How the Shang-Chi Movie Compares to the Comic Books
There are many movies that are based on comic books. With the surge in popularity of superhero movies and the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, also known as the MCU, comic book movies seem to be the norm today. Many actors jump at the chance of playing a popular comic book character, and quite a few actors are even buying comic properties in hopes of producing a new hit show or film.
While the special effects technology has finally caught up and razzle-dazzles us to no end, and while these films introduce these popular comic book characters to a whole new generation and mainstream audience, let's not forget the amazing comic books and stories these films are based on.
We are going to start this off with 2021's Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, a film that finally saw Asian leads represented in Marvel's live-action superhero world, and a flick that quite a few were skeptical about being a hit. Regardless of whether or not you liked the film, let's dive into the comics that helped bring this film to life.
Movie Spoilers Ahead
It should be obvious from the title and summary that there will be spoilers to the Shang-Chi movie in this article. Anyway, hope you enjoy!
You would think that this segment would kick off with the titular hero, but that's not the case. You see, there's an ordeal that surrounds Shang-Chi and Anti-Asian racism in comic books that most prefer to downplay or pretend doesn't exist. Even the director and co-screenplay writer, Destin Daniel Cretton, who is Asian or half-Asian, failed to remotely imply any hint of racism towards Asians in the film, despite the 73% increase in hate crimes towards Asian-Americans in the last year alone reported by the FBI. NYPD reported a 361% increase in 2021.
What does the character of the Mandarin have to do with racism and prejudice towards Asians, especially the Chinese? If you look at most Chinese characters in American comics from the onset, most were Yellow Peril caricatures that plainly and openly depicted Asians as threats to western White culture and powers. This has changed since then but we're talking about earlier comics here. Look and see the cover of Detective Comics #1 from 1937, and then read the stories to see how many Chinese heroes there are in that issue. Then read the stories to see how many Chinese are depicted as villains there are.
The Mandarin? He was absolutely Marvel's super-villain version of the Yellow Peril. Mandarin is depicted as a megalomaniac who is hell-bent on conquering the world. Never mind the fact that western civilization went to war with and colonized 84% of the world. Imagine the genocide committed from that feat, which is often justified with "conquered not stolen" rhetoric. Let's not bring up the fact the western world is still committing these genocides through low-key imperialism even to this day. Talk about projection.
The Mandarin started off as an Iron Man villain almost a decade before Shang-Chi hit the newsstand. He was created by Stan Lee and Don Heck and 1st appeared in Tales of Suspense #50. This was in 1964 and during the Cold War. Vietnam was raging, and Iron Man began as an "anti-communist" super-hero who was imprisoned by a communist leader named Wong-Chu in Sin-Cong. Sin-Cong was obviously based on the real country of Vietnam. So, while Mandarin maybe Iron Man's most popular arch-nemesis, he's not the first, but like Shellhead's original villain Wong-Chu, Mandarin is not surprisingly Asian as well.
Destin Daniel Cretton even publicly admitted he was concerned about making the Mandarin another cookie-cutter Yellow Peril stereotype for the Shang-Chi film, and vowed to change the character up from his more offensive comic book roots. The same sentiment to avoid offense was probably why Marvel originally went with the Mandarin ruse that Trevor Slatery and Aldrich Killian committed in the highly criticized Iron Man 3 flick.
Cretton seemingly did a good job at making Mandarin a less offensive version of the comic. Instead of a Yellow Peril threat towards the White world, he was a threat to the Asian world before love changed his heart and ruthless conquering ways. His villainous ways in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings weren't as quite that villainous. The Mandarin, called Wenwu, is definitely a lot more sympathetic and was manipulated beyond his comprehension. The film changed his name to Wenwu, and is yet another difference from the actual comics. Actually, the real name of the Mandarin is unknown in comics and has gone by many aliases.
Another important change from the comics is that the Mandarin is not the father of Shang-Chi like he is in the Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings film. In the comics, Shang-Chi's original comic father is Fu Manchu!
Shang-Chi and Fu Manchu
Tales of Suspense #50 and the first appearance of the Mandarin has the cover date of November, 1963. The first appearance of Shang-Chi and the comic debut of Fu Manchu in Special Marvel Edition #15 has the cover date of December 1973. Nearly a decade a part, but the creation of Shang-Chi actually has a somewhat interesting story. Let me start off with Shang-Chi first and then I'll get to his more offensively notorious father after.
There are many comics guilty of cultural appropriation, but this one definitely should be considered up there. First and foremost, Shang-Chi was created because Marvel couldn't get the rights to the Kung Fu TV series. Let's also mention that the Kung Fu TV show a lone was the epitome of cultural appropriation considering the concept was stolen from Bruce Lee, and he was "too Asian" to star in that show.
