Skip to main content

Shang-Chi Might Be Marvel's 'Iron Fist' Diversity Consolation Prize

OPINION

Whether it was always planned or if the backlash against Finn Jones being cast as Danny Rand in the upcoming Netflix Iron Fist series against public cries to diversify the character with an Asian-American actor went ignored, That Hashtag Show/MCU Exchange has heard that Shang-Chi will be joining the series.

They also report that casting will involve auditioning "males of Asian descent" exclusively. It was never certain if Marvel seriously considered casting an Asian-American actor for Danny Rand (in the comics Rand is white) but Shang-Chi has always been portrayed as Chinese and son of the villain Fu Manchu. If the rumor is true it would add some much-needed diversity to the Marvel Cinematic Universe but still fall short of showcasing a person of color as a lead in a series. Shang-Chi is relegated to a supporting role. 

The report states if Shang-Chi is received well it could lead to a solo series. How that's determined or really a possibility is questionable at this point. The Punisher was also rumored to be getting his own series but those reports were squashed by producers. It could still happen but presumably would have to wait until after Daredevil season two (beginning March 18), Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and the Defenders series. A second season of Jessica Jones could still be reality as well.

After a failed attempt to acquire the adaptation rights for the television series characters of Kung-Fu (a show which featured a white actor portraying a Shaolin monk), Marvel acquired the comic book rights to pulp villain Dr. Fu Manchu. Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin built a story around Manchu in 1973 with Shang-Chi as his unknown son who becomes the "master of kung-fu." He became very popular during the kung-fu craze of the 70s.

Since then Shang-Chi has teamed up with many of the Marvel heroes including Iron Fist. He worked with British intelligence, Heroes for Hire, and became an Avenger. Speculation has the 'Shadowland' story arc of the comics to be the basis for the Netflix series. Shadowland saw Daredevil suddenly using extreme measures to fight crime putting him in conflict with the other heroes of Hell's Kitchen. 

The inclusion of Shang-Chi and the casting of an Asian actor is a step in the right direction for Marvel but on its surface looks like a consolation. Marvel refused to reinvent and deconstruct the Asian-as-martial-artist trope by casting an Asian actor for Iron Fist so they instead embraced the "white savior" trope by casting a white actor to be trained by Asians. Now there'll be an actual person of color on screen but only as his support with plenty of villainous (presumably Asian) ninjas of The Hand as well. 

Hopefully, Shang-Chi will get a solo series but I'm not counting on it. Marvel has very little interest in producing projects where people of color are the leads in live-action. After more than a dozen feature films, Marvel Studios will release its first film directed by an African-American director, the talented 'Creed' helmer Ryan Coogler, and starring Chadwick Boseman as the titular hero 'Black Panther' in 2018. This will mark the first person of color to lead a Marvel movie in the modern Marvel Studios era (1998's 'Blade' starred Wesley Snipes but the film was produced by New Line Cinema). 

Luke Cage is the television/streaming exception where Mike Colter portrays the 'street-level' hero. Marvel's small screen offerings are a mixed bag of great gritty adaptations (Netflix), nostalgic spy adventures (Agent Carter), or loosely strung together ties to the MCU in a middling spy series (Agents of SHIELD). People of color are part of ensembles and the MCU's only current heroes of Asian descent are on the same show.

So some people misunderstand the outcry, the desire for change, the need to be included. As a person of color, we're looking for opportunities. Marvel chose to tell the stories of Ant-Man (Michael Pena played perhaps the MCU's only Latino film character) and Doctor Strange (a lead role that could have gone to an Asian actor) before those of Black Panther and Captain Marvel (Marvel's only planned solo female movie). 

Danny Rand could have been Asian-American. Search the internet under #AAIronFist and you'll get not only images of viable Asian actors but pitches as how that could work. Comic book characters are altered, retconned, rebooted, reimagined, even resurrected from the dead. Nothing is ever set in stone. 

Alas, the campaign proved fruitless but if the rumor holds true Marvel gets to have their cake and eat it too.They hold on to the white savior trope who reaps all the benefits from Asian culture and keeps the name on the marquee. The Asian martial-arts stereotype lives on with a possibility for redemption but none of the rewards of leading the narrative. The Asian character once again at the service of the Caucasian star. 

It'll be exciting to see who they cast as Shang-Chi. I wonder if it'll be anyone that was suggested to play Rand. The "master of kung-fu" will be a nice addition to the Marvel live-action universe. Meanwhile, the struggle for equal representation will continue. 


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

REVIEW: 'Cyber Force' #1 by Matt Hawkins, Bryan Hill, and Atilio Rojo

Cyber Force is back! A reimagining from Matt Hawkins and Bryan Hill introduce a new beginning for the classic series.


