Marvel’s Shang Chi May Bring Martial Arts Superheroing to the Big Screen

Gone a bit quietly unnoticed underneath all the smash trailers and big movie information that dropped this week was a surprising bit of information about one of Marvel’s upcoming plans for a new headlining series.

The MCU has been branching out with new heroes and new series a lot more recently, what with Ant-Man, Spider-Man and Dr. Strange at the tail end of it’s Phase 2, and now Black Panther and the upcoming Captain Marvel as well, in order to keep the universe strong with the end of its first major story arc in Avengers: Endgame. And it’s a noticeable trend that Marvel is also very interested in diversity: keeping the universe full of a wide array of cultures, characters and walks of life. For which their most recent new plan is a welcome addition.

Shang Chi – Master of Kung Fu – is one of Marvel Comics’ headlining “martial arts superheroes,” of which the most famous is, of course, the Immortal Iron Fist. A character well at home in both down to earth street-level stories and bombastic mystical epics, Shang Chi has alternated between being a title holding character with his own mythos to being a prominent supporting character and mentor for many of Marvel’s other franchise heroes.

There was some call for Shang Chi after Iron Fist was initially announced, with some expectation of him to appear in that series. But with Shang Chi not appearing there, his apparent future in the movies after Iron Fist’s cancellation seems to be more of Marvel spreading it’s net wide in the variety of movies it offers to the audience.


Storyline-wise, Shang Chi has a lot to offer to a film: his origin involves him being raised as an enforcer for what he believes to be a noble order of warriors, only to discover that he’s actually an assassin and his father is a villain – similar to a degree to the story the movies are giving Captain Marvel. Originally conceived as a “bad good guy,” Shang Chi’s stories have gone from tragic and dark to bright and flashy, and everywhere in between.

There is an off point here – in the comics, his father is literally the infamously stereotypical public domain character Fu Manchu, but that isn’t difficult to sidestep: most likely by simply swapping out the character for another. This could even be an opportunity for Marvel to follow up on the hints of a “Real Mandarin” character, from it’s 2013 follow-up to Iron Man 2, “Hail to the King” – though the Mandarin would have to be similarly tinkered with to avoid stereotyping.

Either way, there’s a lot to look forward to: high-flying Hollywood martial arts magic, mystical beings and spiritual plots, and yet another genre Marvel can successfully say it’s crossed with the superhero genre.

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