Is American Born Chinese Marvel? Is American Born Chinese Part of the MCU? We discuss the popular Disney+ series, its origin, and whether it’s part of a more expansive universe.
There’s a fantasy adventure series on Disney+ that has been exciting fans with its depiction of battling Chinese Gods and a manga-loving teenager that is dragged into the war.
The show has all the elements of a YA adventure, and the eight episodes have so far been going down well, but the tone and style of the show has many people wondering about the story’s origins.
With Disney+ being the home of Marvel, there is no doubt that this show could have come from some little-known comic book series in the 70s, probably written by Gerry Conway or Doug Moench, so fans have been scrambling to look for the source, hoping to find a first comic book appearance to sell on eBay.
Is American Born Chinese Marvel? What is this movie about?
As much as it could be, this series is not part of the MCU. Despite the almost superhero concepts and the fact that two episodes of the show have been directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, who was behind Marvel’s Shang-Chi movie, the MCU is not behind this series.
This is a shame, as the production values of this series are high, and the characters are well-rounded.
For a long time, Marvel has been trying to break into the manga market. Let’s face it, as far as comic book sales go, manga is way ahead of the sales of the likes of Marvel and DC comics, so a show like this under their belt would have been a bit of a coup, but this is not part of the Marvel machine.
What is the premise of American Born Chinese?
The story follows Jin Wang, played by Ben Wang, the son of Chinese immigrants. Like most high schoolers, Jin is just a typical high school kid who enjoys reading manga and wants to join the soccer team.
When Wei-Chen, played by Jimmy Liu, arrives at the school as an exchange student, arrives at Jin’s school, it unsettles Jin. Wei-Chen is almost an antithesis of Jin. He didn’t grow up in America and is confident and bold.
Events take a mystical turn when Wei-Chen is revealed to be the son of Sun Wukong, portrayed by Daniel Wu. Known as the Monkey King, a legendary figure in Chinese literature. Wei-Chen had a dream that the mythical Fourth Scroll can stop an uprising against Heaven. And also predicts that a teenager will help him in his quest.
Convinced that Jin is his side-kick, Wei-Chen, complete with the stolen power staff of his father, is in California searching for the scroll.
What is American Born Chinese Based On?
American Born Chinese is a graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang, who writes and does art chores in the book. The color work was handled by the talented Lark Pien. Pien would win the coveted Harvey Award for her work on the project in 2007.
It first appeared in 2006, printed by First Second Books, and made it a finalist in the 2006 National Book Awards for Young People’s Literature.
Did American Born Chinese always have such a strong superhero vibe?
Judging from the trailer, American Born Chinese seems to be a super-powered fantasy epic, complete with deities, faraway lands, and lots of fight choreography.
As our Madeline Carpou points out, though, the original graphic novel is very different.
The trailer of the show makes it seem as though Jin has always had some grand tie to fate and destiny. No such thing happens in the book. Jin is miserable as he’s torn away from a life where he’s understood, and thrust into a situation where he’s accused of things like eating dogs. His new friend, Wei-Chen, is a constant source of embarrassment for him …. At no point is Jin enlisted to fight in a conflict of mythic magnitudes. Wei-Chen could care less about his divine duties. He just wants to drink boba and pick up chicks. Disney, what are you smoking?
If you read the original graphic novel and the Disney+ series seems unrecognizable, it’s not just your imagination—it’s been transformed into an entirely different story. In short, it’s been Disneyfied.
American Born Chinese has something else in common with Marvel
Along with the simple fact that American Born Chinese is streaming on Disney+, which also owns most Marvel films and series, there’s another reason some viewers may get confused.
Destin Daniel Cretton, director of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and the upcoming Avengers: The Kang Dynasty, serves as one of the executive producers of American Born Chinese. He also directed the first and last episodes of the series. Looking at the final product, Cretton’s influence is undeniable. As Carpou writes, American Born Chinese has the same “bombastic and trope-y” feel as Shang-Chi—which, again, is a radical departure from the graphic novel.
So if you’re looking for a Marvel-esque adventure, you may enjoy the new American Born Chinese series. However, if you’re looking for a faithful adaptation of the source material, you may not find it on Disney+.
How American Born Chinese Continues To Expand Asian American Roles In Hollywood
Yang wrote the original graphic novel of American Born Chinese through First Second Books. It follows three septate stories that, while dissimilar at first, slowly begin to merge. The first story centers on the Monkey King from Journey to the West and his extended background. The second story focuses on Jin Wang, a Chinese-American boy struggling with fitting into his school and the prejudice he faces.
The last story focuses on Danny, an ostensibly generic American boy, and his racist stereotype cousin Chin-Kee. The television adaptation primarily adapts the second story with elements of the first one intertwined to create an original premise.
American Born Chinese focuses on Asian Americans and their struggles. The integration of the Journey to the West plot also introduces more Chinese mythology into the American mainstream. Superheroes from Marvel and DC are regarded as modern myths. Over time, superheroes have caught the public’s attention, especially Asian Americans, with characters such as Shang-Chi, Ms. Marvel, Quake, Katana, and Cassandra Cain.
There is currently no release date set for American Born Chinese, but it is most likely due sometime in 2023. The series is also set to reunite Everything, Everywhere, All at Once co-stars Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan, which will most likely pull in fans of the movie. The series is already garnering attention with its unusual premise and action-oriented production.
With so much hype surrounding the series, Yang hopes that it will continue the trend of integrating Asian culture into the mainstream, and seeing as how Disney+ has become the home for trying more experimental series like this one, it looks like American Born Chinese will continue to give Asians a voice.
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