CYBER FORCE #1
Writer: Matt Hawkins, Bryan Hill Artist: Atilio Rojo
Letterer: Troy Peteri Publisher: Image Comics Release Date: March 28, 2018 Cover Price: $3.99
Score: ★★★★☆ (4/5)
You don't have to be familiar with the original series to enjoy this new iteration. In fact, 'Cyber Force' #1 is your prototypical origin story where the players are introduced including a devastatingly lethal villain.  It opens with said villain striking a huge terrorist strike brought vividly to life by Atilio Rojo. Humanity has become too dependent on technology and this act of terrorism is supposed to be the first wave of resistance, a preventive measure to keep humans from destroying themselves. In the aftermath of the attack of one of the world's biggest technology companies, one man survives, Morgan Stryker, maimed and severely wounded, unknowingly undergoes a transform…

REVIEW: 'Slots' #1 by Dan Panosian

Created, written, and drawn by Dan Panosian, 'Slots' #1 is his baby and he has a story to tell at his own damn pace. This beautifully illustrated story is centered squarely on former boxer Stanley Dance and his attempt to find redemption despite being someone without many redeeming qualities.


SLOTS #1 
Writer: Dan Panosian Artist: Dan Panosian Publisher: Image Comics Release Date: October 4, 2017 Cover Price: $3.99
Score: ★★★★☆ (4/5)
'Slots' is more of a character study than a rip-roaring crime caper but Panosian's protagonist is a charming cad, full of confidence, capable of swindling you out of a restaurant bill with a devilish grin on his face. He's headed back to Vegas to fulfill a favor he owes. He returns to his old haunts where everyone knows him and knows he must be playing some kind of angle. 'Slots' succeeds because Stanley is so magnetic even when he's a jerk he's interesting. So following him around town meeting up with old friends is…

Fred Van Lente & CAFU Decode ARMSTRONG AND THE VAULT OF SPIRITS #1

Valiant announces ARMSTRONG AND THE VAULT OF SPIRITS #1 – a hard-charging, standalone special coming this winter from New York Times best-selling writer Fred Van Lente (ARCHER & ARMSTRONG, Incredible Hercules) and red-hot rising star CAFU (RAPTURE)! On February 7th, join in a riotous celebration for the ages as Armstrong, for the very first time, uncorks the ancient mysteries of his centuries past – and dares his closest comrades into the adventure of several lifetimes!

Deep beneath New York City’s seediest dive bar, Armstrong – the hard-hitting, harder-partying immortal veteran of history’s greatest escapades – is hosting an invitation-only affair for his most beloved friends and allies! Archer… Ivar, Timewalker… Faith… Quantum and Woody… And special guests from across the Valiant Universe… All have been offered a seat at the table for a personally guided tour of Armstrong’s most valuable and tightly guarded treasure… From the Great Flood to ancient Greece to the height of the C…

PREVIEW: 'The Shadow / Batman' HC by Steve Orlando and Giovanni Timpano

The World’s Greatest Mystery. The World’s Greatest Detective. They can barely stand each other, so how will they possibly deal with the World’s Greatest Evil? What legacy can two of the world’s most enduring icons of justice leave once they discover an ancient evil has been living inside the world they protect for centuries? Can Batman and the Shadow save the world without destroying it in the process?


Writer Steve Orlando (Batman/The Shadow, Justice League of America) and artist by Giovanni Timpano (The Shadow, Transformers) unite to tell an instantly classic tale of noir, mortality and generational heroes and villains.
The Shadow / Batman HC
writer: Steve Orlando artist: Giovanni Timpano cover: Alex Ross

In Stores 04/25/2018
FC  |  160 pages  |  $24.99  |   Teen +
COLLECTING ISSUES 1-6 + BONUS CONTENT













PREVIEW: 'BEAUTIFUL CANVAS: Collected Trade' by Ryan K Lindsay, Sami Kivela, and Triona Farrell

Coming next week from Black Mask is BEAUTIFUL CANVAS, an elegant, gorgeously rendered, insanely twisted story that's kind of like The Professional if Leon was a queer hitwoman and Matilda was a boy with powers.


Written by Ryan K Lindsay (Eternal, Negative Space, DC Writers Program), illustrated by Sami Kivela (Abbott), and colored by Triona Farrell (Doctor Who), Beautiful Canvas was a breakout buzz book in 2017 that continues to garner increasing acclaim and attention.
Synopsis:
Beautiful Canvas is 2017's smash hit warped crime miniseries about Lon Eisley discovering the similarities and differences between her job as a hitwoman and her new role as a mother-to-be when she finds out her girlfriend is pregnant.

Going from destroyer to creator/protector is a major swerve, but parents still have plenty of violent and brutal moments to contend with, especially when the world is full of pyrokinetic sleeper agents, animal/hybrid muscle-squads, and one hell of a nasty boss pulling your…