Chinese superheroes are rare in the 1940s. While several comic book heroes are listed here, only three qualify as superheroes, and one of those is never explicitly identified as Chinese in his original incarnation.
Fu Chang is the first Chinese superhero in comic books, debuting in 1940. While not costumed, Fu Chang is youthful and virile and in possession of magic chessmen who assist him in his fight against crime. Kon Fu appears in only one story in 1941, a master of martial arts and assisted by the spirit of the Green Goddess—so just barely qualifies as a superhero. The Green Turtle comes along in 1944, decked out in full superhero garb, but his ethnicity is never explicitly revealed. He was the creation of a Chinese writer whose editors apparently nixed the idea of an Asian hero.
That said, there are some non-powered Chinese heroes worth noting in the forties. Dr. Fung, an elderly Chinese man, is patterned after the aphorism spouting Chinese detectives of thirties films, e.g. Charlie Chan and Mr. Moto. Chin of Junior Rangers is an adolescent hero who increasingly loses his ethnic stereotypes over time. Several semi-serious adult Chinese characters are featured as active agents against the Japanese in World War II.
A note on formatting. Names in all caps are of a continuing comic book feature, indicating that a character was the star of his own feature or a co-equal character in a group that had their own feature. At the end of each entry are the comic books the characters appeared in, the company that published that comic book, and the year(s) those stories appeared in. The publisher is important to know as you can go to Digital Comic Museum and find the stories listed under the Publisher (excepting DC, Timely/Marvel, Street & Smith and EC) and then the Comic Book and the particular issue.
Chinese Superheroes or Action Heroes
Chin of the JUNIOR RANGERS
Chin joins the Junior Rangers in their second adventure in Burma. One the existing teen rangers spouts racist reactions towards the Chinese youth and suspects him of treachery. He later is forced to come around as Chin proves to be a clever tactician. At one point in that first adventure, Chin talks to himself: “While my allies engage in fisticuffs, I’ll look into the private papers of Japanese intelligence.” Despite being underage, the Junior Rangers come to operate with the full knowledge and cooperation of military authorities. The Rangers are so well regarded that an Army commander actually brings them in to train a batch of new adult recruits! Most of their adventures take place overseas. Chin dresses in traditional Chinese garb and regularly spouts modified aphorisms as he fights: “Confucius say sock in chin much better than sock on foot.” By 1946, any remnants of broken English are gone and he sounds much less like Charlie Chan. Headline Comics 2-22; Treasure Comics 10, 12 (1943-47).
Dr. Fung is an elderly Chinese man with a long, white beard. Known as the “Master Sleuth of the Orient,” besides his amazing powers of deduction, Dr. Fung is also something of a scientist. He invented a circular video device that allows him to view and hear what’s happening anyplace in the world (see Wonderworld 16). Dr. Fung mouths aphorisms in the process of solving crimes, while fisticuffs are handled by his muscular assistant. But Fung is also willing and capable of engaging in physical battles, albeit ones in which he uses cleverness rather than brute force. In later adventures, he utilizes his video spying device to aid him in his efforts. His base of operations varies, but sometimes is located in China, in Tsui-Wong. Fung’s early adventures are drawn by Bob Powell. Wonder Comics 1-2; Wonderworld Comics 3-33; Blue Beetle 5; The Flame 3; Samson 2 FOX (1939-42).
On one occasion, in Pep 49, the international team of Captain Commando and the Boy Soldiers are assisted by an intriguing Chinese fighter named Father Scarface. Formerly “the fiercest tribal fighter in the hills,” Father Scarface gave up violence years ago to become a much respected Buddhist monk. But the horrific tactics of the Axis finally prompt him back into action, turning one of their own machine guns against him. When Captain Commando asks him how he’ll man the resistance without ammunition, he exclaims, “I shall melt down the bronze Buddha for bullets!” He hopes to return to the ways of peace when the Axis menace is defeated. Pep Comics 49 MLJ (active 1944).
