Shang-Chi is set to debut on film in 2021. As such, Marvel is relaunching his comic series with a bold new writer!
As is typical of Marvel, an upcoming character’s film debut will result in movement in their comic book fate. This has already happened with Black Widow getting a relaunch this spring. And now with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, starring Simu Liu as the titular hero and Tony Leung as the Mandarin, set to debut in February 2021, Marvel has announced a new comic book series for the “master of kung-fu” this June!
As the New York Times described, Yang was incredibly excited, but spoke of why he avoided the character in the past:
“I mean, it’s Shang-Chi. He’s probably the most prominent Asian — I guess he’s Asian-American now since he’s moved over here — Asian-American superhero. […] It was almost like picking up a Shang-Chi comic would have been highlighting what made me different from the other nerds at the comic book store. I just don’t think that kids growing up today, for the most part, have that same sort of embarrassment. I think for a lot of them, it sort of flipped. You definitely saw that with ‘Black Panther.’ I think that conversation is changing too for Asian-Americans.”
Yang also described the basic plot of the series, which as usual, revolves around Zheng Zhu, the super villain father of Shang-Chi.
The basic idea that his father is a supervillain is still there; we don’t want to overturn that, but we do want to add some nuance. Zheng Zhu has been around a very long time. He has other kids besides Shang-Chi, so we’re going to explore some of those sibling relationships.
Gene Luen Yang is a noteworthy choice to write this series, which will be his first work for Marvel Comics. His most well known works are for First Second, which often touch upon the experiences of Asian Americans. His first, American Born Chinese, is the biggest, but he also wrote Boxers & Saints, as well as a revival of a forgotten superhero in The Shadow Hero. He’s since written runs on Superman and New Superman for DC Comics, and five years worth of Avatar: the Last Airbender arcs for Dark Horse. He and Gurihiru, his Avatar artistic collaborator, just completed Superman Smashes The Klan last month.
Dike Ruan will draw sequences in the series set in modern day; he has worked on other Marvel comics like Black Cat and Spider-Verse. Philip Tan will draw flashback material, and is easily the best known artist attached to the project. He’s drawn for a variety of comic series such as Iron Man, Uncanny X-Men, Green Lantern, Outsiders, and Spawn. Jim Cheung, still best known for Young Avengers, will be drawing the covers and has redesigned Shang-Chi’s costume!
Historically, Shang-Chi represented Marvel Comics’ first attempt to capitalize on the “martial arts craze” of the 1970s. He was created by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin in 1973’s Marvel Special Edition No. 15, in part as a reaction to failing to score a license to make a comic about the TV series, Kung Fu. It was decided to attach the hero to a license they did own at the time, Sax Rohmer’s pulp “yellow peril” villain, Fu Manchu. Manchu has since been renamed “Zheng Zhu” in the Marvel universe and their cinematic universe may bypass him entirely, instead settling on Iron Man’s old nemesis, the Mandarin.
The son of a warlord, Shang-Chi uses his incredible martial arts skills for good in a variety of adventures and alliances with various organizations. Special Marvel Edition soon was retitled Shang-Chi, Master of Kung-Fu and ran for a decade until 1983. He is a frequent ally of other martial arts heroes like Iron Fist and the Daughters of the Dragon, who he predated. Lately, he has been a member of Greg Pak’s incarnation of the Agents of Atlas. A legendary martial artist, Shang-Chi has mastery of “chi” energy within himself, but occasionally uses gear from the Avengers and briefly got a duplication power during a space adventure with them.
It does say a lot that unlike Black Widow, Marvel does not trust Shang-Chi with an ongoing series. However, it could always be extended if it sells above expectations! Keep a look out for it this summer!
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