Saturday, March 5, 2016

All About Shang-Chi

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News broke just yesterday that Marvel Studios is in the process of casting Shang-Chi to appear in the upcoming Iron Fist Netflix series!  From the MCU Exchange report it sounds like Marvel is looking to give Shang-Chi the same treatment as Punisher will be getting in Daredevil season 2:  he is being introduced as a supporting character in Iron Fist, but if he is well received in that series then he could be given his own spinoff series in a year or two.  If these reports are true (with both Punisher and Shang-Chi potentially receiving their own series), then that would give us a definite direction for “Marvel Netflix Phase 2,” with future series based on characters who appear in the previous series.

If this is the case, then I would expect to see the four original series merged together down to 2 series in order to make room on the release schedule for at least 1 new spinoff series each year.

But this is getting ahead of ourselves; for right now we are talking about Shang-Chi, the hero who will is rumored to be making his debut in Iron Fist either late this year or early next year.

In anticipation of Shang-Chi’s presumed MCU debut, let’s talk about who he is and what we may see of him in Iron Fist and beyond.

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The Character

Shang-Chi himself is a Marvel Comics creation, but his origin is a little more complicated than that.  Back in the 1970s, Marvel was looking to get in on the Kung Fu action and bought the rights to Fu Manchu, a pulp villain created by Sax Rohmer.  Shang-Chi was conceived of as a previously-unknown son of Fu Manchu whom he had raised and trained to become an assassin.  However, on his first mission Shang-Chi was made aware of his father’s evil intent, leaves his employ, and swears to do everything in his power to stop his father’s plans.

Shang-Chi has worked for a number of organizations in the Marvel Universe and teamed up with even more heroes.  Among others, he has worked for MI-6 (British intelligence), Heroes for Hire, and even the Avengers.  He has also teamed up with Spider-Man, Iron Fist, Daredevil, and a number of other street-level heroes.

In terms of powers and abilities, Shang-Chi is largely unpowered but still one of the greatest Kung Fu masters in the Marvel Universe.  He is comfortable fighting unarmed but also fights with various kung fu weapons as well.  Additionally, Shang-Chi is a master of chi and meditation (similar to Iron Fist and Daredevil) who can use chi to “surpass physical limitations of normal athletes.”  According to Wikipedia, he can dodge bullets and deflect them with his bracers—though that last one sounds a little too much like Wonder Woman!

Ultimate Spider-Man No. 85
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Netflix Debut

As mentioned at the beginning, Shang-Chi is reported to be making his MCU debut in Iron Fist as a supporting character.  However, as of now we know very little about the series beyond a basic synopsis suggesting that Danny Rand will have just returned to New York City at the beginning of the series to fight against the criminal element of the city.  So where could Shang-Chi fit into this story?

My guess is that Shang-Chi’s role in Iron Fist will be similar to Trish Walker’s role in Jessica Jones:  an ally of the hero who helps him in the fight.  He could be someone Danny meets in China on his way home from K’un-L’un or a Chinese immigrant whom he meets in New York City.  Either way, Danny and Shang-Chi could team up to fight against the criminals—perhaps even to fight Fu Manchu and his organization, Si-Fan.

Alternatively, Shang-Chi might begin the season as an antagonist still in the employ of his father as an assassin.  If Danny starts taking out low-level members of Si-Fan, Fu Manchu may be forced to send his top operative, Shang-Chi, to stop Iron Fist.  A fight between Iron Fist and Shang-Chi would probably end in a draw, but it would probably also end with Iron Fist revealing Fu Manchu’s criminal activities to Shang-Chi.  On learning that his father is not the noble man he thought could set Shang-Chi on a path to teaming up with Iron Fist to take down Si-Fan.

A final option is for Shang-Chi and Fu Manchu to be introduced as members of the Hand, the ninja clan that made its debut in Daredevil season 1 and will be back for Daredevil season 2.  However, considering that the comic book Shang-Chi is Chinese, I don’t know how that would fit with a Japanese ninja clan.

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MCU Future

By the end of Iron Fist season 1, I expect that Shang-Chi will be firmly on the side of the heroes.  Additionally, I expect that the series will leave him in a place that is ambiguous enough to give Marvel and Netflix a degree of flexibility in terms of his next appearance.  This next appearance could be in Iron Fist season 2 (or Heroes for Hire if that’s the “sequel” to Iron Fist), The Defenders alongside Danny and the rest of Marvel’s street-level heroes, or even in his own spinoff series.

If Shang-Chi does receive his own spinoff series, there are quite a few options as far as storylines and villains.  The obvious choice would be Fu Manchu.  If he is one of the criminal leaders Iron Fist goes up against in his series and Shang-Chi discovers his criminal intent and leaves his employ, Shang-Chi could explore his history with Fu Manchu while Shang-Chi attempts to take down his criminal enterprise. 

Shang-Chi could also choose to join the British MI-6, with his series taking on something of a James Bond/Jason Bourne flavor as he travels the globe fighting international conspiracies.  MI-6 would be a good way to place a little more focus on the international (and specifically British) characters in Marvel’s lore, something which has been somewhat lacking so far.

Of course, the sky is pretty much the limit as far as options for Shang-Chi following his presumed debut in Iron Fist, but we will not know anything for certain until that latter series has been released.

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Even though Danny Rand is and pretty much always has been a white American boy who mastered martial arts—and will be such in Iron Fist—Marvel still has options for introducing Asian heroes to the MCU.  There aren’t a ton of popular ones out there (here’s the list I came up with—it’s short), but Shang-Chi is definitely the best option.  He is a character with a long history in the comics and an interesting and unique cast of supporting characters.  His relationship with Fu Manchu gives him a built-in arch-nemesis with whom he shares a long and tumultuous history.  In other words, he’s the perfect character to receive the Netflix treatment.  And connecting him with Iron Fist is a brilliant choice for Marvel to make.

For the record, Marvel TV really does not have a problem with diversity, particularly when you take into account Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., on which no less than two main characters are Chinese.  However, I don’t think you can really go wrong by introducing one of the best kung fu masters in the Marvel universe in a series about one of the other best martial artists in the Marvel universe!  I can’t wait to see what is in store from both Iron Fist and the potential Shang-Chi!

What do you think of the rumor that Shang-Chi will appear in Iron Fist in advance of receiving his own series?  Are you excited about all the Iron Fist news we’ve received recently?  Let me know in the comments!

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1 comment:

  1. Or they could make him a Chinese American.

    There are Asian-Americans in NYC, you know