FU CHANG, International Detective
“Fu Chang American university-educated Chinaman, makes his home in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Because of his devotion to the Chinese gods and because he has sworn his life to aid the oppressed, Sing Po, a famous magician and direct descendant of Aladdin, upon his death had willed to Fu Chang a set of magic chessmen. These chessmen possess all the magic powers of Aladdin’s lamp and are responsible for Fu Chang’s spectacular solutions of great international mysteries.” Fu Chang is young, handsome and fit, aided in his efforts by the lovely Tay Ming. When faced with a difficult situation, Fu Chang entreats the large idol of a Chinese god who promptly comes to life. This god then brings to life however many of the winged chessmen his disciple needs . It is these supernatural elements that qualify him as a Chinese superhero even if he doesn’t wear a costume. A master of jiu-jitsu, Chang can also physically resolve conflicts. Pep Comics 1-11 MLJ (active 1940-41).
The GREEN TURTLE
Chin Quai, the Green Turtle may or may not be Chinese. His origins are unknown even to his explicitly Asian partner, Burma Boy, who expresses considerable interest in the matter. His adventures are drawn and likely written by the rare Asian American artist, Hing Chu. The story goes that Chu’s editors were unwilling to feature an explicitly Chinese hero, but Chu was reluctant to explicitly portray him as White. Chu sees to it that the Turtle’s partially masked face is always turned away from the reader, presumably to allow for multiple assumptions as to his heritage. Unfortunately the colorist renders whatever is shown of his skin as lighter than his explicitly Chinese companions.
The Green Turtle sports a distinctive green cape that creates the appearance of a turtle’s back. In addition, he wears green boots, trunks, glove and cowl, leaving his legs, arms and chest bare. The Turtle is an excellent athlete and fighter. In addition, the Turtle’s shadow inexplicably displays a red mouth, white eyes and clawed hands which evokes in Japanese who see it considerable distress. One narrative goes so far as to suggest that “the shadow of the Green Turtle interferes with Hiro’s grizzly plans,” suggesting a mystical element to the hero. The Turtle is also an excellent pilot, flying a “strange rocket plane” that has a green, mildly turtle-like appearance to it. The Green Turtle operates out of a secret mountain lair in China, doing battle with the Japanese efforts to conquer the country. In 2014, Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew revive the legend of the Green Turtle in a mini-series entitled The Shadow Hero which is subsequently collected into a graphic novel. In The Shadow Hero, the Green Turtle is definitely Chinese. All things considered, I think he qualifies as a Chinese superhero. Blazing Comics 1-5 RURAL HOME (active 1944-45)
“Dr. Kon Fu, master of oriental and occidental cultures, stands bravely between his people and oppression, defying even monsters of evil magic.” An athletic young man, Kon Fu wears circular magic glasses that allow him to see the true nature of individuals, good or bad. He is also a master of Chinese martial arts. Kon Fu maintains a hidden cellar in Chinatown in which he hides his secret “temple of magic.” By praying before a statue of the Green Goddess, the goddess comes to life and gives Kon Fu valuable advice on how to combat whatever evil he faces. Doc Savage v1/3 STREET & SMITH (active 1941).
Low of The FLYING TRIO
Three soldiers of fortune (Ray, Mac and Low) fight the forces of European fascism as the sole survivors of a corps of twenty mercenary airmen. Low is portrayed in somewhat comic fashion, but he successfully impersonates a Chinese diplomat in Switzerland with Ray and Mac pretending to be his bodyguard and chauffeur. Crash Comics 1-5 HOLYOKE (active 1940).
Heroic Chinese Olympic swimmer who also does espionage work for his country. Aquaman expresses interest in working in tandem with him and later saves the young man from hostile Japanese forces. More Fun 96 DC (1944).
A Chinese guerilla leader named General Cheng, better known as the Red Dragon in part because of the body length maroon coat he wears. After two contract test pilots named Loops McCann (middle-aged and squat) and Banks Barrows (young and virile) get fired from their jobs at a U.S. Marine base in China, they subsequently end up helping the Red Dragon out of a tight spot. He subsequently enlists them as pilots in his Red Dragon Squadron to fight against the Japanese. Unfortunately Loops and Banks are portrayed rejoining the Marines the following issue and the Red Dragon is never again seen. Military Comics 1 QUALITY (active 1941).
Sing Hi and Sing Lo of the FAR EAST RANGERS
Don Stewart is a blond-haired American boy in Southeast Asia who joins forces with a very tall Chinese boy named Sing Hi and a his very short brother, Sing Lo. The two Chinese youth frequently spout aphorisms. Collectively, the three boys are known as the Far East Rangers. Rangers of Freedom 1-4 FICTION HOUSE (active 1941-42).
