Fu Chang uses traditional martial arts against a modern weapon.


Original Medium: Comic books
Published by: MLJ Comics
First Appeared: 1939
Creators: Joe Blair (writer) and Lin Steeter (artist)
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Fu Chang was an Asian stereotype in an era of stereotypes. But at least he wasn't an evil mastermind like Fu Manchu or The Yellow Claw. He was more the Charlie Chan type — he used the same style of shorthand characterization, but was …

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… a good guy. Fu Chang was an American-educated resident of San Francisco's Chinatown, as depicted in American comics around the beginning of World War II.

Specifically, it was Pep Comics #1 (January, 1940), which introduced The Shield, first comic-book symbol of America's involvement in that war (tho it went on sale in 1939, when the war was still strictly overseas), that depicted Fu Chang's Chinatown. The depiction was made by writer Joe Blair (Madam Satan, The Fox) and artist Lin Streeter (Kalthar, Captain Flag). The publisher was MLJ Comics (Bob Phantom, Archie).

Fu was mostly a modern man in public, but in the privacy of his home, he dressed in traditional robes. His back-story, in place as the series opened, included having sworn to devote his life to aiding the oppressed. Because of this and his devotion to the teachings of the Chinese gods, the elderly magician Sing Po, a direct descendant of Aladdin (fuzzy relation), bequeathed him a set of magic chessmen that possessed all the powers of the original lamp without, apparently, the involvement of a genie. As early as the beginning of the first story, they'd already been responsible for his "spectacular solutions to great international mysteries." His series was subtitled "International Detective", tho he seemed to take more interest in local affairs.

In other words, Fu Chang was a plainclothes superhero, like Dick Cole and, during some phases of his existence, Bungleton Green, except at home, where he dressed funny. He shared Pep Comics with more conventional superheroes, such as The Comet and The Press Guardian (who skirted the edge of plainclothes status himself, dressing like The Spirit and The Clock, with a mask added to a regular suit, at least in later adventures). Superheroes ruled American comic books at the time, so even international detectives tended to have overtones of the genre.

So much so, that the less superheroey ones went away in Pep's first overhaul. After #11, the less stellar stars were dropped. In #12 (February, 1941), Fu and The Press Guardian were replaced by Fireball and Danny in Dreamland. Neither of them was ever seen again.


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Text ©2008 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Archie Comics.