On top of that, the character of Fu Manchu is the ultimate example of cultural appropriation and created by one British Arthur Henry "Sarsfield" Ward, more popularly known as Sax Rohmer. This clown knew next to nothing about the Chinese nor Chinese culture. Even worse is the author had no wish nor even tried to learn anything regarding that. He just felt entitled to write about whatever his own stereotypes and racism were toward the Chinese and amplified them. For those casual racists who like to justify this with: "That was just the times," I call b.s. cause what Rohmer did is still going on in western media. It wasn't just the times.
Ward was of Irish lineage, and the Irish in America were one of the main forces behind rhetoric sinophobia and Chinese Exclusion. One Denis Kearney from Oakmount, County Cork, Ireland is well known for being an Irish leader against Chinese immigrants during the late 19th Century in the Bay Area, California. Kearney popularized the saying, "The Chinese must go!" The majority of Irish in Australia also participated in terrorizing Chinese immigrants there during the 1800s, as well as in Canada. Sure, they weren't the only white group to do this, but they were one of the white groups at the forefront of Anti-Chinese bigotry.
What the Shang-Chi movie did capture quite accurately from the comic books is the tension that Shang-Chi and his father have. Shang-Chi was groomed to be the ultimate assassin at an early age by his father in the comics and believed him to be a force for good. He was sent out on a hit and carried that through in the comics. Shang-Chi ended up killing Dr. Petrie (later revealed to have been a robot), who is an original character in Arthur Ward's Fu Manchu stories. Dr. Petrie was a colleague of Denis Nayland Smith, and Shang-Chi was shocked as to why Denis was so upset to see Dr. Petrie die if he was as evil as his father had told him.
After discovering that his father, Fu Manchu, was actually evil, Shang-Chi forever vowed to help take him down and seek that white validation by joining forces with Denis Nayland Smith and MI-6, an organization from a country that helped to enact, promote and harbor the 100 Years of Humility against Chinese people. They are actually still very active in perpetuating Yellow Peril rhetoric to this day. Thankfully the film emitted the Sax Rohmer influence as well any connections to MI5 or MI6.
The Mandarin's Ten Rings of Power Were Actual Finger Rings
Yes, for the film, they even changed up the Mandarin's power rings, which went on each of his fingers. They were not alien-looking martial arts iron rings that went on the forearms like in the film. In the comics, each ring had power as shown in the photo above, and the technology is from a dragon-like race of aliens in the Marvel Comics known as Makluans.
The Mandarin found these rings in China’s “Valley of Spirits." That is a made-up place in China by the way and was created by Stan Lee and Don Heck, both of whom probably had about as much real knowledge about China as Sax Rohmer.
So here's the breakdown of the rings the Mandarin has in the comic books.
Left Hand Rings
Pinky: Zero. Ice blast from the icy heart of outer space. Freezes the air in its path and can lower an object’s temperature to almost absolute zero.
Ring Finger: Liar or Mento-Intensifier. Magnifies the wearer's psionic energies and enables them to mentally manipulate a person. Short range weapon that produces:
- Mental Illusions – The Mandarin may psionically generate illusions within the minds of others. These illusions are very realistic and are capable of affecting all of the senses (vision, hearing, taste, touch and smell).
- Mental Paralysis – The Mandarin may psionically manipulate the minds of others, temporarily paralyzing them.
Middle Finger: Electro-Blast or Lightning. Emits blasts of electrical energy determined by the wearer. Limit of output is unknown.
Index Finger: Flame Blast or Incandescence. Produces infrared radiation in the form of flame blasts and can ignite combustible materials.
Thumb: White Light or Daimonic. Ability to generate and manipulate various types of energy from the electro-magnetic spectrum. Frequently used as intense visible light and laser beams, but here some other powers this particular ring has:
- Light Burst – The ring can generate bursts of high intensity light to blind adversaries.
- Gravity Field – The ability to envelope opponents in a heavy gravity field that can pin them to surfaces.
- Magnetic Levitation – Manipulate electromagnetic fields in order to levitate and manipulate objects of all sorts.
- Image Projection – This ring can conjure holographic illusions and make multiple images or a substantially larger version of an object to cause intimidation or fear.
Right Hand Rings
Pinky: Black Light or Nightbringer ring: Creates area of “absolute blackness” where all light is absorbed. This ring is believed to access the “Darkforce” used by characters such as Darkstar and the Shroud.
Ring Finger: Disintegration Beam also known as Spectral ring: Emits energy beams capable of destroying bonds between atoms and molecules causing an object’s to fall apart or disintegrate. 20 minutes recharge time required between each use.
