Your Kung Fu Is Old. Now You Must Die!
All right, you vultures, I'm back, and nobody can stop me now--Not even the Devil!
So for reasons too complicated to get into, I was reading through Western Gunfighters #29 a while back and I came upon the greatest ad to ever grace the four-color pages of a Marvel comic.
Sea Monkeys? Don't make me laugh.
Build a nuclear submarine for $2? Man, please.
Charles Atlas: Hero of the Beach? Let me ask you a question, little miss sunshine: Did Charles Atlas ever kill a man with his bare hands?
Count Dante sure as hell did!
Look at it: That ad is a thing of beauty. I like it so much that I had it blown up to poster size, mail-in information and all. Count Dante makes Shang Chi look like The Glimmer Man with that pose, and the image is strikingly iconic. You get everything you know in a glance: Afro, mutton chops, eyebrows, and ten fingers of death. The pink background and cursive writing do absolutely nothing to diminish the fact that Count Dante looks like he's going to rip your throat out, Roadhouse-style. If anything, it sets you up for the blurb beneath the picture, which is so shockingly violent that it's bursting out of the page. Check out that jagged balloon, man!
For those of you who don't want to strain your eyes (and don't have a convenient poster), it reads, with my emphasis added:
"Count Dante is the undefeated Supreme Grand Master of the fighting arts. Count Dante has won the the World Overall Fighting Arts Championship (Master & Expert Divisions) after defeating the world's top masters of JUDO, BOXING, WRESTLING, KUNG-FU, KARATE, AKIDO, etc. in Death Matches. On Aug. 1, 1967, the World Federation of Fighting Arts crowned the Count 'THE WORLD'S DEADLIEST FIGHTING ARTS CHAMPION AND MASTER.'"
In case you missed it, he defeated the world's top masters in DEATH MATCHES. Which, unless I'm mistaken, means he killed them with his unstoppable fighting style. That's the most badass thing I've ever even heard of.
But what makes Count Dante even better, what puts him over the top onto my list of the Most Awesome People Ever, was that his real life was every bit as bat-shit insane as his comic book ad.
Born John Keehan, he changed his name in the mid '60s to Count Juan Raphael Dante and explained it by saying his parents were exiled nobility who fled the Spanish Civil War to hide in America. And if you've ever done anything that cool, then thanks for reading the ISB, Bruce Campbell. He then founded the Black Dragon Fighting Society and invented a technique called the Dance of Death, which means he did three things that are cooler than anything anyone I know has ever even thought of.
Any normal person would have been satisfied with accomplishments of that magnitude under their belt, but for Count Dante, inventing new fighting styles and claming to be royalty was a slow Tuesday night. According to Massad Ayoob, Dante "developed an obscene fascination with the most brutal part of the martial arts," and that's from the guy who founded the Lethal Force Institute and wrote The Complete Book of Handguns. He blasted other martial arts instructors for teaching watered-down styles to non-Asian students (a claim also made by Bruce Lee), got involved in an incident called the Dojo War (SWEET MOTHER OF MYSTERY!) and was arrested for taping dynamite to a rival dojo while drunk.
You cannot possibly imagine how pumped up I just got writing that sentence.
Count Dante died in 1975 from hemmorhaging resulting from a bleeding ulcer, or at least, that's the cover story. But the legends say that if you send two dollars to a certain PO box in Chicago, you might just get a Black Dragon Fighting Society patch, along with a handwritten note telling the story of an exiled Spanish nobleman, and how his Dance of Death could not be contained by any force in this world... or the next.