|Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu|
Shang-Chi as depicted by Bob Larkin
|First appearance||Special Marvel Edition #15 (December 1973)|
|Created by||Steve Englehart
|Team affiliations||Secret Avengers
Heroes for Hire
|Notable aliases||Master of Kung-Fu|
|Abilities||Superb Athlete, Expert practitioner of the Chinese martial arts|
Shang-Chi (Chinese: 上氣; pinyin: shàng qì; literally: "rising of the spirit") 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 (the actual Mandarin name for the various Chinese fighting arts) both empty handed and with weapons, including the staff, nunchaku and double-edged sword.
- 1 Publication history
- 2 Fictional character biography
- 3 Powers and abilities
- 4 Supporting characters
- 5 Other versions
- 6 References
- 7 External links
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 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 Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin. Special Marvel Edition #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 four giant-size issues and an annual. He co-starred with Spider-Man in Giant-Size Spider-Man #2 and Marvel Team-Up #84 and 85. Shang-Chi teamed up with the Thing in Marvel Two-in-One #29. Special Collector's Edition #1 (1975) cover titled as "Savage Fists of Kung Fu" reprinted stories from Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu #1-2; Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu Special #1; and Special Marvel Edition #15. 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 appeared regularly in 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. In Shang-Chi's first mission, he kills one of his father's old enemies, Dr. Petrie, and learns of Fu Manchu's true, evil nature. Disillusioned, Shang-Chi swears eternal opposition to his father's ambitions and fights 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. Comics historian Les Daniels observed that "Ingenious writing by Doug Moench and energetic art by Paul Gulacy brought Master of Kung Fu new life." 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 modeled 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) resembling 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 character's long-running battle with his father ended with #118 and with the main storyline resolved, the book was canceled with issue #125 as Shang-Chi retired to a passive life as a fisherman in a village. In 2010, Comics Bulletin ranked Moench's work on Master of Kung-Fu with artists Gulacy, Mike Zeck, and Day sixth on its list of the "Top 10 1970s Marvels".
Shang-Chi had two more short series: the Master of Kung Fu: Bleeding Black one-shot (1990) and the MAX miniseries Master of Kung Fu: Hellfire Apocalypse (2002) with artist Paul Gulacy on art again. The character 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). In 1997 a story arc starring Shang-Chi ran in Journey into Mystery #514-517, and was intended to lead into a mini-series for the character in 1998.
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 either in cryptic terms or using a variety of new names, due to Marvel no longer having the rights to Fu Manchu. In Secret Avengers #6-10, writer Ed Brubaker officially sidestepped the entire issue via a storyline where a rogue group of S.H.I.E.L.D agents resurrect a zombified version of Fu Manchu only to discover that "Fu Manch" was only an alias; that Shang-Chi's father was really an ancient Chinese sorcerer who discovered the secret to immortality.
Fictional character biography
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Master of Kung Fu
Shang-Chi was born in the Hunan province of the People's Republic of China, and is the son of Fu Manchu, the Chinese mastermind who has repeatedly attempted world conquest and had a thirst for blood. Shangi-Chi was raised and trained in the martial arts by his father and his instructors. He was sent on a mission to murder Dr. Petrie, but he met Fu Manchu's archenemy, Sir Denis Nayland Smith and learned that Fu Manchu was evil and rebelled against his father. Shang-Chi battled Midnight, and then first met his close ally Black Jack Tarr. Shangi-Chi became an ally of Sir Denis Nayland Smith, and opposed Fu Manchu, and battled the Si-Fan assassins.
As a secret agent, he encountered the Man-Thing, and first met the superhero Spider-Man. Shang-Chi then first met his friend Clive Reston. Shang-Chi battled the Shadow-Stalker and Fu Manchu's Phansigar followers, and rescued Dr. Petrie from Fu Manchu. He then first opposed his half-sister, Fah Lo Suee. He opposed Carlton Velcro, and first battled Razor Fist and Pavane. Shang-Chi then first met his love Leiko Wu. He opposed Mordillo and Brynocki. He first encountered the Cat, then first met Iron Fist, and then first battled Shockwave. Following another battle against Fu Manchu, Shang-Chi quit MI-6.
As an adventurer, he teamed with Iron Fist, White Tiger, and Jack of Hearts against the Corporation. He then first met the Thing, and battled HYDRA. He became involved in a game between Doctor Doom and the Prime Mover. He first battled Skullcrusher, and then first battled Zaran. Shang-Chi then teamed with Spider-Man, the Black Widow, and Nick Fury against Viper, Boomerang, and Silver Samurai. Shang-Chi opposed Fu Manchu and Fah Lo Suee once again. With Smith, Tarr, Reston, and Wu, he formed Freelance Restorations, Ltd, which was based in Stormhaven Castle, Scotland. Shang-Chi finally witnessed the death of Fu Manchu. He then teamed with Rom against the Dire Wraiths. Not long after his father's death, Shang-Chi quit Freelance Restorations, forsook his life as an adventurer, and retired to remote Yang-Tin, China, to live as a fisherman.
