Monday, July 2, 2018

Dojo Classics - Yang #1

Warren Sattler
Charlton's other "superhero" debut in 1973 was Yang. Created in the same push by George Wildman which yielded E-Man, Yang was clearly a story inspired by the television show Kung Fu starring David Carradine, which itself was both spark and result of a wave of interest in martial arts at the time.

Neal Adams
Wildman got Charlton veteran writer Joe Gill to supply the scripts and he tapped artist Warren Sattler for the art chores. The latter was an odd move since Charlton had working for them at the time Sanho Kim, an artist ideally suited for this project. (But there's more to that story later.) Sattler's warm and comfortable sytle is a good fit nonetheless.

Yang Volume 1 Number 1 is dated November, 1973 and was published by Charlton Publications. The editor is George Wildman and the cover is by Warren Sattler. The writer is Joe Gill and the interior artwork is also by Sattler.

Part 1 "The Slave" begins in China in 1890 at the estate of the Mandarin Chung Yuan and his son Chung Hui. A warlord named Chao Ku orders the death of Chung Yuan and Chung Hui is too late to stop the murder. But he does use his considerable martial arts skills to waylay the murderers and following the mandates of his father's final word's puts aside his studies to become "Yang" for his people, a source of good in the lives of his people. He seeks out Chao Ku aboard his junk and comes under attack by Chao Ku's men and Captain Keegan, an American who is working with Chao Ku in his slave industry. Yang vows to meet his father's murderer again but as he leaves the junk he meets Yin Li, Chao Ku's daughter who feigns weakness and then kisses our hero, but she uses a drugged ring which cause Yang to fall to sleep at her feet. Yang is taken a prisoner by Keegan who takes him aboard his clipper ship headed for America. Yang meets the other prisoners and vows to help them. Close to San Francisco, Yang gets topside on the ship and makes a break for escape and dives headlong into the frigid waters.

Part 2 "Yang Meets Yin" begins with Yang swimming in the cold waters off Alcatraz Island, and Captain Keegan assumes weighted with chains the proud Chinese hero must be dead. Yang though comes out of the water at the docks in San Francisco and finds a sympathetic Chinese blacksmith to help remove his chains. He then seeks out Captain Keegan again and finds the evil sailor meeting with Chao Ku and Yin Li, the both of them having come to America too. Yang is captured though and taken before the trio where he then battles for freedom. He escapes with the seeming help of Yin Li, who professes to want to leave the influence of her evil father, but another kiss from the lovely girl and a sting of the ring, and Yang is once again flat out on the floor at her deceitful feet. This time Yang is transported into the interior of the America aboard a train, destined to work on the railroads as slave labor. After a few days of work, he is able to lead a revolt against his masters and after a furious battle that sees the destruction of a train, Yang escapes his captors once again and runs into the broad sprawling landscape that is the American West.

Last Page Original Art by Sattler
"The Wisdom of Wu" is a one-page text story which relates how villages in China are suffering from many woes. The people of those villages seek out a legendary wise man named "Wu" who they hope will give them an answer to their troubles. Many seek him out and they all descend on his remote location together. He has the people write down their troubles and then switch them and read those troubles to him. The people discover their troubles all sound the same and Wu tells them that they suffer only what man suffers all the time through the ages, and they must take prudent steps to protect themselves and those they love. That is the wisdom of Wu.

To read this issue in its original format, check out this link.

Note the flipped image gets Sattler's name right. 
The debut issue of Yang has been reprinted in 1985 when briefly the series was restarted with issue #15 (skipping issue #14 inexplicably) with reprints of old issues.

The first thing a reader has to understand is that despite many claims to the contrary, Yang is not really a superhero book. Admittedly it has a kinship to early "Action Hero" books like Thunderbolt and Judomaster, but the mileau of the American West gives this comic a fresh feel that sets apart from traditional superheroics. Yang is just a man who seeks to accomplish noble things, and there's no reason to think that this series is anything other than a Western, a genre Charlton was wonderful at creating.

Warren Sattler creates some very appealing artwork here, his storytelling is impeccable. I could pick a bit at his character designs, especially his rendition of Yin Li, which always seemed oddly modern to me, but overall his comics have an inviting feel to them. Joe Gill's script is an excellent example why this workhorse of a writer is so well regarded in the field today. He wrote a ton of material, and while obviously some of it was solid trash, he could in situations like Yang make the most of the task he was given.

One irony to my eye at least, is that the infamous wanted poster from the television show Kung Fu which inspired Yang, looks remarkably like Yang as rendered by Sattler.

The whole Taoist Yin-Yang philosophical angle which underpins the story is clever enough. Yang representing the good side of man and Yin Li representing the darker side, two people bonded by emotion but held apart by upbringing and motivation forms a neat tension to follow through the series. I don't pretend to understand how accurate these representations are, but they work for the story purposes here.

Yang will prove to be a reasonably successful series for Charlton eventually, even generating a spin-off later in its run. That series too will be dealt with in these reports.

More to come, though at the time quite a wait was required. Yang would return and he'd bring a bunch of friends with him.

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  1. Will you cover Kim's "Wrong Country", which Yang was rushed out to replace?

    1. I need to for sure and I regret that the story of Wrong Country was not part of the Yang narrative in post. Thanks for the reminder.

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