The Shadowmasters are a group of fictional ninja characters appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The characters have been depicted as the Punisher's allies. They were created by Carl Potts in 1989. They first appeared in The Punisher War Journal, leading to their own 4-issue limited mini series starting with Shadowmasters #1 in October 1989.
The Shadowmasters are an ancient clan of martial arts masters of ninjutsu native to the Iga Province of Japan. For centuries they have served as protectors of Iga and its people, posing as half-demon and half-human beings. When Japan surrendered after World War II, Shigeru Ezaki was one of the last Shadowmasters and the mayor of a small town in Iga named Ueno, whose his wife has been just killed in the U.S. atomic bombing in the closing days of the war. But when the U.S. Army Captain James Richards, who oversaw the occupation of Iga Province, saved the life of Ezaki's son, the two became friends and together fought against a fanatical die-hard band of Japanese military stragglers holed up in the mountains of Iga. The decimated enemy group appeared to be forced to disband, but really they just changed their tactics: led by a man named Umezu, they founded a supposed business corporation called the Sunrise Society, serving as a cover for a Japanese ultranationalist crime syndicate with the aim of seizing control of Japan and bringing the country back to its Imperial glory.
Over the years, Ezaki began training Richards's son Philip along with his own offspring Manzo and Yuriko in the arts of ninjutsu. In the meantime Umezu's organization greatly grew in power and eventually struck back, killing Richards and kidnapping Shigeru, who then saved his family but apparently at the cost of his own life. In reality however he has been recaptured and secretly held prisoner by the Sunrise Society, which subjected him to human cloning experiments to create an army of invincible super-soldiers. In the final confrontation of the series the Shadowmasters storm the Umezu's research facility to kill him and destroy his army of clones, but Shigeru dies too.
In The Punisher
The Shadowmasters indirectly came into contact with the Punisher (Frank Castle) when Kathryn Yakamoto (daughter of the elderly ninja master Hatsu Yakamoto from the Hokkaido-based Yakamoto clan teaching the young Shadowmasters) incognito helped him as a mysterious female ninja when he went to infiltrate a suspicious survivalist "ninja training camp" run by a shady American group. Later they joined forces with him and the Black Widow (Natalia Romanova) in the New York City against the forces of resurgent Sunrise Society, now renamed as the Eternal Sun (which was also later featured in the 2005 The Punisher video game).
The conflict led to destruction of the Eternal Sun headquarters in Tokyo, attacked together by the Punisher and the Shadowmasters, but also to the death of Hatsu Yakamoto (who wanted Castle, who also became his student, to bring the art to America), assassinated by the Punisher's long-time foe and the Eternal Sun's mercenary associate Iris Green. Kathryn and the Punisher then went back to the States to kill Green and a corrupt U.S. Congressman Hargreaves also working with the Eternal Sun. They succeed and Kathryn promptly leaves the Punisher and vanishes again, while the latest generation of the Shadowmasters stay in Japan to continue their vendetta against the Eternal Sun.
- Robert G. Weiner, Marvel Graphic Novels and Related Publications: An Annotated Guide to Comics, Prose Novels, Children's Books, Articles, Criticism and Reference Works, 1965-2005, page 66.
- Punisher War Journal #8 (Damage)
- DeFalco, Tom; Sanderson, Peter; Brevoort, Tom; Teitelbaum, Michael; Wallace, Daniel; Darling, Andrew; Forbeck, Matt; Cowsill, Alan; Bray, Adam (2019). The Marvel Encyclopedia. DK Publishing. p. 320. ISBN 978-1-4654-7890-0.
- The Punisher #22 (Ninja Training Camp) and #23 (Capture the Flag)
- The Punisher #24 (Land of the Eternal Sun) and #25 (Sunset in Kansas)
- The Punisher War Journal #9 (Guilt Trip)
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