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. Jim Starlin and Steve Englehart were fans of the, then popular, TV series Kung Fu and wanted to adapt the series to comics; however, the series belonged to Warner Communications, owner of Marvel's main rival, DC Comics.
Marvel had acquired the rights to publish comics based on the character Fu Manchu. 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 and Just Mercy) to direct the film. In July 2019, the film's title was confirmed as being Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, to be released on September 3, 2021, with Simu Liu portraying the eponymous character.
Shang-Chi's adventures include examples of the following tropes:
- Always Someone Better: He's considered THE best Earth-based Martial Artist in the Marvel Verse, but is only human and various superhuman characters who are both Strong and Skilled enough have been shown to trounce him quickly such as the case with the mutant Gorgon and a demon-possessed Daredevil.
- 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: Leiko 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.
- Bald Women: Shi-Hua, Sister Hammer is Shang-Chi's sister and completely bald.
- Bash Brothers: With Lin Lie/Sword Master while both are at the Agents of Atlas. Also with his half-brother Takeshi/Brother Sabre.
- 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.
- Boxing Lessons for Superman: He often provides these to other superheroes, including Sword Master and Spider-Man.
- Bruce Lee Clone: These days, Depending on the Writer and Artist, he is sometimes a Bruce Lee Clone, something that began even at the time when it was illustrated by Paul Gulacy. 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.
- But Not Too Foreign: Shang-Chi's white mother was a requirement from Editor-in-Chief Roy Thomas.
- Charles Atlas Superpower: See the Badass Normal entry above.
- Death by Adaptation: Narrowly subverted. Before finding out his father's true nature (he was raised to believe the doctor was a benevolent humanitarian), Shang-Chi is assigned to assassinate Dr. James Petrie (whom his father tells him is evil), the narrator of the first three novels and a long-time friend and associate of Fu Manchu's arch-nemesis Sir Denis Nayland Smith. It's only after Smith himself confronts Shang-Chi and reveals Dr. Fu Manchu's true villainous character, triggering Shang-Chi's HeelFace Turn, that Petrie is revealed to have survived.
- 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?".
- Exposed to the Elements: In an issue of Heroes for Hire, the team has to travel through the South Pole on the way to the Savage Land for a job. Shang Chi is shown standing shirtless in the cold while Misty and Colleen are noticably shivering despite wearing warm clothing. Shang Chi claims that his exposure to the cold was helping him take his mind off his growing attraction to Tarantula.
- Formerly Friendly Family: Shang-Chi and his sister Shi-Hua used to be very close as children, but after many years separated, not only she has embraced their father's teachings, she's willing to kill Shang in order to be considered Zheng Zu's true successor, something Shang-Chi was completely unaware of and uninterested in.
- 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."
- Mixed Ancestry: His parents include Chinese Fu Manchu/Zheng Zu and a white American woman with powerful genes. And he's not the only one, since he found out in Brothers and Sisters that he has half-siblings in other countries, like Brother Sabre who is half-Japanese, and Sister Dagger who is half-French.
- More Deadly Than the Male: Both Sister Dagger and Sister Hammer have very little compunction killing while Shang-Chi and Brother Sabre need a bit more time to fight lethally.
- The Rival: Shen Kuei, the Cat, is a sometime-ally, sometime-enemy of Shang's. They have both loved the same woman more than once, and it's been repeatedly stated that neither really knows who is the better martial artist.
- 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 Zu's Ten techniques, later creating one of his own to fill the tenth slot.
- 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.