Middle Finger: Vortex Beam or Spin ring. Causes air to swirl about in a vortex at high speeds. Can levitate objects or propel wearer in flight.
Index Finger: Impact Beam or Influence ring. Propels a concussive force of approximately 350 lbs. of TNT. Also causes intense sonic vibrations of intense sounds.
Thumb: Matter Rearranger or the Remaker ring. Can rearrange atoms and/or molecules of substances or speed up/slow down their movements to result in various effects. Cannot actually transmute elements or affect objects in force or energy fields. The ring can also:
- Poison Gas – May transform surrounding air into a toxic gas.
- Solidify Gas – Can solidify air around opponents and encase them in blocks of cement-like material.
- Rearrange costume or clothing and alter appearance.
As you can see, the Mandarin and his rings is very powerful in the actual comics. In the movie, his rings gave him enhanced strength, stamina, durability, speed, agility, reflexes, longevity and energy manipulation. In the movie, you can clearly see Xu Wenwu (The Mandarin) use the rings to produce concussive blasts a long with energy whips and a force-field type of shield.
Shang-Chi's Sister Xialing Did Not Exist in the Comics
Sorta kinda. Let me in explain.
In the comics, Shang-Chi does have a sister, but it's not Xialing. Not sure why they made up this character to replace Shang-Chi's comic book siblings. After all, the Mandarin isn't Shang-Chi's father in the comics either, but comic book Shang-Chi has a bunch of sisters and brothers. Some of them are half sisters and brothers, and he even has an adoptive brother. Actually, his adopted brother, M'Nai was raised a long side Shang-Chi in the comics. They were best friends, but M'Nai later became Midnight Sun and a foe when Shang-Chi broke away from his father, Fu Manchu. M'Nai is the first of Shang-Chi's siblings to have been introduced in the comics, and he debuted in Shang-Chi's 2nd appearance of Special Marvel Edition #16.
Fah Lo Suee is Shang-Chi's first comic book sister to have been introduced, and first appeared in Master of Kung Fu #26. Her name was later changed to Zheng Bao Yu. If there is a comic character that Xialing can loosely be based off, it can be said that character might be Fah Lo Suee. Once again, we are talking loosely based off of. However, Fah Lo Suee was an original Sax Rohmer character and debuted in the novel The Si-Fan Mysteries (1917).
In the comics Fah Lo Suee also has a strained relationship with her father like her brother. Sometimes she is an ally and sometimes she is an adversary. She is a member of the Si-Fan, Fu Manchu's evil and invisible empire that consists of a worldwide network of legitimate and illegal operations spanning the globe. In the movie, Xialing founded the Golden Daggers Club. That was the fight club where Shang-Chi and Katy met Xialing in Macau. Also, Wong and Abomination fought at that club.
In the comics, Fah Lo Suee was leader of an organization called the Golden Daggers or the Oriental Expediters that first debuted in Master of Kung-Fu #40, so it can be argued that the movie version was loosely based on Fah Lo Suee, whose name was once again later changed to Zheng Bao Yu.
In 2020, comic creatives Gene Luen Yang, Dike Ruan, Philip Tan introduced a more recent sister by the name of Shi-Hau. I am not sure if this sibling helped influence the movie character of Xialing or if the movie character influenced the comics. As punishment for entering their father's forbidden laboratories against his orders, she was branded on her forehead and then sent away to the House of the Deadly Hammer in Russia. Shang-Chi was told she was executed as his punishment. She would also take command of The Five Weapons Society and try to kill her brother.
I am wondering if Shang-Chi and Xialing are going to have some surprise visits by some mystery siblings in future MCU stories. Mandarin supposedly lived for centuries and it would be odd if someone who walked the Earth for so long hadn't bore other children. Guess we shall see.
Xialing was played by Meng'er Zhang, and I think she did a great job. Will be interesting to see how she heads The Ten Rings.
The Ten Rings Organization Was Not in the Original Shang Chi Mythos
Once again, the Ten Rings Organization was not an actual organization in the actual Marvel comic books until after Iron Man 3. They only showed up in 2019 in the Ironheart comics, but the Ten Rings group in that comic series is very different than in the Shang-Chi film or mythos. As mentioned before, Fu Manchu's original organization was called the Si-Fan. The Si-Fan goes all the way back to Sax Rohmer's novels and was carried over to Marvel Comics when they acquired the rights to his characters. Later, the evil main organization of Fu Manchu went through some changes in the comics.
Of the most recent incarnations, we have the Celestial Order of the Hai Dai or simply Hai Dai which debuted in 2010's Secret Avengers #6 comic written by Brian Michael Bendis.
