Will the Shang-Chi Movie Introduce Marvel’s Chinese Developed Superheroes Aero & Sword-Master for Disney+

In the month of July there was additional important Marvel Chinese news than just Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings announcements at San Diego Comic Con. There was the introduction of the the Marvel / NetEase Comics Chinese superheroes Sword-Master and Aero into the Marvel 616 official comic book canon.

Could this have implications for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the China Box-Office, and even Disney+?

By Ryan Carroll, Editor-at-Large

August, 2019.

In May during the War of the Realms crossover run of Marvel Comics there was a particular 4 issue run of a defunct comic line New Agents of Atlas. With a particular motive to introduce six new or new-ish Asia superheroes to the Marvel 616 Official Comic Book Canon.

  • Aero – China (from the Marvel / NetEase Comic partnership)
  • Sword-Master – China (from the Marvel / NetEase Comic partnership)
  • Luna Snow – Korea (from the game “Future Fight”)
  • Crescent & Io – Korea (from the game “Future Fight”)
  • White Fox – Korea (has been in the 616 since 2016 / debuted in the Disney Korea webtoon Avengers: Electric Rain in 2015)
  • Wave – Filipino (designed by Filipino comic artist Leinil Francis Yu, first appearance as far as I believe)

These new Asian superheroes, with the exception of one, are all joining the Marvel 616 for the first time. Teaming up with the established Marvel (Asian) characters to form the “New” Agents of Atlas team; Agent Jimmy Woo (played by Randal Park in Ant-Man and the Wasp), Amadeus Chou aka Brawn, Silk, and of-course Shang-Chi.

The interesting thing is that these four issues of New Agents of Atlas did not further the over-arching storyline of War of the Realms crossover event, but rather the issues stand alone to introduce Marvel readers to these new Asian superhero characters.

Note. Agents of Atlas will re-continue its run with issue one in August.

The more interesting thing is, is that only two of these characters have their own solo comic book lines released after the short limited series. That being the only two Chinese superheroes:

Aero and Sword-Master.

Sword-Master (center) other sidekicks unknown for now.

Aero was published under the title Cyclone in China via NetEase Comics, as the comic is not released by the superheroes’ name but under a title that represents her superpowers, was released on July 3rd.

Aero

While Sword-Master published as Warriors of the Three Sovereigns in China (honestly, I don’t know why it’s titled that yet) was released July 24th.

It does not appear to be a coincidence that both of these Marvel Chinese superheroes officially joined the 616 official canon during the same month as the the July 20th Comic Con panel where Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios, announced that Shang-Chi will be third film in Phase 4 of the MCU. Following Black Widow and The Eternals in 2020.

It is interesting to note that Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings‘ release date is February 12th 2021, which is the first day of the the Chinese New Year or Chun Jie of that year. Meaning that Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, if an outstanding solo first outing, could rival the China Box-Office take of Avengers: Endgame $615MMUSD.

Giving it the potential to make it not only the biggest Hollywood blockbuster ever at the China Box-Office but one top ten films ever in China.

But, the quality of the Shang-Chi film is yet to be seen, and how China takes to it is yet unknown. What should be expected is a huge opening weekend, and whether it has Wonder Woman or Aquaman legs at the China Box-Office is another question that cannot be answered until February of 2021.

With this potential it makes sense that Marvel Comics has introduced their Chinese / NetEase Comics superheroes Sword-Master and Aero into the 616 just in time for the Shang-Chi movie.

Especially, since NetEase and Marvel extended their cooperation agreement in May, one month before Sword-Master and Aero were officially introduced in New Agents of Atlas, with one another beyond just the publishing of these two digital comics in China.

The cooperation between NetEase and Marvel Entertainment is for “joint products including games (NetEase is China’s second biggest game developer and publisher, and one of the largest in the world), television series, and comic books featuring Marvel characters {that} will be developed for users in China and beyond.”

It is the “beyond” and “television series” that stands out in regards to this deal, and to what its potential may hold. Notably, since NetEase sold NetEase Comics to Gen Z and ACG powerhouse Bilibili earlier this year, and NetEase technically no longer has a digital comic publishing entity.

Begging the question: How can Marvel introduce Sword-Master and Aero into Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings? There is one organization in Marvel Comics directly connected to Shang-Chi that would fit, and it would also bring national pride to the China Box-Office; that being:

S.P.E.A.R.

S.P.E.A.R. is China’s equivalent to S.H.I.E.L.D. and is stationed on a flying ship called The Circle. Much like the Helicarriers used by Nick Fury’s S.H.I.E.L.D. and prominently featured in Captain America: Winter Soldier.

