Enter the Moench


In June of 1974, Shang Chi fans were introduced to writer Doug Moench. Despite facing daunting obstacles, he would continue to define the character of Shang Chi and the Master of Kung Fu series for nearly a decade.

Doug Moench's arrival at Marvel was anything but likely. Working from Chicago, Moench built a career writing horror stories, largely via the Warren Publishing magazines. He couldn't have expected that, by 1974, Marvel would be looking to expand its focus beyond traditional superheroes into swords & sorcery, science fiction, martial arts, and horror.

In his own words:
Doug Moench
Six and a half years ago my phone rings in Chicago. It is Roy Thomas, offering me work at Marvel. He's seen my horror stories for Warren. Other Marvel people, chief among them, Marv Wolfman, have recommended me. 
Marvel is willing to take a chance. But there is a catch. Marvel not only needs a new writer, they also need a new proofreader - or, if you will, an assistant editor. Therefore, to write for Marvel, I must also proofread for Marvel. 
I am uncertain, here on the phone six and a half years ago in comfortable, habit-forming Chicago. Wanting very much to write for Marvel, I'm none too sure I will enjoy or even appreciate working on staff 9 to 5. Nor am I too keen about living in New York, an obvious and concomitant necessity. 
A two week trial period is proposed by me, accepted by Roy. But even before the end of those two weeks, I have made my decision. Sure, I'll lose some sleep, but the Marvel offices aren't that bad. Yes, my eyes will be red and weary, but the people in the Bullpen are largely a good crew, nice and motley, good and zany. Aye, everything around me will be most alien and strange, but New York is at least tolerable.
So I accept the job. But there is also a catch on my end. Money. I do not have much of the stuff, and need a lot of it to accomplish the "permanent" move from Chicago to New York. 
How about if I quickly write a dozen 6 to 10 page "horror" stories for the fledgling line of Marvel black and white magazines? Would that cover expenses? Yes, I say, it would indeed.
And so, newly ensconced in Manhatten, I work 9 AM to 5 PM in the Marvel offices, and 7 PM to 2 or 3 AM in my new apartment (seemingly rented by the square inch, its worth measured by weight in gold) turning out a story a night. My life becomes nothing less than Work with a capital W, and nothing more than a Blur with a capital B.
[ Doug Moench. Marvel Super Special #11. June 1979 ]
In his first weeks at Marvel, Moench was working late into the night, every night, to produce backup features for Creatures on the Loose, Haunt of Horrors, Tales of the Zombie, and Monsters Unleashed.

Once his trial period was over, he concurrently began the Deathlock run on Astonishing Tales, the lead features in Planet of the Apes magazine, Werewolf by Night, Master of Kung Fu, and Deadly Hands of Kung Fu. He continued to write stories published in the Marvel horror titles. Soon, he'd take on a myriad of other assignments that nobody else particularly wanted, including Doc Savage, Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction, and Shogun Warriors.

By the way, Moench wasn't originally slated to take over on Master of Kung Fu series. It was supposed to be Gerry Conway. In fact, Conway wrote the first half of MOKF #20 before it was handed over to Moench.

Roy Thomas explains how Doug Moench was elected to take over Master of Kung Fu and Deadly Hands of Kung Fu:
Roy Thomas
A good time is the basic thing Steve [Englehart] wants from his work. So that's what he always tries to provide with it. Unfortunately for him, this series he had worked so hard to bring about proved so popular that he couldn't keep up with it and still handle it the way he wanted it. Exit Steve. 
But fortunately for Marveldom Assembled, Devi-May-Care Doug had just taken up residence in the Bullpen. So, he is able to write Shang-Chi's multiple appearances, and soon, Iron Fist's as well. Doug, already garnered an excellent reputation elsewhere in the industry and before his stint at scripting, he held down a reporter's job in old Chicago.

We were going to close this reply with a pun on Doug's last name - but frankly, nobody around here's really sure how he pronounces the blamed thing! So if you can doug it, we'll quietly take our leave.
[ Roy Thomas. Master of Kung Fu #21. October 1974 ]
Just so ya' know, it's pronounced "mench" and rhymes with "wench".

It's interesting to note that Moench was given these jobs because he was available. Not because he possessed any necessary knowledge or experience concerning the niche genres that he was expected to write. Planet of the Apes by itself required a certain learning curve, not to mention immersing himself in the Kung Fu genre or the established continuities of Shang Chi and Fu Manchu.

It's insanely amazing that Moench managed a more than adequate job on these titles. More impressively, he forged each of them into classics of their own right. Mr. Moench's Master of Kung Fu, Deathlok, and Planet of the Apes run are still revered by fans today.

'Nuff said!

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