Fire & Water #191 – Whatever Happened To…? Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter/Air Wave

Shag & Rob discuss the next installments of “Whatever Happened To…?” We love these back-up strips from DC COMICS PRESENTS! This time we’re covering adventures from DCCP #39 & 40, featuring Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter and Air Wave! We wrap up with YOUR Listener Feedback!

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19 responses to “Fire & Water #191 – Whatever Happened To…? Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter/Air Wave

  1. Rob’s Chimptalk is the thing of legend! Kelly of the Apes!!!!

    Great show, fellas. I’m with Rob on Airwave 1. No idea what is so appealing about the character, but I love the design and his goofiness.

    The mystery of Richard Dragon or whatever happened in that crap story is best left unsolved. Mike Barr, right? I assume the solution lies in a team with a funeral theme – Graverobber, the Mortician, Casketman, and Tommy Tomb. There. Solved it.

  2. Another great segment, this time with two ‘Whatever Happened’ stories that I haven’t read before.

    I mostly know Richard Dragon from his time as the zen-like sensei in the Question baxter series. But, like Shag, I occasionally see the original series in the cheap bins and will pick them up. (I find I am a sucker for all those short-lived 70s series – 1st issue special, Kobra, Stalker, etc). The first issue has a tremendous panel which I have shared on Twitter and which proudly hangs in my office. And I even sampled the early 2000s reboot by Austen and McDaniel (my friends say I have a penchant for reading comics about ‘busted down martial artists). This one is silly, especially the forced cliffhanger. My answer? Ling was too corpulent for the rather small coffin they were lowering into the hole. Maybe the funeral home cremated him?

    When Rob was pitching the GL trade and said ‘it includes all the oneil/adams socially relevant stories, and it also includes the Airwave stories’ I was hoping he would follow it with ‘which are socially irrelevant.’ The idea that these cops don’t notice the 36-24-36 figure on the wife stretches credibility. Especially in that panel where he is checking out her posterior. The word balloon should say ‘Funny, I don’t remember him having such a great butt. Maybe it’s the bad lighting in here!’

    Anyways, thanks for bringing this back. And reminding me to hound you guys to read Chaykin’s Twilight!

  3. I always liked Air Wave. Well the young Hal version anyway. Since I missed this particular DCCP, I didn’t know about Larry and his roller skates until Who’s Who, even though I met him in my beloved All-Star Squadron #31. But there is something inherently appealing about that design. It’s screams “generic Super Hero!” Like a design for a local electric co-op used on a free kids coloring book or something. I think there must be an Earth-One version of Larry as well. Kind of odd that the originator of the parallel Earths concept at DC, Julie Schwartz, didn’t address this head-on. But hey, it got in the way of the story, and Julie was ALL about that story.

    The costume does look surprisingly good on Mrs. Jordan. The cops here are reaching Chief O’Hara levels of incompetence by not noticing the obvious.

    I can never think of Richard Dragon now without hearing the Two True Freaks guys laugh about “Dick Dragon”. Insert your own jokes here. I did sample the 2000s series because it was Nightwing’s dream team of Chuck Dixon and Scott McDaniel reuniting, but it didn’t hold my interest long. I did buy this DCCP off the stands, and this story has always been pretty odd. I love me some Barr (just listen to me gush about him on Knightcast) but I think this story could have benefited from Denny O’Neil getting to wrap up his character’s story. I’m pretty sure he was under contract as an editor at Marvel at the time, however.

    Fun episode as always, and don’t worry about where these shows go. You guys were off the Aqua-Storm reservation A LOT in the pre-network days. Six of one, half a dozen of the other.


  4. I’m kind of surprised Shagg didn’t mention the Firestorm connection in this episode.

    “What Firestorm connection?”, you may ask?

    During the John Ostrander era of Firestorm stories, Air Wave took on the moniker of “Maser” and changed his look. Thankfully that phase didn’t last. His Maser identity was horribly generic, which might have been the point.

    1. If not “generic,” at least explicitly “corporate.”

      That said, and without regard to the merit of the Maser identity, I’m surprised Shag didn’t make the obvious Firestorm reference that any appearance by Air Wave warranted. This is a Firestorm (and Aquaman) podcast, after all!

      (Tune in next week for the Air and Water Podcast, featuring the adventures of Air Wave and that guy who talks to fish!)


    Richard Dragon came to my attention mainly due to the Wizard World Super-Hero Showdown message boards way back in early 2000. His main claim to fame for me was that during the era of the “unbeatable” Bat-God, is that he was the best non-powered fighter in the DC Universe. If Shang-Chi is the Bruce Lee of the Marvel Universe, then Richard Dragon is the Chuck Norris of the DC Universe. Anyone who has read any Batman or Birds of Prey has heard of Lady Shiva. Batman couldn’t beat Lady Shiva on his own. Batman had lost hand to hand battles with Bronze Tiger. Black Canary went to Lady Shiva to improve her fighting prowess. Richard Dragon was this guy who was better than both Lady Shiva and Bronze Tiger. I ended up tracking down all 18 issues of the 70’s series and was interested to learn that the character was actually created in the 1974 novel “Dragon’s Fists” by Dennis O’Neil under a pseudonym. (This lead to an in depth research session on the difference between The Sensei and O’Sensei. Two different people! One a villain and the other a wise teacher on the side of goodness!) The Brave and the Bold 132 when Batman and Dragon fight to a draw and the DC Comics Presents issue were not far behind in being acquired. I was already a fan of the Question, and this led me to complete my run of the Question as Dragon played a large role as mentor to Vic Sage. Others turned to Dragon for guidance like Oracle, who learns to use escrima sticks and calls him her Sensei. Sage turns the Helena Bertinelli Huntress on to Dragon as a teacher as well. I get to mention Richard Dragon in my History of Comics on Film video on the Vigilante as he trained Stuff Jr. “Why do I think that’s a big deal? Let’s put it this way, if there were internet fads in the DC Universe, instead of Chuck Norris Facts, there’d be Richard Dragon Facts!”

