Count Dante Review

By | Monday, January 01, 2024 Leave a Comment
A few months back, I mentioned how I found out a co-worker's grandfather was friends with Count Dante. In doing some quick double-checking at the time, I learned that Scout Comics was then in the midst of publishing a comic book about Dante. "The Unauthorized (But Sort of True) Story of the Deadliest Man Who Ever Lived." I was certainly intrigue enough to pick the series up; although, frankly, I had no real idea what to expect.

The story is framed as taking place about a decade after Dante's passing, and it's set up as a journalist asking a former friend and colleague of Dante's about his life. Sidney Brown starts by telling how he first met Dante in Vietnam in 1967, where Dante rescued him from a prison camp. Sidney then continues to relay their (mostly joint) story as Dante opened some Chicago dojos and began hosting martial arts tournaments. This eventually led to the so-called "Dojo Wars" that resulted in the death of his friend, Jim. Though Danta does not go on a Death Wish style hunt for revenge, he begins making riskier and more reckless decisions. He eventually passes away -- following the spirit of Bruce Lee -- and, while internal hemorrhaging caused by a bleeding ulcer was listed as the official cause of death, Sidney knows it was from revenge plot against Dante himself.

Before cracking the first issue open, I assumed this was basically just a completely fictional story that happened to use Count Dante as the main character. That you could've replaced him with Shang-Chi or Bruce Lee's character from Enter the Dragon or any other generic martial arts character. But it turns out this is indeed an actual biography of Dante.

Sort of.

But maybe not?

See, the problem with trying to recount the details of Counte Dante's life is that even just a strict recounting of the facts of his life are so absolutely bonkers that you'd swear it was fiction. You could drop in just about any random set of events and most people wouldn't be able to tell. And that's basically what this comic story is.

I'm certainly not a full expert on Count Dante or know every detail about his life to point out what is or isn't accurate in the book. I could point out a few things that I know were altered for dramatic effect here (his pet lion cub, for example, was not actually killed but was sold to a local chapter of the Lion's Club) and there's a couple bits that are clearly fiction (he obviously did not fight the movie character Shaft) but this does follow the basic narrative of his life from the late '60s until his death in 1975. Yes, he did work a hair dresser. Yes, he did own a used car lot. Yes, he did get arrested for dynamiting another karate school. Yes, he did have a move called ‘Monkey Stealing a Peach’ that was basically just hitting somebody in their genitals.

So how much of this comic did J.C. Barbour just make up and how much is based on actual research? I have no idea. But, like I said, Dante lived a really bonkers life so does it really matter?

Wes Watson's art is fun. He does an suprisingly excellent job capturing people's likenesses with surprisingly few lines. His Chuck Norris really caught me off guard with how much he nailed it. Great storytelling, too; I was easily able to follow things along even as the story jumped from time periods or locations. Watson also does the art for several faux ads that poke fun at the pieces that ran in 1970s comic books. Those are all fun, but they unfortunately repeat the same ones in every issue.

Count Dante: The Unauthorized (But Sort of True) Story of the Deadliest Man Who Ever Lived wrapped up towards the end of 2023. There are six issues in total, each for $4.99 US. There is not a collected edition available currently and I'm unsure if/when one might come out. It seems like it could be one of those that only has a 50/50 chance of being collected, so if the book sounds at all interesting to you, I might suggest getting the individual issues now before you run into problems because there's that one issue that no one ever seems to have in stock. (Because there's always one!)

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