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America's Captain 

Location: Bayville New Jersey
Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 11,389
In Reply To
Happy Hogan 

Location: Northern Virginia
Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 3,915
Subj: Re: Re-tooling the Mandarin
Posted: Mon Jan 22, 2018 at 07:50:16 am EST (Viewed 157 times)
Reply Subj: Re-tooling the Mandarin
Posted: Sat Jan 20, 2018 at 03:44:38 pm EST (Viewed 215 times)


    There have been a lot of threads here about what sort of villain the Mandarin should be.
    As far as construcing a villain goes, I suggest watching this about Star Trek villain Gul Dukat: (spoilers for Star Trek DS9)

Good video. I plan to reply in light of it. Dukat was easily one of the best villains not only on Star Trek but in any story in any medium, period.

So our three concepts are:
1. Foil
2. Hero in His Own Mind
3. Broken Philosophy

By the way, I'll preface this by saying the Mandarin does not need to be retooled. The Knaupfs used him beautifully. Any writer who wants to and is possessed of the right talents and skills can write a great Mandarin story without changing one thing about him.

The only reason we didn't see him in the films is his ethnicity. Chinese villains are not allowed. This is stupid and nuts but it's the reality and we can't just ignore it if we want to maintain a clear vision of what's what. So my real recommendation continues to be, change his name, make his ethnicity invisible or change it entirely, and leave everything else untouched.


I know the video emphasizes one particular aspect of being a foil, and I know our pal the Mandarin never stops bringing it up, but I just don't care if my hero's villains remind me of the hero or if they themselves think they should remind me of the hero if only I looked deeper. Green Goblin, Doc Ock, Mysterio, the Lizard, Electro, the Vulture, Kraven, Venom, Carnage - none of them remind me of Peter or think they should remind me of Peter if only I looked deeper.

I prefer villains who are the polar opposite of the hero and know it and revel in it. The Joker is the poster child for this. I don't like him lately but that's only because he's allowed by 21st century writers to kill too many people, to the point where anyone, and I mean anyone, would deem it proper and just to put a bullet in his head to stop the mayhem. Batman ends up looking childish, deluded, or even corrupted for not doing it.

In any case, Tony is a CEO and an inventor. We don't need any more CEO villains so that leaves inventor. The Mandarin has used inventions in the past and will presumably continue to do so. They aren't his inventions, and I like that better. He should have scientists working for him under extreme duress. It makes the Mandarin into a Wong-Chu character, and that's where Tony's emotional strings get tugged. If the Mandarin is Wong-Chu, then every subjugated scientist is Ho Yinsen. This to me is the perfect "foil" set-up. Not mimicking Tony. Mimicking the key elements of Tony's conversion experience. (Incidentally, the Mandarin already does this. Recall that I said he didn't need to be retooled.)

2. Hero In His Own Mind

The Mandarin already perceives himself as the highest example of human perfection in every dimension that the Mandarin cares about. Recall that I said he didn't need to be retooled.

3. Broken Philosophy

The Mandarin's philosophy is might makes right. He's mighty so he's right and everyone should fall in line or be wrong. The big psychological issue for him, whether he admits it or not, is that Tony keeps beating him. Doesn't that make Tony mightier and therefore right? Shouldn't the Mandarin, therfore, fall in line behind Tony? Well of course he can't have that, so his answer is to continue striving to make himself mightier and/or to make Tony and everyone else less mighty so the Mandarin can smash them mercilessly and make them either his prisoners, his servants, or fertilizer for his garden. Thus for the Mandarin winning is everything and he doesn't care how he does it. He doesn't fret for a nanosecond about fair play. In this universe we live in, whoever wins was right and will remain right until losing to someone else. Still, it should be noted that, despite being perfectly willing to do what we would call "cheating," the Mandarin has nonetheless perfected himself physically to allow him to hold his own in any semi-fair fight.

Recall that I said the Mandarin didn't need to be retooled.

Give him a new name, change or gloss over his ethnicity, and use him in accordance with the elements he already has in his character design.

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