Essential Master Of Kung Fu
Master of Kung Fu #103 (Aug 81)

W - Doug Moench
A - Gene Day
C - Gene Day

Story #5 in Essential #5.

Reason for Placement - Next issue

Ahh, this is more like it - this is the real start to the Moench/Day era, and what a wondrous start it is!

Out of the hospital Leiko feels the need to prove herself so tipped by MI-6 Blackjack gives her a lead and off to Hong Kong she goes.
And close behind is Shang Chi, wanting to assist her.
But instead he finds old friends & foes, possible betrayal and sunk since WWII there’s precious Nazi treasure.

This is some well done shit here.

Here’s a nice indepth review of this issue -

Of course Gene Day knocks the artwork out of the park here - it’s a very beautiful comic, and it’s easy to understand - i dunno what Jim Shooter was smoking back in 1981, the art is flawless.

Splash page -

And here’s page 2 & 3 -

Master of Kung Fu #102 (July 81)

W - Peter B. Gillis / Doug Moench
A - Gene Day / Mike Zeck
I - Gene Day
C - Gene Day

Story #4 in Essential #5.

Reason for Placement - it’s the next issue.

This fill-in is only the 2nd non Moench MOKF (besides #64) in an otherwise unbroken 100 issue run. It’s alright, but there’s a few things that are off and stick out like a compound fracture to me. For example, Shang Chi seems to have no problem taking a bodyguard job for money, and he also get all sorts of lovey-dovey with another gal, even though just the last issue he professed his unquestioning love for Leiko Wu.
Ah, comic book continuity issues, how you are the pea to my princess.

So we’re told Shang goes to France for a rest.
We’re told some rich people are holding a party in Shang Chi’s honor, and Shang is chided for being too quiet. He meets a blonde dancer at the party and gets a boner for her.
Later he meets an old woman who owns a refinery with an out dated computer system (what kinda computer did they have in 1981?) that is being offered to be fixed by a “cartel determined to control the worlds economy by any means available.”
The old woman refused, and in the months following they had computer problems. So she shut down the refinery instead of doing anything.
And this paranoid old woman now wants to hire Shang to sit by her bedroom door.
and he agrees.

As things progress the old woman is struck by blindness, Shang gets more humpy towards the blonde dancer, and then the old woman is attacked by robotic flying scorpions & a poisonous house fly. Blamed for the old womans injuries, Shang goes for a walk but is attacked by a masked man (and his gang) jealous that Shang and blonde dancer were swapping spit. But then some other dude shows up with a gun & gets knifed. Then the old woman gets a forced heart attack by her doctor, and it winds up the blonde dancer is actually behind things and has some weird green stone that shoots out super power laser blasts -
She working for the evil cartel and by the end of the comic she temporarily paralyzes Shang Chi and escapes. She expresses her love for Shang Chi and leaves.
The End.

Not my favorite MOKF comic.
I wonder when it was completed?
When this came out Marvel had a policy of having “inventory issues” ready to go to print in case a comic hit a deadline problem, and sometimes just to give the regular creators a breather they would publish one. That looks to be the case here.
Some inventory issues would be sat on for years before being published.
The reason I bring this up is I notice on page 2 panel 2 in #102 there’s a very similar drawing to a panel in MOKF #100 (on page 4 panel 4) of a fish in the foreground with the characters in the background, distorted by the refraction of the water.
It makes me think Gene Day did issue #102 before #100, and maybe he though the fill-in story her drew that was eventually published on #102 wasn’t going to be used at all?

Here’s the panel from MOKF #100 -

And from #102 -

Not a direct copy, but obviously it’s the same idea.
I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with this, I just find it curious.

The main story (drawn by Day) is 17 pages long, and the final 5 pages are extras scripted by Moench & drawn by Zeck.
Here’s a page from the end of the issue showing Shang Chis rouge’s gallery -

And here’s the splash -

Master of Kung Fu #101 (Jun 81)

W - Doug Moench
A - Mike Zeck
I - Gene Day
C - Mike Zeck

Story #3 in Essential #5.

Reason for Placement - story continues from last issue

Please Note - here’s a big old SPOILER WARNING for you, since I give away the ending of this comic.
Just skip to the final paragraph if yer interested in reading this excellent comic yerself.

