5701 in-depth character profiles from comics, games, movies

I-Ching (Wonder Woman ally) (DC Comics)

I-Ching


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

Context

I-Ching was the “wise Oriental mentor” for Wonder Woman when she lost her powers during the late 1960s (we call it the “karate mod era“). He turned her into a martial artist, spy and adventurer for a while.

Ching was a manifestation of writer Dennis O’Neil interest in some Asian martial arts and philosophies. Of course back then the available information was still crude, and it all looked terribly exotic and mysterious.

See the Wonder Woman (karate mod era) profile for more context.


Background

  • Real Name: Unrevealed – it is believed that “I-Ching” was a nickname
  • Marital Status: Widowed
  • Known Relatives: Lu-Shan (daughter), unnamed wife (deceased)
  • Group Affiliation: Former member of an unnamed monastery ; former agent of an American intelligence agency (perhaps Task Force X) ; mentor of Diana Prince
  • Base Of Operations: Di Prince’s Boutique, 301 Blocker Street, Lower East Side, New York City
  • Height: 5’3” Weight: 105 lbs.
  • Eyes: Presumably brown Hair: White (previously black)


Powers and Abilities

I-Ching was an aged, blind, inscrutable martial arts master and wise man before being an aged, blind, inscrutable martial arts master and wise man was cool (at least in the West). Despite his age, he can easily beat up groups of armed young men.

In proper comic book fashion, he has compensated for his blindness by acquiring impressive superhuman senses – he could, for instance, smell the poison on the tips of swords wielded by attackers. He’s also very good at identifying unclear noises, and can even sense magic – especially things that are both evil and supernatural. Though he can be surprised when the plot calls for it, I-Ching is extremely perceptive.

As a Mysterious Oriental Master™, he also has superlative mental and mystical attributes, and knows a lot of things. He has a remarkable ability to think several moves ahead and deduct pertinent information from tiny clues.

On top of that, he is quite skilled in counterspells and the occult — even when such lore is firmly rooted in Occidental folklore. He was able to prevent the powerful Morgana the Witch from using her spells, and could even force ghosts to become solid by Neutralising their Mystic-Linked Dispersal or Spirit Travel. Note, though, that all Rituals save Hypnosis were used in another book where Ching was more of a magician than in the core stories.

Ching can sense mystical items, beings and manifestations, which in some cases allows him to compensate for his lack of conventional sight.


History

I-Ching was a monk living high in the mountains, in an unrevealed Asian country – most likely China. He and his colleagues cultivated knowledge “from before men foolishly concluded that magic and science [were] different”, and were knowledgeable about the traditions and sciences of many lands.

During WWII, Ching was spotted in China, where he and his buddies rescued a crashed American pilot, Patrick McGuire. They helped McGuire return home, and Ching and McGuire remained friends.

In the 1950s, Ching’s wife died in unchronicled circumstances. What happened remains unrevealed, but his estranged daughter Lu Shan accused Ching of having murdered her. It is likely during this general time frame that Ching worked for some super-secret American intelligence agency.

Since a “General Stuart” was mentioned it is tempting to hypothesise that the agency was Task Force X – commanded by Jeb Stuart, formerly of Haunted Tank fame. It was mentioned that Ching was involved in a failed operation codenamed “Slam-Bang”.

It was presumably in the mid-1960s that the international terrorist and criminal Dr. Cyber learned of the monastery from which Ching originated – and that it held a fortune in gems and precious metals. While Ching was at the monastery, Cyber launched a paramilitary raid. Using bombs and guns, her killers destroyed the temple. I-Ching was wounded and had to flee. This may be at this point that he lost his sight- in the 1940s he still had working eyes.

Situation requires karate

Though Ching was not interested in vengeance, he knew of Cyber’s terrible plans and those had to be stopped for humanity’s sake. Through unrevealed mystic means, he located the former Wonder Woman, whom he intended to recruit.

While Diana had just lost her powers, Ching knew that she would help him and would learn martial arts at a highly accelerated pace. He was correct on both points, teaching her decades’s worth of knowledge in mere months so they could together oppose Dr. Cyber.

