Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Devil Doctor Daddy!
Master of Kung Fu is one of those great comic series that came out of nowhere. Suddenly it was upon us, born out of the pop culture obsession with matters Oriental generally and martial arts specifically. The idea to adapt television's Kung Fu was the spur, but that niche to no small degree had been unofficially filled by Charlton's Yang as I point out here. Shang-Chi was clearly in the tradition of the laconic but lethal fighters played by Bruce Lee with such aplomb. But the genius of Master of Kung Fu was taking that premise of an estranged son fighting against the mysterious forces of his own father and placing that struggle in the licensed universe Sax Rohmer's utterly fantastic "Yellow Perilous" mastermind, the Devil Doctor himself Fu-Manchu.
This decision added immediate depth and scope to the story. The rich tapestry of past stories woven by Rohmer were suddenly in play. I'd never personally read those stories, so this was my first exposure to Fu-Manchu, but it was clear from the natures of Sir Nayland Smith and Dr.Petrie that there was much history concerning the Asian menace.
Sadly this licensed backdrop is the same thing which precludes these stories being reprinted. It's amazing that Marvel with the huge resources of the "House of Mouse" behind it cannot put together a deal which would make this happen, but there it is.
Here's the amazing piece of artwork which served as cover to Shang-Chi's debut. This work by Jim Starlin and Al Milgrom, the "Gemini" team is a stunner and even more so in this raw form.
Here is the artwork transformed into a house ad for the series. I love the "subtle" way they try to get you to take notice of this small series begun so humbly.
The Fu-Manchu novels are currently being reprinted in the chronological order of their publication by Titan Books. I've savored all four volumes so far, the latest Daughter of Fu-Manchu the first of the post-WWI stories was really gripping. I'm eager for the next installment The Mask of Fu-Manchu due out this spring.