Ask someone what superhero they would like to be and their answer will reveal something of their character. Those wishing for strength are proactive, those seeking flight want adventure, and those who ask to be invisible are probably up to no good.
China now has the chance to make that decision for itself, thanks to a licencing deal between NetEase and Disney. Hoping to tap the success of the Marvel movies, which are owned by Disney and have grossed over Rmb8 billion ($1.18 billion) at the Chinese box office, the deal gives NetEase distribution rights for 12 comic book series online.
According to Technode, the Disney-NetEase partnership will include collaboration on producing games, films, novels and other products derived from the Marvel universe.
One key aspect is the co-creation of “a modern Chinese superhero based on Marvel’s elements with inspiration from modern China”. There are no further details, leaving room for speculation on what its “modern inspiration” will be.
Marvel’s last attempt at a Chinese superhero was in the 1970s, resulting in Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu. It didn’t capture the imagination. Perhaps the latest iteration will be a more tech-driven affair, more akin to Iron Man and based in Shenzhen’s Silicon Delta.
Last year, Marvel’s Stan Lee hinted at another direction things might take when he said he was working on a character for the Chinese market called Monkey Master – inspired by The Monkey King (China’s original cloud-surfing superhero).
Until now the closest that Hollywood has got to creating a ‘Chinese’ superhero is the Kung-fu Panda franchise. Of course, that was an entirely American creation, blending an iconic Chinese animal with comedy and martial arts. But for Disney and NetEase the bamboo-eating bear will be a tough act to follow – if only in box office terms.