Shang-Chi, one of the characters whose rights were used as collateral to start Marvel Studios way back in 2006, finally gets a film in development.
Deadline is reporting that Marvel is developing a Shang-Chi film. Asian-American writer David Callaham, who was recently tapped to write Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 2, will be writing a modern take on the character. Marvel is also looking for an Asian-American to direct the film.
Shang-Chi was created by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin in 1973’s Special Marvel Edition #15. He was a young man who was kept in seclusion by his father and taught martial arts. Once Shang-Chi became a master of Kung Fu, his father released him into the world to do his father’s work. Once free from his father’s protections, Shang-Chi comes to realize that his father isn’t the saintly man he once thought he was, and instead is a criminal overlord. Shang-Chi eventually rebels against his father and fights his evil schemes.
As to who his father was, well, that’s an interesting story. In the comics, his father was Fu Manchu, the Asian villain created by British writer Sax Rohmer in 1913. Marvel used Fu Manchu and his supporting cast freely, thinking all of it to be in the public domain. Not all of it was, which led Marvel into a dodgy rights issue, causing the cancellation of Shang-Chi’s book, Master of Kung Fu and kept it from being reprinted for quite some time. Eventually, Marvel retroactively changed Shang-Chi’s father from being Fu Manchu to being an ancient sorcerer called Zheng Zu. Drop that bit of trivia on your friends when the film comes out.
The use of Fu Manchu, a symbol of the “Yellow Peril” from the early part of the last century that many consider racist, is an example of some of the problems Callaham will have to address when adapting the concept for modern day audiences. Shang-Chi was created at the height of martial arts film craze of the early 70’s, inspired most notably the films of Bruce Lee (so much so that some artists that worked on the character would draw him to look like Lee. Interesting fact: Stan Lee was rumored to want to make a Shang-Chi film was Lee’s son, Brandon, when that actor was still alive).
However, the character was created by white men whose view of Asian culture was filtered through those films. So a lot of the source material could be viewed today as being somewhat stereotypical or racist, depending on your point of view. Hiring filmmakers of Asian descent will help make it fall into a more modern take on the genre.
More on this as it develops.