Jackie Chan. You've seen the films, you've read the interviews, you've bought the t-shirts. Now Asian's foremost action hero hits the pages of a new comic book release, thanks entirely to the sheer tenacity of Chan fan, and friend, Renee Witterstaetter. Renee began her comic book career at DC, where she worked on their Superman titles for two years. She later moved to Marvel, working as both a writer and editor on The She-Hulk, The Punisher andThe Silver Surfer. Witterstaetter first got turned on to the world's only live action superhero in 1992 when a friend talked her into seeing Armour 01 God. "It was part of a New York Chinatown film festival being staged by Peter Chow," she recalls. "Id never really seen any Hong Kong movies. I thought it might be like a Bruce Lee movie, but (the film) just caught me with its sense of fun. It wasn't so much a martial arts films, it was martial arts with acrobatics and stunts and fights and characters. I came out of the theatre feeling totally satisfied." Enthused by this new phenomenon she had discovered, Witterstaetter proposed a Jackie Chan comic book to her bosses at Marvel, and was soon en route to Hong Kong to meet the man himself for preliminary negotiations. Her first encounter with Chan, on the set of Crime Story, was discouraging. "Jackie was sitting in the middle of this room, wearing these dark glasses he sometimes wears that cover almost half his face,' Renee remembers. "He was reading a newspaper and, when I was introduced to him, he said "Dont talk to me. I'm in a bad mood today'. Undeterred, Witterstaetter took a seat near the star, and started talking to someone else. After a while, Chan brightened up, and the two became fast friends, with Witterstaelter subsequently spending weeks at a time on the set of Supercop and Drunken Master 2. "I've got used to Jackie and his moods by now." she says. "He's definitely not a morning person!" Alter becoming frustrated with her inability to talk to Chinese people on and around the set, Rene later took up Cantonese lessons. "I teased Jackie that I'd be able to listen in on all his private conversations." she recalls, "and he just said: 'Oh, I'II just speak Mandarin'." On her return to the New York offices of Marvel Comics, Renee faced a further blow. Editor-in-chief Tom DeFalco had decided against going ahead with the proposed Chan book. 'His argument was that nobody wanted to read a comic book about a (racial epithet deleted)," recalls Wittersraetter. "Having said that, this was the same person who had turned down Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and a Jurassic Park comic book." Renee subsequently left Marvel for Topps Comics, where she has worked for three years, producing among other things, the aforementioned Jurassic Park book. The initial six issue story of the Jackie Chan comic was conceived by Hong Kong movie superfan Ric Meyers, who based the concept on the character Chan played in Armour of God and Operation Condor. The story, The Arsenal of God, is being drawn by famed comic artist Mike Golden, whose earlier work includes The Micronauts and The'Nam. He is also the co-creator of the comic book/TV cartoon character Bucky O'Hare.Golden is now a huge fan of Hong Kong cinema, though like most American fans, has had to resort to viewing bootleg video copies of Chan's films, seeing as so few of them are available legitimately. How does Renee view the long road between idea and execution? "Things happen for a reason, and now the time is right," she observes, noting that, back in 1992, Jackie Chan had nothing like the U.S. following he now has post-Rumble in the Bronx. "Right now, the comic market is down and nothing is really selling, so this is the right time for us to get maximum exposure." Each issue of the comic also features photos and information on Jackie and his films. If the initial print run of Arsenal of God performs as expected, the first six issues will be collected into one volume, and Witterstaetter is also preparing her own book on Chan's life and work.
[You can purchase the Comics in most Comic book stores, or thru Jackie's U.S. Fan Club. Issues 1 & 2 are already out.]