Chang, Mr. Mr. Chang was created by A.E. Apple (Rafferty) and appeared in thirty-three stories in Detective Story Magazine and two short story collections from 1919 to 1931, beginning with “Mr. Chang” (Detective Story Magazine, Sept. 9, 1931). Mr. Chang is one of the greatest Yellow Peril villains in the pulps. However, Mr. Chang differs from similar characters, like Fu Manchu (I) and like Li Shoon, in that Chang has no aspirations beyond assembling wealth. Toward this end he is willing to do just about anything, murder being a mere inconvenience to him. Mr. Chang is portrayed as being completely ruthless; in his own words, “I have no scruples. I am a criminal without a single redeeming virtue.” In the classical Greek sense he does have one virtue, however: areté, the quality of excellence detached from ethics. Mr. Chang is very, very good at being Mr. Chang. He is incapable of being flustered, regardless of circumstance. He is committed to building wealth through criminal means: “He devoted his energies and talents to it as effectively as if…to an honest calling.” Temporary lulls in fortune or losses of money, even down to having only pocket change, do not bother him. He has reached the top of his profession, the “archmurderer of the century.” He is a legend of terror in China, and is wanted in every country and in every state in America. Chang murders, blackmails, drugs (his yellow-bark brandy removes morals from its victims), survives capture and sure death a dozen times, endures torture and imprisonment of three years, survives a trip to Hell (in which he steals everything not nailed down) and a resurrection, and continues to steal, steal, steal, an “emperor of crime” to the last.
Chang is originally of Chinese descent. His father was a “prince” and a “mandarin of the first class.” Unfortunately, Chang was a brilliant rotter even as a child; he committed his first murder at age nine and after years of “spectacular crime” his family connections could no longer shield him. He was forced to flee China, a step ahead of the police, and he made it to the Philippines with only the ruby buttons he’d cut from his father’s robe. From this lowly start, as a “wild man from Luzon with a wagon show,” he made it up to controlling a great criminal empire. His strength is on occasion superhuman, and he is a capable fighter.