marvel shang chi

Marvel Announces Shang-Chi as the First Asian-Led Superhero Film

Just don't cast Finn Jones this time.

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Marvel has announced that they are moving forward with plans for a Shang-Chi film, making this the first movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to center on an Asian protagonist. Chinese-American writer Dave Callaham (The Expendables, Wonder Woman 1984) will write the screenplay and is already looking to hire an Asian/Asian-American director.

Marvel is no doubt trying to replicate the success they had with Black Panther, but for an Asian audience. It’s also no surprise that this announcement comes on the heels of “Asian August,” which saw massive box office success for Crazy Rich Asians and Searching. Crazy Rich Asians was the first major studio film to feature an all-Asian cast in 25 years, since 1993’s Joy Luck Club. It has now grossed over $230 million at the box office, with talk of a planned sequel.

Shang-Chi is a lesser known Marvel property, created by writer Steve Englehart (Vampirella) and legendary artist Jim Starlin, who is credited with creating Thanos, among other iconic Marvel characters. Shang-Chi first appeared in Special Marvel Edition #15 (December 1973), as Marvel attempted to latch onto the growing popularity of Bruce Lee and the rise of Kung Fu films.

Shang-Chi came about after Marvel failed to acquire the rights to the television series Kung Fu, starring white actor David Carradine. Instead, they bought the comic book rights to Sax Rohmer’s famous (and famously racist) character Dr. Fu Manchu, and created Shang-Chi as his heroic son.

Shang-Chi is a martial arts master, specializing in the wushu style of Kung Fu. Over the years he has fought alongside Iron Fist, Heroes for Hire, and even was a member of the Avengers, where he gained the power to create duplicates of himself.

Marvel has received criticism in the past (and rightly so) for its treatment of Asian characters, most notably in Doctor Strange, when they cast Tilda Swinton in the role of Strange’s mentor, The Ancient One, a character that is Asian in the comics.

They also received criticism over the Netflix series Iron Fist, which centered on the experiences of the extremely white billionaire Danny Rand (Finn Jones). While Rand is a white character in the source material, many criticized Marvel’s missed opportunity to center a series on an Asian lead. Iron Fist was largely panned by critics, and despite some course correction in its second season, it was canceled.

If Marvel follows the same blueprint as Black Panther, then Shang-Chi is poised to be a massive success. Are you a fan of the character? Who would you like to see play the role?

(via Deadline, image: Marvel)

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Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.