Shang-Chi’s Greatest Comic Book Storylines

Alistair Gray
Movies Marvel
Movies Marvel MCU

As the Marvel Studios panel at San Diego Comic-Con announced details about upcoming Phase 4 Marvel Cinematic Universe movie Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, we take a look through some of the character’s greatest comic-book storylines. The film will feature the real Mandarin, played by Tony Leung, and will also star Awkwafina and Simu Liu as Shang-Chi. Due for a February 2021 release, the film is helmed by Short Term 12 director Destin Daniel Cretton.

The Avengers as we know and love them may be no more, but the MCU is moving full steam ahead with Phase 4, which promises to introduce a brand new batch of comic-book superheroes in their own big-screen adventures.

The most intriguing new addition to Marvel’s roster is Shang-Chi, also known as the Master of Kung Fu, who will bring the mystical world of martial arts to the MCU. Black Panther proved that global audiences had an appetite for heroes who hail from beyond the Western world, so it’s the perfect time for Marvel to look to the Far East — and Shang-Chi is the ideal candidate for your new favourite superhero. In fact, when Avengers: Endgame directors, the Russo brothers, spoke to Fandom about the future of the MCU, they stressed that representation was pivotal.

“I think it’s where they’re [MCU chiefs] going which is more diversity. I think everyone has got the right to see themselves on screen and certainly it’ll just keep widening the fanbase the more that people are able to identify with the characters that they’re seeing.” — Joe Russo.

During the panel, Shang-Chi helmer Destin Daniel Cretton took to the stage and said, “It’s so exciting to see Kevin and this amazing team begin to create an MCU that reflects all the beautiful colors that I see in this room”.

The movie is thought to have Chinese-American writer Dave Callaham (Godzilla, Wonder Woman 1984) penning the story.

We’ve waited a long time to see Shang-Chi on the big screen, but what kind of action can we expect? We looked at some of Shang-Chi’s most popular comic book adventures to get a sneak peek of what’s in store.

MASTER OF KUNG FU

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Shang-Chi makes his Marvel debut in Master of Kung Fu.

Shang-Chi made his pen and ink debut in 1973 in Special Marvel Edition #15, courtesy of creators Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin. The character was introduced to ride the wave of martial arts mania brought about by the popularity of Bruce Lee. Marvel initially sought the rights to the Warner Bros series Kung Fu, starring David Carradine, but was unable to secure them, so instead bought rights to pulp villain Fu Manchu, and Shang-Chi was created as one of his hitherto unmentioned sons.

Master of Kung Fu” introduces us to Shang-Chi, a martial arts expert who is brainwashed by his evil father and sent to London to assassinate one of Fu Manchu’s enemies, Dr James Petrie. When he squares off against his father’s archenemy, Shang-Chi realises the truth: his life has been a lie, and his father is the source of true evil in the world. From then on he vows to end Fu Manchu’s wicked ways, which makes him various new enemies, including his adopted brother, Midnight, and his half-sister, Fah Lo Suee, head of the Si-Fan clan of assassins. We bet Christmas is fun at the Manchu residence.

HEROES FOR HIRE

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Shang-Chi flexes his muscles.

Shang-Chi made his first 21st-century appearance in “Heroes For Hire“, a 2006 spin-off from the epic “Civil War” series that saw the Far East martial artist act as an enforcer for the Superhero Registration Act. Along with fellow heroes Colleen Wing, Misty Knight, Black Cat and Tarantula, Shang-Chi tracks down the outlaw Captain America. This mini-series is hugely fun and expansive and sees Shang-Chi encounter shapeshifting Skrulls, killer bees, ninjas and the likes of Devil Dinosaur and Moon-Boy. It’s a good intro to how Shang-Chi works with others without ever having to compromise his principles.

SHADOWLAND & SECRET AVENGERS

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Shang-Chi finds his happy place.

This great comic book run has Shang-Chi mixing with Marvel’s best and brightest, including Cap, Beast of the X-Men and the Secret Avengers — he even trains Spider-Man in the ancient art of Kung Fu when Peter Parker temporarily loses his spider-sense. The “Secret Avengers” storyline sees Shang-Chi confront his father, whom he thought to be long dead — not only that, his name wasn’t Fu Manchu at all but Zheng Zu, immortal sorcerer supreme. Not coincidentally, this retcon was introduced after Marvel no longer held the rights to the Fu Manchu character.

MARVEL NOW!

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Shangs a lot: the Master of Kung Fu multiplies.

Apart from his finely honed martial arts training and his precise channelling of the chi life force, Shang-Chi is no superhuman and has no special powers to speak of. At least, not until the Marvel NOW! relaunch in 2012, when a run-in with the Illuminati saw Shang-Chi stumble upon an incursion point, where several humans developed physical mutations due to cosmic radiation. Shang-Chi’s gift was the ability to duplicate clones of himself, which we imagine came in extremely useful in his new day-job as a member of the Avengers. To understand just how formidable a force he was, try to imagine winning a fight with a dozen Bruce Lees, then cry.

WAR OF THE REALMS

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War of the Realms, from writer Jason Aaron.

This 2019 comic book run transports Shang-Chi back to his native Asia, where he joins the Agents of Atlas in Mumbai to repel the invasion of dark elf Malekith — you know, old misery guts from Thor: The Dark World. Later, he visits the Monkey King in Northern China and winds up fighting Fire Goblins alongside Captain Marvel on the Great Wall of China, which is insanely bonkers but utterly brilliant. Eventually, Shang-Chi teams up with Wolverine, Hawkeye, Shuri and the Warriors Three in one of the most bizarre yet satisfying multicultural superhero ensembles ever realised.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is slated to hit screens in February 2021.

Alistair Gray
Blogger, writer, general word-make-gooder. I will proofread your article even if you don't want me to.