Next weekend, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings comes out. It looks really cool, and in a world where every character has been trained in some form of martial arts, the action from these trailers really seems to stand out, with a fun Jackie Chan energy that other Marvel Kung Fu characters (Iron Fist) was definitely missing out on.
But who is Shang-Chi? What’s his deal? If we want to get to know the comic book character, what are some stories we should look out for?
First, we have the man himself. Shang-Chi was born to an infamous crime lord and sorcerer, Zheng Zu. He was raised in a hidden, ancient fortress in China, to become an assassin for his father’s organization, the Five Weapons Society.
During his first assignment, he met Denis Smith, an MI-6 agent, who told him that his father was more than just a strict parent, but an evil man called Fu Manchu, and so Shang-Chi defected, and began working with Smith to stop Fu Manchu and his evil deeds.
Fu Manchu, also known as Zheng Zu, was born in the 18th Century, and him and his brother became powerful sorcerers. The two brothers gained a small group of disciples, and formed the Five Weapons Society. His long lasting life is due to his use of the Elixir of Life, created by Sir Isaac Newton.
From what we’ve seen in the film trailers, his father’s name is Wenwu. However, they appear to have taken two characters, and made them one, as Wenwu is also the Mandarin.
The Mandarin was a criminal from China, who was penniless and powerless, until while running from authorities, found lost alien technology from a crashed spaceship. Aboard that ship were ten rings, used to power the ship, which The Mandarin took, and used to subjugate small villages. In an effort to learn more about the rings, at one point he even kidnapped Tony Stark, but instead of helping, Stark built a robotic suit and escaped.
Of course, the Mandarin eventually learned that each ring has it’s own ability.
- Matter-Rearranger: Manipulate atomic and molecular structures of matter.
- Disintegration Beam: Project a beam of energy capable of destroying the bonds between atoms and molecules.
- Mento-Intesifier: Magnifies the Mandarin’s psionic energies, to manipulate the thoughts and actions of others.
- Black Light: Create and area of darkness
- White Light: Generate and manipulate various forms of electromagnetic energy.
- Electro-Blast: Project blasts of electrical energy
- Impact Beam: Generate and project various beams of concussive force.
- Flame-Blast: Project blasts of infrared to produce flame.
- Ice Blast: Project waves of intense cold and ice.
- Vortex Beam: Causes air to move about at high speed in a vortex.
The Ten Rings
In the comics, there isn’t a group called the Ten Rings, but it seems that since the movies are combining Fu Manchu and The Mandarin, they are also changing the Five Weapon Society and having it be based on The Mandarin’s rings.
In the movie, she’s called Xialing, but she is Shang-Chi’s sister. Shang-Chi has many siblings in the comics, and after Fu Manchu dies, many of them, Shi-Hua included, want to take over, and become Shang-Chi’s new nemesis. Unfortunately for her, Fu Manchu wants Shang-Chi to take over after him, and his spirit is present to let her know.
Razor Fist, set up to be the films secondary villain, has both arms replaced with machetes, and works for a crime lord in Madripoor, which we just saw in the Falcon and Winter Soldier series. He doesn’t have a depth of history, though he has fought many Marvel heroes throughout the years.
The Death Dealer, as he’s called in the film, was a double agent for Fu Manchu, working inside MI-6, so potentially we might also see Denis Smith in the movie. Perhaps they are the same person?
Out of the Past
When the character was first created in the ’70s, he was just as culturally sensitive as another Marvel character, Luke Cage, in that he was a blatant, and fairly racist, ripoff of Bruce Lee. So, when Marvel in the mid-2010s decided to focus on non-Straight White Males exclusively, Shang-Chi was a good place to look for a fun character that could use a redo. So Mike Benson and Tan Eng Huat took that job, and made sure to keep some of the fun British Spy themes in the modern era.
Brothers and Sisters
After his father dies, Shang-Chi has the opportunity to take his father’s place, and rule his organization. However, many of Shang-Chi’s siblings, such as Shi-Hua, wants to take over instead.
While this character is over 40 years old, he spent most of that time very much not in the spotlight, so there isn’t a broad depth of history. However, hopefully if this movie is successful, then the character will rise to popularity once more, and we’ll have great stories to look forward to.