matt martin

a fist’s outline inked upon the drawing of a face      capital letters exploding in an onomatopoeia      as ben-day dots of red ink burst from the nose      by 1974 marvel comics had noted a trend for kung fu in popular culture      as evidenced by the films of bruce lee and the shaw brothers      so marvel acquired intellectual property to capitalise on this fad      licensing characters from sax rohmer’s novels about chinese supervillain fu manchu      the result was the hands of shang-chi      master of kung fu      shang-chi is son of fu manchu      reared as the perfect kung fu killer      he somehow develops a conscience      and uses his skills to dismantle his father’s crime empire in east london’s limehouse chinatown      there are elements of racial stereotyping in how shang-chi is portrayed      his martial arts expertise and penchant for aphoristic wisdom      but the comic is still an effective antidote to rohmer’s racist tales      since shang-chi and many other chinese characters are unambiguously sympathetic      this comic was cancelled in 1983      rohmer’s estate later refused to renew the license      now the comics can’t be reprinted and fu manchu can’t appear in new stories      shang-chi was an original creation and still guest stars in other comics      enjoying science fiction adventures alongside various superheroes      alien technology recently gave him the power to duplicate himself      and form an army of identical kung fu masters      what should shang-chi do with his newfound ability

     •    keep himself company on pilgrimage
     •    help the downtrodden of the east end