Of all the foes that the Iron Man has encountered in his extensive history, the most fearsome he's ever faced is the Mandarin. With resources and intelligence matching Tony Stark on his best days, the longtime villain has fought the Armored Avenger on many occasions, either manipulating the rest of the hero's rogues gallery from behind-the-scenes or in direct conflict, proving more than a match for Iron Man on the battlefield.
With the character poised to make his full Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, we're taking a closer look at the comic book history of the character and how he has been teased in the MCU since the shared cinematic universe's very beginning.
WHO IS THE MANDARIN?
The Mandarin was introduced by Iron Man creators Stan Lee and Don Heck in 1964's Tales of Suspense #50 as a foe for Iron Man. As many of the hero's early villains represented Cold War tensions and opposition to American capitalist interests at the time, the Mandarin largely personified the perceived threat of Communist China. Trained from birth in science and combat, the Mandarin had discovered an alien who had crashed on Earth taking refuge in a remote cave. After slaying him, the Mandarin took the extraterrestrial's ten rings which granted him immense power.
As the Mandarin began to extend his control over China, he found himself on a collision course with Iron Man after attempting to discredit technology and weaponry developed by Stark Industries. The two figures would continue to do battle over the years, with the Mandarin repurposing the alien destroyer robot Ultimo as part of his ongoing plan to destroy Iron Man. The Mandarin would employ several of Iron Man's old foes as part of a larger plot against him, placing him in direct conflict with Tony and the rest of the Avengers on several occasions.
HOW STRONG IS THE MANDARIN?
Each of the Mandarin's ten rings possesses its own incredible powers, which collectively include the abilities to generate ice blasts, control minds, shoot lightning, generate flame, manipulate gravity, absorb light, disintegrate targets, create whirlwinds, fire concussive blasts and rearrange matter.
In addition to the rings, the Mandarin has accumulated vast resources that rival Stark's and created his own underground criminal empire throughout East Asia. Using his wealth, the Mandarin leads his own private army and often arms himself with advanced technology. Trained since an early age, the Mandarin is a scientific genius and tactician, with an extensive background in martial arts.
THE MANDARIN IN THE MCU
Hints of the Mandarin's existence have permeated throughout the MCU since its very first film: 2008's Iron Man. While visiting troops in Afghanistan, Tony's military convoy was ambushed, and he was imprisoned for months by a terrorist organization in league with Obadiah Stane named the Ten Rings. While Tony would escape and many of the surviving members would be murderously betrayed by Stane, a representative of the organization is briefly seen helping Ivan Vanko obtain paperwork to travel to Monaco and confront Tony as Whiplash in Iron Man 2.
A Mandarin of sorts makes his debut in Iron Man 3, apparently leading a global terror campaign fueled by suicide bombings. The figure seen taking credit for the attacks on pirated television broadcasts is revealed to be Ben Kingsley's failed British actor Trevor Slattery, who's only publicly posing as a terrorist for Aldrich Killian, the leader of A.I.M. who later proclaims himself to be the true Mandarin before his subsequent defeat. In a short film included with the film's home video release, agents of the actual Mandarin approach Slattery in prison noting that their master is displeased with being misrepresented. Although the villains hasn't been mentioned since then, Tony Leung has been cast to portray the actual villain in Shang-Chi, where he'll seemingly take on the role of the martial arts hero's father.