Iron Man vs The Mandarin Before Iron Man 3

Tales of Suspense 50
Tales of Suspense 50

The Mandarin was created by Stan Lee and designed by Don Heck, first appearing in Tales of Suspense #50 (February 1964). The character is described as being born in China before the Communist revolution, to a wealthy Chinese father and an English aristocratic mother, both of whom died when he was very young. He is characterized as a megalomaniac, attempting to conquer the world on several occasions, yet also possessing a strong sense of honor.

The Mandarin is portrayed as a genius scientist and a super human skilled martial artist. However, his primary sources of power are ten power rings that he adapted from the alien technology of a crashed space ship. Each ring has a different power and is worn on a specific finger.

In other media, the Mandarin has been shown in several forms of animation and computer games. He is the primary villain in the 2013 film Iron Man 3, played by Sir Ben Kingsley, and his presence was implied in the original, 2008 film Iron Man by the terrorist group known as “The Ten Rings”. In 2009, Mandarin was ranked as IGN’s 81st Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time.

Original Story:
The Mandarin’s late father was one of the wealthiest men in pre-revolutionary mainland China (and a descendant of Genghis Khan), while his late mother was an English noblewoman. Their son was born in an unnamed village in mainland China before the Communist revolution. The boy’s parents died soon after his birth, and he was raised by his (paternal) aunt, who was embittered against the world and raised him with much the same attitude. Every last bit of the family fortune was spent obsessively training the Mandarin in science and combat, with the result that he was completely broke upon reaching adulthood. Unable to pay the taxes on his ancestral home, the Mandarin was evicted by the government.

Hoping to find a means of avenging himself upon the civilization that had taxed him and rendered him homeless, the Mandarin explored the forbidden “Valley of Spirits,” where no one had dared to set foot for centuries. There he found the skeleton and starship of Axonn-Karr, an intelligent dragon-like alien from the planet Maklu IV, who had come to Earth centuries ago and died. Over the following years, the Mandarin studied Makluan science until he mastered it. He also learned how to use the ten rings he found within the starship which were apparently its propulsion source, among other things. The Mandarin then became a conqueror and subjugated the villages around the Valley, and, through his advanced science, rapidly became a power that not even the Chinese Army could successfully challenge. He then embarked on a long series of attempts to achieve world domination. The Chinese, though fearing him, asked for his help, but he would not become subservient to them.

The Mandarin saw technology as the surest means to achieve his goals. Over the years, he frequently attempted to turn the weapons of various nations against them. Among the Mandarin’s earliest schemes was the sabotage and theft of American missiles and spy planes built by Tony Stark. To restore public confidence in his workmanship, Stark donned his Iron Man armor and flew to China to investigate. Iron Man soon became the Mandarin’s principal obstacle against his plans for world domination.

Changes: The Mandarin appeared in Iron Man – Enter the Mandarin in 2007 which is an expanded and modified retelling from his earliest appearances in Tales of Suspense. In Invincible Iron Man Annual #1 by Matt Fraction, a new updated origin of the Mandarin is offered. Here, the Mandarin kidnaps a young up and coming film producer to tell his life’s story. He relates the same story he once told Iron Man in Tales of Suspense of his English noblewoman mother and his schooling at the finest boarding schools in the land.

The director begins to learn that much of what the Mandarin says is contradictory and false with photos from this time staged (it is hinted that the Mandarin had used one of his own rings to make himself believe this tapestry of half truths) and discovers a different tale of the Mandarin’s origins: The Mandarin was the son of a opium den prostitute who went on to become a powerful underworld figure before discovering the Ten Rings of Power in an alien craft, the pilot of which he brutally slew to obtain them, the Mandarin slaughtered the Red Chinese army officials for daring to cross him while financing his operations with drug and gun smuggling, aided by the mercenary Raza. In this retelling, he is also said to have been at the camp in which Tony Stark constructed his Iron Man armor, though Stark is unaware of this fact.

Angered at the Mandarin holding his wife hostage, the director shoots the movie as he wishes not as the Mandarin dictates. The Mandarin denounces this telling of his past as lies and angrily destroys the cinema in which it was being shown, before having the director killed. Later he regrets murdering the director, noting that he really did love his films.

It is unknown if this new origin is the truth or not, as a major theme of the issue is that it is impossible to tell the truth from the myth that the Mandarin has created about himself. At least some of what the Mandarin claims must be true, as he possesses the ten alien rings and well honed martial arts skills which he describes acquiring.


Sir Ben Kingsley
Sir Ben Kingsley

Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin:
Plays the leader of the international terrorist organization The Ten Rings. Kingsley said that, “Quite soon I’ll be with everybody and we’ll be discussing the look and the feel and the direction of the character. It’s very early days yet, but I’m so thrilled to be on board.” The Mandarin was initially set to appear in the first Iron Man film, but he was put off for a sequel as the filmmakers felt that he was “too ambitious for a first [film]”. Of the character, Kevin Feige stated, “The Mandarin is [Iron Man’s] most famous foe in the comics mainly because he’s been around the longest. If you look, there’s not necessarily a definitive Mandarin storyline in the comics. So it was really about having an idea.”Shane Black explains that the Mandarin is not Chinese in the film as he is in the comics in order to avoid the Fu Manchu stereotype: “We’re not saying he’s Chinese, we’re saying he, in fact, draws a cloak around him of Chinese symbols and dragons because it represents his obsessions with Sun Tzu in various ancient arts of warfare that he studied.”

Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Downey Jr.

Robert Downey, Jr future with Marvel Studios:
According to director Shane Black, Robert Downey, Jr.’s contract with Marvel Studios, which expires after the release of Iron Man 3, may extend in order for the actor to appear in a second Avengers film and at least one more Iron Man film. He said: “There has been a lot of discussion about it: ‘Is this the last Iron Man for Robert [Downey, Jr.]?’ Something tells me that it will not be the case, and [he] will be seen in a fourth, or fifth.” Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has said that the character of Tony Stark will continue to be featured in the Marvel Cinematic Universe regardless of Downey’s involvement. Downey has since said he is open to extending his contract, stating he feels “there’s a couple other things we’ve gotta do” with his character. Black told the Independent that Downey will return as Stark for the fourth film.

Iron Man 3 set after the events that occurred in The Avengers, Tony Stark faces a powerful enemy, the Mandarin. Left only to rely on his instincts, he must embark on a harrowing quest to find those responsible for destroying his personal life and ultimately learn the answer to the question that has secretly haunted him: ‘Does the man make the suit or does the suit make the man?

All in all looks like a great film one not to be missed by Marvel Fans. Great acting combined by good story telling with great special effects always wins and I think Marve Entertainment has another winner. Stay tuned comic and movie faithful for more. 🙂 Walt


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