Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the first Marvel Cinematic Universe movie to feature a superhero of Asian origin. Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton and starring Simu Liu in the lead role, the film introduces the Master of Kung Fu to MCU fans.
While the film’s version of Shang-Chi differs considerably from the original comic version, it is still worth exploring the origins of the superhero.
Created in early 1970s, the superhero was borne out of Marvel Comics’ desire to create a literary version of Kwai Chang Caine from Warner Bros’ then popular TV series Kung Fu. But Warner Bros owned (and continues to own) Marvel’s rival DC and denied Marvel’s request.
Then, Marvel decided to license the pulp character Fu Manchu and made Shang-Chi Manchu’s yet-unknown son and also his arch-enemy.
The superhero was introduced as a master of martial arts and a peerless hand-to-hand combatant in Special Marvel Edition #15 and instantly became popular. Throughout the 70s, he continued to be one of the most famous Marvel street-level superheroes despite his stereotypical characterisation. He partnered with similar heroes like Iron Fist to fight nefarious elements in the society.
Meanwhile, when Marvel lost the license to Fu Manchu, the character was renamed Zheng Zu. And since most of the original Shang-Chi stories featured Manchu and his supporting characters, they cannot be reprinted.
After his popularity waned in the 1980s, Shang-Chi disappeared from Marvel Comics. He returned in 2007’s Heroes for Hire series. He also featured in 2015’s popular Secret Wars storyline.
In the movie, the comic characters of Mandarin and Fu Manchu are melded to created a composite character called Wenwu. For instance, like Fu Manchu, this Mandarin is Shang-Chi’s father, while the original Mandarin had no connection to the superhero.
Meanwhile, Simu Liu revealed how he along with the director and writers made sure MCU’s portrayal of Shang-Chi was complex and relatable, even if was not authentic to the source material. “Those comics were written by white people. And they didn’t necessarily understand an authentic Asian-American experience. So the character that came out… it never seemed like he was three-dimensional. He was very serious, spoke mostly mystical proverbs and didn’t feel fleshed out. So we crafted this all new character and story. And it was this story about family that we thought was more important than then chasing after comic books or being authentic to the source material,” Liu told Indianexpress.com.