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chi-tzŭ

Shang-Chi

Shang-Chi is a Marvel Comics character, often called the "Master of Kung Fu". He was created by writer Steve Englehart and artist Jim Starlin. He has no special superpowers, but he exhibits extraordinary skills in the martial arts and is a master of Wushu (a general name for the various Chinese styles) both empty handed and with weapons, including the staff, nunchaku and double-edged sword.

Publication history

The character was conceived in late 1972 when Marvel Comics acquired the comic book rights to Sax Rohmer's pulp novel villain Dr. Fu Manchu while they also held the rights to the Kung Fu television program. Instead of producing a straight adaptation of either source, Marvel combined the two. The result was Shang-Chi, a master of Kung Fu, who was introduced as the (previously unheard of) son of Fu Manchu. Though an original character himself, many of Shang-Chi's supporting characters (most notably Fu Manchu and Sir Denis Nayland Smith) were Rohmer creations. No characters from the Kung Fu television series carried over into the comic series, though the character Lu Sung, in an early issue, bears a strong resemblance to Kwai Chang Caine with the addition of a moustache.

Shang-Chi first appeared in Special Marvel Edition #15 (December 1973) by Englehart and Starlin (SME #1–14 were reprints of older Marvel superhero stories). Shang-Chi appeared again in issue #16, and with issue #17 (April 1974) the title was changed to The Hands of Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu. Amidst the martial arts craze in the United States in the 1970s, the book became very popular, surviving until issue #125 (June 1983), a run including five giant-size issues. He also co-starred with Spider-Man in Marvel Team-Up #84 and The Thing in Marvel Two-in-One #29. Shang-Chi also appeared in Marvel's Special Collector's Edition #1 entitled "Savage Fists of Kung Fu". At the height of the martial arts craze, he did several crossovers with other Marvel martial artists, including White Tiger, Iron Fist, and Daughters of the Dragon (Colleen Wing and Misty Knight). He also appeared quite prominently in Marvel's sister imprint magazine entitled Deadly Hands of Kung Fu.

The series began by introducing Shang-Chi as a man raised by his father Fu Manchu to be the ultimate lackey for the would-be world conqueror. However, his first mission, in which he killed one of his father's old enemies, Dr. Petrie, ended with Shang-Chi learning of Fu Manchu's true, evil nature. Disillusioned, Shang-Chi swore eternal opposition to his father's ambitions and fought him as an agent of British intelligence, under the orders of Nayland Smith.

The series was an instant sales success. Though Englehart and Starlin soon left as the creative talent for the title, its success grew once writer Doug Moench and artist Paul Gulacy, began collaborating in issues #22. Their critically acclaimed run continued (with short gaps) until #51 when Gulacy was replaced by artist Jim Craig. Craig was later succeeded by Mike Zeck who became the regular penciller in issue #64 (1978).

Gulacy was a film buff, and modelled many characters after film stars: Juliette on Marlene Dietrich, James Larner on Marlon Brando, Clive Reston (often broadly hinted at as being the son of James Bond as well as the grand nephew of Sherlock Holmes) occasionally looking like Basil Rathbone and Sean Connery, and a minor character Ward Sarsfield (after the real-life name of Sax Rohmer) who looked like David Niven. Moench introduced other film-based characters, including ones modeled after Groucho Marx and W. C. Fields.

Moench continued for a long tenure, though the title did not again receive the same level of acclaim as the Gulacy period until Gene Day, who had previously been inking the book, took over penciling in #100 (1981). Despite critical success, sales lagged, and the publication schedule change from monthly to bimonthly. Day died of a heart attack after finishing issue #120, and Moench left the book after #122. The book was cancelled three issues later, where Shang-Chi retired to a passive life as a fisherman in a village.

Shang-Chi had two more short series: the Master of Kung Fu: Bleeding Black graphic novel (1990) and the MAX miniseries Master of Kung Fu: Hellfire Apocalypse (2002) (with artist Paul Gulacy on art again). The character also had two stories in the anthology series Marvel Comics Presents (including one by Moench that ran in the series' first eight issues in 1988), and co-starred in the Moon Knight Special (1992).

