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Comic Book / Richard Dragon Kung Fu Fighter

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"There is a time to be a rock... a time to be a deep, silent pool.. and a time to be a whirlwind—"

Richard Dragon Kung-Fu Fighter was DC's attempt to cash in on the mid 1970's Kung Fu craze, with its first issue being an adaptation of a pulp novel by the same authors that had been released the previous year. The book was canceled at 18 issues in the DC Implosion, which claimed 31 titles in all.

The series is notable for introducing the deadly Lady Shiva, who went on to become a much more villainous character against whom most of the DC's non-powered heroes have to fight or find ways to avoid fighting, and Ben Turner/Bronze Tiger, who became an integral part of the Suicide Squad as he sought redemption. Richard Dragon himself became important to the backstories of many characters throughout the DCU as a martial arts instructor, most notably The Question and Black Canary.



  • '70s Hair: The students at the dojo have all got sideburns (for guys), and loose long hair, mop tops or afros.
  • Absolute Cleavage: Shiva shows up in a shirt that opens to her navel.
  • Action Girl: Lady Shiva, the master martial artist and sword user who accompanies Ben and Richard looking for some excitement in her dull life and a good fight, which proves elusive due to her skill.
  • Afro Asskicker: Jane, Ben's Kung-Fu fighting love interest and eventual fiance.
  • All Asians Know Martial Arts: Subverted actually, out of the named characters Carolyn Wu (Shiva's sister) doesn't know any martial arts, and neither does Shiruto. They both end up dead in situations where having such knowledge might have served to save their lives. (Post-Crisis continuity of course retconned Carolyn into a martial artist per this trope)
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  • All Chinese People Know Kung-Fu: Most of the people in this series know martial arts regardless of country of origin as otherwise they wouldn't really be notable to the plot, however out of the four named individuals who are unquestionably Chinese nationals only two (Sun Ling Po and Sing) show any martial arts knowledge.
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: Sing
  • Asian Buck Teeth: Moon has prominent buck teeth, though he's the only character that does among a wide array of Asian characters in the book. There are other characters shown with buck teeth but they're children and not Asian.
  • Battle Couple: Ben and Jane seem to be shaping up to be this with their loving relationship and Ben and Richard commenting on her martial arts skills, but she's unceremoniously murdered with an axe when she decides to just stand there like a statue when she and Ben are attacked in her father's house before she can join Ben in any battles.
  • Blindfolded Vision: Richard and Ben actually teach the students at their dojo a lesson on awareness while blindfolded, and Ben questions Rich's decision to change the lesson at the last minute for Rich to say he felt like he was gonna need the practice. That night Richard gets temporarily blinded by a bright explosion while fighting and is able to fight despite the handicap.
  • Blood Knight: Shiva. Her only reason for allying with the heroes is that she gets to go on adventures and find new opponents to fight. She's usually disappointed in their skills, but appreciates that Dragon and Ben don't often give her much trouble for killing her opponents as long as there's a proper melee going on.
  • Bloodless Carnage: To ridiculous extents. Several characters get skewered through and killed without it even tearing their clothes, one unfortunate gets a large knife jammed in his skull by way of the eye-socket with no bleeding, Carolyn is killed in a motorcycle accident that leaves the bike in pieces and rammed her upper torso into the back of a truck at high speeds with no visible injuries so that she can pose like a pretty model as she dies, and Jane looks like she was killed immediately by having an axe swing kinda close to her hip, the second time it's shown just makes it look more like the axe missed her entirely. The best part is the narration often describes the pooling or leaking blood while the image clearly shows no blood or damage whatsoever.
  • Bound and Gagged: Carolyn is tied up and eventually gagged after her capture by the Swiss.
  • Breakout Character: Shiva and Tiger are both far more famous and show up in many more places than Richard himself.
  • Breakout Villain: Lady Shiva is by far the most famous character to debut in this series, though her Post-Crisis appearances make her a darker character and alter her backstory.
