It appears that the next Marvel project will be a superhero movie with an Asian protagonist Shang-Chi also known as the Master of Kung Fu. This character was created by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin and had his first appearance in 1973 in Special Marvel Edition #15 although the concept for Shang-Chi was drafted a year earlier.
The creators found inspiration for creating this character from the then-popular Warner Communications’ TV show Kung Fu starring David Carradine. Or, more precisely, from Marvel not being able to get permission to adapt this TV show into the comic book since Warner Communications owned DC Comics, its main competition. However, Marvel got the rights to Dr. Fu Manchu a villain from Sax Rohmer’s novels. And so, Englehart as a writer and Starlin as an artist created Shang-Chi and introduced him as the son of Fu Manchu, but later when Marvel lost rights to Rohmer’s character, his villainous father is rarely mentioned and under many names. In one instance, Shang-Chi’s father was actually Zheng Zu a sorcerer who found the secret to immortality who used the name of Fu Manchu as his false identity.
The deal to include Shang-Chi into Marvel Cinematic Universe was present from the beginning in 2006 when Marvel Studios already made deals with Paramount for Nick Fury, Doctor Strange, Captain America, and some others. With an Asian superhero, Marvel is definitely going after the success of its Black Panther which many believe will be nominated for Best Picture of Academy Award 2019. Currently, as reported by Deadline, Marvel is looking for an Asian-American director to take the helm of the project. This is something they did with mentioned Black Panther with almost all Afro-American cast and crew like Ryan Coogler as director and Joe Robert Cole as a writer. Therefore, basically, they want to make a movie with Shing-Chi which will be made by Asian-American and Asian filmmakers thus getting it right and respecting the culture and sensibilities of the original source.
Incidentally, this news comes after the enormous success of the Asian rom-com Crazy Rich Asians and some rumors that the star of that movie Henry Golding is seen as a potential candidate for next Superman in the DC Cinematic Universe. IMDB page for Shang-Chi states that Wonder Woman 1984 writer Dave Callaham will be writing this one as well although that is still to be officially confirmed by Marvel. Nonetheless, Callaham would be a great choice since besides being Asian-American he is also working on some high-profile projects, like Zombieland 2, The Expendables 4 and Mortal Kombat. He is also working on Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 2 so he is already connected to Marvel in a way. After all, Shang-Chi did team up with Spider-Man in Giant-Size Spider-Man #2 and Marvel Team-Up #84 and #85 during the ‘80s, although they had their fair share of interactions in the later years, too.
The sources say that the script will be a modern take on this superhero and will look for a way to avoid stereotypes which were really common during the time the comic book launched. After all, during the ‘70s when it showed up, the USA was engrossed in martial arts thanks to Bruce Lee and his cult movie Enter the Dragon.
Shang-Chi is another way for Marvel to employ diversity in its works with New Zealand director Taika Waititi who helmed Thor: Ragnarok and Cate Shortland who will direct a long waited for Black Widow movie with Scarlett Johansson. Also, let’s not forget Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden behind the Captain Marvel movie out next year or Chloé Zhao who is directing the Eternals about the race of immortals among which is Thanos.
But right now, probably the biggest question is who will Marvel choose as the lead character Shang-Chi. Maybe, Harry Shum Jr. who made a noticeable impression as warlock Magnus Bane in young adult TV show Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments. Or, maybe mentioned Henry Golding will snatch this part since next Superman won’t be coming our way any time soon. I guess we will hear all about it when the time comes. Until then, all eyes are on upcoming Oscar nominations since Disney expects to have Black Panther nominated in 16 categories including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and basically all other major ones that come to mind. If they succeed to get nominated in all 16 categories, Black Panther will become the motion pictures with the most nominations in the history of the Academy Award ceremony thus surpassing All About Eve, Titanic and La La Land.