I-Ching encourages Diana Prince (Wonder Woman)

Ching and Diana, plus occasional allies such as Tim Trench, successfully opposed Cyber’s agents throughout the world (see the matching Wonder Woman entry for more). During a break in this conflict, Ching accompanied Diana to Paradise Island – Aphrodite’s Law, preventing a man from setting foot on the isle, was at that point suspended. After a series of tremendous battles in which the freedom of Paradise Island was won, Mr. Ching stayed behind for a while to study in the realm of the Amazons.

Coming back to Earth, Ching demonstrated that he could counterspell even a powerful magician such as Morgana the Witch. He was then summoned to Hong Kong, and his buddy McGuire (now operating an air freight company) flew him and Diana there. During the trip, they met with a young woman named Lu Shan, and the medallion she carried led I-Ching to the realisation that she was his long-lost daughter.

This was a trick – Lu Shan hated her father for what had happened to her mother, and had become an agent of Dr. Cyber to carry out her revenge. She had been planted to lure Ching into an ambush, and succeeded in shooting her father. Mr. Ching survived thanks to Diana taking him to a hospital, and was determined to talk to his wayward daughter. Learning that she’d fled into mainland China, Ching clandestinely entered the PRC to track her down.

As he looked for Lu Shan, Ching came to the village of Ashai, where he had many friends. However, the villagers had just been ordered to relocate to the North, where they feared that they would die from the cold. Ching decided that saving his friends was more important than finding Lu Shan right away. When Diana and McGuire also sneaked into mainland Chinese territory to look for him, Ching launched his plot with their help.

This plan involved a cache of WWII Japanese weapons and an old paddle boat, the courageous villagers being willing to abandon their lands and flee the PRC. Despite violent interference from the PLA, the former inhabitants of Ashai managed to leave the country to save themselves.

Wonder Woman 1960s karate training montage

Mr. Ching continued to mentor Diana and accompany her on their adventures to thwart Dr. Cyber and other menaces. These travels took them to a haunted inn where ghosts murdered travellers. Ching proved invaluable – he sensed the evil magic at work, and later forced a ghost strangling Diana to become solid before conking it out with his silver-tipped cane.

Using counterspells against the curse, the elder sage trapped the ghosts within the inn then set it on fire, so no more travellers would be murdered there.

The man of steel

A memorable case came when I-Ching was called to act as a consultant for Superman. The man of steel was getting increasingly weaker and vulnerable for no detectable reason. Mr. Ching started by enabling Superman to project his astral self to look for clues, but while they were meditating they were attacked by the Anti-Superman Gang. They caught Ching flat-footed and knocked him out, but the depowered Superman managed to take out the gunmen and saved the sage.

Superman was jubilant about having triumphed using just his courage and will, and considered requesting a permanent depowering – but I-Ching convinced him that it was important for the world to be protected by a fully-powered Superman. They resumed their work to restore the might of the man of steel, and found the missing power in the dimension of Quarrm.

A Quarrmite had been accidentally cast to Earth during the recent explosion of all the Earth’s kryptonite, and just being there resulted in tapping Superman’s power, intelligence and will. This phenomenon accelerated, making Superman ever more stupid, clumsy and cowardly while the Quarrmite, looking like a shadowy Superman, became his equal or more. Superman attempted to flee to stop the drain.

I-Ching and Diana tracked down and found the Quarrm creature, learning that it was dying without Superman’s power. They had to manipulate Superman into entering an apartment where the creature was lying in ambush in order to save it. However, the plan went awry, as the creature revealed that touching Superman would also produce a planet-destroying explosion.

Meanwhile, another Quarrm creature entered Earth, possessed the form of a parade float modelled after a giant Asian demon, and started rampaging. When the diminished Superman intervened, it stole part of his remaining power.

At this point three creatures each held a third of Superman’s power – Clark Kent, the demon and “Quarrm-Superman”. The demon defeated Kent, then started absorbing the might of Quarrm-Superman. The two Supermen allied, and together they managed to banish the demon.

Wonder Woman 1960s karate splash page

Each left with half the power, the two Supermen decided that their situation was untenable and that they had to fight to the death. I-Ching intervened, and announced that he would mystically neutralise the reaction that would cause a titanic explosion if the two touched. However, the all-out fight between two creatures each having half the power of Superman nevertheless ravaged the Earth.

