Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Fu Manchu Meets Maklu-4: The Mandarin and Racial Stereotypes


Writing Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Arts and Humanities


When writer Stan Lee sought appropriate super-villains to oppose his nascent creation Iron Man in the early 1960s, it is no surprise that he was attracted to one of the United States two greatest threats: Communist China. Once Lee chose China as the home of that villain, he had a wealth of images from which to choose as he created the character of the Mandarin. This essay explores the various stereotypes embodied by the Mandarin, from his appearance (vaguely demonic) to his powers (the greatest karate master the world has ever known who wields mighty rings taken from a spaceship from the planet Maklu-4). Special attention will be given to the characters origins because they simultaneously foreground and problematize the common stereotypes that Americans hold towards China. The Mandarins lineage--he is a direct descendant of Genghis Khan on his fathers side--aligns him squarely with the picture of the devious, barbarous, sadistic, inscrutable heathen that began with the Mongol leader and carried on to Sax Rohmers Fu Manchu. Yet the Mandarins very name conjures up a vastly different image of the opulent, silk-enrobed effete with long fingernails. And the Mandarins mother was a high born Englishwoman,so another competing stereotype emerges. These stereotypes are intended to contrast with Iron Man/Tony Stark, who, despite his faults, has seemingly achieved his status not through birth but through his genius (living out the American Dream) and who seeks not world domination but the thwarting of Communist aggression.

Conference Name

Popular Culture Association / American Culture Association Conference

Conference Location

Chicago, IL

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