Sunday, November 15, 2009

Those characters...

As I mentioned the other day in my Son of Satan post and as I discussed with Dan on the podcast last week, there have always been for me certain characters in comics that I've seen or heard about countless times, read less than a handful of their actual appearances, and yet am utterly fascinated by for whatever reason. To put it as I did to Dan, when people ask me for my dream Avengers, I almost always include Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu, despite not owning or having read a single Shang-Chi comic book (until recently).

There's something about these characters' look, their core concept, or some intangible I can't put my finger on that makes me always bring them up in conversation and imagine their comics are these great lost treasure troves, but don't motivate me enough to actually hit the back issue bins and get to scrounging up their appearances.

As I already mentioned, Son of Satan is one, but here are some others...

Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu
Number one with a bullet and the first example I thought of because I seriously know next to nothing but the basics about this dude, but for years have thought there is something intrinsically badass about him and have wanted his profile in the Marvel Universe to rise for no real good reason. I think a lot of this comes from my childhood idolization of Bruce Lee and interest in the martial arts, since right down to his look, Shang-Chi is in many ways Bruce Lee as a comic book character. Having read up a bit mostly through Marvel Handbooks, I also think the idea that Shang's archenemy is his dad is a well-worn but still neat road, and love the fact that he worked as a British Intelligence officer since that's just so odd. Honestly though, I also just love saying "Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu" all the way through.

Richard Dragon
It seems only natural to flip from Shang-Chi over to the guy I consider his DC counterpart in Richard Dragon. I actually did read his short-lived Chuck Dixon/Scott McDaniel ongoing (and found it quite underrated) and thanks to the largess of Andy Serwin have in my possession a random issue of Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter, but my fandom for the character is, I believe, larger than that meager exposure would normally breed. Again, the martial arts angle is my in, and I think the fact that it's a white guy doing the chopping and kicking made him stand out in a way he perhaps would not had he been a carbon Shang-Chi clone. The main hook for me with Richard Dragon though is that DC I think moreso than Marvel has always had a somewhat more official hierarchy of who the toughest hand-to-hand fighters were, something the aforementioned Mr. Dixon really hammered homes in the 90's; characters like Lady Shiva and Connor Hawke were always at the top of the list, but it was always referred to in passing that even they were kinda in awe of Richard Dragon and that he could probably take guys like Batman pretty easy, so that phantom imposing presence just made him awesome to me.

Werewolf By Night
Why when given the opportunity to pitch a story for perhaps my only shot at writing for Marvel did I select Werewolf By Night as the star? In the interest of full disclosure, I knew I wanted to do a funny story and I have always found Werewolf By Night hilarious, which obviously a werewolf isn't generally supposed to be, but I can't help it. It's right there in the name: he's a Werewolf By Night--when else would he be a werewolf? Aren't all werewolves only werewolves by night? It just makes me laugh. This started long before I even knew his name was Jack Russell, which is also somewhat humerous. All this aside, having actually read some early Werewolf By Night stuff as well as a guest spot he did in Peter David's Hulk over the past year or so, I have a newfound appreciation of the character depth Gerry Conway and others gave him, and the pathos of his story. He's also got this insane history involving curses and gypsies and aliens, but I literally just found that out like last week.

Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt
The only Peter Cannon appearance I can ever remember reading is his one-panel turn in Crisis On Infinite Earths where he gets punched out by somebody (I want to say Jay Garrick, but truthfully, I'm not sure and both my trade and my Absolute are in the other room). Really there are two things about him that intrigue me: he is the Charlton character I know the least about and he was the template for Ozymandias in Watchmen; I think that's enough though, right?

I don't think I'm alone when it comes to having an immediate reaction made on me by Deathlok based on his visuals alone--that dude just looks awesome and Rich Buckler should get what the kids call "mad props" for his fantastic design (with Mike Zeck getting credit as well for immortalizing him further on some excellent Captain America covers). I knew a bit about the Michael Collins incarnation of Deathlok in the 90's and always thought the "pacifist in the body of a cyborg killing machine" thing was a clever angle, but somethig about the original Luther Manning model has always been magnetic. Sure there's the fact that he's essentially a zombie cyborg with all sorts of tubes sticking out and an American flag looking all sorts of out-of-place on his chest, but all the alternate future stuff is a draw as well. I enjoyed the first issue of Charlie Huston and Lan Medina's new mini, so I'm hoping it holds up and this is one of those characters I can actually transition into a legitimate and semi-knowledgable fan of.


KP said...

1 - I don't know if there's an in-continuity explanation for who Shang Chi's father is supposed to be since Marvel stopped licensing Fu Man Chu, but either way this is worth your time:

2 - Similarly, did you know that Richard Dragon isn't an original DC character but actually a dude from some '70s adventure novel? And that Jack Kirby drew an issue or two of the original series from around the same time he was doing one-offs like the First Issue Specials? Worth chasing down.

3 - For the trifecta, Peter Cannon actually isn't owned by DC anymore. For some reason, he was the only Charlton hero whose rights were kept with his creator...some guy who was a former NYC cop who was way into Eastern thought or some such. I read up on this about a year ago. It's pretty interesting stuff.

But yeah...there rights are still out there. Can you say "High Five Comics relaunch"?

JimmyGlenn711 said...

D-Man is one of those characters for me. To date I have only read 3 or 4 comics that feature him, primarily in the first arc of Busiek and Perez's Avengers:Heroes Return.

A few years back Bendis used him in Pulse or something, but he made him crazy. I remember at the time I was really offended, as if he was this core character that Bendis misused.

In any event, D-Man is always on my fantasy Avengers team along with Scott Land Ant-Man (R.I.P.) and Ionic Wonder Man, none of that leisure suit bullshit!

JimmyGlenn711 said...

p.s. This is how much I like D-Man lol

Erik said...

Ragman. Never read a single one of his comics (aside from guest appearances in Batman books), but I think he's awesome. He's got a great look, and from what I understand he's some kind of Golem, which is awesome.

Ben Morse said...

I was sooooo close to putting Ragman on my list, Erik!

Tom Spurgeon said...

Those MOKF comics are fun to read even today, and they're super-cheap. The popular run was when Moench was writing for Zeck and Day, but the Day solo-art issues are the real revelation.

The others I'd pass on except maybe the Richard Dragon issues with Kirby.

The Lords of Mischief said...

Wow, really? You found "Werewolf by Night" to be hilarious? Was it just not scary enough?

online pharmacy said...

What a collection of hilarious comics! I wonder if you have more reviews!