in just about all forms. Certain characters, like Lady Shiva and Cassandra Cain (Batgirl III) seem quite ninja like without ever being mentioned as such. And of course, Batman Begins gives us Bruce as a ninja.

Independent comics in the eighties and nineties gave us dozens of ninjas, such as C. J. Henderson’s Ninja, the fantasy comic Adventurers tie-in Ninja Elite, Valiant’s secret agent Ninjak, independent magazine Tales of the Ninja Warriors, and Zen the Intergalactic Ninja. Later we would get the ninja of Kabuki and the often quite ninja-like Sohei of Shi. Ben Dunn would rise to success with his parody of manga in all its forms, including ninja, with Ninja High School, a book currently on hiatus (with a planned come back some time this year) but with 175 issues under its belt. And of course, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

TMNT actually started out as a parody of the aformenetioned Uncanny X-Men and Daredevil with the turtles and the evil ninja Foot Clan (a clear play on the Hand). But over the next twenty years of being a multi-media empire, they would become ninja royalty. The Archie published spin-off Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Adventures would even introduce a fifth ninja for the team in the form of the fox-woman Ninjara. I highly doubt more famous ninja exist in the world today.

In recent times, ninja have often become more of a joke, popularized by the internet meme pirates vs. ninja. Antarctic Press, publishers of Ninja High School even created a series about that fight, called... Pirates vs. Ninjas. Adam Warren’s Ninjette is slightly (ok, very slightly) more serious than most, but otherwise funny ninja are often all you can find. Humor web comics like White Ninja, No Need For Bushido, and the ninja doctor named Dr. McNinja. While all fun, this reviewer would appreciate some more serious ninja fare outside of new issues of G.I. Joe.

So, I will leave it open to the audience. Any more ninja I should mention here?

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