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Fu Manchu
Publication information
PublisherMarvel Comics
First appearanceSpecial Marvel Edition #15 (December 1973)
Created bySax Rohmer
Adapted By:
Steve Englehart
Al Milgrom
Jim Starlin
In-story information
Alter egoZheng Zu
Team affiliationsSi-Fan
Golden Dawn
Hai Dai
Shadow Council
Five Weapons Society
AbilitiesGenius-level intellect
Martial arts expert
Medical practitioner
Master sorcerer

Fu Manchu (real name Zheng Zu) is the name of a fictional supervillain appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. Based on the character of the same name, he is the father and arch-enemy of Shang-Chi.

Publication history

Fu Manchu first appeared in Special Marvel Edition #15 (December 1973).[1] He was created by Sax Rohmer and adapted into Marvel Comics by Steve Englehart, Al Milgrom, and Jim Starlin. As the result of Marvel Comics later losing the rights to the Fu Manchu name, his later appearances give him the real name of Zheng Zu.[2]

Fictional character biography

Born during the early Qing Dynasty, Zheng Zu gained his education at the Tibetan monastery of Rach where he learned martial arts, arcane knowledge, and every known discipline of science. Becoming highly regarded in his monastery, Zheng Zu was considered part of their brotherhood until the day he left to share his gifts with the world.[3] A powerful sorcerer in his own right, Zu, along with his younger brother Zheng Yi and their five disciples, the Deadly Warriors, formed the Five Weapons Society to protect China. On one such mission, the Sorcerer Brothers and the Deadly Warriors protected the Tianjin Prefecture from Fin Fang Foom. The Ancient One, a fellow sorcerer and friend, provided the brothers the Eyes of the Dragon, a pair of stones that granted longevity and vigor while requiring the sacrifice of another. By 1860, the brothers had aged decades beyond their natural lifespans through the use of longevity spells and had grown weaker as a result. During the Second Opium War, the Society fought against British forces, but were defeated by Dormammu and the Mindless Ones summoned by the British sorcerer Baron Harkness, resulting in the death of the Deadly Warriors. Zu attempted to use the Eyes of the Dragon to save the fatally wounded Yi at the cost of his own life, but not wanting to rule the Society alone, Yi reversed the spell, granting Zu immortality and restoring his youth, giving him the power to defeat the combined British forces. Following the death of his brother and the Deadly Warriors, Zu led the Society alone, establishing five houses in their honor. Without his brother's guidance, Zu lost his way, becoming increasingly bitter and ruthless. After losing one of the houses during the Boxer Rebellion, Zu renounced his country and followers for their perceived weakness and lied about his brother's death, claiming he killed him for being weak as well and stole his spirit energy to augment his own. Zu subsequently relocated four of the Society's five houses to foreign countries within the Eight-Nation Alliance to monitor those who had fought against China and the Society during the conflict.[4][5][6]

For the next century while building his criminal empire, Zu would steal the life essences of his blood relatives, including those from numerous offspring he fathered in order to preserve his longevity. [7] Zu would lose possession of the Eyes but created the Elixir Vitae to prolong his longevity. Over time, Zu would use many aliases for himself and the Society, eventually choosing the name "Dr. Fu Manchu" and renaming the Society as the "Si-Fan".

When his daughter Fah Lo Suee was a child, Fu Manchu showed her the Moon, where he told her that he would one day have the power to move one world in order to rule another world.[8]

Fu Manchu was revealed to have discovered the knowledge of Jack the Ripper's methodology.[9]

Fu Manchu later took the woman Mara Ling to be his wife as part of an arranged marriage, despite the fact that she loved a blind archer named Li.[10]

Fu Manchu eventually approached a "scientifically perfect" American woman to be the mother of his progeny. Enticed by his power, she agreed, resulting in the birth of a son, Shang-Chi[11] and a daughter,[4] Zheng Shi-Hua.[12][6] During their childhood, Shang-Chi and Shi-Hua accidentally discovered one of their father's secret laboratories in his Hunan retreat. As punishment, their father told Shang-Chi that he gave Shi-Hua a merciful death, explaining that the luxury of human bonds was weakness. In truth, he secretly sent Shi-Hua to the House of the Deadly Hammer in Russia. Shang-Chi would continue to be raised in isolation in his father's Hunan retreat; unbeknownst to Shang-Chi, the Hunan retreat was the House of the Deadly Hand, with Shang-Chi chosen to be its champion.[12] Like with Shang-Chi and Shi-Hua, their father selected several of his other children to be raised in the Society's other Houses as their respective champions, with an unnamed son at the House of the Deadly Staff in Britain, son Takeshi at the House of the Deadly Sabre in Japan and daughter Esme at the House of the Deadly Dagger in France.

