Monday, July 5, 2021


As presented in DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU Nos. 19 & 20.

Story: Bill Mantlo | Art: George Pérez & Jack Abel
Additional Dialogue: Yvette O. Pérez

The Plot: (DEADLY HANDS #19) The Sons of the Tiger meet at their dojo, where Bob Diamond attacks Lin Sun over Lin's love for Lotus. Abe attempts to intervene and is knocked aside by Bob, leading Abe to remove his amulet and storm off. Lotus tells Bob that she and Lin are in love, then she, too, departs. Bob and Lin fight, with Lin ultimately gaining the upper hand and savagely beating his friend. Lin stops himself from hurting Bob further, and the men finally come to a sort of peace, leaving the dojo together. Lin discards all three tiger amulets in a trash can as they go. Soon after, the amulets are found by a young man named Hector Ayala, who dons them and transforms into the White Tiger.

(DEADLY HANDS #20) At a train yard in the South Bronx, White Tiger attempts to stop a street gang from murdering a night watchman, but in the ensuing chaos, the watchman winds up killing a young child running with the gang. White Tiger then departs and returns to the Ayala family apartment, where he reverts to Hector, with no memory of his nocturnal exploits. The next morning, Bob and Lotus say their goodbyes and Lotus leaves the Sons' brownstone with Lin Sun -- while elsewhere, Abe is leaving for a vacation when he bumps into a beautiful woman at the airport who distracts him and switches his suitcase for her own. The next morning at the Ayala apartment, a police detective arrives to arrest Hector in connection with the previous night's killing.

Continuity Notes: Issue 19's story opens with a couple pages of Bill Mantlo and George Pérez walking through New York near the Sons' dojo, discussing their work at Marvel. (And I had no idea Mantlo had some very long hair in the 70s! What was it about comics that attracted so many haircut-averse writers back then? I mean, I know shaggy hair was in style in the 70s, but it seems that a number of young Marvel guys had legitimately long, Fabio-esque locks back in the day!)

As noted above, issue 19 also features the first apperance of Hector Ayala, a.k.a. the White Tiger. Going forward, the "Sons of the Tiger" feature will become a bit unique, featuring both the Sons -- now fractured and without their amulets -- and the White Tiger as co-stars, though their adventures will run mostly separately for the duration with White Tiger in a headliner role while the Sons' stories are generally relegated to sub-plots.

We meet Hector's family in issue 20: he lives with his parents, of whom we have only so far met his mother, Maria (who speaks only Spanish) and his sister, Awilda, and we're told that he has a brother as well, named Filippo, who apparently runs with a bad crowd. Awilida is immediately suspucious of Hector's activities the previous night. When he tells her he was out with his girlfriend, Angela, she obliterates the alibi by informing him that she was with Angela.

Abe has borrowed money from Blackbyrd to take his vacation, and when the mystery woman, Billalae, switches suitcases with hum (under the watchful eye of two equally mysterious and well-dressed men), we're told that he's bound for Casablanca, Morocco.

My Thoughts: So now we've reached an odd juncture in this retrospective. It started as a look at the Sons of the Tiger, which was something I've wanted to do for decades -- but it now becomes a look at the adventures of the White Tiger as well. White Tiger has never really excited my imagination all that much in comparison with the Sons. He has a cool visual, but from what I've gleaned, he's a bit of a Spider-Man clone in some ways. But I do want to keep reading, if only to follow the Sons in what will mainly be sub-plots going forward.

And hey, who knows -- maybe I'll come to appreciate the White Tiger more than I thought! If nothing else, I think it's cool that he's the first Puerto Rican super hero, co-created by Pérez as a reflection of his own heritage (and apparently with nods to Pérez's own family thrown into his personal life). Plus, it seems evident that Mantlo is more into writing White Tiger than he was the Sons. His Sons stories, while fine most of the time, never really lived up to the premise set by Gerry Conway in the earliest chapters. But right off the bat, he infuses White Tiger with a lot more of the classic Marvel drama and soap opera than he ever gave the Sons (aside from the Bob/Lotus/Lin triangle that split the team apart).

And I like that we're continuing to follow the Sons, at least -- or Abe, to be precise. I don't know when we'll bump into Lin, Lotus, and Bob again, but Mantlo has clearly set Abe on his own adventure -- which is not surprising since he always seemed to be Mantlo's favorite Son (he's mine, too). So I'm definitely looking forward to what comes next, and who knows -- maybe I'll warm up to the White Tiger along the way!

All that said, I do find it bizarre that in the November 1975 issue of MARVEL TEAM-UP, Marvel spotlighted the Sons for the first time in a color comic, giving them more exposure than they'd had before among the super hero crowd -- and then in the December '75 issue of DHoKF, the team disbanded. That feels like really poor planning on the part of Mantlo and/or editorial!

Next week, White Tiger gets pulled into the world of costumes and capes as he meets the Prowler and Jack of Hearts, while Abe's international intrigues continue!


  1. There’s some really ugly language in #19. I know it was a different time and the usage of slang was on the whole far less artful; still, Bob casually hurling “slant-eyes” and other epithets towards Lin, his friend, no matter Bob having a history of being somewhat of a jerk, stops me cold; at the end I was actually glad the White Tiger never became much of a thing because I don’t want anyone searching out his first appearance here to read that.

    You’re right about the oddity of Mantlo breaking up the Sons right after their color debut alongside Spider-Man in Team-Up. Huh. I didn’t mention this in your post on that issue but I was actually surprised to see the editorial note pointing readers to the love triangle / confrontation in DHOKF because I recall getting the distinct feeling when reading Team-Up #40 as a kid that the Sons were kind-of being brought in after their own feature had died, even though I probably hadn’t read enough comics at the time to be familiar with the practice of writers reviving or resolving plots from canceled features in other series later.

    I think Abe’s my favorite, too.

    1. Yeah, there are racial epithets throughout all these stories, directed at black people, Asian, people, and as we get into the White Tiger stuff, Hispanic people. And while I don't really like that stuff in general, at least most of the time it was bad guys throwing the words around. It really is weird and uncomfortable to see Bob do it here.

      Not exactly germane to this topic but distantly related if only to show how things changed within another 15 or so years, I'm reminded of the time John Byrne scripted an issue of NAMOR in which the evil Desmond Marrs directed the N-word at a friend of Namor's. The line was changed by editorial (I think he calls the guy a "fool" in the published story). Byrne got majorly ticked off when he was told that Marvel didn't allow that sort of language, even from villains, in their comics anymore. Which seems like a really questionable hill to die on.

      (For the record, I do not believe John Byrne is racist. He has many other documented faults, but that's not one of them. It just seems strange to me to get so upset about editorial removing a racial slur, of all things, from your script -- even if it was there to show what a scumbag the bad guy is.)

    2. Even as a kid, I was kind of bothered by how anytime an African-American hero showed up, there was always a villain to sneeringly announce that the character was, in fact, Black. I was only nine years old when I first got into comics, but I could tell already that "black" was a stand in for what a villain like that would really say, had he not had John Byrne's editors. It was likely doubled by the fact that all the black characters were being written by white New Yorkers, so even with their best intentions they came across as stereotypes. I always wish that African-American characters back then had just been written as CHARACTERS, instead of either going "hey look, he's BLACK" or putting "black" in front of their name, but it was the 1970s, they were trying.

      Nothing, however, forgives how they treated Asian characters in that regard, though.

      And there's a simple and obvious reason why John Byrne got mad about having that word taken out of the script: Chris Claremont got away with it.