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Master of Kung Fu
Cover of Master of Kung Fu #16
Publication information
PublisherMarvel Comics
FormatOngoing series
Publication dateApril 1974 – June 1983
No. of issues(vol. 1): 114 (#17–125, four Giant-Size issues, one Annual)
(vol. 2): 1 (#126)
Main character(s)Shang-Chi

Master of Kung Fu was a comic book title published by Marvel Comics from 1974 to 1983.

Publication history

The character Shang-Chi first appeared in Special Marvel Edition #15 (December 1973) by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin.[1] Shang-Chi appeared again in issue #16, and with issue #17 (April 1974) the title was changed to The Hands of Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu. Amidst the martial arts craze in the United States in the 1970s, the book became very popular, surviving until issue #125 (June 1983), a run including four Giant-Size issues and one Annual.

The series began by introducing Shang-Chi as a man raised by his father Dr. Fu Manchu to be the ultimate assassin for the would-be world conqueror. In Shang-Chi's first mission, he kills one of his father's old enemies, Dr. Petrie and then learns of Dr. Fu Manchu's true, evil nature. Disillusioned, Shang-Chi swears eternal opposition to his father's ambitions and fights him as an agent of British intelligence, under the orders of Sir Denis Nayland Smith.

The series was an instant sales success. However, Englehart and Starlin would depart the series after their third issue, Master of Kung Fu #17; Englehart left due to editorial disputes with then-Marvel editor Roy Thomas, while Starlin, who was unfamiliar with Fu Manchu up until working on the second issue of the series, left out of embarrassment over the racist nature of the Rohmer novels.[2] Despite the title's co-creators' early departure, its success grew once writer Doug Moench and artist Paul Gulacy, began collaborating in issue #22. Comics historian Les Daniels observed that "ingenious writing by Doug Moench and energetic art by Paul Gulacy brought Master of Kung Fu new life".[3] Their critically acclaimed run continued, with short gaps, until #51 when Gulacy was replaced by artist Jim Craig. Craig was later succeeded by Mike Zeck who became the regular penciller in issue #66.

Prologue from Master of Kung Fu:

"Call me Shang-Chi, as my father did when he raised me and molded my mind and my body in the vacuum of his Honan, China retreat. I learned many things from my father: That my name means 'The Rising and Advancing of a Spirit', that my body could be forged into a living weapon through the discipline of kung fu, and that it might be used for the murder of a man called Dr. Petrie.

Since then I have learned that my father is Dr. Fu Manchu, the most insidiously evil man on earth...and that to honor him would bring nothing but dishonor to the spirit of my name".

— Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu

Gulacy was a film buff, and modeled many characters after film stars: Shang-Chi on Bruce Lee,[4] Juliette on Marlene Dietrich, James Larner on Marlon Brando, Clive Reston (often broadly hinted at as being the son of James Bond, as well as the grand-nephew of Sherlock Holmes) occasionally looking like a combination of Basil Rathbone and Sean Connery, and a minor character, Ward Sarsfield (after Arthur Henry Sarsfield Ward, the real-life name of Dr. Fu Manchu's creator Sax Rohmer), resembling David Niven.[5] Moench introduced other film-based characters, including ones modeled after Groucho Marx (Rufus T. Hackstabber)[6] and W. C. Fields (Quigley J. Warmflash).[7]

Moench continued for a long tenure, and the title started to become a fan favorite once again when Mike Zeck (on pencils) and Gene Day (on inks) began their long run on the book. Master of Kung Fu started receiving Gulacy-level acclaim when Gene Day took over penciling in issue #100 (1981). Despite critical success, sales lagged. Day died of a heart attack after finishing issue #120, and Moench left the book after #122. The character's long-running battle with his father ended with #118 and with the main storyline resolved, the book was cancelled with issue #125, as Shang-Chi retired to a passive life as a fisherman in a Chinese village. In 2010, Comics Bulletin ranked Moench's work on Master of Kung-Fu with artists Gulacy, Mike Zeck, and Day sixth on its list of the "Top 10 1970s Marvels".[8]

In 1988, Marvel published a new Master of Kung Fu story in Marvel Comics Presents #1-8. It reunited Shang-Chi with most of the original supporting cast and featured Moench again writing, with Tom Grindberg penciling.[9]

Since its cancellation, the Master of Kung Fu title would be briefly revived on a couple of occasions as the one-shot issue Master of Kung Fu: Bleeding Black (1990),[10] and the MAX miniseries Master of Kung Fu: Hellfire Apocalypse (2002), with artist Paul Gulacy on art again.[11]

In 2009, the black and white one-shot Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu was released, with stories written by Jonathan Hickman, Mike Benson, Charlie Huston and Robin Furth and illustrated by Tomm Coker, C.P. Smith, Enrique Romero and Paul Gulacy.[12][13]

In 2015, the Master of Kung Fu title was revived as part of the Secret Wars storyline. Written by Haden Blackman and illustrated by Dalibor Talajic, the four-issue miniseries is a wuxia-inspired story that takes place in the Battleworld domain of K'un-Lun and centers around Shang-Chi in his fight to overthrow his despotic father, Emperor Zheng Zu.[14]