Although spun out of licensed properties, Shang-Chi is a Marvel-owned character and has been firmly established as a part of the Marvel Universe with guest appearances in numerous other titles, such as Marvel Team-Up, Marvel Knights and X-Men. Most of the original, licensed, characters in the supporting cast have been phased out in the more recent series and stories.

In some of his modern appearances, mention is made of his villainous father who has apparently returned from the dead (Marvel's version of Fu Manchu was meant to have died in Master Of Kung Fu #118). However Fu Manchu is never named, only referred to as Shang's 'father' and is never shown out of shadow, as Marvel have opted not to renew the license to the character. Shang-Chi returned as a main character in the 2007 Heroes for Hire comic book, and both he & several of his supporting cast appear in that year's Wisdom miniseries.

Fictional character biography

Shang-Chi is the supreme master of kung fu, and the son of Fu Manchu, the Chinese mastermind who has repeatedly attempted world conquest. Shang-Chi rebelled against his father and became an ally of Fu Manchu's archenemy, Sir Denis Nayland Smith.

Shang-Chi has been identified as a possible Initiative recruit.

As a member of the restored Heroes for Hire, Shang Chi had put his strength of character at the service of their teammates, his desire for inner peace often mistaken for coldness. However, Shang Chi warms with time, or at least shows more his genuine emotions, as when he avenges the death of fellow teammate Orka, forges a measure of friendship with Humbug and forges a somewhat romantic relationship with the more feisty and emotive Tarantula, peaking in a passionate kiss in the Savage Land. He later tries to put more distance between him and Maria, fearing that a strong relation could lead his inner peace to downfall, something that happens a few time later, during the World War Hulk.

Humbug, turning cards against the heroes, tries to double cross both his friends and the "Earth Hive" of insects, joining the Hive and offering Colleen Wing and Tarantula to a lifetime of tortures. Even so, when a dying Humbug begs his friend to mercy kill him, Shang Chi refuses, until he finds that Humbug actually had no qualms to torture Tarantula, if it meant less suffering for Colleen. Shang Chi then snaps his neck, and leaves with the catatonic Tarantula, ashamed of what he had to become, a soulless murderer.

Still working for MI6, he goes on to collaborate with Pete Wisdom of MI-13 in facing the Welsh dragon, which had turned amnesiac and become a human crimelord; Shang Chi had been told by Wisdom that the dragon (being inherently noble) would go free once it remembered its true origins, and was embittered to find this had been a lie. He also became the ward and tutor of a young Earth-616 Killraven.

Supporting characters

The series, especially as written by Doug Moench was notable for its strong supporting characters. As they evolved these characters became nearly as integral to the series as Shang-Chi himself:

