Master of Kung Fu #19 was the final issue scripted by Shang-Chi’s creator, Steve Englehart. While the idea of a guest appearance from Marvel’s swamp creature, Man-Thing was an offbeat idea, the issue is more notable for the influence of the television series, Kung Fu. This influence is felt strongest in the philosophical discourse on pacifism conducted throughout the issue by Shang-Chi and his fellow Chinese visitor to the Everglades, Lu Sun (a character clearly based on Kwai Chang Caine from Kung Fu). Shang-Chi admires the pacifist philosophy but the unremitting pursuit of a pair of Si-Fan assassins, (an Asian and Arab double act known as Jekin and Dahar) make it impossible to put it into practice.
Shang-Chi’s memories are colored by the realization of his father’s immorality. The childhood flashback (a familiar conceit from the Kung Fu television series) employed here serves to underscore the point that as the pieces of the puzzle come together for Shang-Chi, he is left more fragmented than before. This conundrum is one that Steve Englehart was leaving for future issues to build upon.
An intriguing sub-plot sees Sir Denis Nayland Smith and Black Jack Tarr launch an assault on Fu Manchu’s convoy of trucks as he abandons Florida following Shang-Chi’s successful sabotage of his operations in the preceding issue. While the casualties on the side of the Si-Fan are heavy, the mastermind makes his escape in the Everglades leaving Sir Denis facing another hollow victory. The Man-Thing is almost superfluous to the plot, but his position as an unwitting pawn in others’ games mirrors Shang-Chi’s own place as a man who strives for peace on a battleground.
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As might be expected from the guy who wrote Sword Noir: a Role-Playing Game of Hardboiled Sword & Sorcery and is now Kickstarting Nefertiti Overdrive: Ancient Egyptian Wuxia, I love a good mash-up. I use the term mash-up to refer to a creative work that blends two or more apparently dissimilar genres. The mash-up most genre fans would know would be Firefly, mashing-up space opera and westerns.
Now space opera and western are not terribly dissimilar, but Firefly included many of the trappings as well as the tropes of the western. The characters carried six-shooters and lever action rifles, they had costumes that appeared quite close of 19th century American frontier clothing, and pseudo-frontier language dotted their speech – along with Mandarin. While I often hear Firefly referred to as sci-fi with some western aspects, I think it is more fitting to call it a western in space.
That’s kind of splitting hairs.
Firefly melded two genres, but there is a wonderful French movie that mixes at least four – period drama, martial arts, horror, and romance. The Brotherhood of the Wolf is one of my favourite movies and an inexhaustible source of inspiration. It might not be the finest movie of its age, but it was my favorite movie of 2002.
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Pro Se Press is one of several New Pulp specialty small presses that have sprung up over the past few years to give voice to new writers. While Pro Se publishes pulp novels like their peers, they have largely set themselves apart in the field by also publishing a monthly print magazine, Pro Se Presents. Issue 15 was just published and presents five diverse examples of New Pulp from five very talented writers. The periodical is also published as an e-book each month and is affordably priced in keeping with traditional pulp titles of decades past – something most small presses are unable to otherwise do thanks to the economics of print on demand or small print runs.
Sean Ali’s striking cover art and moody interior illustrations do an excellent job of capturing the unique feel of each tale. The magazine’s stellar editorial staff [Tommy Hancock, Lee Houston, Jr., Frank Schildiner, Barry Reese, and Don Thomas] has done an excellent job of capturing the mix of genres that were found under the pulp banner in the heyday of the 1920s and 1930s. From a modern standpoint, there is a bias to favor the superhero prototypes (such as Doc Savage, The Shadow, The Spider, etc.) or the more famous offshoots of the pulps, the hardboiled detective and the sword & sorcery barbarian hero. This tends to shortchange the many boxing stories, westerns, romances, and humorous tales that were also staples of the pulp world. Happily, Pro Se Presents restores this balance.
Issue 15 gets underway with David White’s “Doc Panic.” While the title may recall Doc Savage, White has crafted more than the simple knock-off it might suggest in this clever blend of pulp archetypes and Japanese martial arts. Phineas Montgomery is the man behind the mask. An heir to a fortune, Montgomery grew up scarred as a witness to his Satanist parents’ murderous rituals involving the human sacrifice of abducted children and derelicts. A Japanese servant stole young Montgomery away from his parents’ house of madness and smuggled him to Japan, where the boy was trained in the arts of Ninjitsu and Akido. Along the way, the young man also picked up an addiction to certain illegal powders that help him manage his pain. White has achieved an interesting balance between the masked vigilantes of the Golden Age and the Men’s Adventures paperback originals of the 1970s with their mix of martial arts and gritty urban crime. There is little doubt that this is only the first of many appearances for the character. White has stumbled upon a winning formula here that makes Doc Panic a character worthy of commanding the cover slot for his debut.
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