Shang-Chi (literally translates as "the rising of the spirit" in Chinese) is a Marvel Comics character, first conceived in 1972 by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin, and first appearing in Marvel Special Edition #15 (1973).
Originally, he was the renegade son of the infamous Fu Manchu, a Chinese crime lord, and was constantly pulled into adventures against his will (which he frequently referred to as "games of deceit and death"). He was the protagonist and star of Master of Kung Fu, which ran until issue #125 in 1983.
The Real Life story of his creation is unusual. Marvel had acquired the rights to publish comics based both on the character Fu Manchu and on the then enormously popular TV series Kung Fu. Rather than do a straight adaptation of either, however, they combined the concepts and made the evil Fu's heroic opponent his own son, based loosely on Kwai-Chang Caine from Kung Fu.
For most of his time following the end of his original title, Shang-Chi was a C-list character appearing every now and then and disappearing just as quickly. First, he was part of the Heroes for Hire, then didn't appear until Spider-Island. He became also one of Earth's Mightiest Heroes in Jonathan Hickman's Avengers. Since then, he has risen in popularity, even getting a miniseries in Secret Wars (2015).
In December 2018, Marvel Studios hired David Callaham to write the screenplay for a Shang-Chi film as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and then in March 2019, hired Destin Daniel Cretton (the director of Short Term 12) to direct the film.
Shang-Chi's adventures include examples of the following tropes:
- Aborted Arc: In the decades since, Shang's connection to his father has been downplayed, largely due to Marvel losing the rights to Sax Rohmer's work.
- The Ace: Considered to be THE best martial artist/hand-to-hand fighter in the Marvel Universe.
- Action Girl: Keiko Wu in Deadly Hands of Kung Fu is a formidable secret agent.
- Badass Normal: Despite being a baseline human, Shang-Chi is one of, if not THE single most dangerous hand-to-hand fighter in the Marvel Universe, and is capable of holding his own both alongside and against superhuman opponents. He's even been known to turn down offers of technological upgrades, on the basis that he doesn't really need anything else, and he's usually right. (He does use a pair of Stark Industries-brand power nunchaku at one point in Avengers, though.) During the Infinity crossover Shang-Chi is on the team of Avengers that goes into space to fight in an interstellar war, and he still holds his own, albeit mostly through a stubborn refusal to stay down and his new-found Ki Manipulation powers courtesy of Hickman.
- Beware the Quiet Ones: Usually Shang-Chi is The Stoic; he says few words and is generally very mellow. But piss him off enough and you'll find out first-hand why he's the Master of Kung Fu.
- Bruce Lee Clone: These days, Depending on the Writer and Artist, he is sometimes a Bruce Lee Clone. During Warren Ellis' Secret Avengers stint, Shang-Chi even wore a black and red variant of Lee's iconic Game of Death tracksuit. (Ultimate Shang-Chi, by contrast, is a Jackie Chan Clone — his Ultimate Marvel Teamup appearance even featured Uncle from Jackie Chan Adventures.) When he was first created, though, he was largely based on Kwai-Chang Caine from Kung Fu.
- Does Not Like Shoes: He went barefoot everywhere in The '70s. Called out on this by a security guard at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City ("Hey, kid! Why Don't you get some shoes?"), he replied, "Why do you fear to touch the ground? Does the concrete not separate you from it enough?".
- Good Is Not Soft: Shang is one of the genuinely nicest heroic sorts in the Marvel Universe, and generally prefers to avoid violence. If someone forces his hand however, Shang rarely holds back."You do not brush a reed to the ground if you want it to stay out of your path. You snap it."
- Self-Duplication: Gains this ability in Avengers Volume 5, #38 due to exposure to Ex Nihilo's Origin Bomb in Kobe, Japan.
- Slap-Slap-Kiss: Overlaps with Belligerent Sexual Tension and Interplayof Sexand Violence; during his tenure as a Hero for Hire, he starts liking Tarantula (Maria Vasquez). In one arc, after a brief but big fight the two start kissing. Shang-Chi is at first disgusted, but eventually gives in to both his hormones and Maria and the two have sex.
- Took a Level in Badass: While Shang-Chi could always use his chi ala Immortal Iron Fist-style, it was never as flashy as Marvel's other kung fu guy. Come Jonathan Hickman's Avengers, it's as flashy and arguably as powerful as Danny Rand's.
- Even in his Secret Wars (2015) story, he knows Nine of Zheng Zhu's Ten techniques, later creating one of his own to fill the tenth slot.
- Tranquil Fury
- World's Best Warrior: Usually considered to be Marvel's greatest martial artist by a considerable margin, with the exception of Iron Fist, who is usually considered his equal — though the Fist has supernatural abilities, meaning Shang is definitely the greatest non-superpowered martial artist in the world.