One night, young thief Richard Dragon gained entry into private grounds outside the city of Kyoto. When he attempted to steal a valuable jade Buddha, he was discovered and stopped by an old man and his companion, a young black martial arts student. Humiliated at being disarmed and rendered helpless, Dragon accepted their offer to stay with them and learn the martial arts. "I sense a possible destiny of greatness," said the old man, who Richard would come to call O-Sensei. Over the next seven years, Dragon became a master of the martial arts and grew to become friends with Benjamin Turner, the other student. His spirit flourished and he became a peaceful man, dedicated to using his martial arts skill only when reason failed. Turner and Dragon were soon recruited by Barney Ling, head of the law-keeping espionage agency known as G.O.O.D., to join the organization. Dragon and Ben accomplished their first mission for Ling: the downfall of Yemenite slaver, Aki. This done, the two graduated from O-Sensei's dojo, moving to Lower Manhattan to form a martial arts school.
With the popularity of Far Eastern martial arts movies in the 1970's, comic book companies looked to benefit from this genre by introducing their own characters. Marvel Comics introduced such memorable characters as Iron Fist and Shang Chi, while DC Comics introduced Richard Dragon and Ben Turner. Although the interest in martial arts based stories never proved to be as great as anticipated, these characters became well established secondary characters in their respective universes. Dragon was first created by Dennis O'Neil and Jim Berry for a pulp Kung-Fu novel titled 'Dragon's Fists: Kung-Fu Master Richard Dragon,' which was published a year before the authors adapted Dragon and his tale into the comic series Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter.
Richard Dragon’s character has not evolved very much over the course of his publication history. He is often depicted as one of the paragons of the DC martial arts community, pleased by his focus on meditation and serenity when the world’s heroes do not require him. He is also the martial arts mentor of many heroes, including among them Bruce Wayne and Helena Bertinelli.
In 2004, the Richard Dragon title was revived, with the character being revamped by Chuck Dixon and Scott McDaniel. In this short-lived series, Richard Dragon is a bullied school kid who enrols in a karate dojo to better himself. Unfortunately, the dojo's instructor was a "mail-order" black belt, who is later defeated by Ben Turner, who agrees to train young Dragon, replacing the role of O-Sensei. While this series retconned many aspects of Dragon's original history, it is unknown to what extent his new origins affected his previous appearances. The retcons introduced in this series paved the way for further retcons with Lady Shiva's origin in Cassandra Cain's Batgirl series.
Richard Dragon later appears after Infinite Crisis, where his appearance matches that of the Richard Dragon seen before the Dixon reboot. In this story, Dragon makes references to a conversation he had with Vic Sage in the Question series, contradicting at least some of Chuck Dixon's Richard Dragon series. However, Shiva's new retconned origin is referred to a few times after this, leaving the canonicity of Dragon's origins in indefinite contention.
Major Story Arcs
Death of Carolyn Wu-San
Richard and Ben, after establishing the location of their new school, would later meet Carolyn Wu-San, the O-Sensei's goddaughter, who was studying at New York University. Soon after, Carolyn would be kidnapped by the Swiss, a mercenary who had been hired to acquire laser frequency codes, to which he believed Carolyn had knowledge of. The Swiss was relentlessly pursued by Richard, who later fought and killed him, but failed to save Carolyn in the process.
Still racked by guilt, Richard is contacted by Barney Ling to track down Guano Cravat, the Swiss’ employer. Once there, Richard is confronted by Sandra Wu-San (now reborn as Lady Shiva), the sister of Carolyn, who believes Dragon is responsible for her death. After a quick fight, Richard convinces Shiva of his innocence and the two team-up to defeat Cravat. Named for the Hindu goddess of destruction, Shiva’s soul is as violent as Dragon's is tranquil, so the two would become strong allies for the years to come, bringing balance and perspective to each other's lives.
Richard takes a trip to Gotham City, visiting the dojo of an old friend. While there, he is confronted by the renowned Karate-killer known as the Stylist, who wishes to fight Dragon to the death. Their fight ensues, with Dragon taking the advantage, but is interrupted by Batman, who mistakenly identifies Dragon as a mugger. Dragon now reluctantly enters into battle with Batman, the two matching each other blow-for-blow, which the Stylist uses as a chance to escape. Driven to a standstill by Dragon's skill, Batman relents, allowing Richard a chance to explain himself. Convinced by his story, Batman helps Dragon deduce that the Stylist wants to acquire a key to a deposit box - a key that Dragon has in his possession. The Key belongs to Calvin Curtis, an eccentric billionaire who Dragon had saved a year prior, and the deposit box likely holds a small fortune inside.
Dragon and Batman track down the Stylist to a fortress in the Yucatan jungle. Once there, they discover the Stylist was merely an assassin, hired by Carlos Esteban, the former partner of Curtis. The Stylist, ashamed at his own failure and his murder of an innocent, tries to renege on his contract, but is interrupted by Dragon and Batman. In the ensuing fight with Esteban's forces, Dragon is almost killed by Esteban, but is saved by the Stylist. The fight is wrapped up, but the Stylist escaped. Tracking him down, Dragon finds the Stylist has walked into quicksand, regaining his honour by committing suicide. A while later, Dragon and Batman open the deposit box. They find that Curtis' riches were to go to Esteban, provided he stay within the law, otherwise they would go to charity. He leaves Dragon a keepsake from their encounter, which Dragon values.
