While Cretton begins work on Avengers: The Kang Dynasty, the chatter surrounding a Shang-Chi sequel remains fervent. Last fans heard, insider KC Walsh noted that Shang-Chi 2 had "been added to the Marvel Studios production calendar,” which means it might not be too long before audiences see Marvel's martial arts master back on the big screen.
However, with the resounding success of the first Shang-Chi, the last year and a bit have been a good time to look back at the Marvel Studios epic.
Scrapped Shang-Chi Designs
10 never-before-seen costume concepts have been made public after the release of Marvel Studios' Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: The Art of the Movie.
These small glimpses showcase looks at what Simu Liu's hero could have been wearing in the MCU blockbuster, spotlighting some rejected costumes for the super-powered martial artist.
In the book, Marvel Studios Visual Development Supervisor Andy Park remarked on how much he loves designing these hero looks:
"Any time we start on a film showcasing a new character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that’s always the most exciting time."
And with Shang-Chi, he embraced the challenge, getting to design for a "whole different genre and angle of representation:"
“Particularly in Shang-Chi’s case. It’s a whole different genre and angle of representation, with the MCU’s first titular Asian hero. It’s really exciting, especially with myself being Asian American.”
Park did a "deep dive" into "historical symbolism, Chinese historical clothing, traditions," and "the comic book source material:"
“I did a deep dive into research as far as Chinese culture was concerned... An exploration into historical symbolism, Chinese historical clothing, traditions, and, of course, the comic book source material was all necessary. Shang-Chi was created during the whole kung fu martial arts craze in the 1970s."
He noted that Simu Liu's MCU hero was a little harder to design for simply because "there was a lack of true understanding" within the source material, so the Marvel Studios team had the "opportunity" to "explore ideas with more freedom and not be as solely beholden to the source material:"
"There was a lack of true understanding in the past, so it was difficult to avoid stereotypes. This movie gave us an opportunity to explore ideas with more freedom and not be as solely beholden to the source material. With that also comes a lot of challenges, because there isn’t that anchor. But for me, that’s exciting. We’re free to explore and come up with the MCU version of Shang-Chi-even down to the pronunciation of his name!"
Park said that for some of his design work, he "took inspiration from the Chinese hanfu," a traditional Chinese robe worn during the Han dynasty.
Growing up Korean-American Park lamented that he "grew up with something called the hanbok" which shares some similarities to the Hanfu. So "a lot of the early stuff [he] did was based on that:"
“Being Korean American, I grew up with something called the hanbok, which shares some similarities with the hanfu, as does the Japanese kimono. A lot of the early stuff I did was based on that-incorporating that left-to-right crossover, a lot of the lines, how the collar works and the way it is fit. "
He added that much of this early work was "exploring a lot of ancient Chinese elements" while also "merging them with a more modern sensibility:"
"I worked on different robes and jackets, exploring a lot of ancient Chinese elements but also merging them with a more modern sensibility and a Super Hero look. As with a lot of these films, we often don’t know the exact story when the Visual Development team first starts working on the film. But as the story develops, our ideas get refined."
This led the team to come up with the idea of Shang's jacket "being made up of the elements of Ta Lo as a gift from his mother." This maternal connection to the costume was "central" to what Park and the team worked on for the Marvel hero:
"Eventually, the idea of it being made up of the elements of Ta Lo as a gift from his mother became central through the many back-and-forths between myself, the director, and the producers. I did a full range of outfits, from traditional Chinese clothing, to his comic book look-which was inspired by Bruce Lee’s various looks in his movies, from shirtless looks to his classic jumpsuit from Game of Death."
Park also explored the concept of "having some elements of dragon tattoos wrapping around him."
Other concepts had the team thinking about "very modern, streetwear" sensibilities with the use of "jackets and hoodies:"
"I also did a lot of other, very modern, streetwear versions with jackets and hoodies but also infusing historical Chinese elements from the way clothing is worn, to various patterns, colors, and symbology. Colors were a big part of the exploration as well, as each has their own unique significance in the culture. Red in particular is an important color, as it is used in the culture more often than any other color. It symbolizes good luck or good fortune.”
The Marvel Studios artist compared the Shang-Chi costume to "a story," with it being "passed down from the mother to her son." Then, later in the movie, "his father freely gives his rings to his son," becoming part of the hero's looks:
"This whole costume is a story. It’s armor, it’s protection, it’s passed down from the mother to her son-and that’s the moment he becomes Shang-Chi. Then, later on in the movie, his father freely gives his rings to his son, so that becomes part of Shang-Chi’s look."
The last detail Park mentioned about the costume was "the shoes." He said Shang-Chi's footwear choice was "very intentional:"
"There’s one more element to the costume: his shoes! They were very intentional. I did sneakers in my design, although not those particular Jordans. The ones I designed were nondescript sneakers. But the Jordans were perfect. This is not canon, but the idea in my head was that they give him the suit and maybe they even give him shoes, but he would push back, and be like, ‘You know what, I want to keep one thing that’s me.’ He lived in America for ten years-that’s a big part of his life as an Asian American, so those shoes represent that."
With the Jordans being a piece of Shang-Chi's American heritage, the costume would have been complete:
"So in this costume, he’s got his mom, his dad, and, with the shoes, his own independent journey. Whenever we’re doing character designs, we’re creating a story. It might not always be explicit, but it’s a story of who the character is. When Shang-Chi puts on his costume, it’s a culmination of the story of the whole movie.”
What Goes Into Making a Marvel Costume?
Whenever any of these costume breakdowns come out, it is fascinating to see just how much work goes into designing each and every one of them.
When Shang-Chi shows up on screen sporting that red dragon scale armor for the first time, there is a reason he looks so incredible. It's because designers like Andy Park and his team have spent hundreds of man-hours pouring over each and every detail.
And this is not the first time Marvel Studios has done this. Recently, a collection of scrapped Black Widow costumes from 2021's Black Widow film were released, showing off Scarlett Johansson's MCU hero with short hair as well as a number of other major changes from what fans ultimately got.
There is a reason Marvel Studios is one of the best when it comes to translating these comic book costumes to the screen, taking inspiration from the source material and playing with it however it can.
With Shang-Chi specifically, the one that ultimately made the final cut feels like the perfect melding of that traditional and modern look Park mentioned in his post-mortem. Others leaned either a little more into ancient Chinese garb or the futuristic "streetwear" pastiche Park brought up.
The final movie suit is a fusion of both, sitting perfectly in the middle of two different sensibilities.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is available to stream now on Disney+.