The first Marvel superhero movie featuring an Asian protagonist is being fast-tracked by the studio, reports Deadline. Focused on martial arts hero Shang-Chi, the film will be penned by Chinese-American screenwriter Dave Callaham (The Expendables, Wonder Woman 1984) and Marvel is looking for an Asian or Asian-American director to helm.
Marvel allegedly wants to create a film with as much impact for the Asian and Asian-American communities as Black Panther garnered with the African and African-American communities, a film crafted by Asian and Asian-American filmmakers that explores themes specific to the Asian and Asian-American experiences.
Shang-Chi was created in the 1970s, right around the time of fellow Marvel martial artist, Iron Fist. The main difference between the two lies mostly in the fact that while Danny Rand is a white American who just happens to learn martial arts, Shang-Chi is Chinese and has trained since childhood. Both have abilities based around channeling their chi, but while Danny’s give him bursts of strength (giving him the name Iron Fist), Shang-Chi has no supernatural powers — or at least, none any more outlandish than the abilities of the hero of a 1970s Kung Fu film. Shang-Chi is also sometimes depicted as the son of the outdated yellow peril villain, Fu Manchu — at least, at such points in the company’s history when Marvel had the rights to Fu Manchu.
Iron Fist came under a bit of fire when the Netflix series was first announced, as a white character mastering a key element of Asian culture (to the point where he is better at it than his instructors) is not a trope that has aged well. There’s many things about Shang-Chi that could fall similarly, not the least his ties to Orientalized villain Fu Manchu. but with the guidance of Callaham and the rest of the crew, hopefully the Asian and Asian-American communities will get their Black Panther moment.
Callaham won’t be the only Asian-American writer taking old comic book tropes out for a rerun. At DC Comics, award-winning cartoonist Gene Luen Yang recently reimagined Fu Manchu as a specter of colonialist racism in the pages of his New Super-Man.