Wing Low, mentor of the STRANGE TWINS
“Rodney and Douglas Strange, identical twins, were separated in infancy when Rod was kidnapped by Wing Low, a Chinese pirate. Rod grew up to lead a London gang while Doug became a Scotland Yard inspector. But events have reunited them… now with Wing Low they fight crime.” Actually, it was Sin Chow who kidnapped the baby and entrusted his agent Wing Low to care for him. Wing Low’s compassion for his charge, as he grew into adulthood, led to the ultimate reformation of them both. During the first half of their adventures, Wing Low works in concert with the two brothers, but they ultimately enter into adventures entirely their own. Hit Comics 1-14 QUALITY (active 1940-41).
Chinese heroines in the comic books are inevitably of the exotic beauty variety. The most physically formidable is Mei Ling, a member of the Girl Commandos (headed up by the Anglo Pat Parker. There is only one superheroine in this bunch, Margo the Magician, but she only had one appearance and her half-Chinese heritage is only hinted at.
Also known as S-4 of Chinese Intelligence. Lily initially appears to be an ally of the sinister Lu Chang, but it emerges she only joined his gang to infilitrate his organization. Lily ultimately assists the White Streak in defeating him. Target v1/6 NOVELTY (1940).
Loo Fey, castaway of CRUSOE ISLAND
Loo Fey, a sometimes insecure Chinese princess, is one of two women and one man are castaways on this unidentified Pacific island. Her fellow castaways are Connie Courtney, a highly efficient reporter, and Paul Harris, a self-styled “callow youth.” Both Connie and Loo are romantically interested in the generally oblivious Harris. The castaways struggle with survival issues and the occasional Japanese soldier who doesn’t know the war is over until they are finally rescued. Rangers Comics 30-40 (active 1946-48).
MARGO the MAGICIAN
Margo is the daughter of famed stage magician, the Great Presto. Her mother may have been Chinese. Like her father, this beautiful magician uses mass hypnosis to make her “magic.” She is capable of creating dramatic images such as a rampaging dragon in order to thwart the Japanese. Margo wears a cloak over her stylish Oriental evening dress. As such, Margo is the closest thing to a female Chinese superhero as we’re going to get. Uncle Sam 2 QUALITY (1941).
Mei Ling of the GIRL COMMANDOS
Member of the Girl Commandos, a female group of operatives headed by Pat Parker, War Nurse. Pat and her Girl Commandos are all excellent fighters. A squad of female fighters from countries threatened by the Axis also includes Ellen Billings (a heavyset nurse), and Tanya from Russia. Mei Ling is a rare Chinese heroine portrayed as having a Chinese sweetheart. Speed 23-36, 39-42; All-New 11 HARVEY (1942-46).
Beautiful Chinese agent sympathetic to American interests. Once a student at Vassar. Assisted the Sky Rangers on at least one occasion. Password: “no dice.” Rangers Comics 19 FICTION HOUSE (194x).
Lovely Chinese woman, the daughter of Mo-Ting, a Mandarin prince. Ra-Ting was rescued by the Green Turtle from the Japanese and briefly joins his team, residing with them in the Turtle’s lair with Burma Boy and his servant, Wun Too. Blazing Comics 1-2 RURAL HOME (1944).
Lovely young Chinese woman who dresses and acts in traditional fashion but who—initially unbeknownst to the Commandos—is actually a skilled operative of the International Police Force. Wan-do-lin is the daughter of a district governor of the republic of China, prior to the communist takeover. The boys show a romantic interest in her, but consider her to be above their class. Boy Commandos 17 DC (1946).
Beautiful Chinese secretary of Link Thorne, “the Flying Fool.” Thorne owns his own air charter business, Blockbuster Airlines, which he operates out of Shanghai with a single plane. Primarily supportive of her often foolish employer, Wing is also capable of genuine heroics and saving her boss’ bacon on more than one occasion. First appears in Airboy v4/5-6, v4/8-12, v5/2, 7, 10, v6/1-3, 5 HILLMAN (1947-49).
Chinese Sidekicks and Servants
Unfortunately, a more common image of Chinese men in 1940s comic books was as “comic relief” servants or as subservient sidekicks, typically boys or adolescents. The most embarrassing of all is the comic relief sidekick, such as the Crimson Avenger’s Wing. Zatara’s servant, Tong, is physically formidable at least, but otherwise an ethnic stereotype created in the mold of Mandrake the Magician’s African servant, Lothar.