  • Fu Manchu is portrayed in a manner mostly consistent with the Sax Rohmer novels. He is a brilliant and calculating master-villain who aspires to rule the world. As the series progresses the character deteriorates, gradually losing his nobler qualities. By the end of the series he is a pathetic figure, reduced to stealing his son's blood to preserve his immortality.
  • Sir Denis Nayland Smith is Fu Manchu's nemesis from the novels. In the comics he retains this role, his obsession with the villain often bringing out the dark side of his own character. In his better moments he becomes a sort of surrogate father to Shang-Chi. Ultimately, he is too caught up in what Shang-Chi calls 'games of deceit and death' and fails in this role. The relationship the two finally form is that of two flawed characters who feel strong friendship in spite of deep differences.
  • Fah Lo Suee is the daughter of Fu Manchu and is the final character from the novels to appear in the comic. She is a villainess in her own right, though she is not interested in the misguided idealism of Fu Manchu. She is a pragmatist, seeking the best way to power. As such, she shifts alliances often. Usually she is an enemy of Shang-Chi and his friends but sometimes she is an ally. When last seen she had become a highly ranked official in MI-6.
  • Black Jack Tarr is Smith's aide-de-camp and a powerful giant of a man with a gruff manner. Though he is initially an enemy of Shang-Chi, the two become close friends over time. He exhibits the most bigoted traits of any character and invariably addresses Shang-Chi as 'Chinaman' rather than using his name. It is one of the successes of the series that readers are drawn to feel for Tarr while the writing never turns a blind eye to his politically-incorrect attitudes.
  • Clive Reston is a British spy who resembles a younger and more vulnerable version of James Bond. Where Bond is a successful womanizer and seems unaffected by heavy drinking, Reston struggles with alcoholism and a romantic rivalry with Shang-Chi. The resemblance to Bond is intentional. Reston's dialogue makes it clear that he is Bond's son, and the grand-nephew of Sherlock Holmes. By the time of Wisdom, he's a high-ranking officer of MI6 (appearing at times to be in charge) and has been knighted; he believes MI-13 to be a doomed organisation and that MI6 should handle the "weird happenings", to the extent of keeping things from the rival agency.
  • Leiko Wu is introduced as a femme fatale like those in the Bond films. She is a beautiful Chinese-British woman who is torn between her history with Reston and her growing attraction to Shang-Chi. Though initially sarcastic and self-possessed to the point of arrogance (Leiko is actually a Japanese name meaning "arrogant") her relationship with her new lover causes her to become more contemplative.
  • Midnight an African child named M'Nai adopted by Fu Manchu, and raised alongside his son Shang-Chi. Fu Manchu impressed with his stoic nature trained him as one of the Si-Fan his elite assassins. Due to his badly disfigured face he always wore a mask. Fu Manchu sent him to kill Shang-Chi after his son turned his back on him, even though Shang-Chi and M'Nai considered themselves brothers. Midnight died as a result of their second battle, but was later resurrected as "Midnight Sun" by the alien Kree in cloned body and gifted with cosmic powers strong enough to challenge the Silver Surfer. After a couple of battles with the Surfer he settled down to a peaceful life in the Blue Area of the Moon where he was accepted by the Inhumans.
  • Rufus T. Hackstabber is a memorable character who appeared only twice in the series. The character strongly resembles Groucho Marx and his fast-paced nonsensical patter plays well off Shang-Chi's laconic seriousness. Hackstabber's name is a play on Rufus T. Firefly, Groucho's character in Duck Soup.
  • Shen Kuei or "Cat" is a master thief whose skill in martial arts equals Shang-Chi's. The meaning of the character's name is both similar and opposite to Shang-Chi's name. He is a sort of mirror image, a 'good bad guy' in opposition to Shang-Chi's 'bad good guy'. While they share mutual respect, the two always find themselves in opposition. He has recently appeared in Cable & Deadpool working as a mercenary for Cable. He has also defeated Deadpool, who looks at him as a Rock God among mercenaries and has also referred to him as "The Keith Moon of spy trade" and "The Justin Timberlake of the Cherry Pop Club".
  • Rufus "Super Midnight" Carter is an African-American kickboxing champion and antiques dealer who secretly works for the CIA. He is a light-hearted character who helps to draw out Shang-Chi's sense of whimsy in his several appearances. Carter's unusual nickname is accounted for by his origin. A colleague challenged Doug Moench to write a story using "Carter's Super Midnight" (the name of a brand of carbon paper) as a title.

Powers and abilities

Although it has never been determined exactly how extensive Shang-Chi's fighting skills are, he has beaten numerous superhuman opponents. Even without having any superhuman powers, he has on several occasions matched other Marvel superhumans such as Spider-man and the Thing. In one instance, he indefinitely held off a crowd of at least 30 super criminals for Captain America with help from Falcon. After the death of fellow Hero for Hire, Orka, Shang managed to single-handedly take out the Headmen including a reprogrammed Doombot, although his hands were injured badly after the battle. All of these incidents were empty handed.

Shang-Chi is classed as an athlete but he is one of the best non-superhumans in martial arts and has dedicated much of his life to the art, being referred to by some as the greatest empty handed fighter alive. Much of his physical abilities seem to stem from his mastery of chi, which often allows him to surpass physical limitations of normal athletes. In one instance, Shang was able to stand shirtless in minus 20 degree weather without feeling any physical discomfort. He has also demonstrated the ability to dodge bullets and to deflect single shots with his bracers.