As Superman looked in horror at the desolation, Mr. Ching snapped him and Quarrm-Superman out of the trance he had surreptitiously placed them in. The duel had not taken place physically – it had been a ruse of the elder sage to show them what would happen if they fought. The Quarrm-Superman agreed that he had no right being Superman and regretfully returned to his formless existence in Quarrm. Superman regained his full power and intelligence, although he asked to be left alone for a bit as he reflected upon what had happened.

Fist of legend

Ching later accompanied Diana to Tibet and then to the otherdimensional world of Newhon, proving invaluable in solving the situation and returning himself, Diana and Jonny Double to Earth. During this adventure, his murderous daughter Lu Shan was stranded on Newhon — see the relevant Wonder Woman entry (or Lu Shan’s entry) for more.

Events then took an abrupt turn. Ching was killed by a sniper, an ex-soldier gone postal in Manhattan. Hit in the spine, Ching died in Diana’s arms, as the Amazon called him the father she never had. When Diana took out the mad sniper, she accidentally knocked herself unconscious and became an amnesiac. Diana would soon resume being Wonder Woman, and the era under Ching’s mentorship seemed to be forever lost.

Into the mystic – post-Crisis appearances

There have been two sets of I-Ching appearances in the late 2000s, after 35 years of absence.

The first took place in 2006 – a photo showed a woman who looked like Princess Diana, in a white jumpsuit and fighting alongside I-Ching. This photo was taken while Diana had dropped out of the public eye, and it was loosely implied that something not unlike the “mod karate Wonder Woman” adventures occurred during this time. Nothing else is known.

One year later, I-Ching made more substantial appearances. Whether any pre-Crisis event happened in any form is still unclear, but this version of the character seems to be more powerful. As I’m writing this update, these adventures are still ongoing. There likely will be enough material to fully write up the post-Crisis I-Ching, rather than appending a set of notes to the pre-Crisis I-Ching entry.


Description

See illustrations.


Personality

Ching is the Inscrutable Oriental Zen Master™, an archetype that later became popular in the West as the diminutive Star Wars character Yoda. While to modern readers he comes across as an orientalist cliché, this was obviously not the author’s intent and is more a result of the times, 1960s comic book storytelling conventions, and the poor information available back then about the sundry Chinese, Japanese, Indian and other traditions Ching represented.

Although Ching promotes being detached from one’s emotions (especially anger, again much like Yoda) in order to better concentrate on the tribulations at hand, he has an excellent sense of humour and often quips.

Ching can’t seem to determine whether he should speak with excellent grammar or in Yoda English. He thus alternates between the two for no fathomable reason.

Ching keeps instilling wisdom — much of his dialogue is about what wise men said, or what sages think, or how righteous men behave, or what some have advanced. Some of it is cliché or overtly moralistic, but on the whole it’s good, solid advice.


Quotes

(Smashing armed, remote-controlled miniature Fokker triplanes attacking him) “Soon I shall qualify as World War One ace !”

“Rubbing your hands in rice will give them toughness ! Concentrate ! Put your whole will into your fingers when you strike ! Do not be stiff ! Your limbs must be limber as strings ! The human form can smash steel walls ! But you must believe it can !”

“Situation calls for karate ! Speedily, Diana, please !”

“The wise man does not question his refuge from the storm.”

(Diana and Ching are suddenly attacked by a large robot)
Diana (startled): “A huge Frankenstein doll !”
Ching (unflappable and with a doctoral air): “Please disable same.”

“Something is wrong ! It is not what is here ! …rather, what is missing ! I hear only adult voices… there are no children in this village !”

“Put fear aside ! The light of the righteous man is not so easily extinguished !”

“I am I-Ching, sir — Miss Prince’s teacher and guide to some of the mysteries of the East…”

“Diana, hear the advice of your aged mentor !”

“A moment, Superman ! I must first deal with the would-be assassins ! A burst of yogic energy to the brain-centers will insure that they do not awaken before our task is accomplished !”