  • Bruce Lee: Sing supposedly studied under him and he'd held up as the perfect example of a Kung-Fu artist.
  • But Not Too Foreign: Richard is a martial artist from Japan, but he's a white guy with red hair and is implied in one panel to actually be American. Shiva is a martial artist of Chinese decent but is an American citizen.
  • Byronic Hero: Richard
  • Capture and Replicate: The Doomsday Tong has a mystic device which can create Doomsday Duplicates of captured foes (one copy per each victim), which are mentally linked to the original, loyal to the one who created them and mute. The backlash from killing a Doomsday Duplicate kills the original.
  • China Takes Over the World: The Doomsday Tong's plan is to first take over China and then from China take over the world.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: The Swiss' favorite hobby.
  • Combat Medic: O-Sensei and Shiva
  • Cool Old Guy: O-Sensei, who is a rather elderly and calm, badass Parental Substitute for Richard and Ben.
  • Cut Short: By the DC implosion
  • Damsel in Distress: Carolyn is being chased by villains or held in their clutches in need of rescuing or dead for her entire appearance.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Ben and Shiva. They have fun with it when the two pair up for a mission in China, usually Richard is around to deride the snark and puns.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Carolyn dies in Dragon's arms in issue 4, and out of nowhere says with her dying words that they could have had a relationship even though she'd shown no interest in him nor he her previously and they had only known each other for about a day. She was dying from a head wound, so that's a possible explanation.
  • Disposable Woman: Carolyn Wu, Sun Ling Po and Jane Lewis (Post-Crisis flashbacks to the time covered in this series replaced Jane with another one, named Miyoshi). Sun died to make Richard want to avenge her and drive him to kill the Silent Samurai, Jane died to make Ben want to avenge her and uncover the plot behind her murder, Carolyn died to make Richard kill the Swiss and keep his employer mysterious and so her sister could show up looking for revenge.
  • Dirty Coward: The Swiss, who enjoys the pain of others but is scandalized if he himself is harmed and flees from every potential fight.
  • Doom Magnet: Richard, it's the whole reason Shiva keeps showing up around him since she knows things around him get "interesting" and she hates to be bored.
  • Dragons Up the Yin Yang: The dragon and yin-yang imagery is there, and is especially prevalent on splash pages or when Richard is meditating.
  • Energy Weapon: Shiruto developed a laser system the League of Assassins wants the specs to, which is the reason Carolyn is being hunted.
  • Enlightenment Superpowers: Downplayed, but if Richard slides into a meditative state while fighting his skin becomes tougher, he can jump further, mover faster and hit harder.
  • Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting: Well yes, Kung-Fu Fighting is the reason for the book's existance so there's a lot of it, and Richard and co. run into groups of hostile martial artists everywhere, to the point that Richard finds it absurd and Shiva starts hanging out because she knows wherever Richard is a fight is soon to follow.
  • Every Japanese Sword Is a Katana: The "Samurai Sword" which isn't drawn at any point like a recognizable katana but is treated like one (it looks like a Chinese dao, with a katana inspired hilt).
  • Evil Knockoff: The Doomsday Duplicates are such for their originals, the things will fight the original to the death even though that would kill the duplicate too if their creators order it of them.
  • Evil Twin: Sun Ling Po's identical sister "Madame Sun", who has Ling Po killed for her interference in "Madame"'s plot to take over the world.
  • Eye Scream: One of Richard and Ben's students is murdered via a knife through the eye.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Shiva walks right into a fairly obvious net trap.
  • Five-Token Band: Amusingly none of their backgrounds are specified but Ben is implied to be originally African American or maybe Canadian since that's where his sister was living despite first showing up living Japan, Richard is of unknown origin but was a thief living in Japan at the start of the series, and Shiva is Chinese-American (with possible Japanese ancestry as well),note . The only member of their group that's definitely not American is the Japanese O-Sensei, who rarely shows up outside of flashbacks in which he dispenses sage wisdom. (Richard, Ben and Shiva were all made American citizens by birth in later retcons, though Shiva has been retconned to being Chinese and from an unspecified South-East Asian country as well so she's got quite the Multiple-Choice Past).
