Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in Yellow Springs, Ohio. This week, Bennett discusses the return of Shang-Chi and offers some wisdom on the merits of kung fu in comics.
It’s always nice to see a publisher like Marvel finally giving some of your favorite characters in often neglected genres some much deserved attention, like this year’s Ziggy Pig - Silly Seal Comics #1. And I’d be hard pressed to come up with a genre which is more neglected than Kung Fu comics. It is a very minor, short-lived and narrow niche, not much more than a fad from the early 1970s that’s been pretty much forgotten. Which is why after the announcement of the movie Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, you started seeing articles online with titles like Who Is Marvel’s Shang-Chi, Master, Master of Kung Fu?.
Having been a big fan of Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu, I know while martial arts was essential to its existence and an important component of the series (thanks primarily to Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy), it quickly became a super spy comic, one which played beautifully with the tropes and conventions of the genre. As far as I’m concerned, we could also use a lot more super spy comics, which is an even smaller comic book genre, but that’s a whole other topic.
It’s always nice to see Shang-Chi in comics again, even if at the moment he’s only one of many Asian heroes appearing in the new Agents of Atlas
mini-series. It’s of course another superhero team comic that’s heavy on the standard superhero stuff. and pretty light when it comes to super spying, or kung fu for that matter. But it is admittedly fun, and even offers a look-in on the original Agents of Atlas
, who were also favorite characters of mine. I’d still like to see him get a comic of his own again, and hopefully, that will happen when we’re a little closer to the release of the upcoming movie Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu
actually outlasted the kung fu fad, the original series ending with #125 in 1983, doing substantially better than his closest equivalent, DC Comics' Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter,
which ran eighteen issues from 1975 to 1977. I don’t expect to see many if any new kung fu comics even if Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
is a huge success, but there’s no reason why there shouldn’t or couldn’t be. Of course today they’d be known as martial arts comics, and considering the popularity of mixed martial arts, it’s a little surprising that there aren’t already some MMA comics.
Recently, I expressed hope that in the upcoming movie Thor: Love and Thunder, actress Kat Dennings would reprise her role as Jane Foster's sidekick Darcy Lewis (see "Confessions Of A Comic Book - The Inevitable Comic-Con Recap"). She has yet to be approached by producers. But it has been confirmed, by HN Entertainment, that Korg will have a larger role in Thor: Love and Thunder. Which makes sense, seeing as how Taika Waititi is directing the movie and the soft spoken, laid-back Korg was considered by some (including me) to be the breakout star of Thor: Ragnarok.
For us old guys, Korg was one of the supposed "stone men from Saturn" whose invasion was thwarted by Thor during his first appearance in Journey Into Mystery
#83. Korg made his return in Incredible Hulk vol. 2 #93
during the Planet Hulk
storyline, and while he has made subsequent appearances, it took Hollywood to see the character’s full star potential. As far as I can tell, Marvel has yet to adjust the character so that he’s more like his MCU counterpart, which seems like a missed opportunity. I certainly find it incredible he wasn’t instantly promoted to being a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy
, if not in the MCU then at least in the comics.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.