Ninjas vs Kung Fu.

The Legend of Kamui and Oriental Heroes.

Two mainstays of my teenage comic book collection.

I obviously didn’t know this as a kid, but both comics were originally from overseas. Kamui was a Japanese manga from the 60s, brought to America some 20 years later by Eclipse comics, where it was one of the very first manga’s to make the jump to the American market. Oriental Heroes meanwhile was originally started in 1970 as a super violent, super cartoony Chinese manhua called Little Rascals; the version I read was put out by series creator Tony Wong’s Jademan Comics in the mid-80s as part of a line of kung fu comics (in addition to O.H., there was Drunken Fist, Buddha’s Palm, and The Blood Sword), and was written/translated by Mike Baron, of Badger fame.

Which one was better, you ask? It’s tough to say. Both were pretty great, but in completely different ways.

Personally, I vastly preferred Oriental Heroes. It was in color (Kamui was black and white), it had a modern style of art (Kamui had a very traditional Japanese feel to it, and was often very minimalist), it had bad guys with names like Skeleton Secretary, Pterosaur, and the Alligator Brothers, and it had a unique way of depicting things like inner strength… if a guy was trying to find the resolve of an iron bell to absorb a killing blow (don’t ask me, it’s a kung fu comic, every move has a ridiculously flowery description), there would actually BE an iron bell drawn around him at the moment of impact.

Kamui may have been the better book in terms of things adults care about (ie being well plotted and full of sub-text while still being gory as all hell), and it was actually easier to follow (O.H. was often subject to overly literal translations of dialogue, typos, and general plot confusion), but at the time, Oriental Heroes was probably the closest thing to a comic book version of an over the top, ridiculously insane, badly dubbed kung fu movie, and I loved it for that.

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