How Much Does ‘Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ Draw From its Comics?

Marvel’s comics have always proved to be a huge influence on Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. Moreover, a huge fan base for Marvel movies comes from its comics fans. As the movies increase in number and scope, finding a significant foundation in a comic can help but it can also limit some possibilities. 

Marvel’s new movie Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the first Asian superhero movie of the studios and also has a basis in Marvel comics. It would be interesting to know how much the movie borrows from the Shang-Chi comics.

Awkwafina, Simu Liu, Meng'er Zhang and Destin Daniel Cretton standing together in front of a black background.
Awkwafina, Simu Liu, Meng’er Zhang and Destin Daniel Cretton | Amy Sussman/Getty Images for Disney

When did the ‘Shang-Chi’ comics come out?

Jim Starlin and Steve Englehart created Shang-Chi in 1973. Shang-Chi is a Chinese-American superhero whose title is Master of Kung-fu. While the superhero had several adventures to his name in the comics, many of the earlier stories contained stereotypical representations of an Asian superhero. 

The story at the heart of Shang-Chi’s comics was his fraught relationship with his father, Fu Manchu — the name of an older fictional villain in another comic book by Sax Rohmer. Though his father’s name was changed to Zheng Zu later when Marvel lost the rights to Rohmer’s comics.

From its first issue, Shang-Chi appeared in a Special Marvel Edition in 1973 and went on to recur in subsequent issues owing greatly to the martial arts trend in the U.S.

Over the years, Shang-Chi has featured in several series, most recently in Greg Pak’s Agents of Atlas in 2019 and the ongoing Shang-Chi series created by Gene Luen Yang, Dike Ruan, and Philip Tan — which released last year. 

How much does the movie draw from ‘Shang-Chi’ comics?

As the movie introducing the character and superhero Shaun/Shang-Chi, the movie’s basis becomes the initial comics. While the comics provide a good resource for creators and actors to study the characters and aesthetics in detail, Liu told The Washington Post, that this was not the case with the movie.

According to Washington Post, Liu was asked to read the Shang-Chi comics as a part of his preparation for the role, but not “too closely.”

The earlier characters of Fu Manchu were characterized with many racist representations that the movie chose to not include.

For that reason, the movie did not borrow much from the comics.

“In terms of what we actually extracted from the comic books, I think it was a name and it was the fact that he was a really good fighter, and the fact that he had a very complicated relationship with his dad,” Liu said. “We crafted an all-new story around that.”

A clean slate for ‘Shang-Chi’

In a way, Liu believes, that the original story of the movie will be an energizing and entertaining beginning for the character in the movies. We have multiple versions of Peter Parker and Bruce Wayne’s story, Liu thinks, it’s time for something new.

“It does feel like we get to just carte blanche create a superhero origin story for 2021, for this day and age, that is told through a distinctly Asian American lens … and that is distinctly our own,” Liu said.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings comes out in theaters on Sep. 3.

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