Summary

  • MCU won’t use Shang-Chi’s traditional nemesis Fu Manchu in Shang-Chi 2 due to lost rights and the character’s problematic racism.
  • Marvel repurposed elements of Fu Manchu and his history with Shang-Chi’s father in the MCU Wenwu, aka The Mandarin.
  • Shang-Chi 2 could introduce a character resembling Fu Manchu under the different name Marvel Comics gave the Shang-Chi after they lost the rights (Zheng Zu).



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The MCU won’t be able to use a major villain in Shang-Chi 2 for an unexpected reason. With Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings released in 2021, fans of the titular kung-fu hero played by Simu Liu have been anxiously waiting for a sequel ever since. However, the next Shang-Chi won’t be able to use a villain who’s traditionally been Shang-Chi’s nemesis in the original comics.


In the first movie, Shang-Chi’s primary rival is his own father Wenwu (Tony Leung). Wenwu was a warlord known as The Mandarin and leader of the Ten Rings criminal and terrorist organization. Likewise, the group was named after the mysterious Ten Rings Wenwu wielded for centuries, helping him retain his power by granting him both power and immortality. However, Wenwu’s corruption by the Dweller-in-Darkness resulted in his defeat and Shang-Chi inheriting the Ten Rings for the future. However, there are some key reasons why the MCU won’t be able to use the hero’s typical nemesis in Shang-Chi2.

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Shang Chi’s Marvel Comics Nemesis Is Fu Manchu

Comics History and Problematic Past

Shang-Chi Fu-Manchu Cover


In the original Marvel Comics, Shang-Chi’s greatest enemy is Fu Manchu, a genius sorcerer and martial artist. However, he wasn’t an original Marvel creation. Instead, Fu Manchu was created in 1913 to be the main antagonist of multiple novels written by Saxon Rohmer which Marvel then gained the rights to, eventually positioning him as the main villain in The Hands of Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu which was published in the 70s. Leading the Chinese gang known as the Si-Fan, Fu Manchu became Shang-Chi’s main rival as the kung fu hero partnered with MI-6 to bring him to justice.

That said, Fu Manchu was very problematic given the racist undertones in his appearance, and he was largely seen as an embodiment of “Yellow Peril”, the concept that East Asia was a threat to the western regions of the world. Likewise, Fu Manchu was just as problematic back then as he undoubtedly is in the present. This is evidenced by the Chinese embassy in the 1930s which took issue with some of the Fu Manchu movies released by MGM.


Marvel No Longer Has The Rights To Fu Manchu

Fu Manchu Went Back To The Rohmer Estate

Shang Chi and Fu Manchu

Even if Marvel Studios wanted to use Fu Manchu in Shang-Chi 2 (for some bizarre reason), they couldn’t. This is because Marvel ultimately lost the rights to Fu Manchu in the 80s. The rights then reverted to the Rohmer estate which has since trademarked the Fu Manchu name, meaning Marvel couldn’t use the name even after Rohmer’s novels entered the public domain.

Again, this isn’t much of an issue for Marvel Studios and Shang-Chi 2. After all, why would Marvel want to bring such a problematic character to the screen, even if he was once Shang-Chi’s primary rival? Furthermore, both Marvel Comics and Marvel Studios found ways to use the character even without his traditional name. In the case of Marvel Comics, Fu Manchu was revealed to be nothing more than an alias with the villain’s true name being Zheng Zu. Likewise, many of Zu’s core traits in relation to Shang-Chi were incorporated by Marvel Studios into the character of The Mandarin.


Shang-Chi Already Adapted Several Important Elements Of Fu Manchu With The Mandarin

Wenwu Became Shang-Chi’s Father Instead

As the leader of the Ten Rings and Shang-Chi’s father, it’s not hard to see the elements of Fu Manchu that were repurposed for the MCU’s Mandarin. Their shared supernatural abilities and great intellects are no coincidence either. To that end, the Mandarin was a much better pivot for Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi. Although the Mandarin arguably has his own Orientalist elements in the comics, Fu Manchu is unequivocally far more problematic and racist from the very beginning, his primary goal in one of the original films being to “kill white men and take their women” (The Mask of Fu Manchu).

Wenwu is effectively a blend of The Mandarin’s use of the Ten Rings from the comics combined with Fu Manchu’s criminal past and familial connections to Shang-Chi.


Furthermore, the MCU’s Mandarin is a more unique version than the original Mandarin seen on the page. Wenwu is effectively a blend of The Mandarin’s use of the Ten Rings from the comics combined with Fu Manchu’s criminal past and familial connections to Shang-Chi. As such, the result is a reinterpreted character who doesn’t have any problems or preexisting (racist) baggage.

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How Shang-Chi 2 Could Pay Homage To Fu Manchu

Zheng Zu

Zheng Zu in Marvel Comics


Because Zheng Zu became Fu Manchu’s true name in the comics, the MCU’s Mandarin had been tweaked to embody much of the character already. However, the Mandarin was much more of a warlord operating in the shadows than the crime boss that Fu Manchu/Zheng Zu was. Keeping that in mind, the MCU could easily introduce a character with the Zheng Zu name in Shang-Chi2 who embodies more of the elements of Fu Manchu that weren’t already adapted for Wenwu.

Perhaps Zheng Zu could be revealed as an uncle seeking to claim Wenwu’s empire now that he’s gone or even just a crime lord with no family connections to Shang-Chi or his sister Xialing who’s currently in charge of the Ten Rings. He could also still be a sorcerer without ties to the Ten Rings (just like in the comics). At any rate, there is a least a path where a version of Zheng Zu could debut in Shang-Chi 2, an indirect means of acknowledging the hero’s original nemesis.

Other Villains That Would Make Sense For Shang-Chi 2

There Are Some Exciting Options


Additionally, it’s perhaps cleaner and more exciting to have an entirely new villain in Shang-Chi 2. This could include Mister Negative and his gang of Inner Demons, as well as the ninja clan known as The Hand who first debuted in Netflix’s Daredevil series. A sibling rivalry with Xialing could be incredibly compelling, as would the kaiju-sized sentient alien dragon Fin Fang Foom from the planet Maklu-IV, connecting to the true origin of the Ten Rings from the original comics.

At the moment, the status of Kang the Conqueror in the MCU is currently unknown, though he could be a dynamic villain in Shang-Chi2 assuming the fifth Avengers movie is still The Kang Dynasty. After all, it’s long been theorized that Shang-Chi rings could be connected in some fashion to the time-traveling despot. At any rate, one can only hope that Shang-Chi2 comes to theaters sooner rather than later.


Shang-Chi Legend of the Ten Rings Poster

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the 26th installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Simu Liu plays Shaun (Aka Shang-Chi), a valet living and working in San Francisco, along with his friend Katy (Awkwafina), when one day, his past comes knocking back at his door. To protect himself and Katy, Shaun reveals himself to be Shang-Chi and his lineage, with his father being the actual “Mandarin,” the leader of the Ten Rings criminal organization. His father is now reaching out to him, and his estranged sister and Shaun must head back to China to save his sister and figure out his father’s true motivations. Shang-Chi was one of the first films in the fourth phase of the MCU.

Director
Destin Cretton

Release Date
September 3, 2021

Runtime
132 minutes

Budget
$150-$200 million

Key Release Dates

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