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Shang-Chi (Marvel Comics)

Many Marvel fans have been waiting for Shang-Chi to make the jump to the big screen and, now, he’ll finally do so when Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings arrives in theaters. With the Marvel Cinematic Universe having been around for over a decade, it can definitely be said that it’s taken a while for the character to get his time to shine. But it turns out the Master of Kung Fu could have actually made his MCU debut years ago in the first Avengers movie.

Veteran film producer Chris Fenton recently released a detailed memoir called Feeding the Dragon: Inside the Trillion Dollar Dilemma Facing Hollywood, the NBA, & American Business, in which he discusses the complex relationship between Hollywood and China. During his lengthy career, Fenton has served in many positions, such as president of the Chinese-based DMG Entertainment Motion Picture Group.

In the book, Fenton explains (via Bleeding Cool) that he was once in discussions with Tim Connors, the former Chief Operating Officer of Marvel Studios, about co-producing films. And during their discussions, Fenton and DMG were apparently offered the opportunity to introduce either Shang-Chi or The Mandarin during the closing moments of 2012’s The Avengers:

There was some good news from Connors. Assuming we pony up more money, they did offer us the opportunity to create a teaser at the end of Avengers for the China market. That would give us a chance to tease a potential character, either The Mandarin or Shang-Chi. It's our decision as to which.

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In another passage, Chris Fenton explained that DMG’s development team in Beijing thought the best route would be to include Shang-Chi. This stemmed from a desire to show an Asian “good guy” as opposed to the Mandarin, who was known to fans as an enemy of Iron Man.

Alluding to Shang-Chi at the very end of The Avengers would’ve been interesting, though one has to wonder how DMG and Marvel would have been able to incorporate him in a way that was both logical and meaningful. Admittedly, following the Battle of New York, it makes a lot more sense that Thanos would be the major figure to be revealed during the mid-credits scene. Plus, who doesn’t love that final shawarma tag?

Interestingly, the Mandarin would end up playing a significant role in Iron Man 3, the first MCU installment to be released after The Avengers. However, this particular version was an imposter named Trevor Slattery and, based on the Marvel One-Shot All Hail The King, the real Mandarin wasn’t exactly pleased with his performance.

Now, the mysterious villain will make his highly anticipated MCU debut when he does battle with Shang-Chi. The wait to see the characters together on screen has been somewhat difficult, with the film having been delayed due to the global health crisis. Thankfully, production is currently ramping back up in Australia.

Shang-Chi’s journey to movie theaters may be extended due to the fluid nature of these unusual times, but his first solo venture in the MCU should be well worth the wait.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is currently scheduled to hit theaters on May 7, 2021.

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