In early December 2018, Marvel announced that Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and his team of creators were working to develop a Shang-Chi movie based on the popular Kung Fu character from the 1970s. The announcement brought forth both criticism and congratulations as this will be the first Marvel Studios film to feature an Asian protagonist. Dave Callaham, a Chinese American screenwriter, has been pulled in by Marvel to write the film but there is no information yet as to who might take on the prominent role of Shang-Chi. With the announcement, many fans of the films who aren't so familiar with comics from the 1970s are asking just who this Master of Martial Arts is and how he fits into the greater Marvel Universe.
Odds are, most new readers or people who came to Marvel through their films haven't heard of Shang-Chi before this announcement, but he's been around for a long time. He first hit the comics back in 1973 and became so popular, his book sold so much, he popped up in various books including dozens of titles and hundreds of issues. With such a popular character finally getting the green light for a film, we thought it was high time to dig through the comics and come up with as many facts as we could to help prepare for the coming movie. How many of these facts did you already know and which did we miss in our list of Shang-Chi: 20 facts Marvel fans don’t know about the Master of Kung Fu? Shout out in the comments and let us know!
20 HIS NAME HAS MEANING
Like many people's names, Shang-Chi's has a deeper meaning than you might know. It translates from Chinese into "The Rising and Advancing of the Spirit," which is an apt name for the character. He was created by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin in 1973 to match the then rampant love for martial arts sweeping the United States.
Shang-Chi had a lonely childhood spending most of his time training to become the master of Kung Fu he ultimately became. His mother's identity is unknown, so his father may have been the one to name him when he was born, but not much is written about his early years. As he was maturing, he spent little time with his parents and little to no contact with modern technology.
19 CREATED AFTER MARVEL FAILED TO GET KUNG FU RIGHTS
During the early 1970s, Marvel wanted to capitalize on the growing trend of Kung Fu in the United States, but failed to acquire the rights to adapt the show Kung Fu into a comic book. The company then turned its efforts towards Sax Rohmer's pulp villain Dr. Fu Manchu and all associated characters, which they acquired the rights to in 1972.
With the acquisition of those rights, Marvel developed Shang-Chi as an entirely new character. The earliest days of his publication dealt with his relationship to Dr. Fu Manchu and Sir Denis Nayland Smith who both came from the original pulp. Other characters were later used and abandoned, but Shang-Chi remained the most popular and enduring for Marvel.
18 HE HAS TIES TO SOME OF HISTORY'S MOST IMPORTANT LITERARY FIGURES
Dr. Fu Manchu isn't the only character in fiction who helped inspire the creation of Shang-Chi. Throughout his publication history, Shang-Chi has been involved with a number of characters whose origins trace back to various aspects of fiction. At various times, he has worked closely with Agent Clive Reston of MI-6. Reston is rumored to be the son of another great member of that organization, James Bond, but the connections don't stop there.
Reston is also rumored to be the great-nephew of Sherlock Holmes, which ties Shang-Chi to some of the greatest detectives and secret agents in history. Some of the inspiration for the character clearly comes from Bond as well as Holmes, even with the majority of his personality and skills coming out of Chinese culture and the practice of Kung Fu.
17 HE LIVES AND WORKS OUT OF A SMALL VILLAGE IN CHINA
Most superheroes in the Marvel Universe live and work out of New York City, but that's not the way Shang-Chi operates. Throughout his life, he has spent the majority of his time in the place he was born and raised. He continues to call that place home even if he does spend time outside of it working for various agencies across the world.
Shang-Chi was born in the Hu'nan province of the People's Republic of China and settled himself into a small fishing village in Yang Yin, China. Over the years, he has left and returned to this place multiple times, which pretty much makes it his home. Yang Yin does not appear to be a real location in our world, but it holds a great deal of meaning for Shang-Chi in the Marvel Universe.
16 HE IS THE "MASTER OF KUNG FU"
Shang-Chi is the Master of Kung Fu in the Marvel Universe, which makes him the most skilled fighter in all the world. He was raised to achieve this distinction by being placed into a retreat in Honan, China, where he spent the vast majority of his time studying and training. He was trained by both his father and various tutors, all of whom were exceptionally skilled in martial arts.
Because he was created to capitalize on the trend of martial arts sweeping the United States at the time, his skills are considered to be mostly unmatched in the Marvel Universe. There is no other being in existence who could challenge him in a fight, which makes him the preeminent martial artist there is... but there is one person who you are probably thinking of you could put up a fight...
15 HE HAS FOUGHT IRON FIST TO A STALEMATE
In terms of martial artists in the Marvel Universe who are considered the very best, there is another Shang-Chi must stand beside: Danny Rand, the Immortal Iron Fist. Since his creation, Rand has been presented as the greatest martial artist in the Marvel Universe, which puts the previous assertion that Shang-Chi is the preeminent martial artist to the test.
Fortunately, these two allies have had the occasion to spar with one another, which is how we know they are equally-matched in skill. While Rand can focus his chi into his fist making it a formidable weapon, his skills alongside the fist make him, at the very least, an equal to Shang-Chi. Each character has distinct skills and accomplishments, but at the end of the day, Shang-Chi is the "Master of Kung Fu."