Alternate universes

House of M

Shang-Chi never realizes his father's evil doings before his death at Magneto's hands. This causes him to become consumed with a desire for vengeance. In this reality, Shang-Chi is the head of the Dragons criminal organization, alongside Colleen Wing, Swordsman, Mantis, Zaran and Machete. The Dragons later resolved their rivalry against Luke Cage's gang, but were eventually captured in a trap created by both the Kingpin's assassins and Thunderbird's agents. He is charged with attempted murder. The Dragons {and the Wolfpack} were freed by Luke Cage, in which Shang-Chi's gang join the Avengers in their battle against the Brotherhood.

Marvel Zombies

In the Marvel Zombies continuity, Shang-Chi has been turned. In a mid-Manhattan battle, detailed in In Ultimate Fantastic Four #23, he and dozens of other zombie-heroes attempt to consume the last batch of humans. These humans are defended by that universe's Magneto and the Ultimate Fantastic Four. During a successful rescue attempt, Thing sends Shang-Chi flying through the air with one punch. Later, Shang-Chi is seen attacking Magneto once again, but he is cut in half by the Master of Magnetism.

Ultimate Shang-Chi

In the Ultimate Marvel universe, Shang-Chi first appeared in Ultimate Marvel Team-Up #15. He is the son of an international crime lord named Fu Manchu. Trained from birth to become a living weapon, he became the world's greatest martial artist. A noble spirit, he eventually came to renounce his father's empire. Seeking to get away from his father's reach, he emigrated to New York where he worked as a floor sweeper at Wu's Fish Market in Chinatown. At some point, he met and befriended fellow martial artist Danny Rand.

While Shang-Chi was in Chinatown, three separate gangs were threatening the locals. He was the only one who was willing to stand up to them. One day, he stopped a couple of the thugs from mugging a newcomer to the area, Leiko, unaware that she was an agent sent by his father to look for him. Shortly after, he was attacked by more gang members, attracting the attention of Spider-Man, who was in the area at the moment. Before Spider-Man could lend his help, Shang-Chi had already beaten the gang members. Seeing that Shang-Chi didn't need his help, Spider-Man left.

Leiko met with the local gangs promising them exclusive rights to the local drug trade if they could break, but not kill, Shang-Chi. Wu Kwan, the man who ran the fish market overheard the conversation and told Shang-Chi to leave the city for his own safety. Before he could do so, he was confronted by the heavily armed gangs. Shang-Chi, who was outnumbered 40 to 1, began to cut a swath through his foes but was overwhelmed by their sheer numbers. This was when Spider-Man came to lend him a hand, and together they triumphed. Impressed by Shang-Chi's skills, Spider-Man asked him to teach him some moves. In gratitude, Shang-Chi only had time to teach him the White Ape maneuver before departing the city.

Shang-Chi secretly returned though, feeling that the denizens of New York's Chinatown needed someone to protect them. He and his friend Danny Rand were recently drawn into the gang war between the Kingpin and Hammerhead after the latter targeted him to win over the Chinatown gangs to his cause. The conflict climaxed when Shang-Chi, Danny Rand, Spider-Man, Black Cat, Moon Knight and Elektra ambushed Hammerhead's penthouse, where a battle royale ensued. It ended with an unconscious Elektra, Hammerhead and Moon Knight. The gang members were then arrested by the police.

The martial arts warrior recently disguised himself as a costumed criminal in order to take down the Kingpin. The Kingpin discovered his plan and threatened to kill the hero, but he was rescued by the Man Without Fear, Daredevil, who then recruited him as a part of his team.

Film

A feature film, The Hands of Shang-Chi, is in the planning stages, with Yuen Wo Ping directing and Ang Lee producing.

References

Sources

  • Kraft, David Anthony. Fu Manchu, Sax Rohmer, and Shang-Chi in The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu Special Album Edition #1, Summer 1974, pp. 29–33.

External links

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