Bruce Lee meets Jason Bourne.
In a world of superhuman, supernatural characters and cosmic enemies, one of the most dangerous men in the Marvel Universe is someone without any of those powers. Good thing Shang-Chi’s on our side.
This summer, Marvel will once again unleash Deadly Hands of Kung Fu as a four-issue series centered on the martial arts hero Shang-Chi as he follows a bloody trail of murder and mystery after the death of a former lover who worked for England’s MI-6. Shang-Chi has had a heightened profile in Marvel as of late, being recruited into Avengers in 2013 and fighting on the front lines in the summer event series Infinity. Shang-Chi is the key player in this month’s Avengers World, but in Deadly Hands of Kung Fu he’s going solo to avenge the death of a friend.
Writer Mike Benson is a long-time fan of Shang-Chi, the 1970s Deadly Hands of Kung Fu series and the larger kung fu genre in comics and films, and working on the Master of Kung Fu is something he’s been vying for since writing him in 2009 for the Marvel anthology Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu. After a brief hiatus from comics to focus on his film work like Entourage and several new series for HBO, Benson is back to bring Shang-Chi back into focus and for this four-issue story he’s partnering with Malaysian artist Tan Eng Huat. The 2002 Russ Manning award-winner has spent the past year drawing X-Men Legacy, but this new Deadly Hands of Kung Fu series offers the artist a change to return to his roots in Hong Kong action comics and do the type of series he’s never done before.
Newsarama: What can you tell us about this new Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu miniseries?
Mike Benson: Deadly Hands of Kung Fu is going to be a combination of the old 70’s title, which really was heavy on Bruce Lee, David Carradine and all those great Sunday afternoon Shaw Brother films mixed with a heavy helping of the Bourne films. That’s really the tone more than anything. The story’s jumping off point starts when someone from Shang-Chi’s past which he was close with was murdered. When Shang0Chi learns of her death, he is appropriately devastated and goes to the United Kingdom to pay his last respects. It is here that he gets drawn into a much larger scenario.
Tan Eng Huat: It’s always appealing to see ordinary people overcoming obstacles greater than normal.
Nrama: So who is Shang-Chi up against to get revenge and justice?
Benson: Shang-Chi does not go to the UK for revenge. He goes to pay his respects to someone he had strong feelings toward. However the people who killed this person expect Shang to react exactly in that way and so they actually fuel his fire even further. I wanted to really mix it up. Shang-Chi will go up against a few of his old classic enemies and a few new ones. Again, I’d rather not get too specific but one old baddie who will bare his head is Razor Fist. I wanted to populate Shang-Chi’s world with both smaller and larger characters from his past. We will see the Sons of the Tiger and the Daughters of the Dragon at different points throughout the miniseries with their own agendas.
Nrama: Sounds like it’s an informal reunion of the 1970s Deadly Hands of Kung Fu series and not just Shang-Chi. Can we look for any others from that great pulpy series to rear their head as well?
Benson: Yep, as I stated above, we will see a bunch of them. I collected Deadly Hands of Kung Fu as I did Master of Kung Fu. I’d marvel at the artwork. I always loved reading the mini stories about seemingly regular people who didn’t posses super =powers but just had an incredible skill set. That’s why I loved Bruce Lee films growing up so much. Aside from being the coolest guy to walk the planet, he was just a man who was a highly skilled martial artist but could be killed at any time. I would get the same type of rush from the Deadly Hands of Kung Fu magazine.
Nrama: Shang-Chi has recently been appearing in the main Avengers books, even playing a role in Infinity. How would you describe his role at present in the Marvel universe?
Benson: I’d have to say as the cool, calm, collected kung fu butt kicker with a meditative, thoughtful side. Not too long ago, Ed Brubaker did a bang up job of Shang-Chi in Secret Avengers with an arc called: “Eyes of the Dragon.” I thought he really he really raised the bar.
Nrama: Mike, you’ve been away from comics on a regular basis since Deadpool Pulp ended in 2011. What were you doing in that absence, and what brought you back?
Benson: I’ve been away but I’ve never really been gone. Comics are something I truly love and when I heard about Deadly Hands Of Kung Fu I pitched on it a couple of times and one of my pitches seemed to resonate with my editor Jake Thomas and Editor-In-Chief Axel Alonso and when I heard I got the gig I was super excited. This is a dream job for me.
Nrama: What about you, Tan? What brought you to do this series?
Huat: In my many years of doing all sort of superhero characters and their superpowers, I’ve never come across a character like Shang-Chi. Simply said, I’ve never done anything kung fu related. [laughs] So the chance to do that made me very excited.
Nrama: You live in Malaysia, but I’m sure like Benson you had easy access to kung fu movies. How would you describe your awareness of the genre?
Huat: I grew up reading along of comics from Hong Kong, which are mostly martial arts types comics. And before I worked on American comics I worked as an assistant for a Hong Kong artist named ??Zho Sheng, so hopefully that will help. I love the intense line work and the fluidity of movement, so I will try to apply that into the story and character itself.
Nrama: And its’ not like you haven’t worked with Shang-Chi in the past. Back in 2009 you wrote the excellent short story “Once Upon a Time In Wan Chai” for the one-shot Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu. What’s drawn you to this character not just once but now twice?
Benson: Like many kids I practiced martial arts (Kyokushinkai Karate) for 6 years and watched a ton of martial arts films. I have a lot of respect for anyone who practices any form of martial arts. So what draws me to Shang-Chi is probably some type of wish fulfillment. To be able to carry yourself with that type of inner peace is something I’ve always aspired.
Nrama: That earlier story was very evocative of 1970s kung-fu movie – is that a feel you’re going for here as well?
Benson: The 70’s are a very special time. I was just a kid but looking back, all my favorite films are from that era, both in American and Asian cinema. I love so much from that time period, music, style, dress, so to answer your question there will be for sure a 70’s influence.