DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL
Karate Kid #3
Sorry, wrong Karate Kid 3 …
there, that’s better …
Published bi-monthly, thirty cents, August
Cover artist: Mike Grell
Editor: Joe Orlando
Karate Kid ran for 15 issues from March 1976 until July 1978 – cancelled during the DC Implosion. It was one of my favorite comics at the time – I collected every issue beginning with #4 – the issue after its Bicentennial one.
The comic was released near the tail end of the Kung Fu craze that started in 1973 and 1974. While everybody else was kung fu fighting with kicks as fast as lightning, Marvel released Hands of Shang Chi Master of Kung Fu, Giant Size Master of Kung Fu,and Iron Fist as well as the magazine Deadly Hands of Kung Fu. By May 1975 DC entered the fray with Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter. As with Marvel’s Hands of Shang Chi …, Dragon (at the time) skirted the superhero world. Karate Kid, along with Iron Fist, fully embraced it.
This is because Karate Kid was, in fact, a superhero. He was a member of the Legion of Superheroes in the (then) 30th century. Val Armorr was the master of every martial art and first appeared in Adventure Comics #346 (July 1966). He was created by Jim Shooter.
To apparently make him more palatable to comic book readers, Val was whisked to the twentieth century where, if he proved his worth to the father of his lady friend and fellow Legionnaire Princess Projectra, said father would give Karate Kid his daughter’s hand in marriage. I suppose going toe-to-toe with the Fatal Five and Mordru wasn’t enough…
In the twentieth century, he would meet Robin and fight established DC baddies the Lord of Time and Major Disaster. In a wonderful twist, in his last issues his time traveling machine accidentally took him in the past to battle Superboy and the pre-Karate Kid Legion and in the last issue into an alternative future to meet Kamandi, a great two-parter concluding in Kamandi; by now continuing stories was the norm at DC, but doing it across more than one magazine was still rare.
“The Revenger” Barry Jameson ( w ), Ric Estrada & Joe Staton (a).
Dr. Norman Grimes found work at Universal Concepts, where he could tend his pigeons on the company roof and develop his super-hard metal that would make permanent homes and eliminate slums.
Universal Concepts’ three board of directors had other ideas – they wanted to use his metal to make weapons. Dr. Grimes goes bonkers! Oh, he will use his metal to make weapons and armor all right, but use them to become … the Revenger. He goes after the three board members.
The first is a bank president. Unfortunately, Karate Kid happens to be at the bank making a deposit from a reward given to him for defeating Major Disaster! KK is knocked out by the Revenger, who kills the first board member.
The second board member is a jeweler. Karate Kid is distracted stopping looters and is too late to save his death at the Revenger’s hands.
The Revenger enters the office of the third board member. Karate Kid is waiting for him, as connecting the two other victims was fairly easy. Karate Kid follows the Revenger to Universal Concepts’ roof. As they battle, the Revenger accidentally knocks down the company billboard and is killed saving his only friends – the pigeons trapped in their cages under the falling billboard.
Karate Comments (letter column for issue #1). The editor said they received 80 letters on the debut issue and 80% of them were positive – letters by Scott Gibson of Evergreen , CO and Bob Rodi of Columbia, MO (both positive).
Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #17: All Star Comics #61
Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry
Images used are copyright their respective holders and reproduced here under the “Fair Use” doctrine of 17 USC 106 & 106a for the purposes of criticism and comment.