In a sequel to MOKF 76, we begin at a hospital where Leiko is recovering from last issues Ripper attack. Leaving her room Shang Chi is suspicious of a couple of masked doctors, and his worries are born out when he stops them from trying to kill an old man down the hall from Leiko. It winds up being the old gent who betrayed Shang to Zaran, who has a bounty on his head from rival drug dealers. The old man begs Shang for assistance, but very coldly Shang Chi refuses.
As Shang leaves the hospital the old mans pleas keep resonating in him, and at the last second he changes his mind and heads to the waterfront bar where he first met the old man. At the bar we find Yakuza, prostitution, tattooed swordsmen & murder plots. As assassins race to the hospital to finish the contract, Shang gives chase and picks them off one at time, catching the final killer in the hallway outside the old mans room. A wounded Leiko drags herself to his side, but the old man is sure the killers will reach him so he unplugs his life support, killing himself.
As Shang Chi, exhausted, makes it to the old mans room Leiko covers up the old mans suicide to save Shang Chis feelings, saying his death was of natural causes.

This is Mike Zecks final MOKF, and he goes out on a high note - drama, pathos, very good action scenes - sorry to be so repetitive, but this is a wonderful comic.

here’s a link to a hodge podge of stuff -

Another overview link -

Master of Kung Fu #100 (May 81)

W - Doug Moench
A - Gene Day / Mike Zeck
I - Day / Zeck / McLeod / Beatty
C - Mike Zeck

Story #2 in Essential #5.

Reason for Placement - it’s the next issue.

It’s the 100th issue, so we get a double sized special.
of course, there’d actually only been 83 issues of MOKF (or 85 if you want to count the 1st 2 Shang Chi’s in ‘Marvel Special Edition’s) but whatever, lets roll with with it. Because the issue is divided into 3 separate yet connected stories, and Gene Day got to draw the 1st one, so yeah, that’s a good reason to party.

The over arching story line concerns a plot Fu Manchu began in the 1930s to use Jack The Rippers psyche as a morality template for his Sia-Fan assassins to increase their ruthlessness.

In the 1st story we see Sir Denis (along with Petrie & Leeks) given information & assistance by Fa Lo Suee and is able to disrupt a plot of Fu Manchus in Cairo.
The 2nd story involves a youthful Shang Chi overhearing his sister Fa Lo Suee at odds with their father & the mystery of her disappearing lover.
The 3rd is in the ‘present’ and involves a killer, Lieko Wu and once again, his sister.

I bought this off the racks when it first came out and I remember my initial reaction was disappointment - the 1st third of the book is drawn by Gene Day and his artwork is very different from Zecks. The story’s set in the 30’s and has a pulpy/old timey feel to it and it took me a couple of reads to figure out what was going on.
My reaction was similar to the first time I read a Miller Daredevil - both artists make ample use of shadows and deep blacks.
Gene Day film noir / more adult art style wasn’t something I was use to.
Looking at the Day pages today I am stuck by how beautiful they are - his attention to detail, inventive panel layouts, fully realized backgrounds…. a touch of photo realism here, an intriguing foreground item there - it’s very striking stuff.
I really do not feel like i have the critical chops to really break it down here, but man I can stare at Gene Days art for days.
Long and short of it while at first I was somewhat turned off by Days art, something kept pulling me back to check it out again.
I couldn’t ignore it.

It’s funny - as a kid my first reaction was i preferred the 2 thirds of the book drawn by Zeck - it’s was easier to follow.
But as an adult re-reading this, getting towards the end of the book I found myself hurrying to finish so I could go back and examine the Day pages again.
I am in no means saying Zeck is a bad artist - he’s a wonderful artist.
But Gene Day was a great artist.

While the story line isn’t the most inventive - how many Jack The Ripper inspired outings had there been by this point? - this is still a very solid comic and it’s just wrong this series hasn’t been reprinted yet.

Links -

And hey, since this is an anniversary issue lets take a look back at the first Shang Chi comic -

Master of Kung Fu #99 (Apr 81)

W - Doug Moench
A - Mike Zeck
I - Gene Day
C - Mike Zeck

Story #1 in Essential #5.

