Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Dojo Classics - Yang #2

Warren Sattler

Due to a paper shortage and the energy crisis in 1974, many of Charlton's comics were delayed for several months. Such was the case with Yang #2 which hit the stands six months after the debut issue. 

Yang Volume 2, Number 2 is dated May 1974 and was published by Charlton Publications Inc. The editor is George Wildman, and the writer is Joe Gill. Warren Sattler is again on board as the artist, both for the interiors and the for the cover.

A "Prologue" brings the reader up to date on Yang's story, and how as a student Chung Hui saw his father killed by killers of the slaver Chao Ku. Becoming a force of good, Chung Hui becomes "Yang" for the people and vows to bring down Chao Ku and his forces including his daughter Yin Li who uses a poison ring to fell our hero and then transports him to the American West where he escapes the clutches of those who want to enslave him and others to build the railroad.

Part 1 "Death in the Desert" begins with a bounty hunter finding Yang in the desert after his escape but Yang quickly turns the tables and takes the cowboy's horse and uses it to return to the train where he finds the owner J.L. Hartley, and partner of Chao Ku's. Yang finding some dynamite in a shed uses it to blow up the train and the tracks, in an attempt to free the slaves. He succeeds and leads them into the mountains, but he himself then falls victim to Yin Li who confronts him on horseback and knocks him unconscious with the butt of a pistol. She chooses not to kill him there, but take to a secret lair where he will not become a martyr.

"Tang's Tales" is a trio of text stories. "Sim Sung's Song" is the tale of a happy man who sings when he works which pleases a local rich man who then gives Sim Sung gold so he can enjoy life, but which after a short time actually causes him sadness because it was his life and work which made him sing. He returns to his happy ways. "The Respectful Son" tells of a son who is beaten by his father or carelessness with melons and how it is the son's responsibility to only allow himself to be beaten slightly to preserve the honor between father and son, according to Confucius. "The Learner" speaks of a man who enters a garden to seek enlightenment where all his needs will be met and who stays for twenty-six years proving he's a slow learner, but a clever fellow.

Part 2 "Die for Freedom" begins with Yang chained in a cave and about to be killed by Yin Li and her thugs. But he snaps his chains instead and escapes fighting the thugs and taking Yin Li deep into the cave where many statues are located. A message says that those with evil hearts should not pass into the cave and in fact the thugs do fall victim to falling debris. Yin Li tries to use her ring on Yang again, but finally he stops her and says that his feeling for her and her for him are like the Yin-Yang symbol, each section possessing a spot of the other making neither of them purely good nor purely evil. He escapes the cave and fights his way out finding a horse. He is followed by Hartley's men, Hartley having survived the train explosions, and Yang fights many of the bounty hunters before returning again to the train. He gets aboard and confronts Hartley and Chao Ku again but is knocked out from behind. The train heads to San Francisco and later when they go to kill Yang, they find he has escaped the speeding train helped by Yin Li.

Note the cool lighting effects and how the horses are now missing. 
Yang #2 was reprinted in 1985 as Yang #16.

The story of Yang to this point is a hectic one, with him rushing from fight to fight with abandon. It has already become something of a gimmick in the stories for Yin Li to trip him up, but given the thematic connection they share, the story is not necessarily damaged by this constant turnabout. There was a real attempt to enliven the Western aspects of the story in this chapter, with lots of men on horseback playing a brief but highly visual role.

The time which passed between the first and second issues of Yang were fruitful ones for those interested in martial arts entertainment. Yang's debut, dated November gets the nod as the first of a wave of martial arts comics which hit the stands in a very short time because of the interest in the television show Kung Fu.

Jim Starlin and Al Milgrom 
Marvel had the rights to the show apparently but decided instead to create Shang-Chi, the son of Fu Manchu. The "Master of Kung Fu" debuted in the pages of Special Marvel Edition #16 which had a December, 1973 cover date, one month after the debut of Charlton's Yang. The adventures of Shang-Chi would become the longest-lived of the martial arts comics, if not the first.

Gil Kane
Bearing the same cover date of May 1974 as the second issue of Yang, was Marvel Premiere #15 which debuted Iron Fist, a revision of the Golden Age Amazing Man story by Bill Everett with a martial arts twist much like PAM's Thunderbolt from some years previous.

Neal Adams
A month earlier, Marvel had unleashed the magazine-sized Deadly Hands of Kung Fu onto the market.

Dick Giordano
A year later Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter would debut from DC Comics, featuring a cover from former "Action Heroes" editor Dick Giordano.

So between the first and second issues of Yang, a torrent of martial arts comics had hit the stands and more was to come. The competition was going to be ferocious. But as we'll see, Yang was up to the challenge.

More to come later this week.

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