Ah Choo, associate of Stormy Foster
A Chinese boy who hangs around Stormy Foster, a soda jerk who is secretly the Great Defender. With a name like Ah Choo, it should come as no surprise he is drawn in very stereotypical fashion and speaks in broken English with all r’s pronounced l’s. Hit Comics 18-34 QUALITY (active 1941-45).
Costumed Asian adolescent who assists the Green Turtle in his missions. He affirmed his undying loyalty to the hero after the Green Turtle rescued him from Japanese forces. In addition to being an excellent fighter, Burma Boy utters traditional aphorisms. He is only portrayed in costume on the cover of Blazing 3, a complementary uniform of red, green and yellow, with a green turtle insignia on his chest. Blazing Comics 1-5 RURAL HOME (active 1944-45).
Chop Ching, servant to Captain Gallant
“Captain Gallant, young scientist-adventurer, sails the seas in his mini-sub with Peg-leg Parsons, his assistant, and Chop Ching, Oriental chief cook and bottle washer.” The Chinese Chop Ching dresses in sailor whites, has a Fu Manchu mustache, buck teeth and is played for so-called comic relief. Super Mystery Comics v1/4-v3/2; Four Favorites 8 ACE (1940-42).
Chinese cook and later pilot. Joins the Blackhawks in Military 3. Fierce fighter who often goes after his adversaries with a butcher knife. Portrayed in terribly stereotypical fashion (short, fat and with prominent teeth) until the mid 1950s. Even then, Chop-Chop wears traditional Chinese garb rather than the uniform of the Blackhawks. His longevity warrants a longer entry but the racism makes that a very unpleasant enterprise. Military Comics 3-43; Modern Comics 44-102; Blackhawk 9-273 and many subsequent appearances as a more serious Chinese hero. QUALITY/DC (active 1941-68 and beyond).
Young Chinese boy who overhears Japanese saboteurs plotting and brings that information to Captain Aero. Thereafter he acts as Aero’s sidekick/mascot of sorts for at least four subsequent adventures. Chop Suey speaks in broken English but is rendered in a realistic and respectful way. Captain Aero v3/3, 4/2, 4/3, 21, 24 HOLYOKE (1944).
Special agent Gerald’s young, Chinese-American undercover assistant. While probably no more than 12, he is nonetheless described as “an experienced air-man” and parachutes out of a plane with considerable skill. With his older mentor, he opposes the schemes of the Mad Ming. Funny Pages CENTAUR (1940).
Ling Po travels the dangerous Burma Road along with lead hero Cappie Young and their pal Brask Cooper. Adventure inevitably ensues. Lightning v2/5-v3/1 ACE (active 1942).
Chinese pirate who sometimes poses as a Chinese general. He was assisted by a powerful giant named Big Dip until the fellow shifts loyalties and sides with the heroic Captain Valor. Zip 1, 3 MLJ (1940).
Stuff, the Chinatown Kid
Youthful associate of the cowboy styled Vigilante—remarkable for the relative lack of ethnic stereotypes in his portrayal so common in the period. He is essentially an upbeat Robin-like sidekick, brave, loyal and tough. Warrants a lengthier treatment. Action Comics 45-197 DC (1942-54).
Wing is a “halfbreed” American citizen residing in China who assists “Devil Dogs” Sgt. Bill Tanner and Corporal Wally White in their fight against threats to American interests there. Tanner and White are initially suspicious of Wing, going so far as saying they didn’t like how he looked at a white woman, but by the end of the adventure shake his hand and declare him “okay.” O.K. 2 HARVEY (active 1940).
The powerful magician Zatara’s servant who refers to him as “master” and speaks in broken English. He often goes about shirtless, wearing red and yellow armbands and headpiece. In Action 26, Zatara transforms his servant into a black winged iron man with a propeller atop his cylindrical head. Tong is seen less and less often after this narrative indignity. Tong is clearly patterned after Lothar, Mandrake’s similarly muscular servant. Unfortunately Tong doesn’t last long enough to enjoy a more enlightened portrayal. Like Chop-Chop he deserves a lengthier treatment but access to early Zatara stories is difficult. Action Comics 1-21, 26-27, 32, 36, 46 DC (1938-42).