Tony McKay and Nayland Smith later launched an attack on the Si-Fan,[13]after which Fu Manchu captured both of them, killed McKay with a "hellish green liquid" that 'took six seconds" to accomplish and used his Japanese sumo wrestler bodyguard Tak to cripple Smith by crushing his legs. Fu Manchu later introduced schizophrenia to a gorilla which was used as the final guardian of his New York headquarters.[11]

Fu Manchu's African base was raided by the British military, where many of his followers there were killed. Upon finding a disfigured infant named M'Nai after also finding his parents dead, Fu Manchu decided that he could shape M'Nai into a powerful servant and M'Nai was raised alongside Shang-Chi. M'Nai and Shang-Chi became inseparable, even referring to each other as brothers.[14]

When Shang-Chi was a boy, he heard from K'uei Meng that Fu Manchu had plans to rule the world. When Shang-Chi confronted his father, Fu Manchu dismissed it as slander and Shang-Chi never saw K'uei Meng again.[15]

Another event in Shang-Chi's childhood is that he saw his father thank a dacoit for saving his life. Years later, that same dacoit was killed by Fu Manchu for failing in his mission.[16]

When Shang-Chi bested his fellow student Ah Lung in combat, Fu Manchu demanded that Shang-Chi kill him. Due to Shang-Chi hesitating, Fu Manchu had his guards kill Ah Lung.[17]

When Fu Manchu had his pupil Sho Teng seemingly betray Shang-Chi to M16 agents that were secretly on Fu Manchu's side, Fu Manchu "rescued" Shang-Chi and killed their leader, Death-Dragon, in order to earn Shang-Chi's trust.[18]

When Shang-Chi was 19, Fu Manchu dispatched Shang-Chi to London to kill Dr. Petrie, who was said by Fu Manchu to be a threat to world peace. Shang-Chi was successful in killing Petrie and was confronted by Nayland Smith, who told Shang-Chi the truth about his father. After meeting with his mother in New York, who confirmed Smith's claims, Shang-Chi fought his way past Fu Manchu's bodyguards at his New York base, where he told his father that they were now enemies.[11]

Fu Manchu later dispatched M'Nai, now calling himself Midnight, to kill Shang-Chi, only for Midnight to perish upon falling off a crane and his cape snagging onto a hook.[14]

Fu Manchu sent his Si-Fan assassin Chow Loo to kill Shang-Chi, only to have Chow Loo fail in his mission. When he tried to cover it up, Fu Manchu had him transformed into a gorilla-like creature to fight Shang-Chi in Los Angeles, where he was killed in battle.[19]

Fu Manchu later tried to move the Moon from its orbit around Earth in an attempt to move one world in order to rule another (as he had promised Fah Lo Suee years before) but was defeated by Shang-Chi and his allies.[20]

Under the alias of Wang Yu-Seng, Fu Manchu planned to kidnap Fah Lo Suee and Shang-Chi to jump-start the Elixir Vitae, which now needed the blood of his own children to return him to full vigor. With the help of the Death-Dealer, Fu Manchu captured Shang-Chi and held him hostage in order to get his blood, only for Shang-Chi to escape. Fu Manchu brought Fah Lo Suee to Honan to have her blood as he was pursued by Shang-Chi. To combat Shang-Chi, Fu Manchu unleashed a clone of Shang-Chi to fight Shang-Chi, which ended up being bested by Shang-Chi and killed. When a dying Fu Manchu attempted to lap up the clone's blood to save his life, the fortress began to crumble around him as Shang-Chi left his father to meet his doom.[21]

Determined to rid the world of his father's stain, Shang-Chi traveled to A.I.M. Island to determine what his father's connections with A.I.M. were. His findings were inconclusive.[22]

Fu Manchu employed Zaran the Weapons Master to retrieve a chemical from A.I.M. and later directed him to kill Shang-Chi for him.[23]

Fu Manchu later sent his dacoits to aid Zaran against Shang-Chi and his allies. Although they succeeded in destroying the building that Shang-Chi was in, Zaran failed to slay him.[24]

Using the aliases of the Comte de St. Germain and the Ghost, Fu Manchu employed his son, Moving Shadow, as he prepared the Hellfire weapon. He was opposed again by MI-6 and Shang-Chi, with the resulting battle destroying the Hellfire weapon.[25]

Under the alias of Mr. Han, Fu Manchu offered his daughter Kwai Far to the Black Panther as a prospective bride. The Black Panther refused this offer and drove him off with the assistance of Luke Cage and Shang-Chi.[26]

Fu Manchu eventually died sometime after his last encounter with his son. Aloysius Thorndrake of the Shadow Council had somehow partially resurrected Shang-Chi's father, whose real name was revealed to be Zheng Zu (with "Fu Manchu" being one of his many aliases) as the Shadow Council agents are digging for the Eyes of the Dragon. Max Fury (a rogue Life Model Decoy of Nick Fury) then reports to Aloysius that they have found the Eyes of the Dragon. Aloysius and Max then move on to the next part of the plan that involves capturing Shang-Chi and using him to restore Zheng Zu to life.[27]

The Prince of Orphans and the Valkyrie arrive at Zheng Zu's grave, where they find a few Shadow Council agents on guard, knowing that someone would come to the grave. They defeat the Shadow Council agents, take one of them prisoner and have him taken to an unknown location. Meanwhile, Max Fury informs Aloysius Thorndrake about the two unfortunate mishaps. Zheng Zu is not pleased, for there is only two days left to complete the ritual needed to restore himself to life. Aloysius promises to Zheng Zu that Max Fury and John Steele will handle this.[28]

Zheng Zu prepares the ritual that will enable him to use Shang-Chi's life-force to resurrect himself. Disguised as a Shadow Council agent, the Moon Knight gives the signal and the Secret Avengers drop in on the Shadow Council. Captain Steve Rogers fights Max Fury, while the Valkyrie fights John Steele. The Prince of Orphans disrupts the ritual, causing Zheng Zu to turn to stone, which the Prince of Orphans then shatters.[29]

With Zu's death, the title of Supreme Commander of the Five Weapons Society was passed down to his son, Brother Staff. Believing that the Society had been reduced to a "glorified drug ring" under Staff's leadership, Shi-Hua, now known as Sister Hammer, challenges him at the House of the Deadly Staff in London to usurp control of the Society. Despite Hammer defeating and mortally wounding Staff, Zheng Zu's spirit selects Shang-Chi as the new Supreme Commander instead of Hammer. An enraged Hammer assumes control of the Society and sends the Warriors of the Deadly Staff to kill her brother in America.[4] When Shang-Chi is poisoned by Shi-Hua, a dilapidated spirit resembling Zheng Zu commands him to awaken.[12] While Shang-Chi is recuperating at the House of the Deadly Dagger in France, the same spirit beckons him to the House's shrine room. Believing the spirit to be of his father, Shang-Chi obliges, uncovering a shrine dedicated to Zheng Yi and a mysterious map. The spirit reveals that he is actually Yi and disappears before revealing anything else to Shang-Chi.[5] With Takeshi and Esme, Shang-Chi locates Yi's tomb in Henan. While Takeshi and Esme are preoccupied with a monster guardian created by Zu, Shang-Chi is able to reach Yi's grave and converses with his spirit. Zheng Yi reveals the truth about Zheng Zu to his nephew and when Shang-Chi requests his guidance in stopping Shi-Hua and her army of jiangshi, Yi instead tells him to stop running away from his family, warning that losing them would cause him to lose his way, like his father.[6] When Shang-Chi and Shi-Hua are pulled into an astral plane where they relive Shi-Hua's memories of her harsh upbringing in Russia, a vision of Zheng Zu attacks them. Shang-Chi is able to fight and restrain Zu. Reliving her memories and Shang-Chi's reveal of their father allows Shi-Hua to renounce Zu. When Shang-Chi is named the new Supreme Commander of the Five Weapons Society, Zheng Zu's spirit congratulates him, remarking that he is destined to become like him.[30]

Powers and abilities

Fu Manchu is a genius in every field of knowledge. He is a skilled medical practitioner and surgeon, where he has cultivated various diseases and viruses to use against his enemies.

Fu Manchu is a master of disguise and can pass for any member of the human race, while speaking in their languages without any discernable accent.

Fu Manchu is a master of unarmed combat.

He can hypnotize people with his eyes to the point where few men could gaze into his eyes without falling under his control.

With the revelation of his true identity as the ancient sorcerer Zheng Zu, he is a master in the mystic arts and has discovered the means to immortality.

Other versions

Secret Wars (2015)

In Secret Wars, Zheng Zu is the long-reigning emperor of the wuxia-inspired K'un-Lun region of Battleworld. In this continuity, his likeness and abilities are based on the Mandarin, and he is known as the Master of The Ten Rings, a martial arts school that uses mystical powers and techniques based on the powers of the Mandarin's 10 rings from the mainstream continuity. He is also the father of Shang-Chi, who is wanted for the murder of Lord Tuan, the master of the Iron Fist school, the main rival of the Ten Rings school. It is later revealed Zu sent his assassin, Red Sai of the Red Hand school, to assassinate Tuan, but she ultimately failed. To spare his lover and her students from the Emperor's wrath, Shang-Chi killed Tuan; Zu had his son implicated and exiled for the murder to cover up his own involvement. Representing the Ten Rings school, Emperor Zu hosts a tournament held every 13 years to decide who the next ruler of K'un-Lun should be, a position he has won for 100 years. When Shang-Chi returns from his exile to represent his own school, the Lowest Caste, Zu allows him to participate, but alters the rules so that Shang-Chi would have to defeat every representative before facing him in the Thirteen Chambers. During their fight, Zu attempts to kill his son with the Spectral Touch technique, only for the move to pass through him, due to Shang-Chi having learned how to become intangible. Shang-Chi proceeds to use nine of the 10 techniques against his father and ultimately defeats him with the Gorgon's Eye, which turns him into stone. With Zu's defeat, Shang-Chi becomes the new emperor of K'un-Lun.[31]

In other media

Due to the legal issues of Marvel losing the rights to the character, and possibly also due the racism controversies surrounding the character, Fu Manchu was omitted in favor of Wenwu, an original character based off the Mandarin, as the father of Shang-Chi in the upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase Four film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, portrayed by Tony Leung Chiu-wai.[32] The character was previously referenced in the Iron Man trilogy and All Hail the King.[33]


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  3. ^ Master of Kung Fu #124. Marvel Comics.
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  6. ^ a b c Shang-Chi #4
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  12. ^ a b c Shang-Chi #2
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