S.P.E.A.R. / Circle ship interior

In the comics Shang-Chi has been either an MI-6 Agent or worked closely with MI-6 since the beginning of his inception, so having a connection, even an ancillary one in the first film to S.P.E.A.R. would make sense. While allowing for Easter Eggs to be placed that their are now Chinese Superheroes working in the Middle Kingdom – one being the son of famous archaeology professor who vanished in a tomb robbing incident (Sword-Master), and the other a powerful wind-based hero who watches over Shanghai (Aero). The origins of Aero’s powers is yet revealed.

Note. Tomb Robbing is one of the most popular genres in China and helped Aquaman become the box-office sensation in China late last year. The link to this genre is also most likely overlooked by many in the U.S. who have read the first issue of the Sword-Master comic released in late July.

S.P.E.A.R. is relatively new in Marvel Comics making its first appearance in Avengers World number 7 (2014) and it has appeared in less than 10 issues overall. Making it prime for an MCU adaptation.

In the comics S.P.E.A.R. was specifically created after Thanos’ invasion in Jonathan Hickman’s Infinity (Event) – not the same comic as Infinity War or Gauntlet that Avengers: Infinity War / Endgame were loosely inspired by.

Providing a clear motivation of why China would have their own version of S.H.I.E.L.D. (in a real-life Western World were some fear China’s military and economic rise). This would also give Mainland China a new recurring character who is essentially their own version of Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, Director Zheng leader of S.P.E.A.R.

If there are more than just Easter Eggs to the characters of Sword-Master and Aero, and Marvel Studios goes ahead to cast young Chinese or Chinese descent actors in these roles. Then the above announcement between NetEase and Marvel Entertainment holds one very important, but overlooked clue: television.

The only news outlets that had even reported on this expanded agreement have been gaming outlets. Overlooking the possibility of NetEase and Marvel Studios creating Marvel TV properties for China and Beyond, that could very well link up to the very important November 2019 launch of:

Disney+

Being a streaming service, just like any Hollywood box-office blockbuster, without a local Chinese partner Disney+ cannot officially operate in China.

Netflix itself had a deal until recently with streaming giant iQiyi to distribute some of its Netflix Originals, so it makes sense that Marvel Entertainment and their established partner NetEase would develop television properties for China and beyond in the Middle Kingdom.

Now the question for many non-China Watchers is probably a very straight forward one: “Why would Marvel Studios and Kevin Feige wish to bring in two new and very relatively unknown Chinese Superheroes into the MCU?”

The answer is:

Putting them on Disney+ makes more sense than developing feature MCU films that would come years down the line in Phase 6, 7, or even 8, and one that could be adjacent to the larger over-arching MCU story-arc. Rather than being integral to the next film, since they would most likely be in Mandarin (Putonghua) than English.

Another key factor for Marvel Studio and Kevin Feige pushing forward with either a Sword-Master or Aero television series for China and Disney+ is that the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise has made $2.8BnUSD at the China Box-Office to-date.

Of the two characters this author’s would bet being made is Sword-Master. As the “Tomb Robbing / India Jones meets Superhero” genre / sub-genre would have appeal here in the West, and well as being hugely popular in China. With possibly Aero playing a supporting role to test her waters.

Trust In Marvel, In Marvel We Trust

The $2.8BnUSD, that’s billion as in billions of dollars, at the China Box-Office alone. This figure could possibly come close to hitting $4BnUSD after the release of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Unless, that movie turns out to be terrible one should expect at the very least Avengers: Infinity War numbers ($360MMUSD), but if it’s good, then we could expect Avengers: End Game results ($615MMUSD).

If, now this is a very BIG if, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings turns out to be Black Panther good, while also tapping into China’s National Pride, we may see Wolf Warrior 2 ($854MMUSD – at the China Box-Office alone!) figures. Or, quite possibly, it could be the very first film to break $1BnUSD at the China Box-Office, though that would be a stretch of the imagination – but as Iron Man 3 and Marvel One-Shot All Hail the King writer Drew Pearce has said about Kevin Feige and his Marvel Studios team: “Trust in Marvel, In Marvel we Trust.”

Stay Tuned China Watchers!

If you liked what you read please — Follow & Share.

For Speaking Engagements or Consulting Please Contact Directly.

Follow us on LinkedInTwitterYouTubeInstagram and Castbox.fm.

Don’t forget to sign up for our weekly newsletter The Huaxia Report!

About the Author

Born and raised in the Missouri-Ozarks Ryan studied Film Production, and East Asian Culture, at the University of Kansas where he was a UGRA recipient that led him on a seven-year long, Journey From the West, to China. Where he worked with Warner Brothers, the China Film Group Corp. and the National Bureau of Statistics of China. Before returning to the States, where he specializes in Chinese Anime & Comics, China’s Box-Office, and Chinese entertainment-tech industries. He has a dog in China, Abigail, and a dog in the Arkansas-Ozarks, King Blue, who help ease his anxiety of suffering from the “Two-Dimensional Complex” that is trying to understand the Culture Industry landscapes of the Middle Kingdom.