Although the martial artists desired only peace, such was not their destiny. Adventure sought them out, and they traversed the globe, using their skills at kung-fu to aid those causes they deemed just. They made several enemies, including the pirate Slash, the woodsman Hatchett, the bizarre Preying Mantis, and the aforementioned industrialist Cravat. One of the most tragic events of Dragon's life occurred when Ben was brainwashed by one of their foes, Professor Ojo, and became a renegade martial artist known as the Bronze Tiger. Investigating, Dragon discovered that Ben was now in the employ of Barney Ling, who was using Ben's brainwashed powers for his own ends. Dragon would free Ben from Ling’s control and help him recover from his brainwashing. After his many adventures, he became a traveling martial arts teacher, often showing up at just the right moment to help those in need. He has trained multiple fighters such as Nightwing, Oracle, Huntress, Green Arrow and Catwoman, as well as others that followed the path of Lady Shiva, such as Kitty Kumbata and Wam Wam, who would later become members of the Circle of Six.
Training a Butterfly
Richard’s most devoted student, however, would likely be Vic Sage, the hero known as the Question, who trained with Richard under Lady Shiva’s discretion. Knowing that Vic’s macho ego would not allow him to take instruction from a superior man, Richard allowed himself to become disabled before his new student arrived, making Vic more receptive to his teachings overall. Richard trained Vic both in martial arts and eastern philosophy, forcing him to question his world view and let go of much of his anger. Richard said that Shiva had saved Sage because she saw a passion for combat in him. Richard, on the other hand, thought that Sage's passion was for curiosity. Regardless, Richard realized that for Sage to have a spiritual awakening he had to first let go of the self-destructive behaviours that Hub City brought out in him. Thus, Richard sent Sage back home. Sage adopted the identity of the Question once again, futilely trying to save the city.
Just as Sage's doomed efforts to save Hub City threatened to destroy him, Dragon arrived to advise his student. Dragon finally convinced Sage that his crusade to save Hub City was no longer doing anything but destroying him. When Sage collapsed from exhaustion and his injuries, Richard revealed that he was capable of using his legs perfectly, and put Sage in the wheelchair, citing this self-imposed disability as a learning experience that would help transform and develop him further. Dragon meets Shiva on the outskirts of Hub City, who has procured a helicopter to take Vic and Dragon away. Richard escorts Vic out of Hub City as Shiva walks towards the chaos, destruction and violence that Sage and Richard were rejecting.
Out of the Past
At a later date, Dragon re-connects with Shiva, the two travelling together once again, developing a complex love/hate relationship. In the years since they last met, Shiva has become more cruel and vicious, something which influences Dragon greatly. Their journey culminates in a death match where Dragon wins by cheating, almost kills Shiva, but gives into his lust instead. Disgusted with himself, Richard falls into a deep depression, competing in underground fighting rings in the hopes that someone will put him out of his misery.
He is later confronted by Ben Turner, who offers him a chance to take down the Circle of Six and Shiva as an act of redemption. Dragon agrees, and after a series of adventures, confronts Shiva once again in mortal combat. The fight is even, but concludes with Shiva's victory after she utilizes her signature technique: the Leopard Blow. Afterwards, Dragon would be revived by Neron, as the two made a special contract previously. Despite his loss, Richard smiles as he walks off, seemingly having found some measure of peace.
Richard would later help the Birds of Prey in their fight against the Twelve Brothers in Silk. He mentions to Huntress that he has a "karma debt" to relieve. Richard also helped train Renee Montoya to become the new Question, as Richard and Vic had kept contact throughout the years. Though his methods seemed a little extreme to Renee at first, he proved a great help to her in the end, even aiding her in coping with Vic's eventual death from cancer.
Ricardo Diaz Jr.
Ricardo Diaz Jr. started his training with the League of Assassins after his father was killed. Junior learned extensively from Richard Dragon, but allegedly killed him when he realised Richard was also trying to teach him peace, patience, and compassion; things Junior thought would make him soft. In a morbid fashion of honouring his fallen mentor, Diaz took the name Richard Dragon for himself.
Junior came back to Seattle to take it over by killing the major gang leaders who controlled Chinatown, the Waterfront, and the Street Corners. He later intercepted Shado on her way to fight Count Vertigo and easily defeated her, giving her a threat to relay to Green Arrow that Seattle now belongs to him. Diaz places a thirty-million-dollar bounty on Green Arrow, which three members of the Longbow Hunters (Brick, Killer Moth, and Red Dart) intend to split. Green Arrow is able to defeat all of them with the help of his young half-sister, Emiko. Green Arrow is then reunited with his old partner, John Diggle, after Dragon attempts to kill Diggle by defenestration. In a fight against both Arrow and Diggle, Diaz is able to significantly injure both of them, but is ultimately defeated.
