Thursday, 4 April 2013

Review Month - Richard Dragon.

Richard Dragon - Kung-Fu Fighter - issue 12 (1976).

Written by David Anthony Kraft.
Art by Eric Estrada and Jack Abel.
Editor - Denny O'Neil.

Publisher - DC Comics.

Dragon's Key Issues .
 Richard Dragon - Kung-Fu Fighter 1975 - 1977 (18 issues).
The Brave and the Bold 1977 (issue 132).
The Queastion 1987 (issues 1,2,34,35,36,37).
Batman / Huntress: Cry For Blood 2000 (issue 3).
Richard Dragon 2004 - 2005 (12 issues).
52 2006 (issues 26,27,41,44).
Detective Comics 2011 (Annual 12).

Cheesy title? Yeah. Not only do they cash in on the 'Dragon' but they reinforce it with a little 'Kung-Fu'. I suppose that sort of thing happened a lot during the 1970s especially with the martial arts boom in the States that was happening around Bruce Lee movies (and others) and the Kung-Fu tv series.

Orange/red jacket and yellow trousers? All the time? Seriously?

'Hey....The flyin' Peepers on the job again!'

Richard Dragon (aka Richard Drakunovski) is the creation of Denny O'Neil and Jim Berry. Originally in a novel 'Dragon's Fists' in 1974 and then as a comic series for DC Comics. He has had a couple of series over the years and is closely tied to the Batman mythos. He has links to the Question new and old, Huntress and Lady Shiva and is essentially a martial artist / trainer.

He is a member if the Global Organisation of Organised Defence - I shit you not!

Presumed to be competition for Shang-Chi, Richard Dragon is one of the forgotten characters of the DC Universe.

Action figure people everywhere!

In these days of New 52 experimentation you can't tell me that there is no room for a martial arts book. Give it a funky retro feel and you cannot fail.

As with a lot of DC books of the time Dragon lacked the edge that Marvel seemed to have developed. As a kid I was more drawn to Marvel's freaky Bronze Age characters than DC who seemed to still be living in the Silver Age. Also where I lived in London DC books were harder to find.

So it was only years later that I discovered this 'other' Kung-Fu comic. Sure I knew about the Legion character Karate Kid and had his solo series but this was something altogether cooler. The art on the book was actually pretty good from time to time and certainly evocative of the times.  Here's an awesome Ric Estrada shot of Dragon's lady Kung-Foooer Lady Shiva looking all disco.

'When a Doomsday Duplicate dies, so does it's living counterpart!!!'

The series seemed to live in the same town as 1970s pulp novels like The Destroyer or King Kung-Fu. It had cool locales and funky martial arts females. In the early years Dragon was less of a Zen Master (as he would later in the 52 series) and more of a martial arts adventurer.

This issue looks great. The opening intro page would fit in Fraction's and Brubaker's recent Iron Fist run. We get break neck pace action, secret hideouts (that look straight out of a Sterenko page) and a convoluted continuing plot that is almost too complicated to worry about. In comparison to Shang-Chi over at Marvel it lacks the self reflection and melancholy and I would never put it as an equal in quality but it's still nostalgic fun. 

'That tears it Telegram Sam.'

It all ends with Dragon kind of fighting himself and everything kind of blowing up. Hmm. Well you know what I mean?

David Anthony Kraft does a fine job with the story and script and clearly has a love for this genre. Ric Estrada and Jack Abel look great and owe a stylistic nod or two to Jim Starlin and Paul Gulacy.

The 2004 series was something that I picked up as it ran and enjoyed it. More action than the Dragon we would later see it was chocked full of martial arts action and blood. Written with gusto by Chuck Dixon and with art by Scott McDaniel it's a great read. You can probably find this in trade or quite cheaply in the back issue bins at a convention.

As an aside there is actually another novel that features Dragon that seems to have been left off the Wiki / Comic book DB lists. It's called Helltown and came out under the DC Universe line a few years ago.  It mainly features Batman and The Question but we also get a lot of Lady Shiva and Dragon.  Written by Dennis O'Neil it's a great read and well worth finding (if you can). Here is the cover.

Richard Dragon as a series it has real possibilities for a new book if treated properly. 

Get Rucka on it!

It's fun and I fucking liked it.

Now go find a jade tiger or whatever it was?


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