Shang-Chi: Who is the Master of Kung Fu?

Move Over, Iron Fist

Shang-Chi:It is said that every pilgrim’s journey begins with but a single step. This, then… was mine. Countless more await me over the horizon…yet walk them I will. Walk them I must, for I am the rising and advancing spirit. I…am Shang-Chi, and my journey never ends.

Journey into Mystery #516

A man wanders through an alley. He can sense he is being followed and wants to avoid innocent bystanders. A black-clad figure wielding a katana jumps from a fire escape to block his path. Four more ninjas exit the shadows to surround him, all of them armed. The man takes a martial art stance.

The lead ninja rushes the man, but his attacks are easily dodged and he is knocked out by a throat strike. The man uses the ninja’s sword to block another blade and smashes an elbow into his enemy’s nose. A flurry of kicks subdues two more ninjas. An axe kick shatters the last ninja’s blade and flattens him. Shang-Chi frowns. His father’s minions are usually deadlier than this.

Shang-Chi is one of Marvel’s best fighters. He has defeated hordes of enemies, taught multiple superheroes martial arts, and made our list of the Top 5 Superhero Martial Artists. So who is he? How did he learn martial arts? Why did he start out as a villain? Let’s find out.

Journey to the West: Shang-Chi’s Backstory

Shang-Chi:My father has often said to me “A man may not be too careful when choosing an enemy, for once he has chosen… he has forfeited a friend.” These are words my father has lived by, for he is Fu Manchu, and his life is his word.

Giant-Size Master of Kung Fu #3

Shang-Chi debuted in Special Marvel Edition #15 in 1973. He was created by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin, who wanted to produce a comic based on the television series Kung Fu. They couldn’t get the rights and elected to tie Shang-Chi into Fu Manchu, a character Marvel had the rights to at the time. His appearance is based on Bruce Lee and there were plans for Brandon Lee to play the character prior to his untimely death.

Shang-Chi is the long-lost son of terrorist Dr. Fu Manchu. His father used his mastery of genetics to find the “scientifically perfect” bride to create the ultimate assassin. Shang was taught martial arts from infancy, often sparring with his sister, Fah Lo Suee. Fu Manchu claimed to be a humanitarian, but taught his son that his enemies were evil.

Shang-Chi was eventually sent to assassinate Dr. Petrie, one of Fu Manchu’s archenemies. He fought Petrie’s friend, Sir Denis Smith, who revealed that Fu was evil. Shang refused to hear it, but eventually learned Smith was telling the truth. He swore to destroy his father’s empire. 

Realizing that he would need help, Shang-Chi created a spy organization called Freelance Restorations to combat Fu Manchu’s organization. Dr. Petrie and Sir Smith joined, as did fellow spies “Black” Jack Tarr, Clive Reston, and Shang’s love interest, Leiko Wu. The team killed Fu Manchu, but he would always find a way to return to life until a final showdown with Shang-Chi and Fah Lo killed him for good. 

The Five Weapons Society: Shang-Chi’s History

Lady Deathstrike:I’ve fought all kinds of people… ones whose bodies burned like fire… ones with superhuman healing and adamantium bones. What are you compared to them?
Shang-Chi:Well…  [punches her] Just someone who’s good with his hands.

Legend of Shang-Chi #1

With his father finally dead, Shang-Chi became a wandering adventurer. He frequently fought other superheroes due to misunderstandings or mind control, earning a reputation as one of the world’s best fighters. He even joined The Avengers.

During the storyline Shadowland, Shang-Chi encountered his resurrected father and learned that Fu Manchu was an alias. His father was Zheng Zu, an ancient sorcerer who had discovered the secret of immortality. Zheng needed Shang’s blood to perform a ritual and fully return to life. He failed and died once more.

Shang-Chi was targeted by assassins following Zheng’s second death. He was rescued by Brother Sabre and Sister Dagger, his unknown half-siblings. They explained that Zheng Zu had set up a secret cult called The Five Weapons Society and designated Shang its leader: Brother Hand. The Society was taken over by Sister Hammer, who wanted him dead to secure her reign.

Shang-Chi was reluctant to intervene in more of his father’s games, but agreed once he realized Sister Hammer was his full sister. Damn, he has a big family. Shang led his allies against Sister Hammer and her army of Jiangshi (hopping vampires), eventually taking control of The Society. He swore to redeem The Five Weapons Society for its part in Zheng Zu’s empire, but was visited by Zheng’s ghost, who claimed it was Shang’s destiny to become like him.

The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu: Shang-Chi’s Powers and Personality

Shang-Chi:Tony Stark was kind enough to provide me with these magnetic gauntlets and boots. With them, I shall help you create a martial arts style that is all your own. [enters a stance] Come. Together, we shall find The Way of the Spider.
Spider-Man:Hey, wall-crawling’s my shtick! Don’t make me sue you.”
Shang:Stop. No quips. Put all your energy… all your focus… into action.

Spider-Island

Shang-Chi didn’t earn the nickname “Master of Kung Fu” by collecting stamps. He has learned hundreds of styles of martial arts, from Aikido and Karate to Wushu and Taekwondo. He is often considered the best non-superpowered fighter in the Marvel Universe, with only Iron Fist as competition. The Greek god Ares once claimed that Shang is one of the only mortals who could defeat a god.

Shang eventually learned to harness his chi to enhance his body. He can amplify his strength and speed to the point of dodging machine gun fire and catching bullets. Shang can also use chi to sense opponents and fire an energy blast. He once gained the ability to clone himself, but did not keep that power.

Shang-Chi is a pacifist and excellent mentor. He can empathize with his students, often sussing out personal issues they were unaware of. Shang always tries to de-escalate fights, but he doesn’t hold back if he is forced into one.

The Actors Who Play Shang-Chi

Simu Liu – Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Didya Get All That?

Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu.

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