Powers and Abilities
Although lacking in any superpowers, Richard Dragon is considered one of the pre-eminent fighters in the DC universe, having been extensively taught by the O-Sensei and independently mastering every empty hand discipline on the planet. He is considered as an equal among other elite fighters such as Lady Shiva, Connor Hawke, Dick Grayson, Bruce Wayne, and his old partner Ben Turner. He is also a master of philosophy, specifically as it concerns to a heroic lifestyle, and has guided those such as the Huntress or Oracle as to the best path they should live. Dragon also possesses a talisman given to him by the O-Sensei, a small claw-shaped amulet carved from jade called the Dragon's Claw. This totem seems to mystically collect and direct Dragon's energies in times of great need.
Richard Dragon appears in the Young Justice companion comic. There is very little known about him, and he has only been seen as a signed poster on the wall of Wally West's room. It appears that he is some sort of famous fighter.
Richard Dragon appears in this book as an older, grumpier version of the one found in Cowan and O'Neil's Question series. As can be implied from the dialogue, it seems that Dragon, much like in his original continuity, was Vic Sage's martial arts teacher.
Richard Dragon appears in the animated film Batman: Soul of the Dragon.
Unlike the comics, Richard Dragon is depicted as Asian, visually inspired by Bruce Lee from the film Enter the Dragon.
Trained by the O-Sensei alongside Lady Shiva, Jade Nguyen, Ben Turner, Rip Jagger and Bruce Wayne, his peaceful life is interrupted by Rip sacrificially killing Jade with the mystical Soul Breaker, aiming to open an ancient gate the O-Sensei guards, which is the opening to the home dimension of the serpent god Nāga. Richard and the others kill the demons, but to close the gate, O-Sensei sacrifices himself by entering Nāga's realm. The chamber then collapses, leaving only the gate intact.
Years later, Richard discovers that millionaire Jeffrey Burr, leader of a dangerous snake cult named Kobra, has gained possession of the gate, with Burr intending to become Nāga's earthly avatar. Richard enlists the help of Bruce, Shiva and Ben to combat the cult, tracking them to a heavily fortified island where the cult has taken the gate. Arriving by plane, Batman, Richard, Shiva and Ben parachute down and penetrate Kobra's defenses, battling the entire might of their forces. Vanquishing their opponents, they corner Burr at the gate, who turns Soul Breaker against himself, opening the doorway. Nāga emerges, having possessed O-Sensei's body, and swiftly overwhelms the companions. Nāga reveals that Richard is his actual destined host, and tries to seduce him with promises of power, but Richard refuses and, with some help from Bruce, uses Soul Breaker to banish him by stabbing O-Sensei. Freed from Nāga's domination, O-Sensei bids his students farewell before dying in their arms. In order to close the gate forever, Richard, Bruce, Shiva and Ben enter Nāga's dimension with the Soul Breaker. Once the gate has closed, the four prepare for battle against Nāga and his demon horde.
Dragon is voiced by Mark Dacascos.
The character Ricardo Diaz is a reference to Richard Dragon.
Although Dragon does not directly appear in the game, he was mentioned in Shiva's assassin profile in the beginning of the game, alongside David Cain and Nyssa Raatko, as being her associates.
Richard Dragon first debuted in this paperback novel written by Jim Dennis, which is a pseudonym for the two co-writers Dennis O'Neil and Jim Berry. The first four issues of 'Kung-Fu Fighters' is an adaptation of this novel.
Through numerous flashbacks, readers learn that Richard Dragon's parents were very wealthy. Dragon, in defiance, wasted his childhood by creating a lot of chaos for himself and the family. He was kicked out of numerous schools and universities and refused to conform to his father's rules. As a young adult, Dragon became a thief in Japan and attempted to rob an older gentleman. The man ridicules Dragon, but finds that he has the ability to do good things if he can change his attitude. This man, referred to as O-Sensei, is a Kung-Fu master. He teaches Dragon martial arts and how to live life in a positive way. With his new skills, Dragon joins an espionage agency called G.O.O.D. and serves as an agent for a number of years. After he leaves the agency, Dragon becomes a martial arts teacher.
In the opening pages, Dragon's friend Carolyn comes to him at his Manhattan dojo to ask for help. In a quick fight scene, Carolyn is kidnapped by a male villain named The Swiss. He also murders Carolyn's uncle in a quest to locate a series of numbers. Dragon begins his race against time to rescue Carolyn. Along the way, Richard gets some help from another former student of the O-Sensei, a tough streetwise black fellow named Benjamin. Unfortunately, Carolyn is killed in Richard's final confrontation with the Swiss. As an act of revenge, Richard murders the Swiss, avenging Carolyn. As Dragon returns to his dojo, he receives a call from the Swiss' employer, who wishes to employ Richard. Enraged, Dragon hangs up, vowing to live his life in the pursuit of the destruction of the man's criminal empire.