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend:
    • Steve, one of Richard and Ben's students who is murdered on the steps of their New York dojo is never brought up again after the issue he died in. Heck he seemed to be forgotten even before the end of that issue.
    • While Jane isn't forgotten in this series the Post-Crisis flashback to her murder replaces her with Suspiciously Similar Substitute Miyoshi, who is then quickly forgotten about.
  • Frictionless Ice: Professor Ojo's "I-Ice" is stated to be frictionless and neither Ben or Richard can take a step on it without falling.
  • Freeze Ray: Ojo has one that can lay out or remove frictionless "I-Ice".
  • Hollywood Magnetism: There are some very odd things going on with the magnetic weapon on the prototype submarine.
  • Honor Before Reason: Richard has this problem, wanting to help Carolyn himself since he gave his word he'd aid her without involving any authorities.
  • Hood Hopping: Richard leaps across vehicles to chase down the Swiss when the Swiss flees on a motorcycle with the captive Carolyn in a sidecar.
  • Idiot Ball: Given out like candy:
    • Richard proclaims that he and Ben can't involve the police in Carolyn's kidnapping because the two of them said they'd help her. This leads to her torture because Ben was shot and couldn't really help so Carolyn's only hope of rescue from a single martial artist who isn't even familiar with the area.
    • Carolyn is freed from her capture by the Swiss, and then runs down an alley straight into the man's arms. She wasn't looking behind her or anything, she just ran straight to the man who just tortured her for several hours and tossed herself into his arms and acted surprised when he captured her again.
    • Most people Richard kills, like the Swiss and the Silent Samurai, are people he should know he needs to question and whom he has every opportunity to subdue in a non-fatal way. All of these killings occur when Richard is furious.
    • The Viper accidentally commits suicide by piloting his helicopter into Russian airspace where he very well knows there's an armed patrol flying through the area waiting for someone to do just that. For the record he's fleeing from two people who are on foot without long ranged weapons (though Shiva does do some rather impossible things with thrown swords and shuriken).
  • Implausible Fencing Powers: Shiva can do some fairly implausible things with a sword, including launching it at an enemy and having it pierce through their ribcage and out their back through their spine.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Well, technically nearly everyone as most of them are using weapons like their fists, swords, staffs and nunchaku when a quarter the villains have guns or laser guns, but the "Eskimos" who use ice-skates as their primary weapon stand out.
  • In a Single Bound: Richard, Ben and Shiva all have a habit of launching themselves across rooms to come down on stunned opponents.
  • Instant Expert: Averted hard despite the genre. Richard trains under O-Sensei for more than six years prior to setting off on his adventures, and Ben even longer. Jane is said to show great promise as a martial arts student but gets killed in the third real fight she's involved in partially because she's only been studying for about a year (and partially because the authors wanted Ben to go on a quest to avenge her so she just stood there like a statue instead of doing anything).
  • Instant Sedation: Blodwyn's dart immediately knocks out Richard for transport to the Doomsday Tong's base.
  • Interchangeable Asian Cultures: The "Samurai Sword" Barney Ling gives to Shiva was forged by the fictional 18th century "Sing Lu" and looks like a Chinese dao with a Japanese tsuka style wrapped hilt. Telegram Sam is presumably Chinese due to his involvement with the Tongs but knows Japanese martial arts and his mute Doomsday Double (which are dressed in the same attire as the original) is dressed like a Samurai. Shiva's imagery is all over the place, with vaguely Asian and Middle Eastern influences in her weaponry, clothing and appearance. There's also the glaring point that the series is called Richard Dragon Kung-Fu Fighter when Dragon trained at a dojo in Japan under an elderly Japanese man rather than Chinese, though O-Sensei is shown visiting China to visit and study with martial artists.
  • It's Personal: Ben finds things very personal when his fiance is murdered by a plot orchestrated by her own father and swears vengeance on the man.
