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Why Shang-Chi Refuses to Use His Superhero Codename in the Comics


Shang-Chi is one of the only heroes to use his real name as his superhero name, and his refusal to use a codename reflects his lingering embarrassment

Warning: spoilers for Shang-Chi #1 by Gene Luen Yang, Dike Ruan, Tríona Farrell, and Travis Lanham are ahead. 

Shang-Chi from Marvel Comics is perhaps best known as the Master of Kung Fu, but his new codename, Brother Hand, is dredging up old family conflict for him. His father, Zheng Zu, was the Supreme Commander of a crime organization called the Five Weapons Society, a group with offshoots scattered around the globe. These satellite locations, each named for the Society’s weapon specialities (Hand, Hammer, Staff, Dagger, and Sabre), all trained one of Zheng Zu’s children in combat. For Shang-Chi, he was trained in the House of the Deadly Hand, making him one of the greatest martial artists in Marvel Comics.

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A new series from writer Gene Luen Yang and artist Dike Ruan picks up from last year’s miniseries (from Gene Luen Yang, Philip Tan, and Dike Ruan) that explored the history of the Five Weapons Society, and introduced Shang-Chi’s siblings, Sister Hammer, Brother Sabre, and Sister Dagger. Previously, conflict erupted after Shang-Chi found out that he was appointed Supreme Commander of the Five Weapons Society by his father’s spirit, angering Sister Hammer, who had sought to become Supreme Commander herself. In Shang-Chi #1, Shang-Chi grapples with the new reality of his position as Supreme Commander, and his alias as Brother Hand while on a mission with Sister Dagger (written by Gene Luen Yang, art by Dike Ruan, colors by Tríona Farrell, letters by VC’s Travis Lanham).

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As one of the only superheroes in Marvel Comics who uses his real name as his superhero name, Shang-Chi’s aversion to the Brother Hand title is understandable. In recent times, Shang-Chi has made a name for himself on his own as a superhero, and learning about the existence of his siblings has changed how he operates in the field. Furthermore, the legacy of Zheng Zu continues to loom large over Shang-Chi, making the acknowledgement of Brother hand also an acknowledgement of Zheng Zu himself.

Spider-Man, Shang-Chi, and Sister Dagger in Shang-Chi #1.

Either way, taking on the title of Brother Hand presents Shang-Chi with an opportunity to distinguish himself from his father. As Shang-Chi’s history as a hero shows, he has never been afraid to boldly confront the ideas that Zheng Zu raised him with. But in this sense, Shang-Chi’s embarrassment about the Brother Hand name provides a perfect starting point for his new series, where he can hopefully grow from making peace with his past.

Related: Marvel’s Shang-Chi Can Beat Up Spider-Man

Shang-Chi’s refusal to be called Brother Hand by Sister Dagger also occurs while they are in the company of Spider-Man, suggesting that his father’s criminal history is something that Shang-Chi is still embarrassed to acknowledge in front of other superheroes. He specifically asks Sister Dagger not to refer to him as Brother Hand in front of Spider-Man, prompting Sister Dagger to allege that Shang-Chi is “ashamed of [his] family.” This feeling comes not so much from the name Brother Hand itself, but the fact that explaining its significance would involve divulging information about his father’s criminal organization.

Shang-Chi-1-Tensions-Spider-Man

Despite this, Shang-Chi is comfortable with referring to himself as Supreme Commander, likely because it acknowledges the active role he can play in shaping the Society away from Zheng Zu’s vision. Shang-Chi has been poised to take on a leadership role for some time now, and it seems that Supreme Commander gives him this autonomy that Brother Hand does not. This makes sense, considering that Brother Hand is a reflection of the training he underwent as a child, whereas Supreme Commander emphasizes that he, rather than his father, is now in control.

Shang-Chi’s family history is thorny territory, and it is likely that this series will continue to explore the fallout from his previous miniseries. Whether he likes it or not, he still known as Brother Hand to his other siblings, and he must confront this truth in order to move away from his father’s shadow. And if that involves revealing the truth about his father’s organization to other superheroes, then it is a bitter pill that Shang-Chi must swallow. After all, he is not the only superhero burdened with distinguishing himself from his evil parent.

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