14 HIS FATHER IS A SUPERVILLAIN
When Marvel got the rights to Dr. Fu Manchu, the character was created within the Marvel Universe as a supervillain. His son, Shang-Chi was an entirely new character who was considered to be "previously unknown" from the pulp series. Throughout his adolescence, Shang-Chi was completely unaware of his father's evil ambitions, but he soon figured out his true nature.
When his training was complete, he was sent on a mission by his father to take out an enemy named Dr. Petrie, but instead he encountered his father's nemesis, Sir Denis Nayland Smith. It was Smith who opened his eyes to his father's villainy and from that point on, he rebelled against his father. Fu Manchu would persist as his enemy for some time during Shang-Chi's publication.
13 HE SOMEWHAT CONTRIBUTED TO HIS FATHER'S DEMISE
While Fu Manchu was Shang-Chi's enemy, he was still his father. Shang-Chi desired to thwart his evil efforts, but he was never intent on ending his own father's life. Even after he sent his childhood friend, M'Nai to take down Shang-Chi in New York, which resulted in a lethal end for the character, he still wanted to only stop his father, not completely destroy him. Unfortunately, he was somewhat responsible for his ultimate demise.
Fu Manchu was already 200 years old when Shang Chi was born and it was all thanks to a special "Elixir Vitae," which preserved his life. Eventually, the Elixir's effects diminished and he required the blood of his son to continue living. Shang Chi smashed a vial of his blood on the floor depriving his father of its restorative nature and he succumbed to rapid aging as a result.
12 HE HAS RETIRED AND EXILED HIMSELF SEVERAL TIMES
After his father passed away due to his refusal to allow him access to his blood, Shang-Chi wandered the world a despondent mess. He felt terrible guilt over his father's demise and blamed himself, but eventually came around and rejected what he called "games of deceit and death." He then determined that he no longer wanted to take part in those so-called games and retired.
He moved to the village of Yang Yin in the Chinese Province of Kwang Tung. There, he became a fisherman and spent his time busily earning his catch. Eventually, he was called back from retirement when extremists snatched his friend, but he returned to Yang Yin numerous times. Every so often, he imposes a period of exile, but always returns when he is needed.
11 HE IS AN HOMAGE TO BRUCE LEE
If you take a look back at the earliest drawings of Shang-Chi from the 1970s, you might notice he bears a strong resemblance to another master of Kung Fu, Bruce Lee. That's no accident as his creators modeled him after the famous actor and martial artist. Shang-Chi was created to capitalize on the martial arts trend so it made sense to honor one of the men responsible for that trend.
Back in the 1980s, Stan Lee met with Linda and Brandon Lee, Bruce Lee's widow and son. During that time, a film was pitched where Brandon would go on to play Shang-Chi, but nothing ever came of that meeting. Sadly, Brandon's life ended while filming The Crow in 1994, but he would have been perfectly cast to play Shang-Chi in honor of the character and his father.
10 HE CAN DODGE AND DEFLECT BULLETS
When your greatest skill is running up and kicking someone in the face as hard as you possibly can, it seems logical that you wouldn't have much defense against firearms. Indiana Jones demonstrated this in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom when he was too tired to engage a man with a sword so he pulled out his revolver and shot him.
The Master of Kung Fu wouldn't be much of a superhero if this was the case so he picked up some skills to counter gunfire. Not only is he so fast in his movements that he can dodge incoming bullets, he can deflect them thanks to his bracers he sometimes wears on his forearms. These skills pretty much put to sleep the notion of shooting him from a distance as a means of stopping him.
9 HIS STYLE DERIVES FROM WUSHU
Shang-Chi is the Master of Kung Fu in the Marvel Universe, but that distinction isn't simply attributed to a single style of martial arts. While he is certainly an expert in Kung Fu, he has also learned a large number of other forms of martial arts, which have helped him in numerous situations battling various enemies. Like Bruce Lee, he is a master of Wushu, which is an umbrella-term for a wide variety of Chinese martial arts.
He also possesses numerous skills in the gun style, which uses a long Chinese staff weapon, nunchaku, which uses the weapon of the same name and he is a master of jian, which uses a double-edged straight sword for fighting. He is also skilled in the use of numerous weapons including the shuriken and many others.
8 HE WORKS PRIMARILY AS AN INTELLIGENCE AGENT
Every great literary figure has their arch-nemesis; Sherlock Holmes had Dr. Moriarty and Dr. Fu Manchu had to contend with Sir Denis Nayland Smith. It was Smith who turned Shang-Chi against his father by revealing his true nature to him, but that's not all he did with the Master of Kung Fu. When he revealed his father's true evil tendencies to him, Shang-Chi and Smith became allies, which also brought Shang-Chi under the employ of MI-6.
MI-6 is the British intelligence agency you may have heard of from watching any James Bond film. While working for the agency, Shang-Chi became one of their premiere intelligence agents. He worked in the field alongside or under the direction of Smith with most of his early work being done to disrupt his father's criminal enterprise.
