Shang-Chi: Who Is Marvel Villain Fin Fang Foom?

Back in March, rumors began to circulate that the forthcoming Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings film would feature an appearance by Fin Fang Foom, a gargantuan, lizardlike villain with ties to characters like Iron Man in the comics. This is not the first time the character has been "rumored" to appear -- there were briefly reports that he might pop up in Iron Man 3 -- but this time around there have been a number of fairly credible sources claiming they have heard it's really in the cards. So it seems like as good a time as any to dig into the character's background.

Fin Fang Foom is an alien monster created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in a 1961 issue of Strange Tales. Although the character has the appearance of a dragon, Fin Fang Foom is actually from the alien world of Kakaranathara, part of the Maklu star-system. He's also got shapeshifting abilities, something that may or may not play into the movies since Captain Marvel already has the Skrulls covered.

An image that many fans assumed was Fin Fang Foom appeared on a wall behind The Mandarin in some of the earliest promotional photos for Iron Man 3, leading to speculation that the monster might show up in that film. Like The Mandarin and the Ten Rings, though, it seems the Iron Man franchise gave only a hint at the real deal.

Monsters were a big part of early Marvel; in the '50s, superhero comics had fallen off significantly, with horror, sci-fi, Westerns, romance, and other genres picking up steam. After the publication of Seduction of the Innocent, a book that accused comics of fostering juvenile delinquency, publishers became skittish and started publishing more conservative, inoffensive material, which led to a resurgence in superhero comics where "good always triumphs over evil" was more or less key to the narrative.

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(Photo: Marvel Comics)

Marvel was a bit slower to come to it than DC was, in part because DC had a deeper bench of popular characters from the '30s and '40s, so it seemed like more of a natural fit for them. But when the company decided to wade back into superheroes with the Fantastic Four, early issues of that comic eased fans into the idea by using imagery very evocative of the monster comics that Marvel had success with in the then-recent past.

His powers are more or less what you might expect from the gargantuan, living embodiment of a Chinese dragon: he has extraordinary strength, stamina, and invulnerability as well as a healing factor, shapeshifting, and a lifespan that is measured in millennia rather than years. He can also psychically/spiritually move his mind/soul from one body to another, something he has done after taking enough damage to potentially kill him in the past. He can fly, shoot acidic mist, and has telepathic powers. All in all, he's an incredibly dangerous threat.

Shang Chi is a logical enough place for the character to debut, as he resembles an anthropomorphic version of a Chinese dragon. One of his earliest appearances took place in China, before he was captured by The Collector and then eventually recruited by Mole Man and taken to Monster Island by the Fantastic Four. Over the years, he had battles with Thor, The Hulk, Iron Man, and more. He even briefly fought the Justice League during JLA/Avengers.

Besides the Chinese aspect to his backstory, appearing in a movie that centers on the Ten Rings and may finally deliver the "real Mandarin" is another promising omen for Fin Fang Foom, since he has a long history with the Iron Man baddie.

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In the comics, Fin Fang Foom's power levels are all over the place depending on the story and the writer, as is his personality. At one point he reformed, became a Buddhist, and started working at Chinese restaurant in the Baxter Building. He was also briefly a hero (of sorts), teaming with other monsters to defeat a warlord in the Microverse before coming back and ultimately turning bad again.

What do you think? Do you want to see Fin Fang Foom woven into the history and future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Sound off in the comments below.

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