May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, so what better time than to look at Marvel’s first Asian superhero: Shang-Chi?
Shang-Chi and Fu Manchu would debut in Special Marvel Edition #15 in December 1973, and the series would be renamed Master of Kung Fu just two issues later. The character’s popularity would fade with the waning of the martial craze in the 80s but made an impressive run, ending on issue #125 in June of 1983.
This Bronze Age key is known by most collectors, especially after the success of the 2021 film Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings, but you may not know about its foreign editions. Here’s your complete collecting guide – does anyone out there own them all?
As with most MCU-related keys, Special Marvel Edition #15 boomed with the news of a movie and portrayal by Simu Liu. Now that two years have passed and with the decline of the world economy, this book has started to cool off.
Don believes this book may have over-corrected; check out his article here. However, it has been on the rise, possibly proving Don’s assumption correct.
With the first Shang-Chi film well-received by most viewers and a sequel, Shang-Chi and the Wreckage of Time, set to premiere in 2024, Special Marvel Edition #15 seems like a safe investment. My feeling is that it’s also the time to get into the foreign comic market, which has also been steadily growing with foreign-featured auctions by Heritage Auctions and ComicConnect throughout this year.
Shang-chi is a paradox; a cult icon and one of the few ethnic superheroes, but also unknown by mainstream audiences – pre-movie, that is. Besides movie speculation, Shang-Chi and Special Marvel Edition #15 are historically important, being Marvel’s first Asian-Superhero.
The character was created by writer Steve Englehart and artist Jim Starlin during the 1970s martial arts craze. Shang-Chi would even appear in the same medium with legends like Bruce Lee, on The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu magazine. In fact, the creators based the idea of Shang-Chi on the television series Kung Fu and pitched it to DC Comics, as DC’s parent company, Warner Communications, owned the rights to the series.
After being turned down, they pitched it to Marvel Comics who accepted, with the caveat that Shang-Chi be half-white and they include Sax Rohmer’s Dr. Fu Manchu, a character whom Marvel had recently acquired the rights to. Many of the supporting cast were also taken from Rohmer’s 1913 Dr. Fu-Manchu series.
The Mystery of Dr Fu-Machu (1913), first book in the Fu Manchu Series
Rohmer’s depiction of Dr. Fu-Machu was a racist stereotypical depiction of a Chinese villain. In fact, Rohmer’s character is where we get the term “Fu-Manchu mustache” as it is modeled after Fu-Manchu’s appearance. The character and story embodied the ideas of yellow peril; Fu-Manchu was trying to bring evils from the East and destroy the West. This is why modern iterations of Fu Manchu in the Shang-Chi series often vaguely referred to him and then completely retconned the character to be named Han and then Zheng Zu.
Another racist element along with the whole martial arts craze is that the martial arts themselves get swapped, mixed, and are often listed as synonymous with each other. This is especially apparent with foreign comics, though they have some leeway given issues with translation. Take this Mexican Shang-Chi book for example, Judo (Japanese), Karate (Japanese), and Kung-fu (Chinese).
If we’re going by my previous definition in Completionist Collecting Guide: Ultimate Fallout 4, then the Fu Manchu’s true first is in Rohmer’s short story The Zayat Kiss (1912), but his and Shang-Chi’s first comic appearance would be in the advertisement in Doc Savage #8 (1974).
1) Special Marvel Edition #15 (1973) and 2) Mark Jewellers variant
1) Mästaren på Karate #2 (1974,) published by Red Clown and 2) Mästaren på Karate #2 (1993) published by Oscar Caesar AB
United Kingdom: England
Avengers Starring Shang-Chi Master of Kung Fu #28
1) Shang-Chi Maestro del Kung Fu #1 (1975) published by Corno
The Italian edition also contains an article about martial arts, Shang-Chi sticker, and poster.
Coleção Histórica Marvel: Mestre do Kung Fu (2018) published by Panini Brazil
Volumes 1 to 4 (pictured above) out of the 12 volumes have the back cover of Special Marvel Edition #15. The volumes also came in a box with the Special Marvel Edition artwork.
I’m happy to say that I’ve actually completed this set; here’s a picture below! Happy hunting and if there are any editions I missed or interesting facts about a specific edition, let me know in the comments!
*Any perceived investment advice is that of the freelance blogger and does not represent advice on behalf of GoCollect.
Very nice article Joshua.