Shang-Chi: a look back at the origins of the Marvel hero and his worst enemy in comic books

Nice side: Shang-Chi, unsung hero of Marvel. Side villains: the Mandarin that the House of Ideas had already used in “Iron Man 3” in a very revised and very corrected version. Historical reminder of the two characters.

On September 1 in France, Phase IV of the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues on the big screen with a new face: that of Shang-Chi. A specialist in martial arts, the character played by Simu Liu is not the best known in the Maison des Idées catalog, far from it.

As he launches an assault on dark rooms, a few presentations are needed. With Shang-Chi but also the Mandarin, already staged in Iron Man 3 and who here changes face and origin.

In the footsteps of Bruce Lee

Shang-Chi first appeared in 1973 in “Special Marvel Edition” # 15. Created by Steve Englehart, it aims to ride the wave of martial arts films popularized by Bruce Lee, the Kung Fu series but also to offer a more oriental (and nervous) counterpart to Doctor Strange, as indicated. the author in Marvel Comics The Untold Story” : “Doctor Strange embodied Western mystical philosophy and I really saw Shang-Chi as an opportunity to approach the Eastern with a more action-oriented series.”

A rare thing at the time, he quickly acquired his own series “The Hand of Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu”, 125 issues (until June 1983), published in France by Héritage. A nice race that was never reprinted for a question of rights. Indeed, the main villain (and father of the hero) is none other than the cult character who made the heyday of the pulp: Fu Manchu. Created by Sax Rohmer (as well as the English agent Denis Nayland Smith who can be found in the comics), the terrible villain sees his rights fall into the public domain, making it impossible for Marvel to exploit this evil figure. He will then be renamed Zheng Zhu.

After his run, Shang-Chi appears in team-ups, those punctual numbers where a leading hero teams up with a more discreet and confidential one. Spiderman (“Giant-Size Spider-Man” # 2, 1974 and “Marvel Team-Up” # 84-85, 1979) or the Thing (“Marvel-Two-in-One” # 29, 1977) thus walked alongside him.

Shang-chi: a look back at the origins of the marvel hero and his worst enemy in comic books

Marvel

A superhero on the way back

He finds a little light and solo mini-series. In 2003 he resumed service with MI6 in “Master of Kung Fu: Hellfire Apocalypse” # 1-6 (published in France in “Shang-Chi, master of Kung Fu”). In 2006, he was one of the new Heroes for Hire, led by Misty Knight in an arc derived from the event “Civil War” (“Heroes for Hire” flight. 2 # 1).

In 2010, we find him in the great crossover dedicated to Daredevil: “Shadowland”. Then he joined Steve Rogers’ Secrets Avengers the following year in the arc. “Eyes of the Dragon” (“Secret Avengers” # 6 to # 10, 2010-2011). He holds a special place there since the shadow council that the heroes face are trying to resuscitate his father.

The character takes advantage of the great Marvel Now relaunch to take the galoon. Invited by Iron man and Captain America, Shang-Chi will become a member of the Avengers in an adventure scripted by Jonathan Hickman (“Avengers” flight. 5 # 1, 2012). It will be in the spotlight of a solo mini-series (“Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu” flight. 2 # 1 to # 4, 2014) before joining the Protectors, a group of Asian superheroes in “Totally Awesome Hulk” # 16, in 2017.

He will then make appearances in major crossovers like “Secret Empire” where a Captain America at the head of the Hydra rules the United States. Or one of the last to date, “War of the Realms” in which Malekith (the great villain of Thor 2) invades the kingdoms of Yggdrasil (including Earth).

Shang-chi: a look back at the origins of the marvel hero and his worst enemy in comic books

Marvel

In recent years, we notice that Marvel has applied to use the character in different configurations. If he has roamed a lot from groups to groups, transported according to the wishes of the writers in place, he has almost always appeared in a series since the early 2000s.

If Kevin Feige’s plans for the hero are still a bit murky, he could be used to launch a more down-to-earth group of superheroes (without too many powers), carrying out espionage actions in the service of SHIELD In putting the terrorist organization of the Ten Rings at the forefront, Marvel will perhaps reactivate villains less cosmic than Thanos.

In the crossover “Secret Wars” (2015), Earth-616 (the classic universe as we know it) and Earth-1610 (the universe of Ultimates, a branch created in the early 2000s to provide a gateway to young readers, and who reworked the origins better anchored in our daily lives – Peter Parker was no longer bitten by a radioactive but genetically modified spider) collide, creating pieces of alternate universes where old incarnations return (Old Man Logan, the Marvel Zombies , Age of Apocalypse).

