Publication History

The character Shang Chi first appeared in Special Marvel Edition #15 (December 1973) by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin. Shang Chi appeared again in Special Marvel Edition #16 (February 1974). With issue #17 (April 1974) the title was changed to The Hands of Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu. Amidst the martial arts craze in the United States during the 1970s, the series became very popular. It continued a ten year run, including four giant-size issues and an annual, until MOKF #125 (June 1983).

Steve Englehart
The Legend Begins
The series begins by introducing Shang Chi as a man raised by his father Fu Manchu to be the ultimate assassin. For his first assignment, a youthful and inexperienced Shang Chi is dispatched to London on a deadly mission to assassinate Fu Manchu's octogenarian rival, Dr. Petrie. This brings him into contact with Sir Dennis Nayland Smith for the first time. When he discovers the truth about his father's games of death and deceit, Shang Chi swears to oppose, denounce, and destroy the Devil Dr. Fu Manchu.

The Master of Kung Fu series was an instant sales success. Englehart and Starlin soon left as the creative talent for the title. However, its popularity continued to grow once writer Doug Moench and artist Paul Gulacy began collaborating on MOKF #22 (November 1974).

Gulacy, a film buff, modeled many characters after film stars: Juliette on Marlene Dietrich, James Larner on Marlon Brando, Clive Reston occasionally resembled Basil Rathbone or Sean Connery, Richard Blaine on Humphrey Bogart, and Ward Sarsfield on David Niven. Moench introduced other film-based characters, including one modeled after Groucho Marx and another modeled on W. C. Fields.

Comics historian Les Daniels observed that "Ingenious writing by Doug Moench and energetic art by Paul Gulacy brought Master of Kung Fu new life."

This critically acclaimed run continued, with few exceptions, until MOKF #51 (April 1977). Gulacy was replaced by artist Jim Craig. Craig was succeeded by Mike Zeck, who became the regular artist with MOKF #64 (May 1978).

Jim Starlin
Moench continued for a long tenure. The title did not receive the same level of acclaim as the Gulacy period until Gene Day, who had previously been inking the book, took over penciling on MOKF #100 (May 1981). Shang Chi's long-running battle with his father ended in MOKF #118 (November 1982).

Despite critical success, sales lagged. Day died of a heart attack after finishing MOKF #120 (January 1983). Moench left the series after MOKF #122 (March 1983). With the main storyline resolved, Shang Chi retired to a passive life as a fisherman in the village of Yang Yin, China. The series was canceled with MOKF #125 (June 1983).

The Legend Continues
In 1988, Marvel published a new Master of Kung Fu story in Marvel Comics Presents #1-8. It reunited Shang Chi with most of the original supporting cast. It featured Moench scripting with Tom Grindberg penciling.

In 1990, Marvel published the one-shot Master of Kung Fu: Bleeding Black. It reunited Shang Chi with most of the original supporting cast. It featured Moench scripting with David and Dan Day, Gene Day's sons, penciling.

In 1994, Marvel published a new Master of Kung Fu story in Marvel Comic Presents #156-158. It featured Shang Chi with Leiko Wu and the "Midnight Slasher" from DHOKF #8 (January 1975). It featured  Karl Bollers scripting with Cary Nord penciling.

In 1997, Marvel published a new Master of Kung Fu story in Journey into Mystery #514-516. It did not reunite Shang Chi with the original supporting cast. It featured Ben Raab and Creative Differences Studios scripting with Brian Hagen penciling.

In 2002, Marvel published a new Master of Kung Fu story in Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu #1-6. It reunited Shang Chi with most of the original supporting cast. It featured Doug Moench scripting with Paul Gulacy penciling.

