Last month, I did a post about Batman covers reminiscent of chopsocky movies, which got me thinking about my relationship with this subgenre… In particular, I was reminded that my interest in kung fu action has always been mostly connected with two overlapping areas of fiction I am much more passionate about. One of them is blaxploitation:
From Jim Kelly’s supporting role in the classic Enter the Dragon to gleefully trashy entries like TNT Jackson or Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold, many of my earlier forays into chopsocky territory had a notable African American dimension. Hell, I even have a soft spot for the campy extravaganza The Last Dragon, whose protagonist is a black martial artist known as Bruce Leroy!
The fusion of these two worlds feels like a smooth extension of their original hybridity, as both trends heavily relied on putting a spin on familiar material, whether by beautifully cannibalizing Dr. No and The Lady from Shanghai at the climax of Enter the Dragon or by provocatively reimagining Victorian vampire tropes in an African American community through the tragicomic Blacula. Since these film styles emerged more or less at the same time and did a comparable gesture of imbuing popular Hollywood genres (crime, spy, adventure, mystery, horror) with cultural traditions outside of the WASP mainstream, their crossover just seemed to make sense, even before Marvel successful mined the combo with Power Man and Iron Fist.
Comic books, needless to say, are the other area that cemented the appeal of martial arts in my imagination. This includes, among others, Batman comics, as well as a number of spin-offs that drew even more heavily on chopsocky-style action (especially when they were written by Kelley Puckett or Chuck Dixon). Today, Gotham Calling tips its hat to those series by showcasing ten cool covers featuring characters from Batman’s cast that promise hardcore martial arts inside:
And here are a couple of covers that go even further, paying a more direct homage to the aesthetics of chopsocky movie posters: