Who Is Shang-Chi From Marvel’s ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’?

Getty Images Simu Liu of 'Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings' at San Diego Comic-Con International 2019.

Marvel has released the first official trailer for “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” giving fans their first look at the upcoming debut for the next main MCU hero. Starring Simu Liu as the titular Shang-Chi, the movie features a predominantly Asian and Asian-American cast and will be directed by Asian-American director Destin Daniel Cretton.

“Black Panther” earned massive praise for its presentation of African culture and nearly all-black cast and crew. Marvel has expressed its desire to increase representation in front of and behind the camera, and the studio looks to be taking a similar approach with “Shang-Chi,” equipping those capable of telling an authentic story with the resources to do so. Still, Shang-Chi is possibly the least-known character to come to the MCU, and fans will likely have some questions about what to expect. Here’s what we know about Shang-Chi from the comics.

The Undisputed Master of Kung Fu

Marvel Studios

Created by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin, Shang-Chi was first introduced in “Special Marvel Edition No. 15,” which was released in December 1973. From birth, Shang-Chi was raised to become one of the world’s most deadly assassins by his father, the criminal mastermind and sorcerer Zheng Zu. Expected to eventually take over as leader of Zu’s secret criminal society, Shang-Chi was not aware of his father’s evil doings throughout his childhood.

Upon being tasked by the society with assassinating one of his father’s old enemies, Shang-Chi meets a British spy who goes by the name of Smith. Smith enlightens Shang-Chi to the nefarious actions of his father and those around him. This information causes Shang-Chi to turn against his father and begin his journey as one of Earth’s key heroes.

In Marvel comics, Shang-Chi is considered to be “a martial arts master without peer in the world.” Marvel lists his fighting skills as a seven, the highest attainable level. To put Shang-Chi’s fighting ability into further context, consider that Steve Rogers/Captain America has a fighting level of six and T’Challa/Black Panther has a fighting level of five. This unmatched commitment to his physical training gives Shang-Chi strength much greater than should be possible for a human, and he’s able to punch through concrete without injury.

On top of his unmatched fighting prowess, Shang-Chi is also a very spiritual character. A skilled meditator, Shang-Chi is firmly in touch with his internal energy and spiritual chi. Through these methods, Shang-Chi has shown the ability to control his nervous system, reducing pain and making him resistant to poisons, and significantly increase his physical strength for a short period of time. Shang-Chi’s commitment to his spiritual self makes him one of the most even-keeled characters Marvel has.

Shang-Chi has interacted with many of Marvel’s top heroes throughout his comics history, including Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Black Panther, Hulk and Daredevil. He was one of the first heroes approached to join a new Avengers team when Captain American and Iron Man wanted to expand the group. Shang-Chi has also worked closely with the X-Men, particularly Wolverine. He individually trained Spider-Man in martial arts after Peter Parker lost his spider-sense, and temporarily gained enhanced spider-like abilities as a result.

Shang-Chi’s Possible Relation to the Ten Rings

The other key part of the movie title, the Ten Rings are likely to have a big role in the upcoming film. However, it’s unclear just exactly what Marvel is referring to with “Legend of the Ten Rings.” That’s because there are actually two completely different, yet plausible, versions of the Ten Rings that could show up in the film.

To be clear, the terrorist organization Ten Rings has already been introduced in the MCU. In fact, they’ve been around since Day 1. The Ten Rings were revealed to be the group who kidnapped Tony Stark and imprisoned him in a cave during the events of “Iron Man.” This imprisonment led Stark to build his first Iron Man suit and escape. In “Iron Man 3,” the Ten Rings are once again mentioned as the inspiration for the Mandarin, a very popular comics villain. The iteration of the Mandarin shown in the movie proved to be nothing like his comics persona, however, leading fans to wonder if the true version of the character would ever appear.

That will seemingly happen in “Shang-Chi.” In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, producer Jonathan Schwartz and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige confirmed that Shang-Chi’s father in the film, Wenwu (Tony Leung), also goes by the title of the Mandarin.

“I think people hear ‘the Mandarin’ and expect a very specific kind of thing, and that may not be the thing they’re getting,” Schwartz said. “They’re hopefully getting a more complex and layered take on the character than that name would lead you to.”

Will this Mandarin be the real mastermind behind the Ten Rings organization previously shown in the MCU? The Ten Rings could certainly act as a stand-in for the type of secret criminal organization Shang-Chi’s father ran in the comics. That would help connect some loose threads of the MCU while giving fans an orientation point in a new world.

And yet, there’s another possible way for Marvel to take this.

The comics version of the Mandarin discovers the Ten Rings of Power in China’s “Valley of the Spirits,” which imbue him a variety of abilities. Each of the ten rings has a specific function, including an ice blast, short-range mind control, absorption of light and rearranging matter. After wearing these rings for a long period of time, part of the Mandarin’s mind is infused with the rings, making him the only one capable of using them.

After several movies built around the Infinity Stones, fans likely won’t be too hard-pressed to believe something as powerful as the Ten Rings of Power exist, but there may be a less literal version in Marvel’s plans. In a recent iteration of Shang-Chi’s character in the comics, his father is referred to as Master of the Ten Rings. In this instance, the Ten Rings is a martial arts school that teaches techniques and abilities based on the Mandarin’s legendary Ten Rings of Power.

Even if Marvel isn’t yet ready to have the actual Ten Rings of Power in the MCU, it could still allude to their existence in a more grounded way through this martial arts school. Whatever the specific plot points the movie plans to touch, the Mandarin and the Ten Rings seem to play an integral role. Whether that’s with the Mandarin as the central figure in a terrorist organization or the owner of a mystic set of rings remains to be seen.

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