You gotta love those Giant-Size Marvel comics! Check out the first time Spider-man teamed up with Shang - Chi, Master of Kung Fu!
1. Hello Karate Kraze! Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting back in the 70’s weren’t they? That was a special time when martial arts still had this cool factor about them. During the 80’s and 90’s, with the overuse of Ninjas in every comic, martial arts became less of a neat character attribute and more of clichéd afterthought.
2. Ross Andru – we miss you! One of Marvel’s workhorses, I don’t think Ross Andru has really gotten the recognition for his work on Spider-man in the 70’s. Check out how well the action and storytelling unfolds on this page.
3. Bronze Age Fu Manchu While I’ve always liked the idea of Fu Manchu in the Marvel universe, he never seemed to be as much of a mover and shaker as Dr. Doom or The Mandarin. He was more on the level of Kingpin in that his appearances were usually confined to the pages of Master of Kung Fu. Still, it's cool to see him here.
4. Shang – Chi’s costume When using characters with martial arts skills, artists have the challenge of having to find a way to make the classic Gi interesting on a comic book page. Sometimes, you end up with less than interesting costumes (like Karate Kid’s first uniform.) Not so with Shang-Chi’s costume. The use of red and yellow make it stand out while still keeping it from looking too much like a superhero costume.
5. Chapter Two – Cross and Double Cross Remember when comics used to have chapters in them? That was great because dividing a story into chapters forces the writer to have something happen in each chapter. You can bet a comics not going to be a slow decompressed multi-issue snoozer when it’s divided into 3 chapters in one issue.
6. Shang Chi vs Spider-Man Starting on page 15 till page 20 we get 5 pages of awesomely choreographed superhero fight scenes as only the bronze age could do it! Both Len Wein and Ross Andru outdid themselves here with this fight scene. And for those of you keeping track, this is the THIRD fight scene we’ve had in this comic so far! Imagine THAT in today’s slow moving, talking head comics. Even when modern comics do have a lot of fight scenes they have devolved to using generic ninjas and robots most of the time.
7. Chapter 3 – The Deadly FEET of Kung Fu Observe out the fancy footwork on this page. Of course our heroes realize they need to team up to defeat Fu Manchu. Together they storm his inner sanctum which leads us to our 4th fight scene in the comic.
8. The Imposing Figure of Black Jack Tarr! This is a guy who is really needs his own mini-series!
Wikipedia has a full rundown on him: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Jack_Tarr but he’s essentially a sort of Dum Dum Dugan for Denis Nayland Smith’s Nick Fury. Smith is straight from the Fu Manchu series but Tarr was created for the Marvel series to provide a colorful supporting character. He apparently appeared recently in something called Ultimate Human by Warren Ellis, but since my eyes bleed dark ooze anytime I read anything written by Warren Ellis of late, I avoided it.
9. Falling Down!
More evidence that Ross Andru was the man. Notice the interesting use of perspective in the side panel.
10. Fu Man Who? Something intrinsic to the Bronze Age is that moment when characters sort of get shook up by some revelation that what they thought was a fictional world or character is indeed a real one (Dracula, The Frankenstein Monster, Captain Marvel) Here Spider-Man deals with is post-modern existential dilemma when he discovers he shares the same universe (for now at least) as Fu Manchu.
And so ends another great Bronze Age classic!
Have a great weekend!