Tuesday, March 31, 2009

1970's Flashback: Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter

Richard Dragon was originally created by coauthors Dennis O'Neil and Jim Berry in the novel Dragon's Fists (1974) under the shared pseudonym "Jim Dennis." O'Neill later adapted the character for DC Comics April/May 1975 debut, Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter. Dragon was a young thief who, after receiving training in martial arts, decided to use his abilities for good. Along with Bronze Tiger and Lady Shiva he is considered one of the top three martial artists in the DC Universe.

As a sneak thief in Japan, young Richard Dragon broke into a dojo outside of Kyoto to steal a priceless jade Buddha. Before he could get away, Richard was caught and beaten by the dojo's lead student, Ben Turner. O-Sensei, the dojo's master, saw something worth nurturing in Richard, and for the next seven years taught Ben and Richard, side by side, giving them a mastery of the martial arts. Richard found inner peace, and only used his fighting skills when absolutely necessary. Once he felt there was nothing more that he could teach them, the O-Sensei left the two. Turner and Dragon were then recruited by Barney Ling, head of the law-keeping espionage agency known as G.O.O.D. (Global Organization of Organized Defense), to join the organization. Together Ben and Richard would defeat the corrupt businessman Guano Cravat, foiling his plans to instigate a war for his own benefit. Ben and Richard later founded a martial arts dojo in Manhattan, and Richard would go on to battle international threats such as Telegram Sam, the Preying Mantis, the League of Assassins, and eventually his former superior, Barney Ling.

Thirsty for revenge, Cravat would arrange for the murder of Carolyn Wu-San, one of O-Sensei's god-daughters. Aided by Barney Ling, Cravat tricked Carolyn's sister, Sandra Wu-San, into believing Richard Dragon was the murderer. Consumed with a need for revenge, Sandra trained to the peak of human capacity, mastering several martial arts in order to defeat Dragon. When the two fighting masters finally met in battle, however, Dragon was able to prove to Sandra that Cravat had deceived her. Without Dragon's death as a goal, Sandra no longer had a need for her martial arts mastery. Sensing she needed guidance, Dragon helped her to explore the spiritual side of martial arts. Ultimately deciding that she was Sandra no more she rechristened herself "Shiva". She fought crime with Dragon and Ben Turner until the three parted ways. Turner, who was brainwashed by the villainous Sensei of the League of Assassins, became the renegade Bronze Tiger. Richard Dragon decided to retire, devoting himself to teaching others. Lady Shiva became one of the world's greatest assassins. Richard Dragon’s many students include the Batman, Nightwing, Barbara "Oracle" Gordon, Green Arrow/Connor Hawke and the new Question/Renee Montoya.

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