    Also, in the Young Justice tie-in comic to the animated series, Wally West has a signed poster of Dragon in his room. Not a huge fan of the changes within 2004 series, but I supported it as it was released and the 52 Weekly series seemed to re-retcon that all away anyhow.

  6. Going back to the DC Bloodlines blog, I always wanted to do more coverage of the Kung Fu Fighters than the three issues I stalled at years ago. The plan is to do three episodes broken up across “seasons,” with the first part addressing the initial story arcs of the two Richard Dragon series while focusing on the titular character. The second episode would spotlight Lady Shiva and finish out the back end of the ’00s Richard Dragon series. The final episode would revolve around Bronze Tiger, closing out Richard Dragon Vol. I and going beyond to the murder of Kathy Kane to close with… this story. And for added weird symmetry, I recorded and mostly edited discussion of Kung-Fu Fighter #1-4 before abandoning it this Sunday because I was more concerned about making sure the debut episode of Spawnometer would be ready for the 25th anniversary of Image Comics next Monday. So, long story longer, folks who were intrigued by hearing you guys slag on this Mike Barr story can look forward to my slagging on the original Denny O’Neil stories in a few weeks.

    I have a weird not-really-nostalgia for Air Wave because he was in a DC Comics Presents I bought as a kid, in spite of him rather than because. Terrible costume, and then there’s the removable mustache. I think I was sold on a two page spread of Superman being crushed in a fake-out, or more likely, because it was my first Parasite sighting and I thought he looked cool. What I got was Air Wave rollerskating on power lines and an evil super-powered train conductor. That comic was the birthing place of my disdain for Saviuk, and speaking of whom, isn’t it his fault that when he read the script, all he got was “girl-Air Wave?”

  7. I always wanted to read Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter, because Bronze Tiger is a favorite character of mine. But after doing a little research, I found out that Ben Turner didn’t don the Bronze Tiger costume until one of his last appearances in RDKFF, if not the very last issue. Kind of killed any excitement I had for it.

    As for Airwave, I have virtually no familiarity with this character, but if Al Gerding likes him, he’s probably not my jam. 😉

  8. My love of Golden Age heroes means I liked Air Wave I straight out of Who’s Who as well. Skating on telephone wires? Love it. He’s a lot more interesting than a lot of the generic fist-fighting mystery men of the era. Radio! So cutting edge.

    I guess today he’d be called Wi-Fi.

    1. I read one of his original stories and I was really charmed over the telephone line power stunt. It’s a way of getting around that works for some cities, the suburbs, and out in the country. Maybe more effective than web-slinging…

  9. I love these episodes, keep them in the feed. OK, so meanwhile another 16 issues of Aquaman are waiting to be dissected…

    I liked Air Wave 2 as Maser, for one think, he was better looking. It always seemed to me he was a play on Marvel’s Quasar – well, blond with a headband, similar-sounding name… I guess Dr Moon had a type.

    The family history really was tragic – Larry murdered, Helen succumbed to mental illness, Hal II Black Lanterned… maybe he’s alive again post-Rebirth. The big question is, Whatever Happened to … the Parrot? That’s the Static series we need!

    As for Richard Dragon, I love that the title character was utterly overshadowed by his supporting cast in later Years. (Bronze Tiger I like but Lady Shave is just one of those stupid characters with no powers who still manage to be unstoppable because their creator edits 17 Bat-books. Batman has 17 plans to take down Superman but can’t think to drop a safe on her?) The only interesting kung-fu comic ever was Master of Kung Fu, Richard Dragon can stay in limbo, drinking Hot Chocolate.

    Did anyone ever ask Mike W Barr about the boring cliffhanger Barney Ling mystery? Go on, you can use that exact phrasing…

    If Mike Tiefenbacher ever does realise Rob is alive, get him on the show to reveal the All behind this Wiki tidbit: ‘Writer Mike Tiefenbacher had several proposals for other “Whatever Happened To…?” stories. These included Captain Action, Blackhawk, Genius Jones, Nighthawk, Ragman, the Sea Devils, the Silent Knight, and Wildcat.[4]’

    1. I can see why the Captain Action proposal didn’t go through. That was more of a licensed property. Still, it’d have been nice to see an alternate take on him that could stick around in the DC Universe. It might’ve helped explain all those magic coins that the post-Crisis Obsession sported in the Superman books…

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