martial artist

In Detective Comics 955, Christine Montclair inspires Cassandra Cain to go forth and rescue Batman and the rest of her team/pseudo-family by reading from a novel/story book by a woman called Carolyn Wu-san. Unbeknownst to Cassandra, Carolyn Wu-san also happens to be Cass’ aunt.

Introduced in another book earlier in the DC Rebirth line in Supergirl’s title, where Cat Grant mentions that she’d taken a body-language reading course with Carolyn. Interestingly it appears that she might be both famous in her own right AND might actually be alive somewhere in the DCU, when her past incarnations seemed to exist to motivate her sister Sandra (Lady Shiva) into going on a rampage by dying.

Created for Richard Dragon: Kung-Fu Fighter 2, a title which was attempting to ride the same martial arts fad which would give both to Iron Fist. Carolyn was a New York-based college student who first had the indignity by being kidnapped by some guys due to her godfather being famous DCU martial artist O-Sensei, followed by her getting kidnapped a second time by a Swiss spy known as… err… the Swiss.

After torturing her for information she didn’t have, the Swiss having believed her uncle had been sending her valuable information, she was then promptly killed in a motorcycle accident as the Swiss attempted to escape a pursuing Richard Dragon. Richard then followed the wounded spy to a junkyard and beat him to death.

This was followed shortly afterwards by the debut of Lady Shiva, who decided to murder Richard, believing he was responsible for Carolyn’s death (which he sort of was, chasing a panicking motorcyclist down a mountain road and all). It being the 1970s, Sandra also developed feelings for Richard, although later writers were a bit more vague as to what those “feelings” might be.

After the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Carolyn disappeared from the continuity, only to re-emerge in Lady Shiva’s new backstory in Cassandra Cain’s solo Batgirl series. There Carolyn and Sandra grew up together in Detroit, where they became well known for their body-reading abilities which translated into neat martial arts-dancing. Unfortunately for Carolyn, assassin David Cain had also noticed them, and, deciding that Carolyn was holding her sister back by existing, he violently murdered her.

After the furious Sandra eventually tracked him down, David gave her an ultimatum, if she agreed to have his kid, he’d give her access to the facilities and teachers to make her truely the Best Martial Artist in the World. And if she refused, he and the rest of the League of Assassins would just murder her.

She picked the former, skipped down once Cass was born, and spent the next 17 or so years looking for someone worthy enough to defeat and kill her… What with her decision and Carolyn’s death weighing so much on her that she wanted to die but couldn’t go through with just committing suicide. Yaaaay.

All of this is contrasted with the new Detective Comics version of Shiva, who appears to have, at least initially, joined the League of Assassins out of a genuine desire to make the world a better place… Only for Ra’s al Ghul to turn her into a terrifying extremist when the full extent of his plans was revealed to her.

There is also the interesting meta-plot here, where Carolyn’s deaths in the past led Lady Shiva down a path which would lead her to become a bloodthirsty monster, whereas here Carolyn manages to inspire Cass to save the day despite them never having met OR know they were related to one another. Neat.

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There was a lack of Asian American leading men when I was growing up and that wasn’t something I was conscious of until I started getting into acting, and going to auditions. I noticed all the roles I was going for were these stereotypical Asian roles, like the martial artist or the tech nerd. I wasn’t going for these leading man roles.

Ross Butler photographed by Naohmi Monroe for Local Wolves Magazine

Daredevil: Boy who was blinded gains super senses and his hyper awareness becomes his super power.

Jessica Jones: Abuse victim becomes the strongest woman in the city and even builds an immunity to mind control.

Luke Cage: Was wrongly incarcerated and the side effects of illegal experiments turns him into a bullet proof black man protecting Harlem.

Iron Fist: Asian-American torn between escaping stereotypes and feeling estranged from his culture, discovers he’s from a long line of mystical martial arts masters and gains the ability to use his chi to save the world.

Iron Fist: White boy can do Asian thing better than Asians