Posted Thursday, September 29th, 2022 by Barry

Special Marvel Edition Featuring… (1971) 15

At the risk of seeming insensitive, we’re taking today, Confucius Day, and coupling it with the first appearance of Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu.

I say, “…not to seem insensitive…” in that I’m using a Bronze-Age fictional Chinese comic book character to represent a revered, real-life Chinese philosopher, poet and politician.

Rest assured; no slight is intended.

Confucius is believed to have been born Sept. 28, 551 BC in the 22nd year of the reign of Emperor Xiang. His birth name was Kong Qiu, but was referred to as Master Kong.

Though his father died when Confucius was three and raised in poverty, the future master became a studious child, excelling in his learnings. At 22, Confucius started his first private school in China. Several of his earliest students became noblemen and political administrators.

Special Marvel Edition Featuring… (1971) 15

In his 50s, Confucius was named his home-town’s Grand Minister of Justice. As his status grew, so did his teachings, first across China and, later, the world.

Confucius’s birthday is also observed as Teacher’s Day in China and Taiwan because Confucius believed in education without discrimination. Confucius disciples came from different social classes, and he accommodated them all.

The philosopher/fighter we defer today is a creation of two Americans as told in the form of a completely American creation. Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin wished to adapt the popular Kung Fu television series of the time into comic book form. After DC Comics turned a deaf ear to their pitch, the duo approached Marvel Comics.

By this time the two wished to create their own martial arts master.

Editor-in-Chief Roy Thomas gave the go ahead with the caveat Marvel’s recently acquired license of Sax Rohmer’s Dr. Fu Manchu be incorporated into the mythos.

Shang-Chi debuted in Special Marvel Edition issue 15. He proved popular enough to make two more appearances in the former reprint book before earning his own title.

With issue 17, Special Marvel Edition became The Hands of Shang-Chi, Maser of Kung Fu. The book would outlast the martial arts fad of the 1970s running to 1983 and issue 125.

Along the way, Shang-Chi would star in four giant-size editions, an annual a Special Collector’s Edition, The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu special one, and make regular appearances in The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu magazine.

The 1980s and early 1990s afforded Shang Chi a much-needed rest, but he would continue to guest in specials and other Marvel character books.

With interest in the Marvel Universe beyond the printed page, Shang-Chi bided his time until his franchise was optioned for the big screen. In anticipation, a new title appeared and he finally debuted in theaters in 2021 in the self-titled Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

The loosely-based retelling of the 1970s four-color martial arts master met with unexpected success at the box office returning over $400 million worldwide.

To commemorate the day, follow the philosophy of the non-holiday’s namesake, but by all means, please explore the world of an underused, under-appreciated character whose story is more than worth telling…it’s worth reading.

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