Every superhero needs an archenemy to fight against and form the conflict of memorable stories. Batman has The Joker, Captain America has the Red Skull and Iron Man has The Mandarin. Created by Stan Lee and artist Don Heck, The Mandarin is Tony Stark’s greatest foe. Through a mixture of science and alien technology, Mandarin has aimed to conquer everything in his path. In many ways, he’s a dark reflection of Iron Man in that he utilises technology to achieve his goals for a malevolent purpose. The character is known for using alien rings that grant him a variety of abilities and The Comic Vault is looking into Mandarin’s history to see what makes him such a memorable villain.
The Mandarin was born into a rich family, with his father being the richest man in pre-Communist mainland China. His parents died when he was young and Mandarin was raised by his paternal aunt, who instilled a bitter world view into him. The family fortune was spent on training him in science and combat. By the time he was an adult, the Mandarin had no money left and as he couldn’t afford to pay the taxes on his ancestral home, the Chinese government evicted him.
Looking for a way to avenge himself, Mandarin travelled to the forbidden Valley of Spirits, where he came across a crashed ship containing the skeleton of an alien from the planet Maklu IV. Mandarin studied Makluan science and mastered the ten rings he found within the ship. Combining his new abilities with his natural intellect, Mandarin conquered China and set out to dominate the rest of the world.
Mandarin’s first confrontation with Iron Man happened when he tried to use Stark’s weapons against the American government. Iron Man investigated and managed to stop Mandarin, igniting a rivalry between them. This led to various schemes, with Mandarin managing to outwit Iron Man and vice versa. The two of them have been locked in a technological arms race, each developing new inventions with varying results.
The Mandarin’s approach to life can be summed up as him believing that the feudalism of yesterday is simply the capitalism of today. He’s continually tested Iron Man in order to see if he’s a worthy foe, as well as justify his own thoughts on capitalism. However, Mandarin possesses a strict code of honour. For example, he challenged Iron Man to a duel for the control of the Hong Kong branch of Stark Industries. When he lost, he promised not to interfere in Stark’s business any further and kept his word.
The Mandarin’s rings are an iconic part of the character. They’ve granted him different abilities that are listed below:
Zero – This ring sports a blue-white gem that signifies it can control air temperature. Mandarin has used the Zero ring to emit ice blasts and lower an object’s temperature to absolute zero.
The Liar – This ring is recognised by the blue diamond. It can be used to create illusions and control someone’s mind.
Lightning – Mandarin has used this ring to generate electrical currents. It features an angled gem with a green line.
Incandescence – The ring emits infrared radiation and heat. The gem looks similar to the one on Zero, though it’s red and sports four capsules.
Daimonic – The Daimonic ring creates various forms of energy on the electromagnetic spectrum. Mandarin once created gravity powerful enough to make Iron Man bury himself by trying to move forward. The ring is set in gold with two white circles.
Nightbringer – This ring can generate enough blackness to absorb all light in the surrounding area. The gem on the ring has four black-blue dots arranged in a square shape.
Spectral – This ring creates a blast that splits apart the atoms of any object it strikes. Due to its power, it takes twenty minutes to recharge. The gem is shaped like a golden square.
Spin – The ring creates a vortex of air that can be used to damage objects or levitate a person. It can be recognised by a blue circular gem.
Influence – The Influencer ring generates different forms of energy that are focused on concussive force. For example, Mandarin has used it to create sonic vibrations. The gem is shaped like a star.
Remaker – This ring is capable of rearranging the molecules of a substance. Mandarin has used it to create poison gas, turn people to stone and transform a mountain into a rock monster. A limitation of the ring involves it not being able to transmute elements of Iron Man’s magnetic-beam reinforced armour. Remaker features a circular purple gem.
Mandarin has developed a strong, psychic connection with his rings and doesn’t need to wear them to use their power. There was even a time when he grafted them onto his spine to make himself even more powerful. The rings are sentient and capable of communication via telepathy. This was shown when each ring found a different wearer during the recent MARVEL NOW run of Iron Man by Kieron Gillen.
Even without his rings, Mandarin is a formidable opponent. As a master martial artist, Mandarin has been able to split Iron Man’s magnetic-beam reinforced armour with his bare hands. By controlling the chi within his body, Mandarin can survive for years without food or water.
There’s no doubt that Mandarin is Iron Man’s greatest enemy because of his powers, intelligence and ruthlessness. He’s also a nuanced villain and that makes him worth reading about.