Friday, February 4, 2011

Black Superheroes: Bronze Tiger

Black Belt Jones can go to hell; I'm with Bronze Tiger!

Name: Ben Turner
First Appearance: Dragon’s Fist (1974, Novel); Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter #1 (1975, Comics)
History: At the age of ten Ben Turner killed a burglar who had attacked his mother.  As an outlet for his inner rage the young man begins training in the martial arts.  Eventually his quest leads him to Asia where he meets the legendary O-Sensei and becomes his pupil alongside future legend Richard Dragon.  Both men become masters and eventually become peace keeping agents.  However during a mission Turner is captured by villain Professor Ojo (Who looks ridiculous) and is brainwashed into joining the League of Assassins as the greatly feared Bronze Tiger.  After years of killing for hire Ben is freed from his programming and subsequently becomes a hero (While keeping the name) joining as one of the few “good” elements of the government sponsored super villain team the Suicide Squad.
Beta Says: Now here’s someone you may not have heard of if you’re a non-comic reader.  Originally appearing in a novel titled Dragon’s Fist written by Dennis O’Neil and Jim Berry he was ported over to DC Comics a year later.  For DC fans there is a hotly contested list of the greatest martial artists in the DC Universe which includes such characters as Batman, Black Canary, both Green Arrows and Deathstroke the Terminator.  However it is generally agreed that the three top fighters, any of whom could be considered the best on any given day, are Richard Dragon, Lady Shiva, and this man, Bronze Tiger (Cassandra Cain, whom Turner actually helped train, is likely #4).  Turner is basically the best fighter you’ll likely see in any comic book.  He has no super powers; just the amazing ability of “beat the shit out of you and everyone you know at the same time while reading a book.”  To put this in perspective: Batman has trained most of his life to achieve physical perfection and absolute mastery of several martial art disciplines to aide him in his war on crime and is all but unbeatable in a fair fight.   With that in mind he might be able to just barely defeat Bronze Tiger in a fight if he was completely and utterly prepared and Turner had a really bad case of the flu.  Maybe.  But probably not even then.  The fact is that Bronze Tiger is flat-out in a different league of fighters than Bruce Wayne.
Bronze Tiger w/o his mask and slightly less cool
Unlike Black Panther, who while not A-List is still a recognizable figure in comic book lore, Turner is a very overlooked and underrated character and barely reaches second-string in DC.  In fact he’s never had his own solo title, rather appearing in a supporting role, an adversarial role, or part of an ensemble.  He has recently made an appearance on the cartoon Batman: The Brave and The Bold so things may be looking up for him as far as exposure goes.   He first appeared during the whole “Kung-Fu Craze” of the 1970s and has popped up here and there, most notably as one of the premier characters (And eventually leader) of the Suicide Squad, a team of captured super villains, reformed villains, and a few heroes working for the US government.  Despite that he’s a mainstay for that book, especially for older fans, he’s not used nearly as much as he probably should be.   The fact is this guy is really cool; a badass fighter, a dark past in need of atonement, and, let’s face it, a really neat tiger mask.
Okay, I admit that the last one might just be my own personal preference but the fact remains that’s there’s a ton that could be does with the guy.  As a former assassin and villain Bronze Tiger has the capacity to be both a light and very dark protagonist depending on what the writer needs.  His background makes him very flexible that way.  For this reason I believe that if DC wanted to create an ongoing title featuring a black character, which they really should be doing, they would be very wise in giving one to Ben Turner.  Think about it: his ongoing title would be unique among many of the comics on sale no matter what direction the writers decide to go with it.   He has a strong history with the League of Assassins, Ra’s al Ghoul’s criminal organization, which means he has ties to all sorts of villains of ever shape and size, not to mention enemies he may have picked up over his time in the Suicide Squad thus creating a Rouges Gallery for him should be fairly simple.  He has connections to the organization Checkmate so his adventures could easily take a more espionage approach than costumed superhero (Though that may involve the loss of that awesome mask, so I prefer we don’t do that).  Really my point is Bronze Tiger is an interesting original character that DC has had in their archives for almost forty years, who happens to be black, but they haven’t utilized him to his fullest potential despite many fans clamoring for more diversity in their comics.  Rather than shoehorning black versions of Aqualad and Azrael and then patting themselves on the back for their diversity DC editors should look at older characters like Bronze Tiger and figure out ways to make them relevant for today’s reader.  It shouldn’t be that difficulty because Bronze Tiger is awesome.  Just don’t turn him into a human/tiger hybrid in order to give him super powers, DC.  Every time you do something like that it's really stupid.  Just ask Black Manta.
"I WAS ONCE A MAN!!"

If I ever break into comic books and work for DC, which is a dream that I think gets farther and farther away from me the more I do this blog, I think Bronze Tiger is the character I’d like to write for the most right now.  He’s been appearing in the pages of Secret Six lately so check that out if you get the chance.  Next time we’ll feature someone who is likely the most successful black character Marvel Comics has ever produced.
Catman VS. Bronze Tiger:
Who is the Top Cat of the DCU?
For more one Bronze Tiger click here.  Also check out BLACKSUPERHERO.COM for a giant list and profiles of black comic book characters for many different companies.

2 comments:

  1. First off I really dig the post. It's Bronze Tiger fans out here but were far and inbetween. Hell it took me a year and two months to run across your blogspot. Heres to hoping you get that writing gig, the Tiger needs that pen. thebronzetiger.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think if DC really wanted to push a black character into the mainstream it should be Bronze tiger it could be like that movie blood and bone with Michael Jah White

    ReplyDelete