Reason for Placement - it’s a good place to start

Rufus “Super Midnight” Carter returns, along with some spy stuff and solid kicks, baby.

While Shang Chi achieves a certain level of peace with his world, Lieko feels a bit cut off from him. She hears some disturbing news and heads to London (and next issue) to investigate.

Meanwhile, Rufus Carter has a run in with a former CIA associate and has a disagreement on how to deal with a sabotage plot, while leads to Rufus being shot at, and his escaping and roping Shang Chi into helping.

We get boarding a boat via grappling hook, betrayal, a “hey, weasel” insult thrown and a BAOUM explosion.

Good times, people, good times.

Links -

Moench quits Marvel & the death of Gene Day

Before I start with my final batch of reviews for my imagined Essential Master Of Kung Fu #5, I thought I’d share some info abut the end of the MOKF comic book.
The final issue in the original run is #125, and by then Doug Moench has quit the book, the the final great MOKF artist, Gene Day, is dead.
All the art used in this post is by Gene, who died 30 years ago. RIP.

As the title of this blog entry states, Doug Moench quits Marvel Comics in 1983. Look at this list I’ve linked to below -

His last regular issue of Master of Kung Fu was #120 (Cover date Jan 83). His last printed story was #122, a fill in they had on file. While he began working at DC Comics, he stuck around doing Moon Knight (a character he created) for a few more months, but by 9/83 (and after 10 years and hundreds of comics) he quit Marvel.
What happened?

Moench claimed Marvel editor in chief Jim Shooter wanted to kill off all the main Marvel characters secret identities (including Shang Chi) and have others take over their superhero identities, a good overview of Moench’s statements can be found here -

In the comments of Jim Shooters blog he answers that accusation, here -

I don’t really have an opinion on this, but I find it curious.
Moench says Shooter wants to kill everyone off, so he quits Marvel.
Shooter says he was just throwing ideas around with the desire to shake things up, but since nothing got resolved they just cancel Master Of Kung Fu instead.
No matter how you look at it it’s a sad ending to a wonderful book.

Of course, Gene Day dying was worse.
As much as I love the Zeck era, my personal favorite MOKF artist is Gene Day. I was buying MOKF off the racks while Day was the artist and as a younger dude his amazing artwork kept me spellbound for hours. In fact, what triggered me getting a complete collection of Shang Chi comics a few years ago was a desire to own the beautiful Gene Day issues again, and after a short ebay search I found someone selling an almost complete collection of MOKF for really cheap.
So I filled up!

Let me throw out a few links about Gene Day -
He died 30 years ago, Sept 23, 1982

I was crushed when I heard about Gene Day dying. In the pre-internet days I had to dig through issues of The Comics Journal (and other print mags of the day) for any nuggets of info, and at the time I don’t remember hearing that much about his passing. It was a few years later, in an issue of Cerebus, where I first heard the accusation that Jim Shooter worked Gene Day to death.
Dave Sim, Cerebus creator and old friend of Gene Day, now days has a reputation of saying outrageous things. But sometime in the 90’s in a text piece in an issue of Cerebus I first heard Sim accuse Shooter of partial responsibility for Days death. At the time Sim was a very respected comic creator.
Here’s a link where in an interview Sim makes some not so nice statements about Gene Days final days & Marvel comics treatment of him -

Jim Shooter responded thusly -

I’ll admit for years I believed Shooter was somewhat responsible for Days death, but while it’s obvious Shooter would defend himself, his response sounds reasonable.
I honestly do not know what to think about all of this.

All I know is Gene Day died before his time, and it’s a shame he’s barely remembered today.

Over all MOKF’s ending was a sad affair on many levels.

Here’s my list of my personal favorite Master Of Kung Fu artists -

1) Gene Day
2) Jim Starlin
3) Paul Gulacy
4) Mike Zeck
5) Keith Pollard

Yep, I’m putting Starlin over Gulacy.
Ya gotta respect the creator.

Just to lighten things up, here’s another link for ya, just yer basic overview here ma’am.

Long Live Shang Chi!
But more importantly, long live the memory of Gene Day.
I can only imagine the depth of magic that man still had in him.

Master of Kung Fu #98 (Mar 81)

W - Doug Moench
A - Mike Zeck
I - Gene Day
C - Mike Zeck

Story #32 in Essential #4.

