Shang-Chi Defeated His Sister Without Ever Realizing It Was Her
Today, we look at how Shang-Chi was forced into conflict against his sister, who had become a villain…or at least we’re PRETTY sure it happened.
In Left Unresolved, I spotlight storylines that have been, well, left unresolved.
The relationship between Shang-Chi and his oldest sister was a complicated one and got a lot more complicated in the 1990s!
FAH LO SUEE’s DEBUT
Decades before Shang-Chi was introduced in the comic books as the son of Fu Manchu, the famous villain who starred in Sax Rohmer’s “Yellow Peril” novels, Shang-Chi’s sister appeared in the Fu Manchu novels in 1917. She finally became a major character in 1930’s aptly-titled The Daughter of Fu Manchu, where Rohmer finally named her Fah Lo Suee, a pet name Fu Manchu had for his daughter which means, roughly translated, “sweet perfume.”
To give you a sense of the sort of novels these were, here is how Fah Lo Suee was described in her first appearance in 1917, courtesy of the Unofficial Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe:
Sighing again, involuntarily, I glanced up…to meet the gaze of a pair of wonderful eyes.Never, in my experience, had I seen their like. The dark eyes of Kâramanèh were wonderful and beautiful, the eyes of Dr.Fu-Manchu sinister and wholly unforgettable; but the eyes of this woman who was to be my traveling companion toLondon were incredible. Their glance was all but insupportable; they were the eyes of a Medusa!Since I had met, in the not distant past, the soft gaze of Ki-Ming, the mandarin whose phenomenal hypnotic powersrendered him capable of transcending the achievements of the celebrated Cagliostro, I knew much of the power of thehuman eye. But these were unlike any human eyes I had ever known.Long, almond-shaped, bordered by heavy jet-black lashes, arched over by finely penciled brows, their strange brilliancy, asof a fire within, was utterly uncanny. They were the eyes of some beautiful wild creature rather than those of a woman.Their possessor had now thrown back her motor-veil, revealing a face Orientally dark and perfectly oval, with a clusteringmass of dull gold ahir, small, aquiline nose, and full, red lips. Her weird eyes met mine for an instant, and then the longlashes dropped quickly, as she leant back against the cushions, with a graceful languor suggestive of the East rather thanof the West.Her long coat had fallen partly open, and I saw, with surprise, that it was lined with leopard-skin. One hand was ungloved,and lay on the arm-rest– a slim hand of the hue of old ivory, with a strange, ancient ring upon the index finger.
FAH LO SUEE BECOMES a COMIC BOOK CHARACTER
Fah Lo Suee made her comic book debut in Master of Kung Fu #26 in 1974 (by Doug Moench, Keith Pollard and Sal Trapani)…
She was initially a villainous character, however, by Master of Kung Fu #87 (by Moench, Mike Zeck and Gene Day), she now had a high position in MI-6…
Her last major story occurred in Master of Kung Fu #118 (by Moench and Day) where Fu Manchu was seemingly killed “for good.” Before he died from a building collapsing on him, Fah Lo Suee first tried to shoot him, which offended Shang-Chi greatly…
Her last appearance in the series was in Moench’s final issue, Master of Kung Fu #122 (by Moench, William Johnson and Ernie Chan), where she is still with MI-6 and helping warn her brother of some danger…
Once the series was over a few issues later, the licensing deal with the Rohmer estate was over, as well. Once the licensing deal was up, Marvel could no longer use Fu Manchu, so instead Marvel would constantly refer to Shang-Chi’s father as simply “Shang-Chi’s father.” Similarly, other Rohmer creations were off-limits, including Fah Lo Suee.
Or WAS she?
THE CURSED LOTUS STRIKES!
As I wrote about recently, in 1997, Ben Raab helped revamp Shang-Chi to reintroduce him into the Marvel Universe via an X-Men guest stint (now sporting a dragon tattoo on his arm) before a three-part stint in Journey Into Mystery (then an anthology book), by Raab, Kevin Hagan and Vince Russell, where Shang-Chi is trying to get to the bottom of a mystery person named the Cursed Lotus who has taken control of all the crime in Hong Kong…
Bizarrely, we actually got to SEE the Cursed Lotus! But she obviously doesn’t look like Fah Lo Suee, exactly.
However, it is evident that Cursed Lotus IS Fah Lo Suee, having given up being high up in MI-6 to become a crime lord in Hong Kong for…reasons.
Her agent, Wild Tiger, mocks Shang-Chi for not knowing who the Cursed Lotus…
He makes it clear that Shang-Chi DOES know who the Cursed Lotus is…
In the final part of the story, as the Wild Tiger dies, he gets even more explicit right before he falls to his death, noting that the Cursed Lotus is “She’s your…”
Obviously, the only thing that makes any sense is that Cursed Lotus was the new name for Fah Lo Suee, now that Marvel could no longer use her “official” name, but the problem is that the story was never followed up on, so while it IS obvious, it was never officially resolved.
More recently, the current Shang-Chi series from Marvel Comics has writer Gene Luen Yang avoid her character entirely by just introducing a number of NEW half-sisters of Shang-Chi into the series to basically take Fah Lo Suee/Cursed Lotus’ place in the narrative (although other writers have tried to use her, as well, including giving her a new name based on Fu Manchu being renamed Zheng Zu in the comics. So she was renamed Zheng Bao Yo).
If anyone has a suggestion for an unresolved comic book plot, drop me a line at [email protected]!
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