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Adventures of Jack Burton

Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

enik1138-at-popapostle-dot-com
Adventures of Jack Burton: Old Trouble in Little China Adventures of Jack Burton
"Old Trouble in Little China"
Big Trouble in Little China #21 (BOOM! Studios)
Written by Fred Van Lente
Illustrated by Victor Santos
Colors by Gonzalo Duarte
Letters by Ed Dukeshire
Cover by Jeffrey "Chamba" Cruz
February 2016

 

Jack and Winona find themselves stuck in Chinatown of 1906.

 

Story Summary

 

At the dawn of the California gold rush, three Chinese immigrants, two men and a woman, arrive in San Francisco by ship.

 

Over 50 years later, in 1906, Jack and Winona find themselves stranded in Chinatown's past. Their landing on top of the leader of the Hip Wee tong kills him and they are in the middle of a very angry bunch of tong members. Thanks to Winona's martial arts skills and Jack's dumb luck, they emerge relatively unscathed and are helped by a dapper Chinese businessman named Zhou. He believes his friend Egg Shen can help them. Shocked, Jack and Winona follow him to Chinatown's seedy underworld, where Zhou takes them to a young(er) Egg Shen, wasted in an opium den. Jack and Winona tell Egg their story that Egg's own future self sent them here, but he doesn't believe them and refuses to help before passing out.

 

Zhou believes Egg can be talked into helping in time and takes Jack and Winona for clean clothes at his business, Wing Kong Trading Company. They learn that Zhou's western name is David...as in David Lo Pan!

 

Elsewhere, a blind doppelganger of Jack suddenly appears in San Francisco and heads into a bar for looking for the real Jack. It gets into an altercation with an assassin hired by the Hip Wee tong to kill Jack, but the doppelganger's supernatural powers are too much and the assassin is killed himself. The doppelganger leaves the bar, stating, "I will find Jack Burton."

 

CONTINTUED IN BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA #22

 

Notes from the Jack Burton chronology

 

Though the events of this issue take place in 1906, the chronology of the characters follows the 2015 events of "All-In".

 

Characters appearing or mentioned in this issue

 

Egg Shen

Zhao (David Lo Pan)

Chin (in flashback only)

Jack Burton (aka No Sleeves)

Winona Chi

Metal-Shirt Wo (Wo Lee Hem, deceased)

Ming Sek

Catholic priest (unnamed)

Father Finnegan (mentioned only)

Fancypants Dan

Charley

Jack's doppelganger

 

Didja Know?

 

This issue was published with the title "Old Trouble in Little China", presumably intended as the title of the entire storyline (issues 21-25). I have used it as just the title of this particular issue.

 

 

 

Didja Notice?

 

This issue takes place on Sunday, April 17, 1906, as stated when Jack and Winona arrived there at the end of "All-In".  In the real world, April 17, 1906 was a Tuesday, not a Sunday.

 

Page 1 describes the hills surrounding the bay of Yerba Buena Cove named for Saint Francis. This is a real world area of Yerba Buena Cove in the modern city of San Francisco.

 

Page 1 also refers to the lure of easy fortune wafting all the way across the Pacific to the Celestial Kingdom. "Celestial Kingdom" is a name associated with China during the Qing dynasty (1644-1912).

 

A brig called Eagle is said to have come through the Golden Gate to Yerba Buena Cove. A brig was a sailing vessel popularly used by navies and merchants in the 18th and 19th Centuries. The Golden Gate is the strait that opens San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean. The Eagle was an actual brig that brought the first immigrants from China to California in 1848, two men and a woman, as described on page 2. As the story progresses it seems likely the two men are Lo Pan and Egg Shen (confirmed in later issues). The woman was the love of Egg's life, Chin (revealed in "Bad Weather Comin'").

 

The Hip Yee tong (an historical tong introduced at the end of "All-In") is referred to as the "Hip Wee tong" on page 6 and in later issues.

 

On page 6, one of the Hip Yee members refers to himself and the others Jack and Winona are facing as "hatchet men". These were the salaried soldiers of the Hip Yee.

 

The martial arts moves depicted and named during the duel between Winona and the hatchet men are actual moves in various styles of martial arts fighting (with the exception of "Deez Nuts", which is a gag, though still a potentially effective move!).

 

Zhao tells Jack and Winona that he is with the Six Companies, trying to improve the lives of Chinese in San Francisco. This refers to the Six Companies of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association in San Francisco, an historical group founded in 1882.

 

The underground Chinatown Zhao takes Jack and Winona to on page 11 has long been an urban legend about the area. There were once tunnels that had been dug by Chinatown's criminal element to allow unseen passage to spots around the neighborhood, but most were collapsed or sealed during the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Winona mentions the quake here as a thing of the past, but the actual quake occurred on April 18, 1906...one day after the events of this issue.

 

On page 13, Jack tells Egg Shen to lay off "chasing the dragon" while he explains their situation. "Chasing the dragon" is a slang term that originated in Hong Kong for inhaling the vapor of heated chemicals or drugs to achieve a high. In Egg's case, he implies on page 14 that he is high on opium.

 

On page 14, Winona tells Egg she has a "mini-computer" (smartphone) and Egg asks if she means an abacus. An abacus is an ancient type of calculator, still used by merchants and clerks in many parts of the world.

Abacus

 

Winona tries to suggest that Egg could maybe use her smartphone to get stock tips and become a wealthy man like in Back to the Future II. Back to the Future II is a 1989 science-fiction film in which one of the characters obtains a sports almanac from the future, allowing him to place winning bets on the outcomes of sporting events and becoming extremely rich, changing the course of Earth history in the process.

 

On page 15, Egg discovers Kandy Klash on Winona's smartphone. This is a play on the real world Candy Crush game released in 2012.

 

After failing to gain Egg's help, Zhou takes Jack and Winona to his business, Wing Kong Trading Company. Jack, of course, recognizes it as the company owned by Lo Pan in 1986. Zhou reveals that he took the western name of David and is, in fact, David Lo Pan. He says he and Egg came to the U.S. at the beginning of the California gold rush (which would have been about 1848).

 

On page 17, Zhou mentions Chang-Di, the God of the East. In Big Trouble in Little China, Lo Pan needs a girl with green eyes to appease the demonic god he worships, Ching Dai. As far as I can tell, both gods are pieces of mythology made up for the Jack Burton universe (though there is a Chinese god called Wen Chang Di Jun, the god of literature).

 

Zhou's shadow on page 18 is the silhouette of Lo Pan in his costume from Big Trouble in Little China.

 

The final scene of the issue takes place in the Old Ship Saloon. This is an actual bar in San Francisco, established in 1851 within the hulk of the grounded ship Arkansas. However, "The Company You Keep" depicts the grounded Arkansas itself as a bar, as if the story takes place much earlier than 1906, like around 1851.


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