Reason for Placement - it’s the next issue, man.

The plot for this issue is as old as the neocons trickle down theory - a neophyte challenges a master to prove his worth - but of course this is done Shang Chi style, and man things get HOT around here!

The Grenvills plan on opening a school for the blind in Sir Denis’s castle, and Shang heads to London to pick up one of the students.
Also arriving in London is the Shadow Slasher - a purple wearing bald dude who wants to prove he’s the best chop-socky guy by killing Shang Chi. So Chi not only has to defend himself against this nut, but he also has to keep the blind student safe as well.

We get daggers thrown, kicks from trees, a Bristish version of civil war reenactors (so Shang is deafened by a ‘Battle of Hastings’ cannon blast), cop confusion, more fighting in trees, and Shang Chi gives the dude multiple brutal beat downs - all the while Shang is pleading with him that there’s no reason to fight -
but…. he….. keeps…… coming….. back!
I count 6 times Shangs beans this nob - it’s a pretty intense comic.

Thumbs up!

I guess this would be an ok end to an ESSENTIAL MASTER OF KUNG FU Vol 4.

Master Of Kung Fu #97 (Feb 81)

W - Doug Moench
A - Mike Zeck
I - Gene Day
C - Mike Zeck

Story #31 in Essential #4.

Reason for Placement - nothing tricky, it’s just the next issue.

This nice single issue story involves a dinner party, art thieves & a Shang Chi running inner monologue lasting the length of the issue.

Following the suggestion of a new acquaintance Sir Denis hires a caterer to host an ‘open house’ dinner party he’s throwing as a way advertise his new freelance organization, and to show off some of his expensive artwork. But the caterers wind up being thieves, so Shang Chi & Leiko get to beat them up real good.

There’s yer regular doses of angst & action, plus some nice comedic bits.
Moench & Zeck just continue to pump out the solid comics.

Master of Kung Fu #96 (Jan 81)

W - Doug Moench
A - Mike Zeck
I - Gene Day
C - Mike Zeck

Story #30 in Essential #4.

Reason for Placement - it’s the next issue, silly!

In this one issue story Shang Chi watches a kick boxing match, gets tricked by spies into another mission and makes a new friend.

A convenient stranger gives Shang & Leiko tickets to a karate championship where they see Rufus “Super Midnight” Carter bout. Impressed by him, they get invited back to his dressing room where he involves them in some espionage type stuff. They wind up going after a book that they later discover are the plans Samisdat was working up, but since Shang Chi busted up his island in the last issue the plans are basically useless. So once again our dude was roped into an unnecessary series of actions, which obviously does not make Shang Chi happy.

This is a pleasurable outing, with Moench hitting familiar notes in a pleasing manner.

Master of Kung Fu #95 (Dec 80)

W - Doug Moench
A - Mike Zeck
I - Gene Day
C - Mike Zeck

Story #29 in Essential #4.

Reason for Placement - Part 3 of 3

I really enjoyed this wrap up to the cult story line - it’s revealed that the cult leader Samisdat is actually a KGB agent and the Russians were behind the whole thing. It reminds me a fun Roger Moore James Bond film, where those dirty commies do extremely ridiculous things to conquer the world.

In this case we discover the actual main plot is to launch a laser equipped satellite into orbit that can take out targets on the ground, while the brain washed cult members commit terror attacks in their home countries. It’s one of those things where if you really think about it it doesn’t make sense (would that really destabilize the world? And that would help the Russians how?), but it’s entertaining to read.

So yeah, we get so see Shang Chi & Leiko pretend to be needing some culting, so they get invited along on a boat ride to Samisdat Island, where they blend right in. So this allows them to sneak around and discover stuff as Sir Denis and the others fly in to back them up.

We get a troop of Agent Syn knockoffs to fight, Blackjack getting shot at after parachuting into a tree, Clive once again sabotaging a rocket, and the bad guy getting blown up in his own rocket.

Also, the main bad guy Samisdat looks a bit like Stalin - I don’t know why that tickles me pink, but it does.
Do I have a thing about mustaches?

Yep, this is one of those comics that just makes me smile, fun stuff indeed.