Film

Marvel Is Making An Asian-Led Superhero Movie And I’m Crying

This could be the next Black Panther.

Marvel's shang-chi

Marvel has announced it is fast-tracking a film about superheroic martial arts master Shang-Chi — the first Asian superhero to debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. I have waited my whole life for this.

Via Deadline, Marvel is fast-tracking the Shang-Chi film, hopeful that it will have the same enthusiastic and unifying reception among Asian fans that Black Panther did for the pan-African community.

The film will be written by Dave Callaham, a Chinese-American writer who worked on Ant-Man and co-wrote Wonder Woman 1984. Callaham also has personal martial arts experience, holding a brown belt in 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu. Though no director has been announced, Marvel is currently considering Asian and Asian-American directors. I have already astral-projected to the future and bought my ticket.

Shang-Chi was created by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin in 1973, a time when kung fu films were experiencing a boom among Western audiences. Like many Asian characters created by white people in the ’70s, Shang-Chi suffered from Asian stereotypes, and in fact was originally introduced as the son of archetypal evil Asian, Fu Manchu. Fu Manchu himself was created in 1912 by British author Sax Rohmer. Fortunately, Deadline claims the film will work to avoid these stereotypes and modernise Shang-Chi’s story.

In the comics, Shang-Chi turned against his father when he discovered that he was evil. Raised to be an assassin, Shang-Chi has mastered many forms of both armed and unarmed martial arts, and is considered one of the greatest martial artists on Earth. He later acquired the ability to create duplicates of himself, becoming a literal one-man army and walking prank on anyone who ever said all Asians look the same.

Shang-Chi has worked alongside Daredevil and Black Widow, was a member of Heroes for Hire with Misty Knight and Colleen Wing, and worked in espionage with MI-6. However, he is often treated as more of a supporting character than a hero in his own right. Shang-Chi is the go-to expert for superheroes who want to learn martial arts, having taught Spider-Man and most recently Domino. The new film is likely to catapult him closer to the A-leagues, as Guardians of the Galaxy did for the titular Guardians.

Though Shang-Chi is the first Asian superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, another Asian Marvel superhero was previously announced as getting their own film. According to a June report from Deadline, Sony has begun development on a film about Korean-American spider-hero Silk, AKA Cindy Moon. Created more recently in 2014, Silk acquired spider-powers after being bitten by the same radioactive spider that bit Peter Parker, but was not previously known to the superheroic community because she spent years locked in a bunker.

However, with the exception of its latest animated offering Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, Sony’s spiderhero based films have historically been more “eh” than hit. Meanwhile, Marvel’s film and television projects are typically well-received, though their handling of Iron Fist and Asian supervillain Mandarin left a lot to be desired. Bringing on Asian creators will hopefully go a long way to tackling Marvel’s issues with Asian representation.

Marvel’s rush on the Shang-Chi film may be a dollar-sign-eyed reaction to the way the Asian community rallied around Asian-centred romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians earlier this year, turning it into the highest-grossing romantic comedy in 10 years. Combine that with the galvanising effect of portraying someone from an underrepresented group as a powerful superhero, and Shang-Chi has the potential to be something very big.

But however it came about, I’m not complaining. I want my badarse Asian superheroes. It’s well past time they got here.