Monday, December 3, 2012

Shooting Up The Daughters Of The Dragon

Today's entry might just be a little too graphic for readers who are used to Chris Claremont's writing being reigned in by the edicts of the Comics Code Authority.

Cleverly capitalizing on the martial arts craze of the 1970s, Marvel launched Deadly Hands Of Kung Fu, a black and white magazine that didn't adhere to the Comics Code, which meant creators were free to indulge themselves. Show some nudity? Go ahead. Have your characters curse? Be my guest. Overt substance abuse? Don't let me keep you.

When Chris Claremont was asked to write a story, he crafted a tale featuring martial artist Colleen Wing and her partner Misty Knight, the tough New York cop with a bionic arm. Together, they'd been making waves in the Claremont penned Iron Fist as the Daughters of the Dragon.  However, while this tale does have some ties to then current Marvel chronology, all bets were off.

After the traumatic experiences she suffered in Iron Fist # 5, Colleen Wing returned to Japan in order to find herself, with some help from her grandfather Kenji Ozawa. Unfortunately, agents of Hong Kong crimelord Emil Vachon killed him, which prompted Colleen and Misty to seek revenge... to the death.

Arriving in Hong Kong, they quickly got involved in page after page of senseless but entertaining fighting as they sought out Vachon. Over the course of their many confrontations, their clothes slowly got ripped to tatters which gave their their ample tatas plenty of opportunity to show. In an interview, Marshall Rogers defended this artistic choice rather effectively.

"Chris's plot called for Colleen and Misty to move from point 'A' to point 'B', fighting a shitload of bad guys along the way. My thought was, 'When a male protagonist was in that situation, nine times out of ten, he would end up with the shirt ripped off his back. It would be very sexist of me to assume that a woman wouldn't fight as hard or be in a less precarious situation so...' the shirts were ripped off their backs."

After a few more hijincks, Colleen and Misty finally caught the attention of Vachon after they managed to blow up quite a few of his ships that were docked in the Hong Kong harbour. However, the explosion knocked both of them out and they were pulled out of the drink by Vachon's henchmen who, in issue # 33, brought them over to the crimelord's lair inside a hollowed out volcano...

By 1976, Vachon was already enjoying anti-gravity in his 'eagle's nest'. In retrospect, that makes this scene with the avant guard mutant inventor Forge in his Aerie from 1984's Uncanny X-men # 186 seem rather dated.

Either way, Vachon had a far more sinister plan in mind for his unwilling prisoners. He wanted to make them pay for destroying his fleet of smuggling vessels. How? Well, by making them drug addicted sex slaves, of course!

"The days blur, one into the next, time losing all meaning as it focuses down to the eternity between the fixes. They fight at first, their minds denying the drug, their bodies hungry for it... but by the second day its all over. By the third, they're shooting the smack themselves."

The lack of a professional bad guy in a flashy outfit using mental or otherwise supernatural powers to bend Colleen and Misty to his will, is reason enough for some to claim these chilling scenes aren't evidence of 'proper mind control'. But consider this: the simple act of forcibly drugging Colleen and Misty with heroin until they are so addicted they actively crave it is indeed an act of forceful control and might even be considered a form of rape. Speaking of rape... 

Just read the dialogue for yourselves... without the Comics Code Authority in place, Claremont and Rogers were free to combine kids' friendly issues like forced drug addiction and rape. The first three panels contain so much distasteful imagery and dialogue, one wonders what anyone was thinking. 

Thankfully, Misty Knight comes to the rescue, snapping Hartmann's neck and revealing she wasn't affected by the forced heroin bender because she'd been injecting the drug into her bionic arm. However, Colleen was still struggling with the severe withdrawal symptoms...

In a powerful scene, Colleen enters a deep state of meditation to combat her addiction head on. Marshall Rogers' art impressively captures the deep anxiety and pain she has to face in order to overcome her plight. The artwork and text keep the outcome of this struggle in doubt, as Colleen is seen lurching butt naked towards the loaded syringe. But, spoiler alert, check this next page...

In retrospect, its amazing to see what gifted artists like Claremont and Rogers could come up with if their creativity wasn't severly curtailed by the edicts of the Comics Code Authority. Both Colleen Wing and Misty Knight felt like real people who were able to show genuine emotions. Marvel wouldn't drop the Comics Code until 2001, which saw the launch of the supposedly 'edgy' MAX-imprint. 

And while those books were loaded with extreme violence and tons of shock value, they didn't reach the level of maturity and class the Daughters of the Dragons had mastered a quarter century earlier.

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