There's also The Five Weapons Society, which debuted in 2020's Shang-Chi #1 comic book written by Gene Luen Yang. This appears to be yet another organization of martial artists and assassins created by Fu Manchu, whose name was recently changed to Zheng Zu in the Secret Avengers story line "Eyes of the Dragon" by Brian Michael Bendis. Issue #8 of Secret Avengers was when it was revealed that Fu Manchu's real name is Zheng Zu.
Not to say that the Ten Rings Organization in the movie was not loosely based on Fu Manchu's Si-Fan or Hai Dai, but then again, it could just be based on any stereo-typical evil Asian organization.
Shang-Chi's Mother Originally Was Not Asian in the Comics
Shang-Chi's original mother in the comics was an unnamed American White woman who first appeared in Shang-Chi's debut in Special Marvel Edition #15 back in 1973. She was the one who confirmed to Shang-Chi that his father was evil, but she wasn't a big part of his life. Thus, she wasn't in the comics much at all.
This was later retconned in the fourth issue of the Shang-Chi comic series that came out in September of 2021. In this issue, we met Jiang Li, Shang-Chi's real biological mother. It seems this retcon was done to be more in line with the movie. Jiang Li is a member of the Qilin Riders, one of the few communities of mortals in Ta Lo. Her father was chieftain. The Qilin Riders were tasked in protecting the Old Stone Gate, the portal to Ta Lo. Like in the movie, Jiang Li met and fell in love with Zheng Zu (Fu Manchu). She had Shang-Chi and his little sister, Shi-Hua. She would find out about Zheng Zu's true identity and eventually flee to the Negative Zone when Shang-Chi was about three or four years old.
In the movie, Shang-Chi's mother is Chinese or Asian and named Ying Li. She is from Ta Lo as well and ends up changing Xu Wenwu's heart. She is the reason he turned a new leaf in order to start a family with her. She would have Shang-Chi and his younger sister, Xialing, but would die in combat with the Iron Gang, another group not in the actual comics. She was wonderfully played by Fala Chen.
Shang-Chi's Aunt Was Created for the Movie
That's right. Michelle Yeoh's character, Ying Nan, and aunt to Shang-Chi and Xialing was created for the movie. Not sure if even an aunt of Shang-Chi ever showed up in the actual comics or not. If you know, please do share.
Awkwafina's Katy Chen Was Made Up for the Movie
There is no Katy Chen in the Shang-Chi comics or mythos. Awkwafina's character was mainly made up just for this movie. Not to say she wasn't loosely based on or inspired by a Shang-Chi comic character though. After all, Shang-Chi did have a love interest in the comics and that was Leiko Wu, who first debuted in Master of Kung Fu #33. She was also an MI-6 agent bootlicker and eventually married one Clive Reston.
Come to think of it, Katy Chen is pretty much an original character for the film. Therefore, Shang-Chi in the comics wasn't hiding out from his dad in San Francisco parking cars with his best friend Katy. He was actually running around with MI5 and MI6, bootlicking the British and fighting against his dad in the comics.
Ta Lo Was in the Comics
Yep, that magical and mystical place that had the strange creatures and where Ying Li, Shang-Chi's movie mother, was from was an actual place in the comics. It's here she meets Xu Wenwu (The Mandarin) and they end up falling in love in the movie.
In the comics, Ta Lo first debuted in a Thor comic, and it was issue #301 in the comic series where The Thunder God first visits this mystical place of legend. Well, Marvel Comics legend that is. Ta Lo in the Marvel Comics was not a place that was well used. It was not even connected to the Shang-Chi mythos until the 7th issue of the 2021 Shang-Chi series that introduced Shang-Chi's retconned mother, Jiang Li. I think the retcon was more of the movie influencing the comics.
The 9 Tail White Fox Creature Is in the Comics
Although this mythical creature is already named Jiu Wei Hu in the MCU and shown in the Shang-Chi film during the scene when Shang-Chi and his entourage first arrive in Ta Lo, the comic book version is based off the Korean version known as Kumiho. Both versions are strange shape shifters, but while the Chinese version has moral ambiguities and can be either good or bad, the Kumiho is almost always seen as a malignant spirit. They are known to take the shape of a woman in order to seduce boys or men in order to eat their liver or heart.
The Marvel character White Fox is connected to these Kumiho's as Ami Han's mother was the last of their kind. Despite her back ground, White Fox is a hero and not a villain. She is part of the Agents of Atlas superhero team, and many have speculated a good chance White Fox may be brought to the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the Nine Tail Fox is now known to exist there.
We shall see, and I truly hope so.