Wang-Fu and Big Dip
The “jovial outlaw” Wang-Fu and a shirtless Chinese giant nicknamed Big Dip assist Ca[patin Valor in his missions. Valor is described as as a “hard-bitten adventurer, resigns his commission in the U.S. Marine corps to seek adventure, because the Marines are no longer exciting enough for him.” As such, Valor travels to China, where he is soon joined by the youthful Ronnie and Ronnie’s beautiful blonde sister, Angie. Zip Comics 1-26? (1940-42).
Short and pudgy Chinese man, previously caught up in shady doings, now the servant of handsome, globe-trotting adventurer Clyde Beatty. Crackajack Funnies DELL.
Initially a chauffeur to Lee Travis, the secret ID of the Crimson Avenger. As told in World’s Finest 4, Wing adopts a silly looking costume in 1942 to assist the Crimson Avenger. That taken along with a scrawny physique, broken English and all r’s pronounced l’s, make for a stereotype not quite as bad as Chop-Chop’s, but close. Wing’s efforts are portrayed mainly for comic relief, but he shows moments of bravery and is good with his fists. Wing is the unofficial eighth member of the Seven Soldiers of Victory featured in Leading Comics. His best all-time moment is in Leading Comics when Wing teams with the Star Spangled Kid’s sidekick, Stripesy to push past their mutual lack of confidence to try and thwart the bad guys. Their plan ultimately fails but its still good to see Wing take a leadership role in a story even if it didn’t exactly work out. Detective Comics 20-xx, Leading Comics 1-14, World’s Finest (active 1938-45)
Wing Woo Woo
Chinese laundryman and friend to Koppy and Herlock of the Supersnide comic book. Appears once with Supersnipe before appearing in a series of his own comedic misadventures. Supersnipe v2/2 (1944).
Chinese valet to the Dr. Hypno, a hypnotist and scholar of the occult. Amazing Man Comics 14-15, 17-21 CENTAUR (1940-41).
The Green Turtle’s loyal, elderly Chinese servant. Wun Too mans the hero’s short wave receiver, which is how the Green Turtle learns of needed missions. Blazing Comics 2-4 RURAL HOME (1944).
Almost all Chinese comic book villains are shadowy imitations of the fiendish ethnic villain most famously embodied by print magazine villain and later star of a series of novels, Fu Manchu. Fu Manchu first appeared in 1911, embodying English fears and stereotypes of the Chinese immigrant.
Self-proclaimed Chinese “enemy of the white race,” Chang’s motives are sometimes sympathetic even if his methods are extreme. For example, on one occasion Chang is enraged that a small golden Buddha inlaid with gems was taken from its place in a temple and sold to a white collector. Understandable, but then Chang goes to murderous lengths to retrieve it. Chang is a cultured and wealthy Chinese criminal mastermind who has an army of Mongol warriors at his command. A prime ally in his nefarious deeds is the lovely, but deadly River Lily, described below. He is opposed by the stalwart blond adventurer, Richard Kendall, and frequently appears to die at the end of their encounters, only to return to vex the American another day. Mystery Men Comics 1-24; Green Mask 5-6; Samson 2 FOX (active 1939-41).
Asian villain who seeks the precious Dragon’s Teeth. Chen Fang is opposed by the handsome Dash Dolan and Dr. Ying, who hopes to use the priceless Dragon’s Teeth to fund a free Chinese army. Champion 6-7, Champ 11-12 HARVEY (1940-41).
“The most ruthless bandit ever to plague the Orient.” Bearded villain dresses in the uniform of the communist Chinese and wields a sword. Opposed by Rip Carson. Fight 68 FICTION HOUSE (1950).
“Scourge of the Orient,” Dr. Cobra’s criminal interests span from Saigon to Tibet. Probably Chinese in origin, Cobra seems quite willing to sell his services to Axis foreign powers for a price, opposed at every turn by the adventurer, Ted Crane. Cobra is balding on top and has a neatly trimmed mustache and arching eyebrows. Exciting 14-22 ABC/NEDOR (1941-42).
Dr. Fu Tong
One of an international cabal of criminals assisting the evil fiend, Anarcho, “the dictator of death.” Other members of the cabal are Lord Craven, Erik Hevling, El Diablo and Dr. Fu Tong. Anarcho. The cabal is opposed by a hero named Radar. Comics Novel 1 (1947).
