As its Iron Man 2 weekend, here’s a quick look at some Marvel comics takes on ninja throughout the decades.
The b&w magazine era for Marvel Comics (ala the Curtis imprint) was soooooooo f’n cool! Deadly Hands was part B&W comics, part kung-fu and movie magazine. Ninja showed up here half a decade before the 80’s craze, albeit in a rather Chinese look.
Marvel fired on all cylinders during the 70’s kung-fu craze, creating enduring heroes like Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu, Iron Fist, White Tiger, Daughters of the Dragon, etc. However in the 80’s they failed to do the same with ninja. There was never a ninja hero the caliber of a Shang-Chi or Iron Fist, ninja were instead used as cannon fodder for heroes like Wolverine and Daredevil.
This ‘red-shirt’ model of ninja armies like The Hand being little more than disposable bodies en masse has endured to this day at Marvel.
There is a law of fight-scene physics that says the more of an enemy faced, the lesser skilled each of them becomes. A single ninja hero can wipe out an office building a mafiosos with machine guns. A hundred ninja couldn’t take out a single karate guy with nunchucks if they each had a bazooka. True in movies, true in comics. Guess Marvel needed the jobbers more than they wanted another martial arts super hero…
There are a few exceptions (Nth Man, Elektra on and off, Ronin I guess – all of whom are westerners BTW), but most of the hero ninja lie in licensed toy tie-ins like GI Joe’s Snake Eyes and support characters in Chuck Norris’ Karate Kommandos – a property stronger on TV and toy shelves.
Get a glorious look at the amazing gawd-awfulness of the Chuck comics over at Mr. Kitty.
And c’mon Marvel, give us a super shinobi-hero with the same chops (ha, get it?) as a Shang-Chi or Iron Fist already!