More Recent Appearances
Shang Chi has since made many appearances in other titles. However, these appearances are beyond the scope of this dissertation. See: Chronologic Appearances

Supporting Characters
The series, especially as written by Doug Moench, was notable for its strong supporting characters. As they evolved, these characters became nearly as integral to the series as Shang Chi himself.
  • Fu Manchu is portrayed in a manner mostly consistent with the Sax Rohmer novels. He's a brilliant and calculating master-villain who aspires to rule the world. As the series progresses the character deteriorates, gradually losing his nobler qualities. By the end of the series he is a pathetic figure, reduced to stealing his son's blood to preserve his immortality. He is currently known as Zheng Zu. Other notable aliases include: Mr. Han, The Father, The Devil Doctor, Chang Hu and Wang Yu-Seng.
  • Sir Denis Nayland Smith is Fu Manchu's nemesis from the novels. In the comics he retains this role. His obsession with the villain often draws out the dark side of his own nature. In his better moments, he's a surrogate father figure to Shang Chi. Ultimately, he's too caught up in what Shang Chi calls 'games of deceit and death' and fails in this role. The relationship is that of two flawed characters who feel strong friendship in spite of deep differences.
  • Fah Lo Suee is the daughter of Fu Manchu. She's a villainess in her own right. She's not interested in the misguided idealism of Fu Manchu. She's a pragmatist, seeking the best way to power. As such, she shifts alliances often. Typically, she's an enemy of Shang Chi and company, but sometimes she's an ally. When last seen, she'd become a highly ranked official in MI-6. She's currently known as Zheng Bao Yu.
  • Black Jack Tarr is Smith's aide-de-camp and a powerful giant of a man with a gruff manner. Though he's initially an enemy of Shang Chi, the two become close friends over time. He exhibits the most obstinate traits of any character. He invariably addresses Shang Chi as "Chinaman", as a term of affection, rather than using his name. Despite this gruff manner and attitude, readers invariably feel fondness for him. It's one of the many successes of the series that readers are drawn to him in spite of his flaws.
  • Clive Reston is a British spy. He resembles a younger and more vulnerable version of James Bond. While Bond is a successful womanizer and seems unaffected by heavy drinking, Reston struggles with alcoholism and a romantic rivalry with Shang Chi. The resemblance to Bond is intentional. It's clear that Reston is Bond's son and the grand-nephew of Sherlock Holmes.
  • Leiko Wu is introduced as a femme fatale, not unlike those of the Bond films. She's a beautiful Chinese-British woman. In the beginning, she's torn between a romantic history with Reston and her growing attraction to Shang Chi. Though initially sarcastic and self-possessed to the point of arrogance, "Leiko" is actually a Japanese name meaning "arrogant", her relationship with Shang Chi causes her to become more contemplative.
  • Shen Kuei or "Cat" is a master thief. His skill in martial arts rivals that of Shang Chi. The meaning of the character's name is both similar and opposite to Shang Chi's name. He's a sort of mirror image, a "good bad guy" in opposition to Shang Chi's "bad good guy". While they share mutual respect, the two always find themselves in opposed in both love and business.
  • Rufus "Super Midnight" Carter is an African-American kickboxing champion and antiques dealer who secretly works for the CIA. Later, he leaves the CIA and opens a private investigation firm. His light-hearted nature draws out Shang Chi's sense of whimsy in his several appearances. Carter's unusual nickname is accounted for by his origin. A colleague challenged Doug Moench to write a story using "Carter's Super Midnight", a particular brand name of carbon paper, as a title.
1977: Eagle Award for Favorite Continued Comic Story - Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy for Master of Kung Fu #48–51.
1977: Nominated for Favorite Comic Book Artist Eagle Award - Paul Gulacy.
1979: Eagle Award for the Favorite Cover Award  - Paul Gulacy for Master of Kung Fu #67.
1980: Nominated for Favorite Comic Book Writer Eagle Award - Doug Moench.
1981: Inkpot Award - Doug Moench.
2010: Comics Bulletin ranked Master of Kung Fu sixth on the list of the "Top 10 1970s Marvels" - Doug Moench, Paul Gulacy, Mike Zeck, and Gene Day.

'Nuff said!

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