Dr. Ting Loy
Asian scientist with a FuManchu mustache and global ambitions, Loy creates a heavy mist that can be shaped into monstrous men. He is opposed by the Fantom of the Fair. Amazing Mystery Funnies 18 CENTAUR
Crime lord of San Francisco’s Chinatown, the Fang betrays his countrymen and the United States for a lucrative deal with the Chinese. Despite his elegant traditional dress, the Fang has fang-like teeth and even drools. His “hatchet men” use knives, swords and hatchets as weapons. Opposed by Captain America. Captain America 6 TIMELY (1941).
The Fat Pigeon
“Neither man nor bird,” the Fat Pigeon has his minions collect an annual tribute from the city folk of a Chinese city (Shanghai?) lest they face a terrible fate. As Wing Ding relates, “He who refuses to feed the Fat Pigeon shall die the death of the thousand pecks.” When Thorne scoffs, Wing informs him that many have died in such a fashion. It emerges that the Fat Pigeon is actually the gigantic and now immensely wealthy Mister Chu, “once the greatest wrestler in all of China.” He wears a pigeon suit to frighten the people and has trained a deadly flock of pigeons to attack humans or planes with equal vigor. When he takes off the suit to challenge Link Thorne, the Flying Fool, to a wrestling match, his pigeons mistake him for a human target and peck him to death. Airboy v5/10 HILLMAN (1948).
Asian mastermind and Yarko the magicians’s arch enemy. Fu Chu also possesses mystical powers, able to make his image appear in a cloud of smoke, materialize objects at will and command giant birds of prey. After their first battle, Fu Chu relocates his headquarters inside of an ancient Mayan temple. Subsequent battles take place throughout the world. The Chinese mystic wears a red or yellow, fez-like hat and has a long narrow face adorned with a Fu Manchu-style mustache. Wonderworld 13, 16, 21, 25; Samson 4 FOX (1940-41).
General Lu Chang
War profiteer who hopes to use money raised from the opium trade to fund his conquest of China for his own “private” use. He is opposed by the White Streak. Target v1/6 NOVELTY (1940).
AKA “the Eye,” the Gorrah is an Asian criminal mastermind with a Fu Manchu mustache and a single eye in the center of his forehead. He is a brilliant scientist, the inventor of the teleprojecto screen and a serum that can turns human into Rat-Men, odd, rodent-faced figures. Opposed by Tex Thomson, in Action 38, the Gorrah reflects to an Axis agent that only one man has ever beaten him: “Sometimes I wish the spies of your country hadn’t killed him.” Action 2-3, 17-18, 27-28, 38 DC (1938-41).
The Green Dragon
“Far below sea-level, on the ocean floor sits the most evil man in the universe. Not in the world, in the universe, because sometimes he doesn’t live in the world, sometimes on Mars, other times on Jupiter. Right now, he’s living on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, though, because he’s trying to evade the Silver Streak.” The Green Dragon normally appears as a green-robed Asian man with long, sharp fingernails, bald head and fangs. But the villain is capable of transforming himself into a giant octopus. He attempts to enlist the aid of a race of green-skinned, elfin underwater creatures with the promise of transforming them into mortals, the better to “invade the outer world.” The Green Dragon discovers the lost city of Atlantis and attempts to loot it. While his adversary in this endeavor is the Silver Streak, the Green Dragon is featured in his own series. Dime Comics 1 HARVEY (active 1945).
Jooder the Evil
Opposed by Fu Chang, International Detective. Pep 6-7 MLJ (1940).
Diminuitive, eye-patch wearing villain who is missing half of his left leg and thus walks with a crutch. A genius, Klang has enduring ambitions of ruling America and hopes to use his infer-red heat ray to destroy the U.S. fleet. Opposed by Spark Stevens. Wonderworld 14, 16 FOX (1940).
Asian criminal mastermind opposed by an American secret agent named K-51. Wonderworld 3, 8 FOX (1939).
Asian villain who seeks revenge on Dr. Fung for the death of an equally nefarious kinsman. Wonderworld 6-7 FOX (1939).
