Thursday, January 30, 2014

"The Claws of the Cat" Master Of Kung Fu 38 and 39

Marvel's Master of Kung Fu was started as a way to milk the whole Kung Fu fad of the early 70's with the success of the TV show Kung Fu and Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon. It was a throw away idea that had no business going on for more than 25 issues. But then a funny thing happened, a brilliant new artist, Paul Gulacy got on the book and along with Doug Moench it was reinvented and revitalized.

Doug Moench brought depth that explored philosophical subjects and had interesting, deep characters and characterizations. Doug wrote him as a reluctant master of kung fu that wanted anything but to be submerged in these "games of deceit and death".

Doug brought a beautiful sophistication and tension while Paul Gulacy brought incredible photo-realistic art and an incredible inventiveness and mood to the sequentials. In the above example we see a beautiful moment to moment sequence in between panels of talking heads creating a thick atmosphere of foreboding things to come. Notice the cat following him.
Throughout the strip Gulacy finds creative ways to depict Moench'es script. They were a super team that would work together many times over the years, all the way up to 2002 Master of Kung Fu revival book. For me, issues 38 and 39, "The Claws of the Cat" was their high point. It was the moment where each were at the top of their powers, Moench delivering a rich atmospheric story full of depth and intrigue and a short enough piece to allow Gulacy to really sink his teeth into it visually and sequentially. For my money this book is a criminally underrated high point of the Bronze Age of the 70's

Here Gulacy plays with camera angles like showing the reflection in the cats eye or showing Shang Chi from the cats view to bring dynamism to the sequentials.
Here we see a wonderful moment to moment sequence of Shang Chi leisurely walking followed by a cat that he has just saved in preparation for the big showdown that Shang Chi will have with his nemesis The Cat.
Here Gulacy is using an old romance comic technique of showing lovers heads kissing in a field of mist to show passion between Shang Chi and Leiko.
Here Gulacy uses the chandelier to paste his talking heads onto in order to add interest to this generally static sequence.
Gulacy creates great mood in this sequence using some psychedelic and romance comic techniques.
This moment to moment sequence with it's cinematic feel looks much more like a modern day decompressionistic comic drawn by someone like  John Cassaday than it does a comic from the 70's.
Gulacy does a wonderful moment to moment sequence in the first four panels of this page showing the flow of action.