Here Be Dragons

Shang-Chi leaks reveal the arrival of a terrifying Marvel villain

Here’s what we know about the “Great Protector” and his possible true identity.

Marvel Comics

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has everything from aliens to androids to wizards. Now, thanks to the upcoming Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Marvel has dragons. It was only a matter of time.

What Happened? — On Tuesday, a Guatemalan fan page for Funko Pops, @kxm.pops, shared on Instagram a collection of soon-to-be-released Funko vinyl figures for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, due in theaters September 2021. You can see the leaked figures here.

While the Funko leaks includes characters you expect, like Shang-Chi, Wenwu (the true Mandarin), and a seemingly ordinary person named “Katy” (possibly Awkwafina’s role), one of the most interesting is a huge red and pale white Chinese dragon named “The Great Protector.”

Readers of Marvel’s comics know ancient dragons exist in the Marvel Universe — like Shou-Lao, the source of Iron Fist’s powers — but none have had the name “The Great Protector.”

Still, the name may only be a cover to hide the dragon’s true identity. And if the theory pans out, the dragon isn’t a protector, but an evil invader known as Fin Fang Foom.

Fin Fang Foom, on the cover of Strange Tales #89. Cover by Dick Ayers and Jack Kirby.Marvel Comics

Fing Fang Who? — Fin Fang Foom, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (for Strange Tales #89) is an alien from Maklu IV, who arrived in ancient China with an invasion party intending to take over Earth. Like the Skrulls, the Makluans are shapeshifters to hide among humans. Fin Fang Foom, the Makluans’ navigator, stayed behind on their spaceship as a reserve in case the mission went wrong (which it did). Foom went into a slumber in a tomb while the other Makluans failed their mission.

Fin Fang Foom is eventually awakened by Mandarin, who steals ten rings from the Makluan ship to become the feared “Mandarin” he is known today. (This may be how Mandarin attains power in the MCU, as the leader of the cult Ten Rings.) The Mandarin tries to use Fin Fang Foom to overthrow the Chinese government, but when Fin Fang Foom reveals his true nature as an alien, the Mandarin turns to his nemesis Iron Man for help in stopping the invasion.

When he’s not invading Earth, Fin Fang Foom has had other callings, like serving up Chinese food at the Baxter Building. From Fin Fang Four #1, by Scott Gray, Roger Langridge, J. Brown, and Dave Lanphear.Marvel Comics

Fin Fang Foom has since been both a beast capable of destruction and a slapstick anti-hero. The highlights include:

  • Working as a restauranteur at the Baxter Building (Fin Fang Four #1)
  • Playing cards with Howard the Duck (Howard the Duck #1)
  • Helping Gwenpool’s tailor find customers for a Pantsgiving Day Sale (The one-shot Gwenpool Holiday Special: Merry Mix-Up from 2016)

But Fin Fang Foom is still a monster to be feared. In Gene Luen Yang’s new Shang-Chi series, Fin Fang Foom crossed paths with Zheng Zu (the original Fu Manchu) in the Qing Dynasty, in retaliation for building on China’s dragon ley lines. He was even a threat to the Justice League, when DC and Marvel held another company crossover in JLA/Avengers.

A possible debunk to the theory the Great Protector is Fin Fang Foom is that Shang-Chi has never fought Fin Fang Foom before. While Fin Fang Foom is deeply tied to the lore of the Mandarin (who is only related to Shang-Chi in the MCU and not in the comics), Fin Fang Foom has rarely crossed paths with Shang-Chi, if at all.

Shang-Chi has fought a giant dragon before... who wasn’t Fin Fang Foom. From Avengers World #13, by Nick Spencer, Raffaele Ienco, Andres Mossa, and Joe Caramagna.Marvel Comics

The Inverse Anaylsis — Whatever you think of toy collecting, Funko toy leaks are often quite accurate. It’s how DC fans got to see an early look at Cheetah in Wonder Woman 1984, as one recent example. With the Great Protector, fans are definitely in for a treat when a great dragon awakens in Shang-Chi. Whether that dragon is actually Fin Fang Foom or not remains to be seen.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will be released in theaters on September 3, 2021.