The Malevolence of the Mandarin
As Frank Castle prepares to take on the Mandarin in tomorrow's Punisher #1, we look back at the villain’s scariest moments.
Tomorrow, the Mandarin arrives in PUNISHER #1. And let us assure you, he won't hold anything back.
The long-time Iron Man villain has as much, if not more, raw power than anyone Punisher has ever faced. Moreover, the antagonist has a will that may very well rival Castle’s own. A descendant of Genghis Khan, the Mandarin has, at times, ruled over all of China with only his rings, his internal fortitude, and his hunger for power. In writer Matt Rosenberg and artist Szymon Kudranski's inaugural issue, the Punisher will need to bring everything he's got to keep up with the Super Villain.
With an eye on the dark times ahead for Frank, we pulled together a foreboding file of the Mandarin’s most malicious moments.
Can't Keep a Bad Guy Down
Though the Mandarin first battled Iron Man in TALES OF SUSPENSE #50, readers had to wait until TALES OF SUSPENSE #62 to see how the Super Villain had come to be. Trained as a child to be a warrior and a scientist, eventually that quest would bankrupt his family. Without the money to pay taxes, the young man who would be Mandarin found himself driven from his home.
Refusing to take homelessness and poverty as his reality, he discovered the Valley of the Spirits. There he discovered his ten rings and studied the sciences of the alien race that created them—the Maklu. When he emerged, he'd left behind any shred of his old life. Now he was the Mandarin.
While his rings boast an undeniable range of deadly powers, his intelligence and his desire for power are what really make him dangerous.
“Robot, Do My Dirty Work!”
One of the keys to being a truly terrifying Super Villain: delegate well.
For Mandarin, that means discovering, fixing, and re-powering a gigantic robot named Ultimo. While Ultimo continued to pop up now and again, his best showing proved to be TALES OF SUSPENSE #76-#78 where the 30 foot tall behemoth had the element of surprise on his hand...no easy task for a giant metal death machine.
Divide and Conquer
Sensing that fighting Iron Man one-on-one could continue to prove ineffective unless he changed the dynamic, Mandarin recruited the Living Laser (now known as Atlas), the Enchantress, and the Executioner in AVENGERS ANNUAL #1.
With a satellite in the sky spreading hate waves worldwide, Mandarin sent his allies to several places on Earth to distract the Avengers, including Iron Man. In the end, the plan worked almost flawlessly until the hate beams struck the heroes, setting Wasp loose on Mandarin with a ferocity he had not anticipated. Still, once again, Mandarin escaped capture to fight again another day.
X-Man vs. X-Men
Mandarin then decided to take on more than just Iron Man and his adjacent heroes.
He began by attacking the X-Men in UNCANNY X-MEN #256, kidnapping Psylocke. Through body swapping and brainwashing, Mandarin turned her into Lady Mandarin and set her loose on her former teammates in issues #257-#258. The X-Men did manage to free their teammate from the Mandarin’s mental control, but not before he left her forever changed by the criminal acts he made her commit in his name.
The Hands of the Mandarin
In order to stop the Mandarin from claiming all of China with a force of nine dragons (including Fin Fang Foom) who responded to his will, Iron Man had to destroy the villain’s hands. This blow, however, only made the Mandarin more dangerous.
His search for a solution led him to the Heart of Darkness in IRON MAN #312. Over the course of the storyline, the Mandarin used the terrible power granted to him by the Heart to plunge China back into the feudal era—the last time he believed his family was given the respect they deserved.
Force Works, with help from War Machine, defeated the villain. However, the victory proved pyrrhic as it forced Iron Man to reveal his true identity to his greatest enemy.
Not Even Death…
After it appeared that Iron Man killed Mandarin, the villain's son Temugin assumes the evil mantel for a time. The son quickly overcame his hatred for Iron Man and, while remaining a villain, had no interest in repeating his father’s mistakes of obsessing about ol’ shell-head.
However, the true Mandarin had been in a Chinese prison all along. Starving and handless, he nonetheless escaped and took down several guards at the start of the saga called “Revenge of the Mandarin”. Fusing his rings to his spine, the Super Villain ascended to power once more, bedeviling Iron Man with repeated attacks through a variety of proxy extremist groups that wore down the hero while keeping Mandarin relatively clear of the fight.
Unwilling to accept any narrative that did not recognize his true power, the Mandarin decided he'd change the minds and hearts of the masses through the medium of film in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN ANNUAL #1.
Abducting an on-the-rise director who Mandarin quite liked, he set about telling his story to the filmmaker. The director, however, saw contradictions in the antagonist’s story and investigated further. Learning his abductor’s true life story was far different—and that perhaps the Mandarin literally used his rings to rewrite his own memories—the director refused to make the movie as the villain wished. In a rage, Mandarin blew up the cinema showing the movie, destroyed the only existing print, and killed the filmmaker.
Boxing Him In
Beginning in INVINCIBLE IRON #510, Mandarin began his most ambitious attempt at taking down Tony Stark yet. He started by connecting Sasha Hammer—secretly the villain’s daughter—with Zeke Stane, the son of Iron Monger and a genius in his own right.
As Hammer encouraged Stane’s attempts at revenge against Stark in industry and armored combat, Mandarin spied on Stark “in his own head.” Somehow, in erasing his mind to keep Norman Osborn from using his brain to evil ends, Stark left a backdoor open for his longtime enemy to exploit.
In time, Mandarin became increasingly confident and began to not just observe Stark but influence him. The most significant of these manipulations led to the development of Titanomechs. Once Stark had fully created the designs for the war bringers, his adversary returned to his favorite move—kidnapping.
With the arrogant Stark humbled before him, Mandarin revealed himself and his plan. Then he forced Stark to start construction on ten of the Titanomechs. Once they were built, the villain explained, they would be bodies for his ten rings to be made “flesh.”
Instead, Iron Man rallied kidnapped villains, Stane among them, and they rebelled against their captor. In the end, it took all of them to stop Mandarin’s master plan.
So again, we must ask, what can a man—even one as driven as Frank Castle—do against the Mandarin? Find out tomorrow with Matt Rosenberg and artist Szymon Kudranski's PUNISHER #1!