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The Mandarin

Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 5,357
In Reply To
Grey Gargoyle

Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 9,828
Subj: Cunning, savagery, and exploitation vs creativity, cool determination, and justice
Posted: Mon Jul 31, 2017 at 09:26:14 am EDT (Viewed 134 times)
Reply Subj: Swiss Knife
Posted: Mon Jul 31, 2017 at 04:56:32 am EDT (Viewed 145 times)


      He's usually listed as being six-foot-one, but is actually drawn at least six-foot-four. I get the impression that he's intended to be a more primitive, savage version of Stark. What Stark would look like if he turned into Mr Hyde.

    Yes, I totally agree. Mandarin is based on Tony Stark (just like Victor Von Doom is based on Reed Richards, Magneto on Charles Xavier, Otto Octavius on Peter Parker, Mordo on Stephen Strange, Egghead on Hank Pym and Strucker on Nick Fury).

Doom isn't simply the anti-Richards, rather he and his doombots are the anti-Fantastic Four. Like Richards, Doom is a delver into secrets-man-was-not-meant-to-know. However, while Richards mainly did one disastrous experiment that mutated his friends, and then mostly learned from this lesson, Doom has continued full tilt into delving into every possible Secret-Man-Was-Not-Meant-To-Know, becoming like someone in a Call of Cthulhu game, damned and insane with dark knowledge of things that blur the line between science, magic, and cosmic.

Like Thing, he has become embittered by his deformity, but unlike Thing he takes this to the point of murderous hatred.

Like Torch, he is a hothead.

Finally, he surrounds himself with Doombots, which are the dark version of a family. However, his pseudo-family is just more of himself, and can only ever extend his flaws.

    The same could be said about Zemo & Captain America, even though the Red Skull first comes to mind. Zemo was specifically created by Stan Lee as the counterpart of Captain America in the Masters of Evil (since, at the time, the Red Skull hadn't made yet his comeback).

I would say that Red Skull is solo-series Captain America, and Zemo is team-book Captain America.

Red Skull inspires the worst in the common man. He is a subtle, inspirational poison.

Zemo is a tactician and team-leader. He brings out the best in evil teams.

    About Kang & the Avengers, it is also true but it is more subtle. Kang is a conqueror (// Captain America is a soldier), was considered a living god, a pharaoh, in Ancient Egypt (// Thor is a viking god) and has access to futuristic weaponry (// Iron Man). Also, just like Enchantress, Executioner, Hawkeye, the Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver, his character was recycled from another Marvel book before becoming a recurring Avengers character.

    (By the way, Stan Lee created all these "warlords + scientists" in a very short time :
    - July 1962 - Doctor Doom
    - September 1963 - Magneto
    - October 1963 - Rama-Tut
    - February 1964 - Mandarin
    - March 1964 - Zemo
    - September 1964 - Kang
    ... which explains why they are all based on the same mold.)

    In the case of Mandarin, I think that Stan Lee made him a Swiss Knife on purpose (like you said : warlord, scientist, martial artist ...).

    Even his most iconic weapons, the Ten Rings, add to that feeling.

The rings also gaudy symbols of wealth, resembling both brass-knuckles and pimp-bling, which works to make him the evil Tony Stark, especially in combination with his origin.

Stark is an aristocrat who lived life in a squandering, hypermaculine way. He was a playboy who made his fortune exploiting war and colonialism, yet this was tempered by his genuine desire to protect the lives of American soldiers, and his desire to see his employees prosper. Because of his desire to protect the lives of American soldiers, he loses much of his masculinity via his heart-injury, and regains it by creatively inventing something that makes him a man of iron. He wears the product of his creativity and science as he protects humanity with utter iron determination.

The Mandarin was an aristocrat who squanders all his money training himself into a living weapon. He exploits the fiefdom on which his people depend for their livelyhood, destroying it financially so he can become a super-soldier. He ruins the lives of everyone who depended on his family's estate so he can become a man of iron, a chi-channeling superhuman martial artist, a master of the science of blowing things up, and a political manipulator extraordinaire. He exploits and squanders to put the iron in himself. In doing so he destroys his father's estate, devouring it to become a man of iron. Having eaten those resources, he becomes a Christopher Columbus type, exploring as he seeks some new resources to exploit. He finds this in the form of the spaceship and rings, and immediately enslaves the natives, making him the embodiment of the exploitation and imperialism that began with Christopher Columbus. Then he goes forth and tries to plunge the world into war and chaos via political manipulations, financial exploitation, slave-labor, and kidnapped and exploited scientists. Where Stark turns away from hypermasculinity and exploitation, the Mandarin perfects his hypermasculinity and exploitation.

So he's very much an evil Tony Stark. Everything that is grey in Stark is pitch black in Mandarin: the hypermasculinity, the exploitation, the colonialism, the war-mongering. Everything that taints Stark is crushingly defining in Mandarin. Also, he doesn't wear armor. Instead he wears jewelry. That's a big difference from someone like Titanium Man, who is clearly an evil Iron Man. The Mandarin doesn't fight with armor. He fights by combining symbols of wealth, with savage, mystic, the iron-is-inside-of-me martial arts.

    It is totally logical since Tony Stark is a weapons designer, the main financier of the Avengers team and the provider of SHIELD's weaponry ...

    So I'd say that the versality of one is matched by the versality of the other.

I'd say it's less about both being versatile, than it is with the Mandarin blending cheap tricks with savagery, and the Iron Man countering with science and creativity.

Stan Lee's version basically fought like a combo of movie Loki and movie Aldrich Killian. Like Loki, he would use cheap illusions to get Iron Man off balance and set up a cheap-shot. Like Killian, he would attack with savage superhuman martial arts abilities. He fights by rapidly alternating being a cheap cheater and being a savage. And all in service to a scheme that usually involves using kidnapped, enslaved, exploited scientists or devious political/financial manipulations to plunge the world into World War III.

Iron Man counters this with science, creativity, and determination, while sometimes being helped by friends and employees whom he has treated fairly. He fights Mandarin because the Mandarin is the utter embodiment of traits that only tainted him even before his redemption origin story.

So while both are "versatile", it's not really about versatility per se. That's more a side-effect of pitting the embodiment of cunning, savagery, and exploitation against the embodiment of creativity, cool determination, and justice.

That's why I've intensely disliked the gradual retconning of the rings into being cosmically powerful. It transformed Mandarin from being the embodiment of deviousness, savagery, and exploitation into being one of those regal cosmic types who slowly float around, looking down their noses at people, and do everything with a casual handwave.

Stan Lee created a Mandarin who was the perfect Anti-Stark. Byrne turned him into a boring Silver Surfer villain who was inexplicably in Iron Man's book.

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