‘The Karate Kid’ Needed DC Comics To Sign off on Its Title

The Karate Kid became one of the biggest hit movies of 1984. And the franchise it launched remains popular to this day (see: Cobra Kai). However, even now, star Ralph Macchio maintains that he wasn’t a fan of the film’s title. As it turns out, the filmmakers had to fight to keep The Karate Kid’s title. They even had to seek out special permission from DC Comics.

Jaden Smith and Ralph Macchio at 'The Karate Kid' premiere in 2010
Jaden Smith and Ralph Macchio at ‘The Karate Kid’ premiere in 2010 | Michael Caulfield/WireImage

‘The Karate Kid’ had a very different title in other countries

Like any other devoted fan base, The Karate Kid fanatics love to debate about various details relating to the franchise. Perhaps the most common is whether Daniel’s (Macchio) tournament-winning crane kick was actually an illegal move. But the title isn’t often one that pops up in conversation. Still, it’s interesting to wonder how the movie would be received with a different title. 

For instance, The Karate Kid was released in many other countries as The Moment of Truth. The reason reportedly was because karate wasn’t as marketable a concept in these parts of the world. Would The Karate Kid have endured if it had a less family-friendly (and more vague) title? Thanks to the filmmakers’ persistence, fans never have to find out.

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But DC Comics has a superhero with the same name

DC Comics became the deciding factor in whether or not The Karate Kid could use that title. As it turns out, DC has a little-known character named Karate Kid. Introduced in the comics in 1966, the superhero is the alter-ego of Val Armorr. A member of the Legion of Super-Heroes in the 30th century, the futuristic hero is touted as the greatest martial artist of all time.

Karate Kid has even developed a “super karate” ability that allows him to face off against seemingly more powerful superheroes. The character was redesigned in 2019. DC is mostly known for Superman and Batman, the two most popular DC superheroes. Karate Kid’s only film appearance is the 2014 animated film JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time, where Dante Basco provides his voice.

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‘Cobra Kai’ reinvented the franchise with a new title

Macchio must have been revealed when Cobra Kai ditched the franchise’s original title. Of course, The Karate Kid wouldn’t have made sense for the Netflix series. For starters, Macchio is in his late 50s now. And more importantly, the series doesn’t even position him as the main character.

Instead, Cobra Kai focuses on Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), Daniel’s former rival. This shift in perspective helps the show stand apart from the movies. Even though it builds on that story considerably, Cobra Kai is — in some ways — very different from The Karate Kid. The use of a new title reflects that and opens the series to new fans too.