  • Police Are Useless: A pair of police drive past the place the Swiss has Carolyn held and hear her scream but dismiss it as an eccentric local whose known to yell a lot.
  • Japanese Politeness: O-Sensei and Shiruto are unfailingly polite.
  • Jive Turkey: Ben, though not as bad as most other examples, does slip into such lingo.
  • Knight Errant: Shiva is basically a wandering armed adventurer just looking for a fight or something diverting, though the later issues start hinting heavily that she's actually working for or with the League of Assassins.
  • Kyoto: O-Sensei's dojo is in Kyoto and Richard and Ben spent over six years living and training there. The first two issues primarily take place in Kyoto, and other issues regularly flashback to training that occurred there.
  • Lame Pun Reaction: Shiva gets great joy out of Richard's pained reactions to her puns.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: O-Sensei is willing to go along with Moon's capture of him until Moon pulls a gun to shoot Richard while Richard is fighting the Kung-Fu practitioner Moon hired as security. O-Sensei reacts by quickly knocking out Moon and all of his remaining mooks.
  • The Lost Lenore: Jane for Ben, as they were quite in love and she was murdered when they went to tell her father of their engagement.
  • Lotus Position: Richard meditates sitting this way about once an issue.
  • Loves the Sound of Screaming: The Swiss is nearly orgasmic at the prospect of getting to torture the screaming Carolyn.
  • Mad Doctor: Doctor Moon, a surgeon who likes to experiment on humans with varying degrees of questionable consent to the procedures.
  • Mad Scientist: Professor Ojo, who is obsessed with magnetism and lasers.
  • Magic Antidote: O-Sensei is able to cure Ben from the poison that had been in his system for at least a week and was going to kill him within the hour with no side-effects. Ben is up and walking as soon as sensei is done.
  • Magical Asian: O-Sensei is an Japanese old master who patiently taught Richard (white guy protagonist) and Ben (African American protagonist) martial arts for over six years. He is shown to have at least three other students he was teaching alongside them, but these individuals are more like set dressing than characters and given no identifying traits besides "Asian" and one of them seems to hate pants since he's always wearing short shorts or a leotard.
  • Magnetic Weapons: Ojo is obsessed with them, and the reason he decides to pay Steve to steal the prototype submarine Steve is supposed to be heading security for is that it includes an impressive magnetic gun.
  • Man Bites Man: The when the Swiss grabs Carolyn after her escape she bites him.
  • Manly Tears: Richard sheds a couple of tears when Carolyn dies, before taking off after the Swiss.
  • Man on Fire: Richard's shirt gets caught on fire and burns him when he runs through the front of a burning building to confront their attackers and give Ben and Shiva a chance to get Junior out of the building unharmed through the back.
  • Martial Medic: O-Sensei and Shiva display healing skills related to their martial arts prowess. O-Sensei is considered to be incredibly good and manages to heal Ben when medical science had given up hope on him after Ben was poisoned with a League of Assassin's concoction.
  • Martial Pacifist: O-Sensei, who allows himself to be captured and tortured without a fight until someone else's life is at risk at which point he quickly disables his captors. Ben gives lip service to the idea but he's way too busy fighting to actually try and emulate it.
  • Master-Apprentice Chain: O-Sensei->Ben->Jane
  • Master Poisoner: The Viper creates poisons for the League of Assassins.
  • Master Swordsman: Shiva makes a point that swords are her specialty, but she's just as good at unarmed combat as the open-hand specialists like Richard and Song.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The "Dragon's Claw" O-Sensei gives to Richard either is just an object to help him focus his chi or maybe gives him a power boost or something. It's left unanswered.
  • McNinja: Ben and Richard are both Japanese speaking, trained in Japan martial artists and are a black man and a redhead respectively.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: Steve, one of Richard and Ben's students, is murdered right outside their dojo and while they're angry in the moment they seem to quickly forget about him and his death is not treated with the same gravitas as the murders of the various female characters, nor does it elicit as strong a response from Richard who generally goes homicidal when a woman is killed in front of him.
