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Monday, February 07, 2005

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!

(Click for a larger and more badass image)

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.'"

Holy. Crap.

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.


Blogger Phil Looney said...

I hate "My New Fighting Technique is Unstoppable". They run that turd in Free Times now. Ggggrrr.

2/08/2005 1:07 PM

Blogger Jim Shelley said...

The Free Time has like the worst comic/humor sensibilities. Aside from News of the Weird. A wise man once said that only conservatives can tell a good joke, because liberals are too afraid of offending someone. (Please do not confuse conservative and liberal with Republican and Democrat when thinking about that.)

Anyway - about that new girl on Monk?

2/08/2005 4:26 PM

Blogger Jim Shelley said...

btw Chris - excellent post! I had completely forgotten about Count Dante until today. Great tribute!

2/08/2005 4:28 PM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

MNFTIU is awesome. Fact, factorum, proof.

2/08/2005 5:58 PM

Blogger vickmacky said...


2/08/2005 10:59 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can also read about The Count in Robert Cooley's book "When Corruption Was King". He relates a story of the Count being charged with a murder he didn't personally commit. (But he DID rip a rival's eye out in that same rumble...Cooley was his attorney.
I came across this site in searching for information on the Count after reading about him in Cooley's book. He also tells of a couple of street "encounters" the Count had which he personally witnessed.

2/22/2005 4:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I spent the better part of my day at work searching for the elusive "Western Gunfighters" #29 to no avail. (That poster-sized ad you have kicks ass!) Found a bunch around that number, but no sighting of the Immortal Count Dante. Got nuthin' except this dude, who only promises to turn my hands, arms or legs into paralyzing weapons... without any bodily contact. Yeah, whatever. Get back to me about Death Matches and then we'll talk.

So my search continues...

By the way, does anyone know ANYONE who sold Grit??

9/25/2005 12:05 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I knew John/the count for several years hust before his death btw was by an overdose of drugs. I am not trying to slam the guy - he was really a pretty nice guy. He just got caught up in the Count Dante persona a little too much. A lot of what you see in pictures are copies of ads that were placed in comics and magazines to sell his book and patches and a small 8mm film that I co-stared in ( I was the bad guy) that it has been a long time - but i think he did his dance of death on me. just a few more notes there was a confrontation with the green dragon fighting society where john and friends forced their way into the temple and a big brawl erupted.
from what I understand there was one person was killed and one had his eye taken out.

9/28/2005 9:23 AM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

If you can find a copy of the Marvel Masterworks reprint of Giant Size X-Men #1, there's a reprint of the Count Dante ad in full-color--on nice glossy paper, no less!

And that's some pretty neat info on the Count, whomever-you-are. Thanks for stopping by!

10/09/2005 11:38 PM

Blogger floyd webb said...

The Guy in the WDFS book was Doug Dwyer, I know because I spoke to him recently. Is that you Doug? And the Count's death certificate says he died of bleeding ulcers, not a drug oevrdose. John's father died of the same thing apparently. I have been doing a documentary film about Dante and I have made the pertinent interviews. I have the documents online if you want to see them. The film is titled The Search for Count Dante.

10/14/2005 4:58 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Chris:

Great posting on the Count. I stumpled upon the ad in a comic I bought second hand some years ago and thought it was the coolest thing EVER.

How did you get the poster made? IE is there a company you found which can make them? I'd LOVE to get one myself. If you have any tips, please post them here! Keep up the great work!

10/29/2005 10:11 AM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

Hey! Sorry it took me so long to see the question, but I'm glad you enjoyed the post. All I did for the poster was take the issue over to Kinkos and have them blow it up. Then, with the help of the shrink-wrap machine at work and a piece of cardboard, I had it faux-mounted, and now it's in the hallway. Easy as pie, but it might cost you a few bucks.

12/11/2005 5:51 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

mixing alchohol and pain killers often has the side effect of things like liver damage or stomach damage. the fillers have a nice side effect of eating the lining of your stomach

7/17/2006 5:31 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know sometimes i wonder about you!!!!!!!! then i look on the Net with all the madness Inherent in what in the main is an Uncontrolled Media and then think maybe he's saner than the rest of us

10/17/2006 1:24 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

How the eff do you maintain so many blogs and get any work done?

10/18/2006 12:12 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


Yes, actually, I did know a guy who sold GRIT.

I even went with him on his delivery route once or twice.

You ever READ that rag?

Typical front page: graphic photographs of kids in the Ozarks with open-sore facial cancers.

They seemed to be laying this at the feet of the state government for not doing something to provide for medical care for the poor folks.

10/28/2006 7:23 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember that ad, how funny. I remember my brother looked like that his side burns mutton chops, and gotee! We'd see him and yell; "look it's the dealiest man alive" and he'd get so mad. Man that was too funny. Hey, we even talked this one kid into ordering the Count's techniques of death, and I don't even remember him getting anything. Ha Haaa that was so funny back then, you bought back some good and fun memories. thanks!!

11/16/2006 2:06 AM

Blogger FightingTatertot said...

I fought the Count, durring a disco dasnce in 1973. Count was doing his dance of death, to the bee gees. I flew into the air, with my flying sizzor kick, caught the count in the middle of a two step...took him down, and was pulling his groin, thru his mouth, with el loco homo, jumped in...el homo, grabbed my ass, durring dsisco feaver. i did a black flip, and caught homo from behind, that right where he wanted me. i took alot of crap[ from homo. i said no more shit, ok? the count was spitting beer, from his nose, stop the dance of death, started the hustle. me and homo, joined in...it was the worse fight, ive ever been in..

if you dont chew big red,,,,,FUCK YOU

3/23/2007 11:18 AM

Blogger lazy_cg said...

i found this on wiki
"Keehan also worked as a hairdresser and had reportedly worked on some of the hair designs for Playboy models of the time."
i don't know what to think of that. Though it does explain how he maintained his fro'

1/08/2008 10:28 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If fightingtater isn't lying through his teeth, he still by his own admission attacked John while he wasn't looking, while he was demonstrating his Dance of Death. If he would have challenged him face to face Keehan would have handed him his balls.

1/28/2008 7:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even it tatertop isnt lying through his teeth, he did by his own admission attack Keehan, from the side while he was occupied demonstrating his version of the Kata," The Dance of Death
",without warning and without provacation. So we might well surmise that he is a coward.
If he had challenged Keehan face to face, John would have had the oppurtunity to finish the kata and handed him his nuts. Still I'd like to know what Tatertot is smoking.

1/28/2008 7:14 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was a student of Doug Dwyer and John Keehan in the 60's and moved on to other martial arts in the 70's.

One thing about John (Count Dante) was that he would get out-of-shape and stop working out. He had a Dojo but sometimes would attend to other businesses and get a little over weight. John would lay-off for awhile then jump back in to Karate and get buff and fast. From the best of my memory John was an Okinawan karatist and had some training in Kung Fu but I don't think he was a master. John was also an Army demolition so hence the dyamite he got into trouble with in the "Dojo Wars".

One of my memories is John got a baby tiger and would walk it around Rush street around the Playboy mansion to scare people - and get attention. The tiger was about 6 months and playing with a student and severely tore up his arm and John gave up the tiger.

John wanted to make martial arts commerical and did publicity stunts from time to time. Again if I remember correctly he was a heir to the A&P food store chain and was relatively wealthy.

10/05/2009 10:05 AM

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