Thursday, July 7, 2011

Master Of Kung Fu - A Bronze age classic!

I discovered Gulacy's Master of Kung Fu in the 80's but discovered Doug Moench's Master of Kung Fu in the last decade as I was trying to complete my Gulacy run. I didn't have very high expectations of the rest of the series but after reading some of the Mike Zeck issues I became intrigued and later infatuated. At a time in the industry when comics were still considered disposable culture, Moench's 100 + issue run is surprisingly high quality and was consistent the whole way through.

Master Of Kung Fu was started by Englehart and Starlin in the early 70's at the height of the Kung Fu craze. The tv show Kung Fu was a big hit and Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon was a sensation! At the same time Marvel had just acquired the rights to the pulp fiction character Fu Manchu. So it seems that Marvel wanted to combine Englehart and Starlin's interest in Kung Fu with their new acquisition of Fu Manchu and came up with with Shang Chi, and the new title of  "The Master of Kung Fu!"

They only stayed on the title for a handful of issues. After a few fill in issues Paul Gulacy and Doug Moench jumped on board and created some of the most exciting comics of the decade! They started slow but once they found their feet, they were a force to be reckoned with! Together they produced one amazing story arc after another! They started with "Snow Busters" in issue #29 - #31;

Then did "Mordillo's Island" in issue #33 - #35;
And continued with my personal favorite arc, "The Cat" in issues #38 & #39; 

And did their magnum opus, the 10 issue long "Dream Slayers" in issues #40 - #50! 

It seemed like they could do no wrong, but then as sudden and unexpectedly as it started, Gulacy decided to leave the title moving on to other more lucrative and less demanding work leaving Moench to fend for himself. He did a dozen issues or so with Jim Craig but it wasn't until Mike Zeck jumped on board that things started to heat up again. This is where Moench takes the writing up a notch with his classic, "Nightimes", in issue #71! and gets all introspective!

And later in issue #76, "Smoke, Beads and Blood!", he gets philosophical!

They worked together with the great Gene Day on inks for another 25 issue, producing at least one other magnum opus with "The Warriors of the Golden Dawn!" in issues #80 - #89!

Mike Zeck left Master of Kung Fu on a high note with issue #101 revisiting the old man from issue #76 with an issue titled "Not smoke, nor beads, nor blood!" But Doug's run was not over! Master inker Gene Day switched hats to become master artist for more incredible Master of Kung Fu issues!

They did another great arc with issues #115 - #118 that we can call "Blood of his Blood!"
But it seems that with this run the title was basically at an end as Gene died and the title was canceled for low sales. Ah, but what a great run it was! 
I highly recommend the blog, "Diversions of the Groovy Kind!" if you like Master of Kung Fu or just want to know more about the series. They have posted much stuff on Master of Kung Fu and many of the pictures I used for this post came from their blog.


  1. Thank you so much for this thorough list. I'm giving some serious thoughts about reading the entire series; I sure hope it's worth it. But for the moment, I might just pick up the issues that you've mentioned as really good.

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