This is part of a multi-blog series about Race and Comic Books put together by RodtRDH. Justin Tiemeyer has written the first of many such posts [about black comic book characters] on his blog, Cavemen Go.
One of my favourite blogs [you can see it in the sidebar] featured an article sometime ago titled “On Marvel, Mandarin, and Marginalization.” The gist of said article asking why an Asian villain like the Mandarin is being portrayed before any Asian American lead heroes. I’m going to start my defence with the quotes racebending.com used:
“There are certain fears and certain strengths the character evokes that are applicable, but of course you have to completely remove any of that short sighted cultural ignorance that leads to any sort of bigotry in the storytelling. That isn’t to say those fears and shortcomings of Iron Man as relating to that character aren’t relevant…He was based in China which was then mysterious because it was Red China. Today China is mysterious in other ways because it’s Global China.”
– Jon Favreau, director of Iron Man and Iron Man 2 to CHUD in 2006
“You have to do The Mandarin. The problem with The Mandarin is, the way it’s depicted in the comic books, you don’t want to see that.”
– Favreau again, to MTV in 2010
“The Mandarin is a racist caricature.”
– Iron Man 3 director Shane Black at Long Beach ComicCon, October 2011
I’m not going to skirt around the fact that the character was indeed rooted in the “yellow peril” that was rampant at the time of his inception, but the following images should paint a picture of his evolution since that time.