Shang-Chi, Marvel’s martial arts expert and superhero is not only kicking and punching his way into theaters next February as part of the extended Marvel Studios film universe with “Shang-Chi and the Legends of the Ten Rings,” but before that, will have a five-issue comic book series beginning in June from Marvel Entertainment.
The series will be written by Gene Luen Yang (Superman Vs. The Klan, The Terrifics) with the team of cartoonist Dike Ruan (in his Marvel debut) and Philip Tan splitting art duties. Ruan will provide the art for the story that takes place in the current Marvel Universe and Tan doing the flashback sequences.
Yang, the prolific cartoonist, national ambassador for young people’s literature, and a MacArthur fellowship winner (both in 2016) broke onto the comic book scene with his original graphic novel, “American Born Chinese,” which explores issues of identity.
Yang told The New York Times in a phone interview that he could not be more excited.
“I mean, it’s Shang-Chi. He’s probably the most prominent Asian — I guess he’s Asian-American now since he’s moved over here — Asian-American superhero.”
When the slate of upcoming Marvel Studio films was announced last summer, the diversity was noted: an Asian lead, an openly L.G.B.T.Q. superhero and a hero with a disability were all part of the mix.
Introduced in 1973, Shang-Chi was Marvel’s response to the martial arts fad, which became popular in American pop culture, a trend that lasted nearly ten years.
Yang, 46, told the Times that he was ten years old when the character was introduced and avoided the character until college.
“It’s that same embarrassment I had in third grade,” he said. “There was a second-grader who moved here from Taiwan, and the teachers really wanted me to be his friend. I felt embarrassed about it, and I didn’t know why. It was almost like picking up a Shang-Chi comic would have been highlighting what made me different from the other nerds at the comic book store.”
The world has definitely changed since Shang-Chi’s introduction; Yang said:
“I just don’t think that kids growing up today, for the most part, have that same sort of embarrassment. I think for a lot of them, it sort of flipped. You definitely saw that with ‘Black Panther.’ I think that conversation is changing too for Asian-Americans.”
Shang-Chi, who has taken a more a supporting role in many recent Marvel stories, will get his chance again at the spotlight with the miniseries leading up to the film. According to Yang, the story will shed more light on the character’s past and that of his father, Zheng Zhu, who is a supervillain:
“The basic idea that his father is a supervillain is still there; we don’t want to overturn that, but we do want to add some nuance. Zheng Zhu has been around a very long time. He has other kids besides Shang-Chi, so we’re going to explore some of those sibling relationships.”
The Shang-Chi miniseries kicks off (and punches) this June.
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