Ōgon Bat (黄金バット, lit. "Golden Bat") is one of Japan's earliest superheroes, which debuted in 1930 in a kamishibai ("Paper Theater") story starring a Phantom Thief villain named Kuro Bat — in the last chapter, a mysterious Good Counterpart of him called Ōgon Bat, a musketeer-like hero with a golden skeleton visage and propensity for ominous laughs, saves the day. Shortly afterwards, thanks to the brand new character's enormous popularity, Ōgon Bat became the hero of his own stories, while Kuro Bat was all but forgotten and was reimagined as his Arch-Enemy, the Diabolical Mastermind known as Nazō.
However, as a popular yet non-copyrighted character, Ōgon Bat was legally in the public domain, which meant that every creator was free to reimagine him, many times with similarities In Name Only. Nonetheless, after WWII, some of his original creators kept making new stories: from 1947 to 1956, Takeo Nagamatsunote , the first Ōgon Bat artist, made a series of best-selling illustrated books that served as The Remake of the original stories with some elements of the other unlicensed adaptations (which codified Ōgon Bat's mysterious origins, flight powers and cane weapon), and probably served as the main source of the now-lost 1950 film. Likewise, the original writer-performer Ichiro Suzuki and the iconic kamishibai artist Kōji Kata kept doing stories in their classic theatrical format... Although most of the innumerable kamishibai stories, as well as their unlicensed copies, have been lost.
In 1966 Toei released a new Ōgon Bat movie starring Sonny Chiba, which reimagined the titular character as an ancient Atlantean with new superpowers like Super-Strength and Super-Speed, X-Ray Vision, and even a Bat Signal — and a new a golden-clad pro wrestler/superhero design that would become his Iconic Outfit, thanks to Toei's cross-media campaign which included an Anime, various Manga adaptations, and other media. That said, the character's original incarnation was still fondly remembered, as seen in the lost 1972 Biopic Ōgon Bat ga Yattekuru, pre-war themed plays and musicals, and even a Osamu Tezuka-penned kamishibai throwback.
Due to his popularity in Japan, Ōgon Bat was essentially the Trope Maker for Japanese superheroes. His legacy can be seen in the superheroes who have permeated Japanese media since then, including other early 1930s kamishibai superheroes like Prince of Gamma, the Henshin Heroes of Tokusatsu films and shows, Manga and Anime superheroes such as Astro Boy and Gatchaman to Magical Girls like Cutey Honey, Sailor Moon and Pretty Cure, and even Super Robots (as he regularly fought gigantic robots).
In November 2022, a new manga titled Ougon Bat - Taishou Dokuro Kitan ("Strange Tales of a Taishou-era Skull") was announced in the magazine Champion Red by Akita Shoten, illustrated by Kazutoshi Yamane of Gamble Fish fame. Set in 1919, it stars a young soldier named Tsukishiro Ryuji who is recruited into a secret "anti-immortal" unit, where he bonds with a mysterious spirit named Bat in order to fight the dark god Nazo and his youkai-like creations.
November 2023 saw an unusual appearance for the character, with Ōgon Bat becoming a playable character in the board game Unmatched Adventures: Tales to Amaze, where he joins forces with a collection of pulp-style heroes fighting to save the world from cryptids or invading Martians.
Compare Skull Man and GARO, the latter of which was originally planned as a Toku adaptation of Ōgon Bat. Also compare with Hakaba Kitarō, the only other long-standing kamishibai franchise (best known as GeGeGe no Kitarō).
- Arch-Nemesis: Nazō, sometimes known as "Dr. Erich Nazō".
- Artifact Name: Allegedly, the "Bat" part of the name comes from the villain Kuro Bat's relation with bats. However, some of the unlicensed copies had him use a baseball bat as a weapon.
- Artificial Limbs: Nazō is usually portrayed with a mechanical claw and/or saucer-like lower body.
- Atlantis: The ancient civilization where the 1966 Ōgon Bat originates from. He was transported 10,000 years from the distant past, when Atlantis was still a part of the surface world.
- Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: Ōgon Bat fights against humongous Robeasts and Giant Robots since his earliest kamishibai stories.
- Awesome Anachronistic Apparel: The pre-1966 Ōgon Bat, especially whenever drawn more closely to his original design, wears a green musketeer-like costume with tight white trousers, a huge red cape, Frills of Justice and a golden rapier-like sword — on top of that, the 1947 Takeo Nagamatsu remake adds gave him a feathered capotain hat to wear over his new golden-like hair.