In November 2017, after a 34-year gap, Master of Kung Fu released its 126th issue as part of the Marvel Legacy relaunch. The one-shot issue (cover-dated January 2018) was written by professional wrestler CM Punk and illustrated once again by Talajic.[15]

The Hands of Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu

Supporting characters

The series, especially as written by Doug Moench was notable for its strong supporting characters. As they evolved, these characters became nearly as integral to the series as Shang-Chi himself:

Master of Kung Fu: Battleworld

This section may be too long to read and navigate comfortably. Please consider splitting content into sub-articles, condensing it, or adding subheadings. Please discuss this issue on the article's talk page. (January 2022)

This series, written by Haden Blackman and illustrated by Dalibor Talajic, was part of the Secret Wars series which takes place in the Battleworld domain of K'un-Lun. Based on the mystical city of the same name from Earth-15513, it is a wuxia-inspired domain in which its inhabitants are martial artists with mystical abilities and techniques. Aside from Shang-Chi, the series includes reimaginings of characters from the original Master of Kung Fu series, as well as others from other Marvel comics.



Centuries before the start of the series, the great masters of every martial arts school warred with each other until the masters from the Ten Rings and the Iron Fist decided to end the bloodshed by hosting a tournament every 13 years in the Thirteen Chambers to decide who the next Emperor of K'un-Lun would be, with the losing masters swearing fealty to the victor. Each of these schools and their abilities are modeled off a Marvel comics character from the mainstream continuity:

Collected editions


  1. ^ Cooke, Jon B. (2005). "Everybody was Kung Fu Watchin'! The Not-So-Secret Origin of Shang-Chi, Kung-Fu Master!". Comic Book Artist Collection: Volume 3. TwoMorrows Publishing. pp. 6–7. ISBN 1-893905-42-X.
  2. ^ Zachary, Brandon (July 19, 2019). "Shang-Chi Co-Creator Jim Starlin Hopes 'Embarrassing' Villain Isn't in Film". CBR.
  3. ^ Daniels, Les (1991). Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World's Greatest Comics. Harry N. Abrams. p. 159. ISBN 9780810938212.
  4. ^ Cooke, Jon B. (February 2000). "A Master of Comics Art - Artist Paul Gulacy and His Early Days at Marvel". Comic Book Artist. No. 7.
  5. ^ Cooke, Jon B. (February 2000). "A Master of Comics Art: Artist Paul Gulacy and His Early Days at Marvel". Comic Book Artist. TwoMorrows Publishing (7): 32. Archived from the original on February 15, 2008. CBA: Did you ever get any other flak? Nowadays, I don't think you could get away with it, because you had Sean Connery, for instance, for a period of time. There were a lot of recognizable characters, James Coburn, and people like that...
    PAUL: Marlene Dietrich...
    CBA: Yeah, right. [laughs] You were grabbing them from all over!
    PAUL: Don't forget David Niven [laughter]—who the hell cares about David Niven?—but we found a place for him in there.
  6. ^ Christiansen, Jeff (August 13, 2004). "Rufus T. Hackstabber". The Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe. Archived from the original on October 14, 2013.
  7. ^ Christiansen, Jeff (August 11, 2004). "Quigley J. Warmflash". The Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe. Archived from the original on July 4, 2013.
  8. ^ Sacks, Jason (September 6, 2010). "Top 10 1970s Marvels". Comics Bulletin. Archived from the original on August 1, 2013. Retrieved August 3, 2013.
  9. ^ Comtois, Pierre (December 2014). Morrow, John (ed.). Marvel Comics in the 1980s: An Issue by Issue Field Guide to a Pop Culture Phenomenon. TwoMorrows Publishing. p. 209. At first, the comic was seen as...a place where fan-favorite strips could be brought back with one or more of their original creators on the job but without much financial risk to the company. In fact, the first issue of the series featured a Man-Thing serial by Steve Gerber and Tom Sutton and a Master of Kung Fu serial by Doug Moench and Tom Grindberg.
  10. ^ Various (2016-04-20). Marvel Firsts: The 1990s Vol. 1. Marvel Entertainment. ISBN 978-1-302-48565-8.
  11. ^ "Moving Shadow (Shang-Chi foe)". Retrieved 2023-08-13.
  12. ^ Schedeen, Jesse (2009-10-01). "Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu #1 Review". IGN. Retrieved 2022-04-25.
  13. ^ "SHANG-CHI MASTER OF KUNG-FU BLACK & WHITE ONE-SHOT (JUL090539)". Retrieved 2022-04-25.
  14. ^ "Shang-Chi Gets New Series & New World In 'Master Of Kung-Fu'". Archived from the original on 2018-06-13. Retrieved 2018-06-13.
  15. ^ "SYFY - Marvel Legacy Master of Kung Fu: Meet the creative team | Exclusive: Meet the creative team behind the new Master of Kung Fu Marvel Legacy title". Archived from the original on 2019-07-25. Retrieved 2019-09-17.
  16. ^ Christiansen, Jeff (October 10, 2004). "Midnight Sun". The Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe. Archived from the original on November 2, 2012. Retrieved January 31, 2013.
  17. ^ The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu (vol. 2) #3
  18. ^ Shadow Slasher at The Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe
  19. ^ Kogar at The Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe