Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #1
Issue(s): Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #1
Due to the way i store my comics, i've made Marvel's magazines a low priority, and among other things that means that my representation of the Sons of the Tiger, and later the White Tiger, are pretty low in my project. I've been holding out hope that Marvel reprint the Tiger stuff in regular comic size format, but at time of writing it hasn't happened. The explanation is usually that these Deadly Hands of Kung Fu issues also contain Shang-Chi stories, and Marvel no longer has the license to print stories about Fu Manchu and the other Sax Rohmer supporting characters (which is also why Master of Kung Fu has never been reprinted). But Marvel does own the Sons of the Tiger and White Tiger free and clear, and for the most part their stories are unrelated to anything to do with Shang-Chi and company. So i would think that it would be possible to just pull out the Tiger stories and reprint those, and i suspect there would be a decent market for them, since the magazines aren't that easy to come by.
In any event, for now i've broken down and bought issue #1 of Deadly Hands of Kung Fu so that i at least have the first appearance of the Sons of the Tiger.
Before that, though, let me quickly cover the Shang-Chi story. It is actually a Fu Manchu story, with no present day appearance by Shang-Chi. Fu Manchu is upset about his son's recent betrayal, so he goes to the main instructor that trained Shang-Chi and asks him if he saw any signs that Shang-Chi didn't have a true killer instinct. The trainer recounts a story where Fu Manchu sent some fighters to confront his son and pretend that they were sent by British agents to kill him. Shang-Chi killed the attackers, and then was stunned to hear from the trainer that it was really a ruse by his father. The trainer interpreted Shang-Chi's reaction as being "astonished over the thoroughness" of Fu Manchu's endeavor, but Fu Manchu realizes that Shang-Chi was really disgusted by the unnecessary bloodshed.
I am not sure if the smile from the instructor at the end is meant to mean that he's happy that Shang-Chi is not following in Fu Manchu's footsteps, or if he's just happy to be alive.
Most of the story is dedicated to the flashback with Shang-Chi fighting his attackers, allowing Starlin to fill pages with Kung Fu battles. I keep doing a double take, thinking that Shang-Chi is fighting Yellowjacket.
My one complaint about the art, and maybe it's more of a miscommunication with Englehart, is that Shang-Chi is supposed to be 14 years old in the flashback. He sure doesn't look it.
The Sons of the Tiger story begins with a youth, Lin Sun, walking home and getting attacked by assassins in front of the school where he trains, which is in San Francisco's Chinatown.
Lin is Chinese and so are his attackers, so when this ninja called him a traitor to his race, i thought Lin was going to retort that at least he isn't using a Japanese fighting technique, but that's not what happens. He just says that ninjas are supposed to be silent assassins, which is a good retort considering that the attacker is indeed pretty chatty.
Lin fights off the ninjas and then goes to his school, where he finds his teacher, Master Kee, dying. Kee says a bit about Lin Sun's origin, noting that Lin's parents were killed for resisting the revolutionaries in China, and Kee therefore raised Lin as his own and later brought him to America. As he's dying, Kee tells Lin to seek out his two buddies, Abe Brown and Bob Diamond, who like him became experts at Kung Fu.
And he also directs Lin to a set of amulets.
Lin seeks out his friends. He finds Abe Brown fighting off a group of drug dealers, and then he and Abe find Bob Diamond fighting ninjas at a movie star party. Lin says that all of the attacks are probably related, part of an "ancient conspiracy".
A bit reluctantly, Abe and Bob take their amulets (they get the paws) and join Lin in tracking the ninjas back to their boss, a guy named Sui Ti Kama. Kama is working for "the Seven Silent Ones", who don't appear in this story but will be the main villains of this series for the first year or so.
During the fight with Kama, the Sons of the Tiger do a chant.
And then it's said that their strength and skill have increased three-fold.
Kama is defeated (and this is his only appearance) but this just begins the Son of the Tiger's fight against the conspiracy that killed Master Kee.
Not a lot of time is devoted to the personality of the characters in this first story, and what personality there is you can probably guess (e.g. Abe is street tough and angry). But the Sons of the Tiger manage to endure both with their own series in this book and then as supporting characters in Power Man & Iron Fist, and their amulets are even more enduring thanks to there being at least three White Tigers that possess it over the years.
Approximately half of this magazine consists of articles about the Kung Fu craze ("For just so long has the US of A been in the unbreakable grip of the Kung Fu Fever. Some things have changed -- quite possibly for good."). There is an article wondering whether or not there was a conspiracy behind the death of Bruce Lee ("It would seem unlikely"), reviews of Bruce Lee movies and the Kung Fu television show, and an article by "Wan Chang O'Shaugnessy" (Denny O'Neil) talking about how if you want to learn Kung Fu you had better get in shape generally first, and other such things.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MCP push this back in publication a little so that it's between Special Marvel Edition #15-16, right after Shang Chi's initial betrayal of his father. Which makes sense, and i'll follow that, although it's not strictly necessary.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
I suppose it goes without saying that the Sons of the Tiger are pretty shameless copies of the characters played by Bruce Lee, Jim Kelly, and John Saxon in Enter the Dragon.
Posted by: Red Comet | December 11, 2015 12:31 PM
I'm not seeing much resemblance between Bob Diamond and John Saxon.
The stories in this issue were reprinted in color in the "Savage Hands of Kung Fu" Treasury edition.
I suspect Neal Adams had some uncredited art in the Sons of the Tiger story; Giordano was working in his studio at the time and Adams did do the cover.
According to longtime fan/artist Fred Hembeck, the Sons of the Tiger was Marvel's most "hackneyed, execrable, and worthless" series before Bill Mantlo took over.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | December 11, 2015 8:08 PM
Also, I think Shang-Chi's trainer appeared in a flashback story in a non-Gulacy MOKF circa #40.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | December 11, 2015 8:10 PM
Yep, I was thinking the same thing. A Sal Buscema story that was also a flashback to the time when Midnight was alive. It even ties in thematically to this piece.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | December 11, 2015 8:50 PM
Omnibuses of Master of Kung Fu are on the way :)
Posted by: PeterA | December 13, 2015 5:41 AM
According to Tony Isabella on his blog, Shang-Chi's trainer was actually subtly working against Fu Manchu, explaining the smile at the end. But knowing that, I now have to wonder if he really was the same guy in that Midnight flashback.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | January 12, 2017 10:32 AM
They were both called Cho Lin, so unless Fu Manchu had more than one guy by that name training Shang, it would seem they're the same guy.
Posted by: Michael | January 15, 2017 7:29 PM
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