- Badass Cape: He is allegedly one of the first caped heroes. The latter Ōgon Bat incarnations had various uses for his cape: for example, he could make gusts of winds with his cape, and could also use it to disguise himself.
- Bat Out of Hell: Despite his name, Ōgon Bat usually has no relation with bats, aside from ocassional symbols and motifs. However, his original evil counterpart Kuro Bat was allegedly followed by a colony of bats.
- Bat Signal: Some Ōgon Bat incarnations use cunning techniques similar to Batman's, using his costume and his reputation to scare the villains he fights. First a gold bat would appear, followed be a haunting laughter and the appearance of Ōgon Bat's ghostly golden skull. He was also feared because, unlike most heroes that would follow him (and some before), he didn't care if the villains died or not, so a meeting with the bat would most definitely end in death.
- Big Bad: Nazō is behind pretty much all the troubles the heroes go through in both the paper theater and in the anime.
- Blow You Away: Some Ōgon Bat incarnations can make gusts of winds with his cape.
- Breakout Character: Although it's hard to believe, Ōgon Bat started as the heroic Deus ex Machina of an story starring the evil phantom thief Kuro Bat who fight against him.
- Cane Fu: Can wield his Silver Baton like a sword, when it isn't an actual rapier.
- The Cape: He's one of the first caped proto-superheroes, similar to the caped crusader Zorro.
- Chrome Champion: Ōgon Bat, much like his name implies, usually has either a golden skeleton mask or face. The 1966 incarnation renders him completely clad in gold.
- Color Character: Ōgon basically means gold, which is what we call him in English.
- Color Animal Codename: Golden and bat, obviously.
- Creepy Good: Ōgon Bat is an invincible musketeer-like hero who fights evil... But is also a golden skull-faced ancient who laughs maniacally as he tears through the defenses of evildoers.
- Diabolical Mastermind: Nazō, and sometimes Ōgon Bat himself in the unlicensed copies.
- Dragon Rider: While its exact origins have been lost, some Ōgon Bat incarnations have been helped by a flying dragon called Airsaurus (エーアソーラス).
- Dub Name Change:
- In the Italian dub of the 1966 anime, Ōgon Bat is called Fantaman and Doctor Nazō is called Doctor Zero.
- The Brazilian dub has similar changes, except it calls Ōgon Bat "Fantomas" due to his similarity to a popular pro wrestler of the 60s.
- Mexico instead calls him "Fantasmagórico".
- Earthquake Machine: Some incarnations can use his staff to generate small earthquakes.
- Evil Counterpart: Inverted — Ōgon Bat started life as the Good Counterpart to the supervillain Kuro Bat (黒バット, "Black Bat"). It's been speculated that Kuro Bat's design served as the direct basis of Ōgon Bat's costume, albeit with darker colors. However, since the latter became instantly more popular, Kuro Bat was quickly reimagined as his villain Nazō, although sometimes other Ōgon Bat evil counterparts appear.
- Evil Laugh: Much like The Shadow before him, Ōgon Bat's trademark was his very unnerving laugh.
- Expy: The novelist Michio Tsuzuki speculated in a 1975 story collection that Ōgon Bat's original appearance might be heavily inspired by the protagonist of The Phantom of the Opera (1925). Indeed, he heavily resembles the titular Phantom in his "Red Death" costume. The 1950 film adaptation was even subtitled "Phantom of the Skyscrapers".
- Flight: It's unknown when Ōgon Bat gained the ability to fly, but it seems to be one of his earliest superpowers.
- Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Nazō, literally.
- Horrifying Hero: He has an skeleton-like visage and an Evil Laugh, so it falls under this trope... Even more when his visage isn't a mask but his real face, like in the 1966 adaptation.
- Immortality: The Toei incarnation, being an ancient Atlantean who has been around for thousands of years, is obviously immortal.
- Just Add Water: Literally, water was the only thing needed to reawaken the 1966 Ōgon Bat in the first place.
- Lighter and Softer: Post-war censorship forced Ōgon Bat to have a less scary visage. The illustrator Kōji Kata reimagined him with perm hair, and a human buddha-like golden visage. This seemed to last for barely a year.
- Mad Scientist: Nazō.
- Magic: Some Ōgon Bat incarnations' magical powers include shooting powerful bolts of energy, as well as other abilities mentioned on this page.