Dr. Wu Chang, a scientist, adopts the malevolent persona of Mad Ming to take over Chinatown. Ming possesses advanced equipment such as television cameras and screens to observe actions of interest. He can mix chemicals so potent that a single drop could kill a hundred men and leave no trace. Ming is overweight and has a Fu Manchu mustache. He wears a red skull cap and red robes over blue trousers and a long-sleeved traditional shirt. Mad Ming operates as the crime boss of Chinatown. After his defeat in Funny Pages 36, he moves his operation to China where he kidnaps the child Grand Lama of Tibet, and after that, to Bangkok. When his life is rescued by a government agent after a plane crash on the way back from Asia, Ming considers reforming. At the end of Funny Pages 39 he is exhibiting the head of a sea serpent at Coney Island and “reaping a harvest of quarters.” “Is his reform permanent? the narration asks. His old underworld associates torture him to return to his evil ways, but he resists until they threaten to beat Lei-Ti, his daughter. Funny Pages v4/1, 36-42; Fantoman 4 CENTAUR (1940).
The Magic Mandarin
Opposed by foreign correspondent and criminologist Smash Dawson, this villain is described as “that weird Oriental individual who has assumed the pseudonym of the Magic Mandarin has sworn vengeance against the white race and Smash Dawson … The Mandarin (is) known as Lee Ching, Oriental importer. With the assistance of a dynamic stone of magnetic power that he inherited from his ancestors, he plots disaster for the nation from his headquarters atop the Imperial State Building.” Contact with silk robs the Mandarin’s stone of its power. Whirlwind 1-3 HOLYOKE (1940).
The Mallet is a giant Asian man with a wooden mallet where his right hand should be. He has infiltrated the Chinese army guarding the Burma Road and the soldiers regard him as their leader. Actually, the Mallet hopes to take over the road and control the prosperous trade route for Japan. His ally in this is a Chinese turncoat named Tiang. At the end of his defeat by Pat Patriot, the Mallet manages to escape and plots “a terrible revenge” to be shown in the next issue. Alas no further adventures of Pat are told. The Mallet has a vaguely pirate-like appearance, with a jaunty, red jacket and blue captain’s hat and trousers. Daredevil 11 LEV GLEASON (1942).
A deranged scientist, the Panda has found a way to enlarge insects to human size and have them do his bidding. The Panda has a face that resembles his namesake, but also that of Mao Tsedung. Oppposed by Stuntman, a heroic American acrobat. Stuntman 3 HARVEY (1946).
Chinese warlord whose influence is waning. He seeks weapons such as those displayed in American comic books to bolster his status. Ruff apparently possesses hypnotic powers and almost forces a friendly rival of Link Thorne, “the Flying Fool,” to behad him. Ruff’s son, Swing Hi, is an American-influenced hipster who uses his looks to influence Wing Ding to have Thorne help him stop his father’s plans. Airboy v5/2 HILLMAN (1948).
Sin Yat Gong
Criminal leader of Chinatown, Gong maintains a lavish hideout two stories underground, with two shirtless hatchet men as bodyguards. Gong’s primary interest is diamonds. Opposed by the Voice. Popular 67 DELL (1941).
Asian mastermind and gangleader with a pencil-thin mustache who plots a massive assault on Fort Knox. He loves gold so much that the omnipotent “super wizard” Stardust leaves him to the mercies of a giant, golden octopus. Fantastic Comics 16 FOX (1941).
Arrogant and smug, Sing is an overweight Chinese merchant who collaborates with the Japanese until the Kid undermines their relationship while pretending to be his servant. Opposed by the Filipino Kid. Yellowjacket Comics 7 CHARLTON (1946).
Asian villain, “probably the cleverest criminal alive.” Opposed by Silver Streak. Silver Streak 11 GLEASON (1941).
Chinese outlaw who seeks to avenge the death of his brother, Hop-Lung at the hands of Captain Valor in Zip 2. Yat Sing is assisted by his half-sister, Tania, and opposed by the plainclothed Zip 4-7 MLJ (1940).
Chinese Femme Fatales
Chinese villainesses almost always embody the exotic beauty variant of the femme fatale. Their fictional predecessors are Fah Lo Suee, the Daughter of Fu Manchu, from the 1931 novel of the same name, and in 1934 the Dragon Lady of the Terry and the Pirates comic strip. Both are beautiful and deadly, though the Dragon Lady has the distinction of becoming a force without a paternal influence. Many of the comic book Chinese femme fatale’s are the daughters or female companions of Fu Manchu types.
Mad Ming’s daughter who is attracted to her father’s enemy, the handsome Gerald. She doesn’t follow her father or Gerald to Asia. Funny Pages CENTAUR (1940).
