Quote:I prefer to think of him not as a cultural amalgam, but as a cultural nihilist. In Stan Lee's origin, he begins by spending his father's money, money that could have been spent on making the lives of the people in his fiefdom better, on himself, on becoming a kind of super-soldier, on becoming the perfect predator. He doesn't spend that money becoming devoted to culture. The Mandarin is defined by his desire to spend other people's money in a rather crude, hypermasculine way. Once all the money is gone, he goes exploring like Christopher Columbus, finds alien resources, and enslaves the surrounding villages. The rings and alien tech thus become at once the gold Columbus enslaved the Taino to mine, and the guns used to do the enslaving.
That doesn't quite fit for me. Calling him a cultural nihilist implies that he doesn't believe in any culture. He might have squandered his father's money, but he didn't do it to give himself more worldly pleasures, (like most villains would); he didn't do it to immediately acquire more weapons (like most warlords would). He did it to make himself better. (At least what he viewed as being better). From Stan's origin story he seemed to have a unique world view and worked to achieve it for himself.
Much like Heath Leger's Joker, the Mandarin Stan created seemed to have something he believed in and seemed to work to champion it.
If the current Iron Man writers could agree on what he believes in, and make that central to the character's story, the Mandarin would come across as a more fleshed out character.
It's kind of piecemeal, but he seems to believe in a sort of social darwinism blended with a kind of monarchism. I mean, in the Knauf's run he talks about wanting a "meritocracy", but at the same time he's imagining two Mongol warriors fighting to the death. There's his "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!" speech in Busiek's run. Then there's the implication of his basically devouring his fiefdom to become a super-soldier in Stan Lee's origin story.
The overall impression I get is that he believes in a sort of social darwninism, but it's not the racial sort one associate with the term. It's more like extreme Ayn Rand thinking, where building yourself into an utterly selfish predator who is perfect in mind, body, and spirit is goodness, and everything else is just food for the perfected.
If he were to write down his philosophy, I suspect it would sound a lot like the Sith Code.