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

“I-Ching”

Dex: 06 Str: 03 Bod: 05 Motivation: Upholding Good
Int: 12 Wil: 10 Min: 08 Occupation: Monk
Inf: 07 Aur: 06 Spi: 08 Resources {or Wealth}: 003
Init: 027 HP: 060

Powers:
Analytical smell/tracking scent: 08, Directional hearing: 04, Extended hearing: 01, Magic field: 07, Magic sense: 03, Neutralise (ML): 17

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Magic Field is Self Only
  • Magic Sense has both the Discerning and Detect Strength Bonuses – Ching can, among other things, tell black and white magic apart
  • Neutralise is limited to mystic or Mystic-Linked Powers, and is Minor Marginal
  • All Powers are Skilled

Skills:
Martial artist (incl. Techniques): 08, Occultist: 07

Advantages:
Language (Several unspecified forms of Chinese, possibly other Asian languages, German, Ancient Greek), Schtick (Unfettered Fist), Sharp Eye

Connections:
Diana Prince (High), Patrick McGuire (High), US Intelligence (Low)

Drawbacks:
MPR (Blind – given his abilities, this handicap is but a Minor Physical Restriction for I-Ching), Magician’s Code

Equipment:
Stout Cane [BODY 08, EV 03 (04 w/STR, 09 w/Martial artist). Note that the pommel of the cane is made of silver]

Rituals:

  • Hypnosis [Hypnosis: 04, Charisma (Interrogation): 09, Casting Time: About 5 minutes, Ritual components: A very quiet room, a loudly ticking clock and something to focus the subject’s gaze (say, a pocket watch), Limitations: the subject must be kept immobile during the session, and Hypnosis has No Range]. Ching’s Hypnosis Ritual was used to interrogate an agent of Dr. Cyber despite her conditioning, and works like a normal hypnosis session. Charisma is the primary use, but Ching then used Hypnosis to implant a suggestion that the agent should guide them to Cyber’s HQ.
  • Yogic energy burst [Sleep: 07, Casting time: One Phase, Ritual components: None, Limitations: The subject must be immobile during the entire Casting Time, and Sleep has No Range]. This Ritual has Ching lay his hands on the subject, who is plunged into a deep slumber.
  • Astral power restoration. A plot-device Ritual not amenable to game description. When Ching used this, Superman’s powers became a Spirit Travel entity, which could Detect the remainder of the Man of Tomorrow’s powers (which had been Drained by an alien), fly there and fight to take back most of the APs stolen by the Drain – perhaps by Draining them back. While the Spirit Travel entity was gone Superman was powerless. The subject needs to be willing, and Ching needs to concentrate intensely to instruct the Spirit Travel entity, keep it focused and allow it to fly back and enter the subject – capping all of his AVs at 02 during the whole length of the Ritual.
  • Ball of green fire [Detect (Known, specific life force): 07, Casting time: Ten minutes, Components: A traditional brazier, and various powders of unrevealed nature. Bonus: Detect has a Special +14 Range, Limitation: Detect doesn’t reveal the information, one has to follow the flying ball (which moves at the speed of a man walking)]. When he uses this Ritual, Ching pours special powders into an old Asian brasier, and a ball of green spectral fire rises from it. The ball will slowly fly toward what Ching is concentrating – in the published example, the stolen life force and powers of Superman. Ching has to follow the ball (which he perceives through his Magic Sense Power) ; the ball will fly through walls and the like, which presumably can make it difficult to follow in some circumstances.
  • Vision trance. Another plot-device Ritual ; it has No Range and can only be used on willing subjects, though when it was used Ching deceived the subjects as to what the Ritual would actually do. Ching can make all subjects whose brow he’s touching experience a very realistic, shared hallucination ; the subjects not being resisting they will assume that these events are actually taking place. Ching will have the hallucination respond to the subject’s actions, further heightening the impression that this is all really happening. All participants remain completely immobile for as long as Ching can concentrate – probably a few hours – no matter which actions they think they are taking as they are in Ching’s virtual reality simulation.

By Sébastien Andrivet

Source of Character: Wonder Woman issues in 1969-1972.

Helper(s): Peter Piispanen, Darci

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