Marvel Studios’ Master of Kung Fu, Shang-Chi is set to become next Captain America Or Iron Man of the MCU
The studio has an interesting line up for its MCU Phase 4, one of them is Asian-led Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Not only the diverse representation of the May 2021 release but the character’s journey is worth taking a look at and for many reasons.
To start with martial artist and actor Bruce Lee is the inspiration behind the character that appeared in its own comic run during the bronze age of comics the 1970s. The comic was launched in the honour of Lee, six months after his demise.
Marvel’s Shang-Chi Legend
Shang-Chi was conceived in 1972 when Marvel couldn’t get their hands on TV show Kung Fu which was owned by Warner Bros. The show starred actor David Carradine playing the titular Asian character.
In 1973, Shang-Chi debuted in Special Marvel Edition No. 15. The character created by artist Jim Starlin and Steve Englehart was based on martial arts icon Bruce Lee. It became an unofficial way to keep the legacy of legendary martial arts icon alive.
Marvel capitalized further on the increased distribution of kung fu movies in America. In 1974, they changed the comics name to The Hands of Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu.
Thus began the legacy of the Master of Kung Fu in the Marvel Universe. Though the popularity of various martial arts based movies grew in the 70s and 80s, Shang-Chi’s didn’t.
The character’s depiction was least to say, troublesome. So, Marvel later bought Sax Rohmer’s pulp villain Dr Fu Manchu and declared Shang-Chi his son. Fu Manchu brought with itself the Asia-centric xenophobia that didn’t help Shang-Chi any better.
However, with years gone by Shang-Chi has definitely evolved with his powers however, the cultural depiction can still be debatable. The comic saw its run in 1983. While Shang-Chi crossovers with Iron Fist, Heroes for Hire, Man-Thing, and Spider-Man made him quite popular amid comic fans.
New Shang-Chi and the Asian Representation
Now with the Shang-Chi movie on charts, Marvel Studios is willing to give the character a makeover and authentic representation. As reported, the cast of the movie is almost entirely (98%) Asian.
Back in the day with Doctor Strange movie Marvel Studios was accused of misrepresentation of the Asian character The Ancient One. Actor Tilda Swinton played the part in both Doctor Strange movie and Avengers: Endgame.
However, Shang-Chi is first Asian-led movie with Simu Liu in the titular role along with Tony Leung Chiu-wai playing the Mandarin and actor Ronny Chieng, Fala Chen and Awkwafina in prominent roles. The movie is helmed by 2013 Short Term fame director Destin Daniel Cretton.
Marvel Studios first step towards inclusivity resulted in Black Panther movie with all African-American cast. The movie not only was a box-office success but has become a pop-cultural phenomenon.
Since, Shang-Chi wasn’t very popular with comic fans, unlike his other superhero counterparts. Marvel has an opportunity to play with the characters. Previously, other ‘not so well-known’ characters like Iron Man and Captain America which grew to became the OG Avengers.
Shang-Chi is somewhere Marvel Studios another attempt to recreate previous success models with right representations and more diversity.