  • Mono no Aware: The series doesn't fit here, but O-Sensei is fond of the aesthetic and many of his koans reflect it.
  • Multiethnic Name: Carolyn and Sandra Wu-san/Wu/Woosan (their last name is written inconstantly, but Wu is a common Chinese surname and -san is a Japanese honorific, if -san is actually part of their legal name the only semi rational explanation is that it was an honorific that ended up incorporated in when the family moved to the US).
  • Nightmare Fetishist: The Swiss, who just loves torturing and killing people and is deeply offended if his victims kill themselves and deprive him of the opportunity.
  • "No. Just... No" Reaction: Richard has a truly adverse reaction to several of Shiva's many puns, which entertains her greatly.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: O-Sensei plays down his intelligence and martial arts abilities unless he actually needs to use them, as he did when Moon was going to try and shoot Richard.
  • Official Couple: Ben and Jane, who were engaged at the time of her murder.
  • Offing the Offspring: Jane's father has her attacked to try and make himself look innocent of the theft he's orchestrating and she ends up killed. He professes she wasn't meant to die but doesn't seem that upset by it and only claims such when trying to save his own life from a furious Ben.
  • Old Master: O-Sensei, an older Japanese man who has mastered at least one form of Kung-Fu and Karate each and has studied Aikido, Boxing, Jiu-Jitsu and Savate, and teaches Ben and Richard.
  • One-Man Army: Ben, Richard and Shiva each take on leagues of opponents on their own, and are usually disappointed in how easy they are to defeat.
  • The Paragon Always Rebels: Ben is the most heroic of the main trio but becomes consumed with his need to avenge Jane in the final issues, which leads to his disappearance and assumed death. Richard falls into a depression and stops shaving or teaching lessons, Shiva disappears and is implied to have had a hand in or at least knowledge of his disappearance. Unfortunately this is the point at which the series was cut short, but the implications that the League of Assassins was behind Ben's disappearance are supported by Post-Crisis continuity, and the next time Ben sees Richard following the series he's dragging him out of an underground fighting ring where Rich has been fighting people to their deaths each night and Shiva has become a proper irredeemable villain instead of staying the the grey area she skirted for this series.
  • Perfect Poison: The Viper is in the process of perfecting at least one quick acting poison. He of course has other poisons for other uses; sometime the League wants a victim to die slow.
  • Playing with Syringes: The Swiss is inordinately fond of syringes, and is pissed when someone he was going to get to kill with them kills himself first, depriving the Swiss of the pleasure.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: The jerks who call Ben "boy" in full knowledge of the slavery connotations, as well as the many characters who take issue with Shiva fighting or assume she'll be the weakest link and easiest to defeat.
  • Poison Is Evil: There are several evil poison users and no heroic ones.
  • Pretty Princess Powerhouse: Sun Ling Po was a pretty young woman with fighting ability descended from the House of Zhu. Her royal bloodline is only revealed after she is killed by her sister and she had no interest in pursuing it or the "rights" it afforded her.
  • Proverbial Wisdom: O-Sensei is a source, and normally shows up in flashbacks while Richard is meditating with proverbs applicable to the situation at hand.
  • Pungeon Master: Shiva loves a good pun. Or a bad pun. If there's a pun to be made and she notices it she's gonna say it, regardless of how inappropriate the timing may be.
  • Samurai: The Silent Samurai, who's of course implied to be Chinese rather than Japanese.
  • Scream Discretion Shot: Carolyn's screams as the Swiss starts torturing her are shown from outside the building she's in. This wasn't necessary since the series has made it clear that even if a woman was decapitated she'd still look whole and pretty, with only the narration cluing in the poor reader.
  • Screaming Woman: Carolyn screams when captured by the Swiss, and then keeps screaming. It's perfectly understandable however as she's screaming to try and get help, and there's no reason for her to try and hide as she's already been captured.