Some time later, Shang-Chi returned from China, and rejoined Tarr, Reston, and Wu. They battled Argus' terroristic group, formed to cause the United States to act more aggressively against all terrorists. In order to gain information, Argus had Wu tortured, cutting off her left hand as a message. She was rescued by Shang Chi and the others but not before he suffered a dose of a slow-acting poison. Before the poison could kill him, he was cured of the its effects by Fu Manchu's elixir vitae.
Heroes for Hire
As a member of the restored Heroes for Hire, Shang-Chi had put his strength of character at the service of their teammates. Humbug, turning against the heroes, tries to double cross both his friends and the "Earth Hive" of insects, joining the Hive,[volume & issue needed] and offering Colleen Wing and Tarantula to a lifetime of tortures.[volume & issue needed] 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.[volume & issue needed] Shang-Chi then snaps his neck, and leaves with the catatonic Tarantula, ashamed of what he believed 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 crime lord. 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 became the tutor of a young Earth-616 Killraven.
In the Shadowland storyline, Shang-Chi is one of the heroes fighting The Hand ninjas. He later works together with Spider-Man against Mister Negative, and temporarily takes Mister Negative's powers until Shang is being brought back to normal by Spider-Man.
In Secret Avengers, Steve Rogers tracks Shang-Chi down to help turn back the Shadow Council, which has resurrected Shang-Chi's father, Zheng Zu, and employed the Hai-Dai, a squad of assassins, to hunt Shang-Chi down.
Powers and abilities
Although it has never been determined exactly how extensive Shang-Chi's fighting skills are, he has beaten numerous superhuman opponents. 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 and practitioner of kung fu 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. He has also demonstrated the ability to dodge bullets from machine guns and sniper rifles, and is able to deflect gunshots with his bracers. Shang-Chi is also highly trained in the arts of concentration and meditation, and is an expert in various hand-weapons including swords, staves, kali sticks, nunchaku, and shuriken.
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. He is currently known as Zheng Zu. Other notable aliases include: Mr. Han, The Father, The Devil Doctor, Chang Hu and Wang Yu-Seng.
- 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. She is currently known as Zheng Bao Yu.
- 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 the director of MI6 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. After this attitude helped lead to a Martian invasion, he has become more cooperative, and worked with MI-13 and MI5 against Dracula.
- 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 is 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; he keeps referring to Shang-Chi as "Chang-Shee". 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.
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. 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.
In this simian version of the Marvel Universe, Shang-Chi and his father work as a subversive organization, trying to get the local sentients to work in peace and not in animalistic domination. The Avengers (Ape-vengers) murder him for this 'weak-minded' sentiment.
In the Marvel Zombies continuity, Shang-Chi is turned into a zombie during a multi-hero effort to rescue surviving civilians. In a mid-Manhattan battle, detailed 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. Shang-Chi is then seen attacking Magneto once again, but he is cut in half by the Master of Magnetism. A different Shang-Chi appears in Marvel Zombies Return in an alternate universe where he is unaffected by the zombie outbreak. The zombie Wolverine finds him in an underground fight club, engaging with other infamous martial artists. The flesh-hungry mutant slashes him to death.
In the Ultimate Marvel universe, Shang-Chi first appeared in Ultimate Marvel Team-Up #15. He is the son of an international crime lord. 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. Feeling that the denizens of New York's Chinatown needed someone to protect them, he and his friend Danny Rand were 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 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 Daredevil, who then recruited him as a part of his team to take down the Kingpin. After the Kingpin's identity is leaked to the New York Police Department, Shang-Chi and the team disbanded and went their separate ways.
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Capitalizing on the popularity of martial arts movies, writer Steve Englehart and artist/co-plotter Jim Starlin created Marvel's Master of Kung Fu series. The title character, Shang-Chi, was the son of novelist Sax Rohmer's criminal mastermind Dr. Fu Manchu.
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Written by Len Wein with art by Ross Andru, this story saw Shang-Chi and Spidey being manipulated into mistaking each other for an enemy.
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CBA: Did you ever get any other flak? Nowadays, I don't think you could get away with it, because you had Sean Connery, for instance, for a period of time. There were a lot of recognizable characters, James Coburn, and people like that...
PAUL: Marlene Dietrich...
CBA: Yeah, right. [laughs] You were grabbing them from all over!
PAUL: Don't forget David Niven [laughter]—who the hell cares about David Niven?—but we found a place for him in there.
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