Special Marvel Edition #15
Issue(s): Special Marvel Edition #15
The first 14 issues of "Special Marvel Edition" were reprints, first of Thor and then of Sgt. Fury & His Howling Commandos. With this issue it begins to feature new material, specifically "The Hands of Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu" and the series will be renamed to Master of Kung Fu (while retaining the numbering) with issue #17. According to a text piece by Steve Englehart in this issue, Marvel had acquired the rights to Sax Romer's Fu Manchu and supporting cast "several years ago" but Stan Lee and Roy Thomas never figured out what to do with it. But now with Kung Fu fever sweeping the United States, Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin, both martial arts enthusiasts, pushed for a martials arts series, and Roy Thomas hit on the idea of integrating that in with the world of Fu Manchu.
It's acknowledged in the text piece that Fu Manchu is a "'Yellow Peril' type" and in fact is the inspiration for Marvel's Mandarin and Yellow Claw. The piece doesn't apologize for using a Yellow Peril stereotype or try to mitigate it in any way, and in fact the usage of Fu Manchu throughout the Master of Kung Fu series is potentially problematical all the way through, but it never really seems that bad to me, perhaps in part because the series will also introduce a number of more positive Asian characters, making Fu Manchu a uniquely weird villain as opposed to a representative type. The question of the depiction of Asians, especially in the coloring, will plague the series for a long time, though.
The Jim Starlin art on the early issues of the series...
...helped to establish it as a showcase book for other great artists, notably Paul Gulacy.
The story begins with a new character, Shang-Chi, the son of Fu Manchu. Shang-Chi is loyal to his father but under the impression that his father is a force for good in the world.
Shang-Chi is sent to assassinate Fu Manchu's enemy, Dr. Petrie.
He hesitates briefly but does go through with it, and is then confronted by Petrie's ally, Sir Denis Nayland Smith.
Smith gives Shang-Chi a decidedly different view on Fu Manchu...
...and it's enough to convince Shang-Chi.
Shang-Chi's first stop is his (unnamed) mother, who does nothing to deny it.
A little insight into Shang-Chi here, too, at least to the degree that he'll be able to perform near-superhuman levels of Kung Fu. He's basically been scientifically bred.
Shang-Chi then fights his way through a series of martial artists...
...and even a genetically enhanced gorilla...
...to confront his father. But while his father also denies nothing, Shang-Chi doesn't attack him. He does vow that the next time they meet, it will be as enemies.
Shang-Chi then finds himself on the streets of New York wondering how he's going to take down his father's empire. It's a strong beginning with nice art by Starlin. Shang-Chi remains an important character in the Marvel universe even after Marvel loses the license to Fu Manchu and the other Sax Romer characters.
One thing to note is that Fu Manchu himself says that he's broken a promise by having Dr. Petrie killed. He considers himself free of that promise on the tenuous premise that he's no longer a Mandarin.
This promise was made in the Sax Romer novels, and Romer's widow strongly objected to Fu Manchu breaking his promise here. On top of that there was confusion between Starlin and Englehart about who it was that Shang-Chi was killing in the first place. So it will later be revealed that it wasn't really Dr. Petrie that Shang-Chi has killed here, and Dr. Petrie will become a member of the cast of the book.
Quality Rating: B
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (7): show
Shang-Chi's mother's description of Fu Manchu is based on a description from the novels.
Starlin's version of Fu Manchu looks modelled on Christopher Lee, who played him in several films. But the Lee version lacked a beard.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | April 14, 2015 2:35 PM
It does look like Christopher Lee is the template for Fu Manchu here and in the MoKF series. Understandable since Lee did five Fu Manchu films between 1965 to 1969. However, I wouldn't have minded seeing an artist try to model him after Boris Karloff from the most infamous (and arguably best) take on the character, MGM's "THE MASK OF FU MANCHU". Made in 1932 before the Hays Code and co-starring Myrna Loy, its infamy stems from how wildly offensive it was to Asian-Americans at the time, not to mention the torture scenes, violent and sexual (including homoerotic) undertones. In subsequent re-releases, after the MPAA Code had been implemented, the censors had a field day slicing and dicing the film like Jason Voorhees and Leatherface combined. Today fully restored on DVD (with a great commentary by film historian Greg Mank on all the initial hoopla), if shown on TCM today it would likely still get a TV-14 rating.
Posted by: Brian Coffey | June 25, 2017 11:26 PM
It occurs to me that some continuity-minded writer could have explained Shang-Chi's unnatural skin color by saying that Fu Manchu created him using the same technique the Enclave used to create Adam Warlock...
Posted by: Andrew | March 23, 2018 8:07 AM
-Or just a touch of his own immortality serum?
Posted by: BU | March 24, 2018 8:13 PM
Comments are now closed.
|SuperMegaMonkey home | Comics Chronology home|