  • Selective Magnetism: When Ojo claims to have magnetized Shiva, Richard and Ben the knives in the room all fly at them from across the room but once they've knocked them aside they just lay still on the floor, even though they're now closer to both the claimed and actual source of the magnetic pull that drew them over there in the first place.
  • Sissy Villain: Pretty Face, the dramatic French Savate user allied with the Swiss.
  • Smurfette Breakout: Lady Shiva, the only woman who is really part of the main cast, is by far the most popular and best known character to debut in the series.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Lady Shiva is the only woman in Ben and Richard's adventuring party. Jane offers to help but gets turned down, and Sun Ling Po aids Richard for an issue but she gets skewered and killed at the end of it.
  • Standard Female Grab Area: Carolyn is completely disabled by a man grabbing her forearm. He's able to cart her off with no resistance once he gets a single hand around her arm. The next time someone tries this with her she tries to bite a chunk out of the offending hand, but then the scene cuts away and she evidently didn't manage to get away even though her captor let go of her when she bit him.
  • Supernatural Martial Arts: Overlaps with Enlightenment Superpowers above.
  • Supporting Protagonist: While either Richard or Ben could be The Hero of the book Ben is unquestionably the one driving the plot. He's the one who decides to ally with G.O.O.D. to take down a slavery ring, he's the one who has mysterious assassins after him that need investigating, he's the one whose fiancé is murdered and decides to avenge her, and his inheritance of a logging company from his sister means he needs to travel there. Richard is just tagging along with his buddy and the other plot points occur either due to Ben's decision for the two of them to work with G.O.O.D. or due to Carolyn's attackers.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: To the point that it's likely just a name mix-up since Jane replaces an identical love interest who lives in the same place and has the same background who showed up in a single previous issue with the name Joy Dillard. Even her earrings are the same.
  • Sweater Girl: Jane wears a few form fitting sweaters outside the dojo.
  • Tagalong Kid: Ben Jr., Ben's newly orphaned nephew, ends up tagging along intermittently. Oddly his fate when he's not with Ben is left undisclosed even though Ben seems to be the kid's legal guardian and Jr is only rarely with him. It seems like it should have come up when Ben was missing and presumed dead.
  • Tap on the Head: Used liberally by villains to knock out characters and cart them to the next scene with no ill effects.
  • Tested on Humans: Moon is fond of this method, and doesn't wait around for things like patient consent to get in his way while he's at it.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Only Ben actually sticks to this dogma, though Richard gives it lip service and Shiva kind of agrees not to kill defeated opponents while working with them. After Jane is killed Ben drops this in his quest for vengeance.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Shiva throws her sword and it impales and kills her target at one point.
  • To Be a Master: Song's motivation. He's very disappointed in himself when he and Richard prove to be evenly matched.
  • Unwilling Suspension: Carolyn is depicted as suspended above Richard's fight with her captors on the cover of issue 3. In the comic itself she's tied to a chair rather than dangling from the rafters.
  • Warrior Monk: O-Sensei has spent time with Shaolin monks, and at one point in the series is visiting a Shaolin temple to study and meditate.
  • Weirdness Magnet: The reason Shiva likes hanging out with Richard is that there's always weird stuff that leads to adventure and fighting opportunities around him.
  • Worthy Opponent: Shiva is driven by her search for a worthy and challenging opponent, and Richard is irritated when his foes are too heavily outclassed. Shiva's travels leave her disappointed but she does appreciate getting to fight so much and see odd things.
  • Wuxia: Some of the short storylines have heavy Wuxia overtones, and Shiva fits right into the genre.
  • You Just Had to Say It: Richard's reaction to Shiva's most obvious puns.
  • You Killed My Father: Shiva shows up looking for revenge on whomever killed her sister, and attacks Richard who was framed for it. Subsequent events and her own words prove that even though she loved her sister and was looking forward to killing her killer she was maybe looking for a good fight more than vengeance.
  • Your Eyes Can Deceive You: Richard teaches a lesson at his and Ben's New York dojo that involves being blindfolded and trying to keep track of your opponent through your other senses.
  • Zen Survivor: O-Sensei


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