7 HE'S BEEN A MEMBER OF HEROES FOR HIRE
We've already mentioned that Shang-Chi has gone up against Iron Fist every now and again, but he hasn't just sparred with him, the two have fought alongside one another. When Heroes for Hire relaunched in 2007, Shang-Chi was one of the main characters who appeared alongside several of his minor characters seen throughout his own books.
During his time in the series, he and the rest of the team had to contend with Humbug's betrayal. Humbug joined the Hive and double-crossed his friends when he gave Colleen Wing and Tarantula to the Hive to be tortured. While he later lay about to perish, he begged Shang-Chi to end him and after refusing, he ultimately granted his request by snapping his neck. Shang-Chi didn't remain with the Heroes for Hire long after that occurred.
6 HE'S AN AVENGER
Like many talented superhero-types in the Marvel Universe, Shang-Chi is a card-carrying member of the Avengers... well, the Secret Avengers at any rate. When his father returned thanks to some help from the Shadow Council, Shang-Chi teamed up with the Secret Avengers under the direction of Steve Rogers to fight his father. When the dust settled on that campaign, he remained a close ally of Rogers and fought alongside the Secret Avengers whenever he was called upon.
When the Avengers reformed following the "Avengers vs. X-Men" event, Shang-Chi was chosen to be a new member of the initiative. He accepted after Captain America recruited him and became a true member of the Avengers. From that point forward, Shang-Chi was truly a card-carrying member of the Avengers and helped in numerous events and adversaries requiring his skills.
5 HE ONCE FOUGHT A DRAGON
When a giant dragon attacks, you might think people would get on the phone with the Thor or Iron Man, but that wasn't the case for one such attack. After being sent to Madripoor alongside Wolverine, the Hand used an ancient ritual with the help of the Gorgon to awaken a giant dragon who rested below the island. Shang-Chi tried to battle him, but was unable to defeat the behemoth, which then flew to Hong Kong to stir up some trouble.
When it became apparent Shang-Chi couldn't' take on the dragon without help, he used Pym Particles to increase his size to gigantic proportions. What ensued was a battle to the end between a dragon and the Master of Kung Fu! Shang-Chi successfully defeated the dragon in combat and even destroyed Gorgon's base while he was a giant.
4 HE CAN CREATE MULTIPLE COPIES OF HIMSELF
When he first came onto the scene, Shang-Chi was certainly skilled, but hardly a superhuman. Like Iron Man and other similar characters, his skills were more than enough to keep him in the fight, but things eventually changed and a character with absolutely no "superpowers" to speak of was given a rather useful one. Shang-Chi was able to commune with the Origin Bomb in Kobe, Japan, and gained an ability few in the Marvel Universe possess: he was able to copy himself.
Dozens of Shang-Chi duplicates spawned from the Origin Bomb, all with his mind and skills, which certainly helps in a fight against multiple enemies. It was never clear if he gained this ability to a finite limit of copies or if he can continue to produce duplicates of himself as much as he wants.
3 HIS COLORING HAS BEEN AN ISSUE
Comic books have a rocky history when it comes to depictions of characters who aren't white. Back in the '30s and '40s, it wasn't uncommon to feature stereotypical racist representations of people from Asia, but as the years went on, this became somewhat passé. Unfortunately, characters like Dr. Fu Manchu are still grossly poor interpretations of Asian people and one of the biggest problems Marvel had in the '70s was coloring them.
Due to a limitation on colors offered by the printer, Marvel settled on coloring Fu Manchu in an off-yellow color while Shang-Chi was a bright bronze/gold color. This was considered offensive and unnecessary, but was the result of not wanting to color him the same as Caucasians. As printing technology developed, this problem went away, but Shang-Chi's golden history remains a complicated aspect of the character's past.
2 HIS FIRST APPEARANCE ISN'T WORTH MUCH... YET...
You might think that the first appearance of a major character like Shang-Chi would be an unaffordable issue, but as of the writing of this article, it's not too expensive. Shang-Chi premiered in Special Marvel Edition #15 in 1973 and saw the book change its name to suit the popular character to The Hands of Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu within only two more issues.
As of the writing of this article, a near-mint copy of Special Marvel Edition #15 can be found on sites like eBay for around $50 to $100. Seeing as there is going to be a movie coming out for the MCU, it stands to reason the value of this book will definitely increase. Granted, the market can fluctuate, but it might be the right time to add this gem to your collection before it increases in value.
1 MARVEL'S MOVIE PLANS HAVE INCITED CALLS OF RACISM
Marvel's announcement that the company was working on developing a Shang-Chi film was met with a great deal of applause, but also a large amount of criticism. Most of that criticism came from China and other Asian nations via social media postings decrying the depiction of Shang-Chi throughout Marvels' history as racist. Granted, that declaration doesn't come without some historical backing as any portrayal of Dr. Fu Manchu is pretty on the nose as being racist.
It also didn't help that Shang-Chi was gold in color for many years, but thankfully, Marvel has moved away from that error in color-judgement. Despite these changes, any association with the Fu Manchu character is bringing forth calls of racism that may force Marvel execs to rethink Shang-Chi's origin story for the movie. The announcement suggested a modernization, which should stray from these issues.