Richard Dragon: Who is the Kung Fu Fighter?

Enter the Dragon

Richard Dragon:So I took on the student with no name. A talented amateur. [montage of Richard Dragon fighting superheroes] He must have told all his friends. I stopped asking questions after a while, never even asked for names.

Richard Dragon #7

A man wanders through a small town. He is quickly stopped by a local gang. The crooks tell him that there is a tourist’s tax. He can pay up, or they will have fun with him. The man tries to talk them down and enters a martial arts stance when they pull out knives and chains.

A gang member with a knife charges the man. He grabs the crook’s wrist, twists it so he drops the knife, and sends him stumbling with a palm strike. The gang leader swings his chain at the man, who dodges while yanking the chain away. A flying kick knocks out the leader. The man glares at the remaining gang members, who run away. Richard Dragon straightens and continues his journey. 

Richard Dragon is one of the best martial artists in the DC universe. He has directly or indirectly taught every Justice League member how to fight. So who is he? How did he become such a skilled fighter? Why are there two Dragons running around? Let’s find out.

Ascending Dragon: Richard Dragon’s Backstory

O-Sensei: “There is a time to be a rock… a time to be a deep, silent pool.. and a time to be a whirlwind.

Richard Dragon: Kung-Fu Fighter #4

Richard Dragon debuted in Dennis O’Neill’s 1974 novel “Dragon’s Fist: Kung-Fu Master Richard Dragon”. O‘Neil, later collaborated with artist Jim Berry to turn the book into a comic series.

Richard Dragon was a young thief living in Japan. He broke into a dojo to steal a jade statue of The Buddha. He was caught and defeated by a student named Ben Turner, who brought Dragon to his mentor, O-Sensei, to be punished. O-Sensei sensed good in Dragon and chose instead to teach him martial arts.

Richard spent seven years learning martial arts, growing into a skilled warrior and philosopher. O-Sensei realized that there was nothing more he could teach Dragon or Turner and sent them into the world to find their own path. The duo became travelling adventurers, eventually joining a spy agency called G.O.O.D.

While on a mission for G.O.O.D, Dragon was attacked by a woman called Lady Shiva, who accused him of killing her sister. Dragon discovered that Shiva was being manipulated by her sister’s real killer and helped her defeat him. 

Lady Shiva joined Dragon and Turner’s adventures because her life was empty without combat, but the unstoppable trio eventually split over personality differences. Ben Turner became a hero called Bronze Tiger. Lady Shiva became an internationally feared assassin. Richard Dragon left G.O.O.D. to become a wandering hero.

Samsara: Richard Dragon’s History

Richard Dragon II: My sensei was a great warrior. He taught me how to leave everything I was behind and become something better… I killed him and took his name to honor the strength he had given me” –

Green Arrow #32

Richard Dragon eventually tired of the wanderer’s life and settled down to teach. Most of his students were unable to keep up with his lesson until a young Bruce Wayne found him. 

Dragon impressed the future Batman by teaching him many of his greatest techniques. He would later teach Dragon’s skills to the Justice League, even sending some of their heroes to study directly under Dragon.

A new incarnation of Richard was introduced in DC’s New 52 imprint. This version was a crime lord who claims to have studied under Dragon, learned all he could, then killed his teacher. He began calling himself Richard Dragon as an homage to his mentor. Time will tell if the original Richard Dragon will be resurrected.

Soul of the Dragon: Powers and Personality

Dragon: [standing over an attacker] “I don’t want to hurt you! I asked you… pleaded with you… but you simply would not listen!”

Richard Dragon: Kung Fu Fighter #10

Richard Dragon doesn’t have powers, but he doesn’t need them. He’s mastered dozens of martial arts styles, including Kung-Fu, Karate, Jiu Jitsu, Judo, and Aikido. Richard Dragon is one of the most skilled martial artists in DC Comics, rivaled only by Batman, Lady Shiva, and Cassandra Cain.

While most praise his fighting skills, teaching became Richard Dragon’s true calling. He is able to deduce what others are thinking and uncover flaws they didn’t know they had. He often helps heroes overcome personal problems. It makes sense he’s skilled with this dynamic having been on both sides of the equation.

Richard Dragon emphasizes the spiritual side of martial arts over the physical. He always attempts to defuse fights before they start, only fighting if he has no choice. He is often portrayed as sarcastic and world weary.

The Actors Who Play Richard Dragon

Kirk Acevedo – Arrow

Mark Dacascos – Batman: Soul of the Dragon

Didya Get All That?

One of DC’s best fighters

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