A kind of “Crisis on Infinite Earths” from DC but in best-of mode. On this occasion, in one of the side plots, Shang-Chi confronts his father Zheng Zhu in a fight to the death. He emerges victorious from the battle and becomes the Emperor of K’un-One and the Master of the Ten Rings.

With the Mandarin’s announcement as a villain, one would think that the Ten Rings of the title, known to be the name of the terrorist organization behind Tony Stark’s kidnapping in the first Iron Man, could also refer to the alien technology that the Mandarin uses to confront the man in the armor in comic books. Corn “Secret Wars” adds another mention linking him to his father. And the family ties between Shang-Chi and the Mandarin were confirmed as early as the trailer for the film Destiny Daniel Cretton.

To learn more about Shang-Chi, here’s what to read:

  • “The Hands of Shang-Chi, Master of Kung-Fu” (Legacy edition)
  • “Shang-Chi, Master of Kung-Fu: Operation fire from the sky”
  • “Avengers” (Marvel Now) # 1 to # 6
  • “Secret Wars”
  • “Secret Empire”

Objective: to conquer the world

Just like Black Widow, the Mandarin draws its origins from the side of James Bond. In tone and form, it’s hard not to see influences from Dr No in the villain. It is even presented, during its first appearance (“Tales of Suspense” # 50, 1964) as “The most feared Oriental of all time”. And indeed, the outfit leaves no room for doubt as to the origins of the character: small goatee and traditional costume. If his past remains obscure, the intentions are obvious: to conquer the world.

The Mandarin reflects the American fears of the time: the rise of a communist China, the trauma of Pearl Harbor, the Korean War … These are all elements that make the Asian continent the source of all fears (with Russian), even if it means making an unsightly amalgam. The famous “Yellow peril”, where the authors are very happy to multiply racist comments.

Shang-chi: a look back at the origins of the marvel hero and his worst enemy in comic books

Marvel

A villain serving the villains

Its origins are changing according to the times and the authors. At first, Stan Lee makes him an immortal. Then from “Tales of Suspense” # 62, the villain assures him that he is a descendant of Genghis Khan. Yet from a wealthy family, he loses all his fortune after the successive deaths of his parents and finds himself forced to work in the fields to survive. It is there that he will find the remains of an alien vessel in which he recovers the famous ten rings that give him his powers.

Subsequently, the character rises in rank. He becomes something of a weapon designer for villains and sets out to build a giant robot (in fact, he’s scavenging other alien remnants) to take on the Avengers. Only, the character still maintains racial stereotypes (he faces Captain America in Vietnam in “Captain America” Vol 1 # 125, 1970; his alter ego Gene Khan has a very strong folklore side) which ends up making the authors uncomfortable, preferring to put it in the closet instead of rewriting it in a more acceptable way.

It will be necessary to wait for the big crossover to see the character find the front of the stage (a little before, the Mandarin had returned under a new nickname, Zhang Tong, but suffered from amnesia). In “Acts of Vengeance”, Marvel decides to play the musical chairs game with the bad guys. Seeing that they cannot beat their respective superheroes, the main antagonists exchange opponents. The Mandarin then arrives among the X-Men (“Uncanny X-Men” # 256 to # 258, 1989).

Shang-chi: a look back at the origins of the marvel hero and his worst enemy in comic books

Marvel

A new origin

It will take a few years for, under the leadership of Matt Fraction, the character finds his evil aura and more sordid origins: he is no longer the son of a rich Chinese but of a prostitute addicted to opium. and died of an overdose. He would then have used the rings to modify his memory and invent new memories (“Invincible Iron Man Annual” Vol 1 # 1, 2010). The character will not have been spared by the authors either: he loses his hands in “Iron Man” flight. 1 # 275, 1991; is killed twice by Ezekiel Stane (“Invincible Iron Man” flight. 1 # 526, 2012) then by Frank Castle (“Punisher” flight. 12 # 1, 2018).

The treatment of Mandarin having cooled more than one fan in Iron man 3, Marvel produced a short film (the fifth Marvel One-Shot) in which the villain was rehabilitated. It was then mentioned that he was not very happy with the version of Trevor Slattery (Ben Kingsley). Since then, we have seen the terrorist organization of the Ten Rings cited in Ant-Man.

Proof that if Evil does not reveal itself too much, it is not very far. The proof with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, where he is played by Tony Leung.

To learn more about Mandarin, here’s what to read:

  • Iron Man the Complete 1963-1964
  • Iron Man The Complete 1964 -1966
  • Acts of Vengeance
  • Invincible Iron Man # 5: Demon
  • Invincible Iron Man # 6: The Future

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