Marvel's martial arts master of kung fu was re-established in comic books with the recent Shang-Chi limited series, and now he's returning with a new ongoing series re-introducing him to the larger Marvel Universe.
That means team-ups with the likes of Spider-Man, Captain America, and Wolverine, and also clashes from some villainous types from across the Marvel U underworld.
Writer Gene Luen Yang and artist Dike Ruan are back for more with Shang-Chi, beginning with the all-new Shang-Chi #1 on May 19. And whereas their original limited series delved into his family and mythology, this ongoing series took a different approach with Shang Chi's interactions with other Marvel heroes.
"We decided we want to really embed him into the Marvel universe," Yang tells Newsarama. "We want him to feel very much a part of the same world of Spider-Man and Captain America."
Newsarama spoke at length with Yang about the upcoming Shang-Chi series, and we get into how the book will tie into the previous limited series, Shang-Chi's relationship with his family, and we even dive into what fans can expect from the series' second arc and beyond.
Newsarama: Gene, you worked on Shang Chi's previous limited series. What made you want to return to the character for an ongoing book? At what point during the previous storyline did you know you were getting an ongoing series?
Gene Luen Yang: We didn't find out until after it was over. I think I turned in my last script before I found out, and really the opportunity for us to do an ongoing comes from the fan support. The first two issues sold out. They went into a second printing. We were incredibly grateful.
I think Shang-Chi has always been like a C-list, D-list character within Marvel. Really just this year because of the movie, I think also because of an awareness of our need for diverse stories is kind of rising to prominence he's becoming more known and I'm definitely grateful to be a part of that.
Shang-Chi #1 preview
Nrama: How will this volume connect to your previous limited series?
Yang: It does continue the story, but we worked really hard to make sure even if you didn't read that first mini-series that you could still catch onto what's going on. What we're trying to do is make every issue in the first arc feel self-contained. It's all connected, and it's part of a larger story, but at any point during the first arc, if you come into an issue, we want you to go we get what's going on and jump right in with Shang-Chi and his supporting cast.
Nrama: What will Shang Chi's relationship with his siblings be like in this newest volume?
Yang: I think it will be like a lot of our own relationships with our family. We love each other, but it's also super dysfunctional. Then there's the added layer of super-villainy, right?
He comes from this family that was really centered around world ambitions. His dad wanted to take over the world for a bunch of different reasons - really that lies at the heart of the conflict. What is this family going to be about? Are they going to follow what his dad wanted or are they going to follow Shang Chi's new vision?
Nrama: How is he adjusting to his new role as the leader of the Five Weapons Society?
Yang: It's really hard. I thought a lot about my family when I was writing this story. Not just the intermediate, my nuclear family that I grew up with, but also my relatives - especially my cousins who came to America when they're a little bit older. A lot of times, when you move from one culture to another, the culture that you end up in influences you in a way that sometimes creates a distance between you and the culture that you left. I saw that a lot. I saw that with my parents. I saw that was my cousins.
That's what I want to talk about with Shang Chi too. He grows up in this cult, essentially, in China. It's a cult that's rooted in the Qing dynasty. It's sort of like a cult that pretends that the Qing dynasty never fell. Then he comes to America and he hangs out with all these other Marvel heroes. He becomes an Avenger. All of that is going to affect who he is in a way that will create distance between him and his family. So, I want to tackle that pretty head-on throughout the first arc and beyond.
Nrama: Shang-Chi will be introducing a new mystery villain. What can you tell us about them?
Yang: We're keeping it pretty mysterious.
There is a main bad guy behind everything in the first arc, and we're keeping him under wraps. But we are also introducing some side villains. In the second issue we have the one that's named Lady Iron Fan. Who's actually based on a legendary Chinese character named Princess Iron Fan. And Lady Iron fan's superpower is going to be like a mirror of what Princess Iron Fan is in Chinese legend.
Nrama: What led you to the decision to make this a Shang Chi vs. The Marvel Universe styled book?
Yang: In the mini-series, we primarily focused on introducing a supporting cast for Shang Chi. So, we introduced a bunch of brothers and sisters - a bunch of siblings. We talked a lot about his relationship with his father and with his uncle. It was really about solidifying the family dynamics behind who Shang Chi is. And with the ongoing series, we decided we want to really embed him into the Marvel universe. We want him to feel very much a part of the same world of Spider-Man and Captain America.
Nrama: What leads a hero like Shang-Chi to go up against other heroes?
Yang: It's a different answer for every hero. Like I said, each of the issues in that first arc we want to be both part of a larger arc, but also work as like a done-in-one. That was actually really challenging, but hopefully we did it.
For the very first issue, he goes up against Spider-Man. They're longtime friends. Shang Chi was actually Spider-Man's Kung Fu master. They developed a new style of Kung Fu called 'The Way of the Spider' together in the Spider-Island event. In that first issue, we are introducing a substance that is at the heart of the conflict. That's super vague. [laughs] It's all about like a drug ring that's based in Chinatown - the drug at the center of the ring plays a part in the conflict.
Nrama: Who are some contenders we can expect to show up after Spider-Man? Any surprise guests?
Yang: We're doing Spider-Man in the first issue. Captain America in the second and Wolverine in the third. I think that's all that's been announced. I don't know if I can say anything beyond that.
Nrama: Who was your favorite hero you put Shang Chi up against?
Yang: I'm partial to Captain America. In a lot of ways, I think Captain America and Shang Chi are very similar to each other. In terms of their character, in terms of their discipline, but to have them go against each other was a lot of fun.
Nrama: As an ongoing series, is the title mapped out to always be Shang Chi going up against Marvel heroes or is that just for the first arc?
Yang: Just the first arc.
Nrama: What can you tease about the tone moving towards the second arc and beyond?
Yang: For the first arc, we're trying to make it so that every fight feels bigger than the one in the previous issue. Hopefully we'll get that going. After that, we want to build out the world. There's an entire mythology that surrounds Shang Chi and the Five Weapon Society, which is the criminal organization that his father founded. It dates back to the early Qing dynasty.
A lot of that is actually rooted in history. So, I did some research when I first signed on to do the mini-series and I discovered in the early Qing dynasty that the government was very anti both martial arts and mysticism, but I just thought that was like the perfect thing to tie together Shang Chi.
From the very beginning, even though his name is changed, his father has always been a sorcerer of some kind - like a magic-user. Then, of course, Shang Chi is a martial artist. So, we want to play with that dynamic and build out a mythology around that idea.
Learn more about who Shang-Chi is and what the ten rings are.