Thursday, March 18, 2010

Make Mine Marvel: Master of Kung-Fu

I've been neglecting in my posts all the great Marvel Comics characters, so let me correct that and start out with a favorite of mine... Bruce Lee's kung-fu movies were sweeping the nation in the early seventies so the "House of Ideas" quickly jumped on the martial-arts craze in December 1973 with Marvel Special Edition #15 and the first appearance of Master of Kung Fu. Shang-Chi was the son of the evil madman Dr. Fu Manchu and trained in the martial arts since birth to be used as a weapon against his many enemies. Being sent to eliminate Sir Dennis Nayland Smith and his associate Dr. Petrie of the British Secret Service, Shang soon discovers the truth about his father and joins forces with MI-6 to help fight China's greatest archfiend. Steve Englehart's early scripts set the pace with the thrilling suspense needed for the series, while Jim Starlin provided the action-packed images in these classic spy adventures.

The Hands of Shang-Chi, Master of Kung-Fu got its own title two issues later after its try-out and spawned a black-and-white magazine, Deadly Hands of Kung Fu. The title always had great artwork by creators like Jim Starlin, John Buscema, Gene Day, Mike Zeck, and others. But most fans of this series best remember it by the dynamic stories of Doug Moench and artist Paul Gulacy who super-charged the comic with colorful villains, exciting sidekicks and over the top tales with a James Bond flair. The title ran for over nine pulse-pounding years until the kung-fu fad started to wain, when martial arts kickboxing hit the scene. But Shang-Chi and the cast of Master of Kung-Fu has been revived by Marvel, who never let a good idea die, as we have seen in the various mini-series and specials produced in recent years.

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