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The Mandarin

Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 5,560
In Reply To
Grey Gargoyle

Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 10,414
Subj: Re: Interestingly enough, a similar evolution also happened to Doom & Magneto ...
Posted: Tue Aug 01, 2017 at 08:51:13 pm EDT (Viewed 151 times)
Reply Subj: Interestingly enough, a similar evolution also happened to Doom & Magneto ...
Posted: Tue Aug 01, 2017 at 04:11:14 am EDT (Viewed 174 times)


      It transformed Mandarin from being the embodiment of deviousness, savagery, and exploition into being one of those regal cosmic types who float around slowly looking down their noses at people, and do everything with a casual handwave.

    Interestingly enough, I think that it also happened to Doom & Magneto.
    Silver Age Doom & Magneto were devious, savage & exploitative.

    Slowly but certainly, post-Silver Age, they evolved into regal types who float around slowly looking down their noses at people, and do everything with a casual handwave.

    During the 1980s Secret Wars, Doom was turned into a guy able to siphon cosmic energy from Galactus and to fight the Beyonder to a standstill.

    Magneto's power level was amplified to the point that he was a living embodiment of "the unified field theory that states all energy is the same" (thus not far from cosmic level).

    For the last decades, they have been turned into "men of honor" who do nearly as much good as they do bad, misunderstood antiheroes who are worshipped by their own kind (the Latverians, the Mutants) ...

    If fans would read again the first appearances of Doom & Magneto, neither were trustworthy persons, especially compared to Namor.

I don't think that ever really happened with Doom. Yes, he has some spectacular feats, but those are always the result of him scheming to transcend. Cosmic Doom is something that generally only happens briefly, at the end of stories. He's a very active, devious and brilliant character up until that moment. And while he's scheming, his origin as a peasant who suffered horribly at every stage of his life is thoroughly mined emotionally.

With Magneto, his near invincibility is a way to slow the scene down, and make the whole thing very talky. Which in turn allows them to mine his origin as a holocaust survivor and discuss issues of bigotry in a way that is at once cerebral and sad.

That doesn't work with The Mandarin, because his origin isn't tragic, it's disturbing. It's the story of this awful Ayn Randian Übermensch exploiting and devouring and training so he can become even better at exploiting and devouring and training. So on the rare occasions when he speaks for an extended period of time, he says things like this: "To know that you are superior, in mind, in body, in spirit, that is everything! To know that power is your birthright, to know that untold thousands exist on this world for no reason but to serve you, to channel their power through your empire, be it of land or of business, channeling it upward to fuel you, to fuel your glory!"

If there was a time when The Mandarin was a tragic figure, it was very early, before his aunt started training him to be this cancerous blend of aristocratic entitlement, perfection obsession, Ayn Rand flavored jungle-worship, and hypermasculinity of perspective. A creature who sees the entire world as something to devour, violate, dominate.

So making him cosmically powerful doesn't work the way it does for Magneto. Instead it gets in the way. It's like making Kingpin cosmic. Kingpin works best when he's just powerful enough that he can mix some personal savagery into his devious scheming. If you make Kingpin cosmic, he doesn't need to scheme, and you can't have scenes of him crushing someone's skull or shrugging off bullet-wounds because he's too hypermasculine to give in to the pain.

Or like making movie Loki cosmic would be a mistake. He is defined by deviousness. Giving him weak little illusions is perfect. It enhances his ability to express deviousness without overshadowing it the way, for example, giving him the cosmic ability to entrap the entire world in perfect, extended illusions would be.


    Still, you are totally right that, in the case of the Mandarin, for the last decades, the rings have had a tendancy to overshadow their bearer.

    I suspect that many writers want to write their Marvel version of the Lord of the Rings and use the unlucky Mandarin character as a template ...

I think it's also because his origin has been forgotten rather than mined. Stan Lee created an excellent origin for him, but the most important part of it has been largely, bafflingly forgotten. Someone could, for example, have done a story similar what we're seeing now with Doom: a story of his early childhood. A story of a child becoming a monster. The result would be closer to guys like Kingpin, Roman Sionis, and Penguin than it is to Magneto or Doom, but it would be interesting in its own way.

    I am fine with the Silver Age power level of the rings, except perhaps the "Poison Gas Ring".

    For this ring, I think that the later explanation that it is a "Matter Rearranger Ring" might be a bit better.

    So, IMO, the "Poison Gas Ring" might be the ring which allowed control to the inner environment of the starship and which allowed his bearer to survive toxic environments when Axonn-Karr was exploring planets.

I prefer the Matter Rearranger ring be as it was in the second Temugin story: just a method creating a hand out of the earth just big enough to trap Iron Man for a few seconds, just long enough to get in a sucker-punch with the superhuman martial arts. All the rings should be just powerful enough to set up cheap-shots with the martial arts.

    In the mind of Stan Lee, the rings & the ship were probably only a mean for an end : explaining why Mandarin has had access to such high levels of technology.

I think it was also a way to set up Mandarin as having parallels to the East India Trading Company, Christopher Columbus, and the evil of imperial exploration in general. Makluan even sounds a lot like Maluku, the site of a great deal of colonial evil. I've often thought that Mandarin's exploring, finding the spaceship, and exploiting/enslaving the natives had a Christopher Columbus vibe to it. The spacetech therefore becomes, metaphorically, both the gold Columbus sought to steal, and the guns he used to steal it. Which makes the natives metaphors for the Taíno.

Those are the two elements that so many Mandarin stories seem to miss: the Mandarin's early story as an orphan raised to be an Übermensch predator, and his later story as a Christopher Columbus type. Instead stories tend to focus on the rings, which is the least interesting part of his origin.

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