Beautiful Asian priestess of the great god Khwass, the idol of whom comes to life to advise her. Lio-San seeks vengeance on Dan Barrister and Dr. Fung for the death of her father, Chengtu, the former head of the Khwass cult. Lio-San wears red breastplates, red pointed headdress and flowing fabric from her belt. Wonderworld 16 FOX (1940).
The evil Chen Fang’s lovely companion. Champion 6-7 HARVEY (1940).
Chinese temptress (she appears to be a prostitute, with a revealing red dress and large lotus blossom in her hair) who betrays her people (and the Rangers) to the Japanese, for a price. Rangers 21 (1945).
Klang’s lovely and equally deadly daughter shares her father’s goal of overthrowing the American government and ruling in its place. Madam Klang is fond of torture, having Spark stripped to the waist on one occasion in order to carve their family name on his chest. She pursues Spark and Chuck with even greater vigor after an explosion he engineers kills her father. Madam Klang wears a floor-length red dress with a yellow cape and matching gun holster. She escapes capture twice, but at the end of their third encounter meets a fatal end just like her father. Opposed by Spark Stevens. Wonderworld 16-18 FOX (1940).
“Crime queen of Chinatown.” The lovely Ah-ku specializes in smuggling, whether it be narcotics or kidnapped Chinese to be sold as slaves. On another occasion, Ah-ku attempts to assassinate the entire ruling council of New York’s Chinatown. She has been described as “a cruel, heartless murderess of her own people.” Opposed by Bob Phantom. Top-Notch 4-6, 9 MLJ (1940).
Princess Ling Foy
“Beautiful sorceress” who brings to life an army of metallic robot-like creatures to do her evil will. Opposed by Fu Chang, International Detective. Pep 4 MLJ (1940).
Modern day female pirate who operates out of China. River Lily is a lovely femme fatale who is described as the favorite aide of the Chinese criminal mastermind, Chen Chang (see above). River Lily may speak broken English, but her taste in beautiful gowns and ornate jewelry and headwear is impeccable. Indeed, her vanity is notorious and on one occasion she plans on stealing the dresses of white women after Chang’s gang kills them. River Lily is no less deadly than Chang, fond of torture and more than willing to turn her pet tigers loose on the American adventurer Richard Kendall. Mystery Men Comics 2, 5, 9, 12 FOX (active 1939-40).
Tania, the Queen of Pirates
Part-Chinese, part-Russian, Tania is a sultry, cigarette smoking brunette who always dresses in form-fitting purple and red. She first allies herself with her half-brother, Yat Sing, in his battles with Valor. When he is defeated, she then associates herself with the schemes of an old Russian acquaintance, Neek-olous. By Zip 12, both Russians have turned over a new leaf and thereafter act as friends of heroic Captain Valor. Zip 4-11 (1940-41).
White Men Posing as Chinese
Another unfortunate archetype in 1930s and 1940s fiction is the heroic white man fighting bad guys in the guise of an ethnic or physically handicapped figure. Authors presumably pursue this model to gain the benefit of a more interesting backdrop while still featuring an able-bodied White hero with whom their assumed White audience will more readily identify. There are two Chinese examples of this in 1940s comic books. The Chinese superhero, the Green Turtle, may or may not be a third.
An American in China, one “Red” McGraw, takes on the guise of the Dragon to defend his adopted homeland from Japanese invaders. Doll Man 2-6 QUALITY (active 1942-43).
Lee Fang and his Gargoyles
Apparent hunchbacked Chinese mastermind who has captured living gargoyles in the jungles of South America to hypnotize to do his bidding. Fang also has claw like gloves he wears to further terrorize his enemies. It turns out that his Chinese appearance is only a guise and he is actually Clarence Duff, one of the businessmen who owns the building that the gargoyles are terrorizing. Opposed by Fearless Flint. Famous Funnies 93-96 EASTERN (1944).
“Barry Moore, a former character actor, now a lieutenant on the police force with his father, is also Scarlet Seal, dreaded foe of all the underworld … His father, Captain Moore, has been ordered to get the Scarlet Sea or lose his job.” Everyone believes Scarlet Seal’s pretense as a devious Chinese mastermind. In actuality, Barry disguises himself as the Seal to get the inside track on underworld schemes. Smash Comics 16-24 QUALITY (active 1940-41).