- Magic Staff: The Silver Baton, which serves as both a mystical and physical weapon.
- Manga: Ōgon Bat, along with other kamishibai paper theater shows at the time, can be considered a precursor to manga.
- Market-Based Title: Anime and film depictions of the character have been variously localised under titles such as "Phantaman" (Australia, notable for the main character actually being named "Phantoma"), "Fantaman" (Italy), "Fantomas, o Guerreiro da Justiça" (Brazil) and "Fantasmagórico" (Mexico).
- Mummy: The 1966 version is one of the non-bandaged variety, and combined with Chrome Champion. However, he also has some traits associated with vampires, such as his connection to bats.
- Nebulous Evil Organization: Nazō usually leads one of these, and sometimes Ōgon Bat himself did it in the unlicensed copies.
- Nigh-Invulnerability: He has a degree of invulnerability, being able to withstand bullets and lasers with ease.
- Ominous Opera Cape: His cape tends to be drawn more like this than the standard superhero cape.
- Ominous Owl: Nazō's four-eyed hood is described as vaguely owl-like, although it's also been likened to a cat.
- Phantom Thief: Kuro Bat's original role, although many unlicensed copies portrayed Ōgon Bat as one of these.
- Proto-Superhero: Ōgon Bat is believed to be Japan's first superhero and one of the earliest illustrated superheroes, debuting in 1930 in kamishibai paper theater. He may also be a contender to be one of the earliest non-American superheroes with a "Flying Brick" motif, but since most of the pre-WWII early material has been lost, it's hard to know when and what innovations he may have brought.
- Public Domain Character: As a briefly non-copyrighted character, every creator was free to reimagine him to the point of being In Name Only. Thus, Ōgon Bat was portrayed with his original swashbuckling hero persona, as a monster rider, a villainous Phantom Thief, a baseball bat-wielding character, a legacy hero, a Norakuro Captain Ersatz, the leader of a Nebulous Evil Organisation in a himalayan base, an aristocratic girl disguised as a Bandito-like thief (made by Osamu Tezuka), a Wild Child's helper, a masked Rebel Prince, or as a literal Knight in Shining Armor among others.
- Royal Rapier: As part of his "musketeer" look. Later depictions make it a short Magic Staff called the Silver Baton.
- Sealed Good in a Can: The 1947 Takeo Nagamatsu incarnation gave him a mysterious origin as an entity resting under a skull-headed mountain, and the 1966 Toei version reimagined him as an ancient immortal Atlantean who lay sealed inside a sarcophagus, until the time came when the world would need his aid once again.
- Shock and Awe: In some incarnations, his staff can produce lightning.
- Shout-Out: The character's name is very probably a reference to the long-lasting Golden Bat Japanese cigarrette brand.
- Super Hero: One of the first, and perhaps the first modern non-Western example (not including superhuman mythological heroes). In fact, he predates almost all of the Western examples, with only a few such as Zorro (who lacked superpowers) coming before.
- Skull for a Head: The character's most iconic and constant trait is his golden skull visage. Whether this is a mask or his own face depends on the specific incarnation.
- Super-Reflexes: The 1966 Ōgon Bat dodges bullets... even though he doesn't actually need to, since his body can withstand bullets anyway.
- Super-Strength: In one of the many versions, he defeats a gigantic robot by grabbing it by his finger, spinning it around, and flinging it.
- Super-Toughness: Some versions have a degree of invulnerability, being able to withstand bullets and lasers with ease. He could also easily breathe underwater.
- Supervillain: Nazō, a mad scientist or alien who creates various treats to fight Ōgon Bat and take over the world. Much like Ōgon Bat is the first Japanese Super Hero, Dr. Erich Nazō can be seen as the first Japanese Supervillain, having an influence on many characters since in Japan.
- Swiss-Army Tears: Downplayed. In the 1966 movie, water awakens Ōgon Bat from his slumber, and tears have served this purpose in some depictions. It swings back into the mystical when this creates a psychic link between Ōgon Bat and the girl the tears came from, allowing him to sense when she's in danger.
- Telepathy: In the 1966 movie, he has a psychic link with the girl who resurrected him.
- Those Wacky Nazis: Confirmed to be the villains in at least one post-war Ichiro Suzuki / Kōji Kata kamishibai story.
- X-Ray Vision: The Toei version has X-ray vision.